Dear Friends,

This month’s update is full of information on the work that is happening to transform education in Tennessee. In particular, I want to draw your attention to a recent blog post by Karen Cupples, the Principal at Fairview Elementary in Anderson County. In the post, Karen highlights some of the work Fairview has done to dramatically improve student achievement.

“When a person enters the doors of Fairview Elementary, they see the words, ‘Expect More…Achieve More,’” Karen writes. “This philosophy, which is concisely and clearly conveyed on the front doors for all students, parents, administrators, and stakeholders to see, guides the work that we do on a daily basis. At Fairview, we are on the move to consistently achieve more.”

Improving educational outcomes for Tennessee’s students is hard work. I hope the simple words at the front of Fairview Elementary inspire you to continue this work until every child in Tennessee graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce.

Happy Holidays,




Tennessee Education Update

2011 State Report Card Released – The Tennessee Department of Education released the state’s 2011 Report Card on December 2. The Report Card includes district- and school-level data on a variety of indicators including student achievement and growth on standardized tests. To view the full report card, click here.

The Importance of Early ReadingA new report by the Education Consumers Foundation highlights the important work of improving early reading outcomes in Tennessee. The report says that “raising the percentage of 3rd graders who are proficient in reading is the single most cost-effective step that schools can take to raise student achievement across the board – and to improve outcomes for students later in life. Currently, only 43% of Tennessee 3rd graders meet that standard.”

New Deputy Commissioner, Head of CTE – Last week Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman announced Dr. Kathleen Airhart as the department of education’s new deputy commissioner, and Dr. Danielle Mezera as the assistant commissioner of career and technical education. Airhart currently serves as director of schools in Putnam County, and Mezera is the director of the Nashville Mayor’s Office of Children and Youth. Both will begin their work at the Department on January 1, 2012.

SCORE Update

Woodson on Teacher Preparation, Frist on Implementation – Jamie Woodson wrote in the Tennessean last month that “innovative traditional preparation programs, as well as alternative pathways to teaching and leadership” are both important in effective teacher preparation programs. Her op-ed addressed the 2011 Tennessee Higher Education Commission Teacher Training Program Report Card, which was released last month. Also last month, SCORE Chairman Bill Frist wrote a letter-to-the-editor in response to a New York Times editorial on teacher evaluations. “A meaningful evaluation system that identifies and supports great teaching is a cornerstone of Tennessee’s work to improve public education,” Frist wrote. “Driving reform in both the State Capitol and the local schoolhouse is no easy task. Working to improve and shape the evaluation system through robust feedback from teachers and administrators is critical, and Tennessee’s leaders have shown a willingness to learn from this feedback.”

Roberts Named as COO – On November 22, Jamie Woodson announced that Dr. Sharon Roberts will join SCORE as Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Roberts will lead SCORE’s outreach program, targeting and engaging stakeholders across the state. Roberts will also have a leadership role in SCORE’s organizational operations, working with the CEO and staff to further SCORE’s mission, vision, and strategic plan. Roberts has served as an educator, school administrator, and district leader, and currently serves as director of the Lebanon Special School District. She will begin her role at SCORE on January 2, 2012.

SCORE Prize Winners and Finalists Recognized – The winners and finalists of the 2011 SCORE Prize continue to be highlighted in news stories across the state. Maryville High School, a Prize finalist, was recognized in a recent article that highlighted the school’s high expectations. “Several things separate Maryville from other schools,” said George Quarles, the football coach and athletic director. “The biggest one is the expectation from our community. They expect a great education from our schools, and there are high expectations at home.” Middle school Prize winner Power Center Academy was highlighted recently because the company that operates the school has made the list of charter schools the Tennessee Department of Education will use as part of its Achievement School District. The announcement came a week after Jamie Woodson presented the school with a Prize check and banner. At the presentation, Woodson said that the school “uses data to drive their instruction in very clever and creative ways. They focus very intentionally on closing achievement gaps.”

National and State Education Headlines

Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system takes shape
Times Free Press (November 22, 2011)
The new evaluation system is the culmination of reform efforts to tie teacher effectiveness to student performance and makes this a potential watershed year for teachers. For the first time this year, half of a teacher’s evaluation SCORE will be drawn from classroom observations, while the other half relies on state test data. Previously, a teacher was evaluated solely on an administrator’s evaluation, which was given as little as once every five years.

Tennessee requests waiver out of No Child Left Behind law
Commercial Appeal (November 15, 2011)
The state of Tennessee wants to scrap complicated means of measuring school progress for a straightforward plan that lays out how much progress schools must make each year while also whittling away at the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools
New York Times (November 11, 2011)
As with any new reform, adjustments will be necessary. For example, principals should have the option of evaluating high-performing teachers less frequently than novices or low performers. And state officials must continue to review the question of how much standardized test data should count in teacher evaluations. Tennessee will need to address these issues fairly if the system is to win wide support among teachers and school administrators. But, even with shortcomings, the new approach to teacher evaluation is a vast improvement over the one it replaced.

Tennessee hopes charters’ success can be converted to underperforming Memphis schools
Commercial Appeal (November 21, 2011)
The Achievement School District is the state’s novel approach to improve poor schools by grouping them together and delivering new treatments. ASD Supt. Chris Barbic says the charter-conversion strategy “won’t save the world,” but he’s hoping to create “some examples of what great schools look like. Hopefully, they will extend out to the district.


The Latest from the SCORE Sheet

Sarah TurnerAchieving More Through Early Interventions and Data Driven Instruction
By Karen Cupples, Principal, Fairview Elementary
(December 1, 2011)
At Fairview, we are on the move to consistently achieve more. In order to do this, we have set the expectation of building a strong educational foundation in our primary grades so our students can excel from year to year. Two of the ways that we are accomplishing that goal is through using data to identify student needs and intervening early and often.
Kathleen Airhart Why College Access and Success are Complicated but Important: A Note to the City of Nashville
By Claire Smrekar, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education, Vanderbilt
(November 22, 2011)
In sum, a strong and well educated city population can be a magnet for business development; and the greater the stock of attractive and high paying jobs, the more likely that college-educated individuals will move to the city of Nashville (and not to our competitors — cities like Austin or Raleigh). Sounds simple. But of course, it is not. We face some high hurdles in moving from goal to reality in growing the number of college graduates.