The State Collaborative on Reforming Education Monday released 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee, a comprehensive annual report that assesses Tennessee’s recent work to improve K-12 student academic performance and identifies five priorities for public education this year.
The 52-page report was released by SCORE’s founder and chairman, Senator Bill Frist, M.D., at an event attended by more than 150 education stakeholders from across Tennessee, including members of the General Assembly, the Tennessee Department of Education and K-12 and post-secondary educators.
The 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee report finds that Tennessee is at a critical point in its work to improve student academic achievement, said Frist, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader.
“Quite simply, Tennessee is at a crossroad in its pursuit of a better public education system,” he said.
The report notes that the efforts of educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders helped Tennessee become the fastest-improving state in the nation – and overall behind only the District of Columbia – in terms of student achievement, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Despite the improvement, Tennessee scores are still below the national average on NAEP, while on ACT only 15 percent of Tennessee’s 2013 public high school graduates met all four college-readiness benchmarks.
“Let me be clear: Work remains to continue on the path that will help all students graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be competitive with their peers across the state, country, and globe,” Senator Frist said. “Now is not the time to lose a sense of urgency.”
The 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee report identified these top priorities:
1. Maintaining a commitment to rigorous standards and assessments. The report says Tennessee must push forward with the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards. It also points out that measuring student success with higher standards is needed for effective instruction, so Tennessee must continue its commitment to implementing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments.
2. Strengthening schools through effective leadership. As Tennessee continues to implement student-centered initiatives it is crucial to have strong instructional leadership in every school, the report concludes. To build a pipeline of strong leaders, the state focus should be on creating an aligned, rigorous system for recruiting, training, evaluating and providing ongoing support to school leaders.
3. Expanding student access to great teaching. The report specifically calls for providing teachers with the tools and resources – including instructional coaching, collaborative planning time, and targeted professional learning – that will enable them to be experts in their profession. The report also calls for helping teacher preparation programs implement more selective admissions processes and rigorous curriculum requirements that prioritize the skills and knowledge teachers need to support students in the classroom.
4. Investing in technology to enhance instruction. The report says that although the upcoming online PARCC assessments are a catalyst for increasing technological capabilities in schools and school districts, investing in technology must be an ongoing priority and not just a one-time purchase. Students and teachers need daily access to technology and must be trained on using it, the report says.
5. Supporting students from kindergarten to career. The report points out that in today’s economy most careers require training after high school. It specifically calls for creating a data-rich environment that equips leaders, educators, and parents with the information and tools they need and a data-driven approach to making decisions about policy and practice that will advance student success. It also recommends expanded opportunities for more students to take AP, International Baccalaureate, dual-credit, and dual-enrollment courses and to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.
“We believe it is critically important for a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization to examine our state’s progress, to identify promising practices as well as challenges and to provide specific recommendations for how Tennessee can continue on the pathway of preparing all students for success in college and the workforce,” Senator Frist said.
The report was shaped by input from SCORE’s steering committee and a 12-member policy committee as well as extensive research and interviews with educators and education leaders from across Tennessee.
“SCORE is unique in that much of our work is informed by our Steering Committee, a group of education leaders from across our state including leaders in K-12 education, higher education, business, philanthropy and even a student. Importantly, this group and SCORE’s Policy Committee have played a key role in working with our team to identify the priority areas,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said.
Among the members of the policy committee are the chairs of the Tennessee House and Senate Education Committees, a teacher representative, superintendents and leaders of education foundations in Tennessee’s largest cities.
SCORE also announced Monday that it has launched a redesigned website to better communicate with education stakeholders about the group’s mission and work.