Strategic Plan

In 2015, we launched a new chapter where we built on the strong foundation in each of our schools and districts to better realize our goals for Tennessee students, with our vision and strategies articulated in a strategic plan called Tennessee Succeeds. If we are successful:

Districts and schools in Tennessee will exemplify excellence and equity such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life.

This is our unifying vision: success for all students upon graduation from high school. To this end, we have set four ambitious goals to guide our work:

  • Tennessee will rank in the top half of states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or the nation’s Report Card, by 2019
  • 75 percent of Tennessee third grade students will be proficient in reading by 2025
  • The average ACT composite score in Tennessee will be a 21 by 2020
  • The majority of high school graduates from the class of 2020 will earn a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree

We will accomplish these goals by maintaining the department’s current foundational emphasis on rigorous standards for all students, aligned assessment to ensure students are on track, and strong accountability, and by focusing on five priority areas: early foundations and literacy, high school and bridge to postsecondary, all means all, educator support, district empowerment and school improvement. As part of this work, the department will continue to support the governor’s goal of becoming the fastest improving state in the nation in raising teacher pay. Last fall, to help districts make this work their own, the department released a district strategies document that provided districts with their data and our state-level context to help them identify where they could go further and what approaches they could take to do so.

Since we published Tennessee Succeeds, our state has made incredible strides in strengthening our K-12 education system as we have focused on opening doors for all students and creating opportunities for every child to grow.  To share some of the highlights from our work and provide updates on our progress to our goals, we created the 2017 State of Education in Tennessee document.  This is only a small snapshot, but we hope it provides a glimpse into the important work underway at the department in schools across the state.

To stay updated on our work, sign up to receive a weekly round-up newsletter with highlights from the week and news of note.

Download our strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds.

Download a state-level version of the district strategies document.

Research Briefs

Early Foundations & Literacy
Building the Framework: A Report on Elementary Grades Reading in Tennessee - 2/2017

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Download the appendix

Summary

In February 2016, teachers, school leaders, community members, and state policymakers came together and launched the Read to be Ready campaign to transform students’ reading abilities in the early grades. The mission to dramatically improve reading proficiency was called out in the department’s Setting the Foundation report. One year later, Building the Framework summarizes findings from observations of instruction in more than 150 classrooms and offers case studies of three different approaches to the Read to be Ready work. These examples serve as both an indication of what it will take to get better and as guidance for districts engaging in similar efforts. The report also identifies four elements of instructional practice that must improve across the state in order to achieve Tennessee’s ambitious reading goals and provides key takeaways for districts to consider as they continue their efforts to strengthen literacy instruction.

Supporting Early Grades Student Achievement: An Exploration of RTI² Practices - 9/2016

Almost half of Tennessee’s students are not on grade level in reading and math by the time they complete third grade, and very few of those students achieve proficiency in later grades. To combat this trend and support the skill development and academic achievement of all students, Tennessee has adopted a framework for addressing individual learning needs called Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2). This report examines the RTI2 approaches of high implementation elementary schools that have experienced different levels of success in moving their students to proficiency. Findings suggest that schools that were more successful than others at moving non-proficient students to proficiency use and communicate data effectively, build strong RTI2 teams, allocate resources efficiently, and have strong leaders who embrace and support RTI2 implementation.

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Setting the Foundation: A Report on Elementary Grades Reading in Tennessee - 2/2016

By any measure, too many children in Tennessee struggle to read. This report describes the landscape of classroom instruction and student proficiency and in the early grades to understand the challenges we face as we try to help more students reach their full potential as readers and thinkers. We situate reading at the intersection of “skills-based” and “knowledge-based” competencies and offer recommendations around supporting literacy instruction focused on comprehension and improving schools’ non-academic support and RTI2 implementation.

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Download the appendix

Chronic Absenteeism in Tennessee’s Early Grades - 2/2016

Thousands of students miss school every day, but focus on truancy and average daily attendance may mask the severity of the issue: almost 45,000 students, or 10 percent, of K-3 students in Tennessee missed at least a month of school in 2014-15. This report details the landscape of chronic absenteeism in the early grades of Tennessee public schools by documenting which students are most likely to be chronically absent and how chronic absenteeism relates to student achievement. We find that economically disadvantaged students are three times more likely to be chronically absent in elementary schools than their non-economically disadvantaged peers. Moreover, a student who is chronically absent in third grade is significantly less likely to be reading on grade level (as measured by the TCAP English language arts exam) than a demographically similar peer who is not chronically absent.

Download the report

Implementing RTI²: Reports from the Field - 9/2014

Starting in 2014-15, districts across the state must implement a Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) plan. RTI² is an instructional framework which provides ongoing monitoring of student performance and progress through the use of universal student screeners and interventions targeted at students’ identified problem areas. To gain perspective on the implementation of RTI², we interviewed district and school leaders from 14 schools in seven districts across the state. We find that nearly all of the district and school administrators that we spoke with demonstrated a remarkably strong knowledge of the state’s RTI² framework, but that district and school staff have faced a number of challenges while implementing RTI², including scheduling, staffing resources, collaboration between general and special education, and identifying screening and progress monitoring tools.

Download the report

Writing Practices and Student Achievement - 6/2014

To better understand writing instruction in Tennessee, we examined student responses to survey questions administered with the 2013 Writing Assessment. The questions asked about writing practices and practice using computers for writing. State-level findings showed that students who reported more frequently (a) writing in non-ELA courses, (b) working with peers to discuss writing, and (c) making notes or an outline before writing had higher Writing Assessment scores. The survey data also revealed that while some students in Tennessee are engaging in these practices, many others are not. Furthermore, economically disadvantaged students reported significantly less practice using computers for writing, although they have slightly more computers per student in their schools.

Download the report

High School & Bridge to Postsecondary
Seamless Pathways: Bridging Tennessee's Gap Between High School and Postsecondary - 1/2017

The majority of Tennessee ninth graders graduate from high school, but far fewer
make the leap to postsecondary education. Recently launched statewide initiatives
have fundamentally shifted the educational landscape, substantially reducing barriers
to postsecondary access. Our state now stands at the cusp of a historical transformation
where we can make postsecondary success the norm rather than the exception.

Download the report

Course Placement Series: Spotlight on Eighth Grade Algebra I - 1/2015

Eighth grade Algebra I enrollment can propel students to take more rigorous math courses in high school, higher ACT scores, and college outcomes such as majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) and degree completion. This report focuses on Tennessee eighth grade Algebra enrollment over time. We find that eighth grade Algebra I enrollment in Tennessee has decreased, going from 31 percent in 2009-10 to 15 percent in 2013-14. We also find that less than half of “Algebra I Ready” students are enrolled in Algebra I in eighth grade, and that the ones who are enrolled outperformed their peers on the math sections of Explore, PLAN, and ACT.

Download the policy brief

Course Placement Series: Spotlight on High School Math Course Enrollment - 1/2015

This report explores course enrollment patterns in an effort to better understand in which courses students are enrolling and whether course enrollment policies and procedures are promoting students’ interests. We find that requiring Tennessee high school students to receive four math credits led to a dramatic increase (from 60 to 90 percent) in the number of twelfth grade students taking four years of math courses. We also found that the most common math course enrollment pattern – Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Bridge Math – was followed by 22 percent of the 2013-14 twelfth grade cohort, and that less than half of twelfth graders took an advanced math course beyond Algebra II.

Download the policy brief

Advanced Placement Strategy: A Framework for Identifying School-Level Barriers to AP Success - 5/2014

Tennessee lags far behind the nation on Advanced Placement (AP) testing rates and early college credits earned by passing AP tests. In 2013, Tennessee counted nearly 7,000 students in the senior cohort whose academic skills when they entered high school suggested they were on track to earn college credits through Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Yet just over half of these students actually graduated with an AP credit. The following report uses student-level data to highlight the real issues schools encounter when moving academically prepared students along the AP pipeline.

Download the report

Download Appendix A: Expectancy Tables

All Means All
Supporting Early Grades Student Achievement: An Exploration of RTI² Practices - 9/2016

Almost half of Tennessee’s students are not on grade level in reading and math by the time they complete third grade, and very few of those students achieve proficiency in later grades. To combat this trend and support the skill development and academic achievement of all students, Tennessee has adopted a framework for addressing individual learning needs called Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²). This report examines the RTI² approaches of high implementation elementary schools that have experienced different levels of success in moving their students to proficiency. Findings suggest that schools that were more successful than others at moving non-proficient students to proficiency use and communicate data effectively, build strong RTI² teams, allocate resources efficiently, and have strong leaders who embrace and support RTI² implementation.

Download the Report

Chronic Absenteeism in Tennessee’s Early Grades - 2/2016

Thousands of students miss school every day, but focus on truancy and average daily attendance may mask the severity of the issue: almost 45,000 students, or 10 percent, of K-3 students in Tennessee missed at least a month of school in 2014-15. This report details the landscape of chronic absenteeism in the early grades of Tennessee public schools by documenting which students are most likely to be chronically absent and how chronic absenteeism relates to student achievement. We find that economically disadvantaged students are three times more likely to be chronically absent in elementary schools than their non-economically disadvantaged peers. Moreover, a student who is chronically absent in third grade is significantly less likely to be reading on grade level (as measured by the TCAP English language arts exam) than a demographically similar peer who is not chronically absent.

Download the report

Implementing RTI²: Reports from the Field - 9/2014

Starting in 2014-15, districts across the state must implement a Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) plan. RTI² is an instructional framework which provides ongoing monitoring of student performance and progress through the use of universal student screeners and interventions targeted at students’ identified problem areas. To gain perspective on the implementation of RTI², we interviewed district and school leaders from 14 schools in seven districts across the state. We find that nearly all of the district and school administrators that we spoke with demonstrated a remarkably strong knowledge of the state’s RTI² framework, but that district and school staff have faced a number of challenges while implementing RTI², including scheduling, staffing resources, collaboration between general and special education, and identifying screening and progress monitoring tools.

Download the report

Equitable Access to Highly Effective Teachers for Tennessee Students - 3/2016

Decades of research have confirmed that teachers are the most important in-school factor for improving student achievement. Data from Tennessee shows that, on average, students who score at the lowest proficiency level see the largest gains after having a highly effective teacher for two or more consecutive years. This report describes the current landscape of Tennessee students’ access to highly effective teachers by examining both the supply and distribution of highly effective teachers at the state, district, and school levels. Findings indicated that, in many districts and schools, the lowest performing students had less access to highly effective teachers than their higher performing peers.

Download the report

District Empowerment
Advanced Placement Strategy: A Framework for Identifying School-Level Barriers to AP Success - 5/2014

Tennessee lags far behind the nation on Advanced Placement (AP) testing rates and early college credits earned by passing AP tests. In 2013, Tennessee counted nearly 7,000 students in the senior cohort whose academic skills when they entered high school suggested they were on track to earn college credits through Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Yet just over half of these students actually graduated with an AP credit. The following report uses student-level data to highlight the real issues schools encounter when moving academically prepared students along the AP pipeline.

Download the report

Download Appendix A: Expectancy Tables

Voices from the Classroom: Results from the 2016 Tennessee Educator Survey - 8/2016

The Tennessee Educator Survey is part of a continuing effort to deepen state, district, and school policymakers' understanding of the perspectives held by school-level educators on the issues affecting classrooms and schools. This report highlights certain areas of focus for the department based on educators' responses to the 2016 survey. The results show that most educators feel good about the climate in their schools, saying that they serve students alongside colleagues who share their goals and high expectations. At the same time, Tennessee teachers continue to have improved feelings of being supported in schools, with the percentage saying their instructional time is protected by their administration having increased for a third consecutive year. However, there is a gap between teacher and school leader views about the effectiveness of school discipline policies; more than 95 percent of administrators say their school effectively handles student discipline and behavioral problems, but fewer than 70 percent of teachers agree.

Download the report

2015 Tennessee Educator Survey Summary Report - 8/2015

The 2015 Tennessee Educator Survey Report aims to take the pulse of teacher perceptions, monitor school climates and culture across the state, and include teachers' voices in the policy discussion. The survey offers a baseline for where we are—and where we need to go as a state education agency. This report highlights certain areas of focus for the department based on teachers' responses to the 2015 survey. Teachers feel increasingly satisfied with working conditions at their schools: nearly eight out of ten teachers report that teachers in their school are satisfied, like being there, and feel recognized for their work. More than ever before, teachers see the evaluation process as leading to improvements in teaching and learning. Over two-thirds of teachers say the process has improved their teaching, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2014 and of 30 percentage points since 2012.

Download the report

Learning from the Best: Promising Practices from Tennessee's 2013 Reward Schools - 10/2013

Each year, Tennessee recognizes 10 percent of its schools for overall excellence. The list includes the schools that have made the greatest gains from the previous year and the schools that achieved at the highest levels of absolute performance across the state. In this report, we shine a light on these schools, sharing some of their stories and practices as a source of inspiration and learning.

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Educator Support
Preparation Through Partnership: Strengthening Tennessee’s New Teacher Pipeline

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This report looks at the landscape of new teachers in Tennessee to understand more about state needs around teacher preparation.

We argue that we must continue to improve our systems to ensure that prepared teachers find their ways into the schools and districts that need them most and that they continue to develop their skills once they reach the classroom.

This report argues that strong partnerships are essential to strengthening the pipeline between EPPs and districts. Developing meaningful, data-informed, and sustained partnerships will require substantial commitment on the part of both districts and EPPs.

To get there, we offer several next steps, each of which places specific requirements on our state agencies, districts, and EPPs.

To this end, the report describes state efforts to:

  • provide better data for better decisions and
  • new resources for partnership, collaboration, and enhancing the pipeline.

And the report offers a series of recommendations for districts and EPPs aimed at:

  • addressing teacher shortages and
  • developing high-quality teachers for every classroom.
The Rise of Student Growth Portfolio Models in Tennessee - 1/2017

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Summary

Over the last several years, Tennessee has rapidly expanded the use of student growth portfolio models for the purpose of teacher evaluation. Participation, both in the number of districts and teachers, has increased steadily since portfolios were first introduced during the 2011–12 school year, and we expect that participation will continue to grow. The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in the spring of 2016 requiring that districts receiving state funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) use the state board-approved student growth portfolio model to evaluate their pre-K and kindergarten teachers.1 In the 2015–16 school year, almost all Tennessee districts had state-funded VPK, meaning the new legislation will significantly expand the use and overall impact of portfolios.

Voices from the Classroom: Results from the 2016 Tennessee Educator Survey - 8/2016

The Tennessee Educator Survey is part of a continuing effort to deepen state, district, and school policymakers' understanding of the perspectives held by school-level educators on the issues affecting classrooms and schools. This report highlights certain areas of focus for the department based on educators' responses to the 2016 survey. The results show that most educators feel good about the climate in their schools, saying that they serve students alongside colleagues who share their goals and high expectations. At the same time, Tennessee teachers continue to have improved feelings of being supported in schools, with the percentage saying their instructional time is protected by their administration having increased for a third consecutive year. However, there is a gap between teacher and school leader views about the effectiveness of school discipline policies; more than 95 percent of administrators say their school effectively handles student discipline and behavioral problems, but fewer than 70 percent of teachers agree.

Download the report

2015 Tennessee Educator Survey Summary Report - 8/2015

The 2015 Tennessee Educator Survey Report aims to take the pulse of teacher perceptions, monitor school climates and culture across the state, and include teachers' voices in the policy discussion. The survey offers a baseline for where we are—and where we need to go as a state education agency. This report highlights certain areas of focus for the department based on teachers' responses to the 2015 survey. Teachers feel increasingly satisfied with working conditions at their schools: nearly eight out of ten teachers report that teachers in their school are satisfied, like being there, and feel recognized for their work. More than ever before, teachers see the evaluation process as leading to improvements in teaching and learning. Over two-thirds of teachers say the process has improved their teaching, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2014 and of 30 percentage points since 2012.

Download the report

Making Every Observation Meaningful: Addressing Lack of Variation in Teacher Evaluation Ratings - 11/2014

Tennessee launched a new, statewide system of educator evaluation in 2011. The teacher observations that represent the primary component of teacher evaluation scores have the potential to provide valuable information about teachers’ instructional strengths and areas in need of improvement, but the value of observers’ ratings of teaching practice depends in large part on the strength of the feedback that the ratings provide. This report describes the idea of the “non-differentiating observer,” or the observer whose ratings do not usefully distinguish between teachers’ relative strengths and weaknesses. In this report, we identify the number of non-differentiating observers, where they are located, and whether any particular characteristics predict whether an observer will be nondifferentiating.

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Teacher Retention in Tennessee: Are We Keeping Our Best Teachers? - 6/2014

This report examines the extent to which teacher retention rates in Tennessee schools differ according to teachers’ effectiveness and the ways this information might inform strategic retention efforts at the state and district levels. We find that teachers who earn higher overall teacher evaluation scores tend to be retained at slightly higher rates than teachers who earn lower overall teacher evaluation scores, although the differences in these rates are not particularly large. We also find evidence that improvements in certain working conditions have the potential to improve the retention rates of highly effective teachers.

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Download the complete policy brief

The Impact of the 2012 TNCore Math Training on Teaching Practices and Effectiveness - 11/2013

During the spring and summer of 2012, the Tennessee Department of Education trained about 200 Core Coaches who then went on to facilitate summer trainings for thousands of the state’s third through eighth grade math teachers. This memo provides an analysis of the effectiveness of the TNCore training on teacher practice and student achievement. The findings suggest that attendance at the summer training sessions made a significant difference to student achievement and teacher effectiveness, as measured by both observer ratings and value-added scores based on statewide TCAP math tests.

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Download the Impact Report Technical Appendix

Teacher Characteristics and Effectiveness - 2/2013

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Recent Retirement Trends of Tennessee Teachers - 2/2013

Tennessee has undertaken several wide-ranging reforms aimed at educator practice and effectiveness over the past several years, including the launch of a new teacher evaluation system, modification of teacher tenure policy, and initial implementation of Tennessee Academic Standards. This report from the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) investigates patterns of teacher retirement in the years surrounding these policy changes. We find that retirement rates have risen since 2009, corresponding with a loss of an additional one percent of the teacher workforce or approximately 1,000 teachers per year. Moreover, retirement rates are becoming increasingly differentiated by teacher effectiveness, with the more effective teachers choosing to stay longer in the classroom and the less effective teachers choosing to leave at higher rates.

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