The Tennessee Department of Education released the 2020-2022 Accelerating Tennessee Report last week, highlighting how Tennessee continues to increase opportunities for students across the state.
Those opportunities arise through strategic investments, and initiatives aimed at accelerating academic achievement and promoting future success.
Across the state, the department serves 950,000+ students, 70,000+ educators, 4,300+ instructional leaders, 9,000+ school support staff in 1,800+ schools located in 147 districts. Over the past two years, the department responded to the COVID-19 global health pandemic quickly and strategically to ensure Tennessee’s students, educators, schools, and districts and staff were provided necessary supports and resources with a focus on in-person learning.
Since 2020, a wide range of academic initiatives and strategic supports have been launched to ensure students receive high-quality daily learning experiences.
Accelerating Tennessee ensures that teachers have the resources and coaching to deliver strong lessons, districts can effectively design instructional programming that supports learning for all students, and families and communities can engage to support student success.
“I am deeply proud of the work Tennessee’s districts, school leaders and educators, students, elected officials, community partners, families and department staff have done strategically and with a common goal in mind—achieving the best for ALL students,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “What lies ahead is a continued commitment and focus on closing achievement gaps, strategically investing in proven initiatives, and accelerating student academic achievement. The department will continue to prioritize transparency and access to actionable data and resources for Tennessee students, families, and stakeholders to continue partnering in this essential work.”
In alignment with the Best for All strategic plan, the state is focusing on implementation of key policies, programs, and practices to empower Tennessee’s districts and schools to support students.
Pioneering a new pathway to the teaching profession to further innovate within the state’s Grow Your Own initiative, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to establish a registered apprenticeship program for teaching.
Grow Your Own programs create pathways to become a teacher for free— enabling future teachers to earn their degree, serve their home communities, maintain employment, and begin day one of teaching with real-world classroom experience.
“The Grow Your Own program has been incredibly successful in our community,” said Rep. Gary Hicks, Chairman of House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee, Tennessee General Assembly.
“I appreciate the Department of Education’s partnership in helping us implement our programs, and I am excited that other communities will now benefit from the resources provided,” said Hicks, who is also technology director at Rogersville City School. “They will not only support more Tennessee teachers but also solidify the academic foundations of our students.”
Supporting Tennessee’s focus on both early literacy and high-dosage, low-ratio tutoring, the Reading 360 and TN ALL Corps initiatives were codified in state law in 2021 to ensure our students are equipped with resources to read on grade level and receive additional support to accelerate learning. Additionally, the department’s commitment to high-quality academics includes supporting and empowering students with disabilities and expanding mathematics supports and early childhood programming.
“One-on-one tutoring provides individualized assistance to get our students not only back on track academically but on a successful path for their future,” said Cameron Sexton, TN Speaker of the House. “We all want and continue to work towards the same outcome in education- every student that graduates from a Tennessee school does so with the skills and opportunities for success in life.”
Bolstering access to multiple postsecondary pathways and career exploration opportunities for students, the Innovative School Models initiative supports schools and districts in reimagining the middle and high school experience to increase student readiness, which was strengthened and expanded with a one-time state investment of $500 million in 2022.
Further, the student readiness priority area serves the academic and nonacademic needs of students through supports like early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs), AP Access for ALL, ACT Prep, Resilient School Communities and more to support students in making connections earlier and graduate high school prepared to successfully complete a postsecondary credential or excel in a career pathway of their choice.
“Instead of asking all students to conform to one traditional educational experience, we are creating individual pathways for students to achieve success,” said Dr. Annette Tudor, Director of Schools, Bristol City Schools.
“With classes in session, AP Access for ALL is off to a fast start and is now creating new pathways for students to enter college prepared and confident,” said Dr. Nancy Dishner, President and CEO, Niswonger Foundation. “We are excited to partner with Commissioner Schwinn and the Department of Education on this program and look forward to seeing how access and opportunity through AP Access for ALL will continue to grow and support Tennessee students and families for years to come.”
Tennessee has made deep, strategic investments to support students. Governor Bill Lee’s successful legislation to implement a student-based funding formula in Tennessee, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act, brings an additional $1 billion annual investment, transforming the way we fund public education in the state.