Yesterday was an exciting day in the education reform world as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Nashville to highlight and celebrate our state’s dramatic work in improving public education.  Teacher recruitment, No Child Left Behind, charter schools, the achievement gap, and parental involvement were all topics of discussion during a panel with the Secretary that I was honored to be a part of and that was moderated by Governor Bill Haslam.

During the panel, Secretary Duncan challenged Tennessee to be the fastest improving state in the nation in education.  This is a challenge I believe we can rise to.  Our state’s higher academic standards, historic Race to the Top win, focus on improving teacher effectiveness, and philanthropic investment in education have uniquely positioned us to dramatically improve student achievement.

Following the panel, the Secretary sat down with school superintendents from rural areas of Tennessee to discuss the challenges that rural communities and schools face.  This followed the Rural Roadmap that SCORE released earlier this week and that highlights 34 action items to improving rural education.

During the course of the day, Secretary Duncan made a comment that struck me.  He said “there are basically no jobs out there in today’s economy for high school dropouts.”  If there ever was a rationale for the work that is being done every day in our state to improve public education, this is it.  Education reform isn’t just about better test SCOREs, or more effective teachers, or higher rankings.  Improving public education is about giving Tennesseans the potential for a better paying job, an improved quality of life, and the foundation for personal and professional success.  The work continues until we make this a reality for every Tennessee child.

Note: Governor Haslam’s office put together this great overview of the event.  Check it out: