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Candice McQueen, Commissioner of Education

Candice McQueen


Dr. Candice McQueen was sworn in as Tennessee’s commissioner of education in January 2015. That year, Dr. McQueen led a statewide effort to create a new strategic plan and vision for our schools called Tennessee Succeeds that has focused on increasing postsecondary and career readiness for all of Tennessee’s 1 million students. In summer 2017, Tennessee‘s new state plan was approved under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which builds on the work started under Tennessee Succeeds. Some of the hallmarks of the plan include a focus on ensuring Ready Graduates by supporting more early college coursework and industry certification attainment, a renewed accountability and support focus on improving achievement and growth for all students, and elevating a continuum of interventions for the state’s lowest performing schools. 

Under Dr. McQueen’s leadership, Tennessee students posted the state’s highest graduation rate in its history at 89.1%, best overall ACT at 20.2, highest ACT participation rate at 97%, and a record high number of students taking and attaining credit for early college coursework. Tennessee has also refocused and reinvested in literacy with a statewide Read to be Ready campaign, new standards with comprehensive guidance and training on teaching reading, new training and investments in better resources and materials for students, a statewide coaching network for elementary reading teachers, and summer camps for students who are furthest behind with an investment of over $30 million. In 2018, grades 3-5 student achievement in literacy showed improvements after years of stagnation, and the reading camps have shown statistically significant outcomes for the past two years.

On national benchmarks, Tennessee students have continued the state’s trajectory as one of the fastest improving states in the country in K-12 education for math and reading, while adding historic gains in science – including narrowing gaps between students from racial and ethnic minorities and eliminating the gender gap. In 2018, Tennessee was recognized in several national studies, including by earning its first ever “A” rating for its standards and the rigor of its test after receiving an “F” rating a decade earlier.

Over the last four years, Commissioner McQueen worked with the governor and the general assembly to pass the largest investments in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history. Since 2011, Tennessee has invested an additional $500 million in teacher salaries as part of a $1.5 billion increase in education funding.

McQueen has also connected with over 14,000 teachers on her Classroom Chronicles Tour and spent time virtually all of Tennessee’s school districts. McQueen has opened lines of communication between the department and the public through avenues such as the Assessment Task Force, Early Literacy Council, Career Forward Task Force, and the department’s inaugural Parent and Student Advisory Councils. In addition, she continues to oversee and participate in the department’s Teacher Advisory Council and the Governor’s Teacher Cabinet, and she launched a new teacher-leadership opportunity, the Tennessee Teacher Ambassador Network, which connects teachers deeply with department teams to advise and learn about their work. In 2017-18, she led a statewide tour called Teach Today, Change Tomorrow that actively promoted the teaching profession among exceptional high school students. She also initiated a series of grant opportunities to elevate and innovate around recruitment of aspiring teachers and diversifying the teaching profession in Tennessee.  

Prior to her appointment as Commissioner of Education, Dr. McQueen served as senior vice president and dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University. Under her leadership, Lipscomb’s college of education and teacher preparation program were consistently highlighted as one of the top teacher training programs for quality and effectiveness. During her years as dean from 2008-2015, Dr. McQueen doubled the size and reach of the college’s graduate programs with new master’s degrees and certificates, the university’s first doctorial program, and online and off-campus offerings. She brought a Teach for America partnership to Lipscomb, founded the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, and started the IDEAL program as a postsecondary program for students with intellectual difficulties. Dr. McQueen’s influence also led to the college’s unique, multi-year engagement supporting teachers in the state’s first charter school conversion, as well as the Pionero program that supports Latino youth in becoming teachers. Prior to joining Lipscomb University, Dr. McQueen was awarded multiple awards for both her teaching and the curriculum design of a new magnet school.

Dr. McQueen has served on the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, the board of the Council of the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and the executive board for the Council of Chief State School Officers. She is also an invited member of Chiefs for Change. Dr. McQueen was awarded the Innovator in Education award from Lipscomb University in 2017. Dr. McQueen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, and a bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University.