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Five Priorities For Helping Students

Tennessee has made remarkable progress in K-12 public education over the past decade, improving student achievement faster than any other state. Despite impressive gains, Tennessee students do not yet rank above the national average on the Nation’s Report Card.

And Tennesseans tell SCORE they want to see our students rise to the top academically.

With a new governor taking office in January 2019, the next eight years will determine whether Tennessee does what is needed to help Tennessee students rise to among the best in the nation and world. To help ensure the academic progress continues, SCORE developed a set of five K-12 education priorities based on feedback from nearly 1,700 Tennesseans and research findings.

If implemented well, these recommendations will help Tennessee remain among the fastest-improving states, close all achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in postsecondary study and work.

Make Tennessee The Best State To Live, Work, And Grow As A Teacher

The single most important factor at school for raising student achievement is an excellent teacher. To give every student a great teacher for each class, Tennessee must attract people with strong potential and passion for the teaching profession, prepare them to be effective teachers on day one, and make it professionally and personally rewarding for them to stay in the classroom.


  • Recruit the best and brightest to become teachers
  • Prepare teachers well and support them intensively through the first years in the classroom
  • Keep great teachers in the profession by honoring their work through pay, professional support, and 
 leadership development

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Support Every Student To Become A Strong Reader And Writer

Prospering in a fast-changing world requires being able to learn throughout life, and lifelong learning depends on the reading skills developed in the first years of school. A child who meets reading and writing expectations in the third grade is four times more likely to graduate high school than a child who does not. During the time that Tennessee students have shown unprecedented gains in math and science on national assessments, there has been little progress in reading outcomes. Tennessee needs the teaching strategies and materials that will make our students the fastest-improving in reading.


  • Expand access to high-quality, affordable instructional materials aligned to Tennessee’s literacy standards
  • Strengthen training and support for teachers to help students become better readers and writers
  • Build leader knowledge of literacy standards and instructional shifts to support effective teaching

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Develop School Leaders Who Are Ready To Lead Learning And People

The second-most important factor at school for raising student achievement is a great principal. The top priorities for principals have shifted from building operations and discipline to the student-focused work of leading instruction and a high-performing team of education professionals. To develop great principals, Tennessee must give them better preparation before they assume leadership roles and more support in their first years as school leaders.


  • Empower and support principals to focus on what matters most: excellent instruction and development of highly effective educators
  • Center principal preparation and supports on best practices and measure the impact
  • Invest in building high-quality, sustainable principal preparation programs

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Ensure High School Is The On-Ramp To Postsecondary Study And Work

Today only about one in five Tennessee public school graduates is ready for college courses in reading, English, math, and science, according to ACT. Less than half of Tennessee students are participating in early postsecondary opportunities in high school, such as career and technical education, Advanced Placement, or dual enrollment. Every student deserves to find in high school a path that will lead to success in postsecondary studies, service, and work. To achieve that, Tennessee must focus high schools on postsecondary readiness, give students the coursework that prepares them to succeed in the next steps after high school – more study, military service, and work – and develop strong partnerships between high schools, higher education, and employers.


  • Redesign high schools to ensure postsecondary success and completion
  • Increase student access to and completion of rigorous coursework aligned to workforce opportunities
  • Build the infrastructure needed to initiate and sustain employer, K-12, and postsecondary partnerships

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Provide Tennessee Students With The Greatest Needs A High-Quality Education

For too long, certain groups of Tennessee students have been overlooked and underserved in school. These are often the students of color, the students who live in economically distressed homes or communities, the students with disabilities, and the students who are learning English. A high-quality education for the students with the greatest needs requires providing them with highly effective teaching, strong school leadership, and the innovative supports that have been proven to help them learn at their highest levels.


  • Ensure the equitable distribution of highly effective educators
  • Identify and expand innovations that get results for students with the greatest needs
  • Leverage technology to advance student learning

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Voices of Tennesseans

In 2017, we heard from nearly 1,700 Tennesseans about their aspirations for our students. Watch to see what they had to say.

Timeline of Tennessee’s Education Progress

The Nation’s Report Card

Source: Fourth-grade and eighth-grade English and math scores, National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2013-15

NCLB, New Accountability

President George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act, creating an accountability system in every state that tracks academic progress of schools and, for the frst time, four subgroups of students: special education, English language learners, low income, and race/ethnicity.


F’s For Tennessee

The US Chamber of Commerce report, Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness, gives Tennessee failing marks for academic expectations, and college and career readiness. The report helps galvanize bipartisan support for education reform in Tennessee.


Raising The Bar In Classrooms

The Tennessee State Board of Education adopts the Tennessee Diploma Project (TDP) raising academic expectations for K-12. TDP, which is introduced in classrooms in 2009-10, increases academic standards and graduation requirements and makes the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) more rigorous.


A Roadmap To Success

SCORE releases A Roadmap To Success: A Plan To Make Tennessee Schools #1 In The Southeast Within 5 Years. The report offers four recommendations – embrace high standards, cultivate strong leaders, ensure excellent teachers, and utilize data to enhance student learning – with more than 60 action steps for education stakeholders.


Half A Billion Dollars For K-12:

In the wake of the changes from the Tennessee Diploma Project and First To The Top, Tennessee is awarded a $501 million Race To The Top grant. The grant plus philanthropic investments help Tennessee implement the education improvements over the next few years.

Expect More, Achieve More

Following a push by Governor Bredesen to build consensus for raising K-12 academic expactations, Governor Bredesen and Senator Bill Frist, founder and chairman of SCORE, launch the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition, a statewide alliance of business, community, and education groups supporting public education reform in Tennessee. The coalition helps inform parents about impending TCAP score drops, a result of higher academic expectations.


New Governor, New Reforms

Governor Bill Haslam secures General Assembly approval of measures that remove the cap on the number of charter schools in Tennessee and incorporate teacher effectiveness ratings into decisions about tenure and compensation.

Evaluations With Multiple Measures

Teachers begin receiving annual evaluations with student achievement and growth measures plus observational feedback. At the end of the school year, SCORE releases a report with seven recommendations for improving evaluation based on feedback from educators across the state during the first year of implementation.

Raising The Bar Again

Tennessee begins the three-year implementation of higher academic standards for English language arts and math for grades K-12.


Rebounding Scores

TCAP proficiency rates, which declined the first year the more rigorous test was given, begin to rebound. Through 2015, the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced increases in every tested subject.


Training For Teachers

With the help of 700 core coaches, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) trains 30,000 teachers in the new academic standards and methods of instruction. During the three-year implementation, about 60,000 educators receive professional development in the standards.

Outpacing The Nation

Governor Haslam announces that Tennessee is the fastest-improving state for student achievement with student progress on The Nation’s Report Card. Former Governor Bredesen is a special guest at the announcement.


Tennessee Promise

Governor Haslam introduces Tennessee Promise to provide tuition-free community college to graduating seniors who fulfill requirements for federal aid application, community service, and mentoring.

Accelerating On ACT

Tennessee growth on its ACT composite score for public school students ties for first among states that test all 11th-graders.


Breaking Into the Top Half

For the first time ever, Tennessee students rank in the top 25 states on the Nation’s Report Card with the results for fourth-grade math. Tennessee remains the fastest improving state since 2011.


Investing In Education

Governor Haslam proposes the largest state budget increase for K-12 education without requiring a tax hike.

Teacher Prep Improvement

SCORE offers eight recommendations for improving teacher preparation in Tennessee in a policy report, Prepared For Day One: Improving The Effectiveness Of Early-Career Teaching.

Free ACT Retake

Tennessee becomes the first state to cover the cost of retaking the ACT for 12th-grade students. About 26,000 of the 70,000 seniors in the state participate.

Reaching Top Half Again

Tennessee fourth-grade and eighth-grade students rank among top half of states for science on the Nation’s Report Card.

Teacher Prep Report Card

The Tennessee State Board of Education releases a redesigned Teacher Preparation Report Card that improves reporting of program effectiveness.


TNReady Grades 3-11

The TNReady statewide assessment is administered to all grades for the first time.

Rising High School Scores

The second year of TNReady results for end of course assessments show improvement across all subject areas, with a smaller percentage of students scoring at the lowest achievement level across all subject areas.

High Marks For Evaluation

The Tennessee Educator Survey finds that 74 percent of teachers report the teacher evaluation process has improved their teaching.

Tennessee Succeeds

Tennessee receives approval of Tennessee Succeeds, a plan developed in response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.


Nation’s Report Card

The Nation’s Report Card shows Tennessee ranked near the top for student achievement growth since 2011. But state slipped out of the top 25 in fourth-grade math, and wide achievement disparities remained for students of color. The Nation’s Report Card results from 2017 show Tennessee ranked near the top for student achievement growth over the previous six years.


SCORE merges with Complete Tennessee

SCORE merges with Complete Tennessee and expands it mission to encompass student success from kindergarten to career.

Middle Tennessee State University and SCORE sign agreement

Middle Tennessee State University and SCORE sign a teacher preparation partnership agreement focused on bringing research-supported innovations to how the university prepares K-12 teachers. 

The Nation’s Report Card

The Nation’s Report Card shows Tennessee fourth-graders returned to the top 25 in math. Tennessee also ranked 30th in eighth-grade math and reading and 31st in fourth-grade reading. 

The results from 2019 show Tennessee has never been ranked higher nationally on the Nation’s Report card. 

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