Tennessee First to the Top

Great Teachers & Leaders

Teachers are at the heart of boosting student achievement. Tennessee has worked in recent years to improve the quality of its teacher preparation institutions and create new high-quality alternative licensure paths to attract more talented individuals to teach.

The state’s data systems allow measures of teacher effectiveness aligned with Race to the Top guidelines. And higher education providers are using performance-based funding to realign goals to meet the state’s teacher recruiting needs, particularly in math and science.

Tennessee’s First to the Top plan will leverage federal funds to bring these components together to:

  • Create a new evaluation system for teachers and principals that uses student growth as one of multiple measures;
  • Expand data use to close the teacher equity gap between high-poverty/high-minority schools and low-poverty/low-minority schools;
  • Partner with higher education institutions to meet recruitment challenges; and,
  • Link professional development to teacher effectiveness based on student performance measures.

These investments will equip teachers with the tools they need to succeed and achieve the state’s education goals: narrowing achievement gaps, increasing the percentage of effective leaders and raising the four-year graduation rate to 90 percent. The foundation for all these investments is the state’s data system: the largest student- and teacher-level database ever assembled.

Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee

The Teacher Evaluation Advisory Council was created by the Tennessee General Assembly as part of the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.

The committee will create a new, annual, teacher and principal evaluation framework to be recommended to the State Board of Education in November 2010. more »

Teacher Residency

Expanding residency programs for teachers and principals represents a strategy for increasing the educator talent pool for school districts across the state. Tennessee already has a number of emerging programs that seek to positively impact student achievement in urban schools by recruiting, training and supporting outstanding teachers. The Tennessee Department of Education will expand this investment by allowing school districts to compete for funding to establish residency programs locally.

Teacher Preparation Program Effectiveness Report Card

Tennessee is investing deeply in teachers and leaders; therefore it is of utmost importance that the programs, policies and funding mechanisms utilized to train these individuals be monitored. Combined with other measures, the Teacher Preparation Program Effectiveness Report Card will inform program adjustments, policy changes, and funding for teacher education programs such that they will be rewarded not only for producing teachers, but for the quality of the teachers they produce. Successful programs will be expanded, while unsuccessful programs will be provided an opportunity to improve over a specified period of time. The State Board of Education will use that data to reward programs that are successful and support or decertify those that fail to produce effective teachers. A similar report card will also be prepared for principal preparation programs.

Teacher Supply and Demand Study

In partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the State Board of Education, the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research and the Governor’s office, the Tennessee Department of Education has created a teacher education data warehouse – a longitudinal database – that will track teachers from their entrance into the higher education system, public K-12 sector and beyond. Data from the warehouse has been used to conduct a supply and demand study that will be repeated and extended to include school leaders.


The UTeach program is a nationally recognized expedited licensure program for math and science majors who simultaneously complete degree and licensure requirements. The Tennessee Department of Education will partner with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and use Race to the Top funding to expand the program to four universities in the state:

  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
  • University of Memphis

Teach Tennessee

Tennessee has taken bold steps in alternative education programs such as Teach Tennessee, to attract mid-career professionals, particularly in the fields of math and science, to become teachers. Teach Tennessee is a highly selective, accelerated teacher licensure program initiated by Governor Phil Bredesen and developed by the Tennessee Department of Education. Teach Tennessee is a program for those with strong content knowledge who wish to teach high need subjects in grades 7-12.

Teach Tennessee expanded in 2010 to include a new program for recent college graduates. The new program will help graduates transition quickly into teaching.

For more information, visit the Teach Tennessee website at www.teachtennessee.org.

Leadership Action Tank

The Leadership Action Tank will be established to capture the evidence of practices by school leaders that have been demonstrated to improve student achievement using Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) data and other factors with an emphasis on high-poverty, high-performing schools across the state, particularly in rural areas.

TELL Tennessee Teacher Learning Environment Survey

The TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leadning and Learning) Tennessee Survey is an opportunity for every educator to "TELL Tennessee" if they have positive teaching and learning conditions, which research has shown to be important to student achievement and teacher retention. The anonymous online survey may be completed February 14 to March 11, 2011. The initial data will be available in April 2011 for schools and districts to use in identifying strengths and recognizing areas in need of improvement. TELL Tennessee partners believe the results will help place educators' experiences and perceptions at the center of school, district, and state efforts to improve education in Tennessee.


Rural Literacy Programs

Save the Children currently provides literacy programs including tutoring, formative assessments, extended learning and professional development in Tennessee’s rural school districts. The Tennessee Department of Education will expand those current efforts through Race to the Top funds.

Electronic Learning Center

Since the launch of Tennessee’s Electronic Learning Center in 2008, students and teachers across the state have participated in online courses and professional development. Through Race to the Top, the Tennessee Department of Education will expand the Electronic Learning Center to amplify the professional development and curricular options.

Visit the Electronic Learning Center at: www.tnElc.org