TDOE Highlights Exemplary Innovative School Models in Tennessee

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 | 01:00pm


Districts Utilizing Initial Grant Funds to Reimagine
High School Experiences for Students

Nashville, TN – As part of Innovative School Models month, the Tennessee Department of Education is highlighting exemplar districts for their use of the initial $30 million grant funding awarded in 2021 for the Innovative School Models initiative.  

Throughout the month of July, the department is celebrating Innovative School Models month, which is the primary state initiative within the Student Readiness priority of the Best for All strategic plan. This initiative was designed to encourage partnerships between school districts, postsecondary education institutions and local employers to reimagine how to best prepare high school students for careers in their local communities.

“By fostering partnerships between schools and businesses, recipients of the Innovative School Models grant funding have demonstrated how they can connect education to the workforce by rethinking traditional school days,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We commend these exemplar districts for their strategic work and buy-in to this program to elevate their students’ experiences in the classroom. This investment has and will continue to change the lives of students and communities in Tennessee.”

For more information about the Innovative School Model exemplar districts across the state, click here.

Building upon the state’s strong commitment to ensure Tennessee is future workforce ready, Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly made an historic investment of $500 million to bring Innovative School Models to every public high school and middle school in the state. By expanding Tennessee’s Innovative School Models aimed at building readiness and preparing students for success after high school, more students will have opportunities to participate in participate in innovative local programs aligned to Tennessee’s highest-demand skills and careers.

In May 2021, the department awarded 21 school districts Innovative High School Model grants, which included an initial investment of $30 million to foster local community partnerships that boost student readiness. These partnerships have already shown an incredible impact on students’ experiences and readiness for the workforce and postsecondary opportunities.

Bradley County Schools developed the PIE Innovation Center, an over 240,000 square foot building with more than 30 partners that provides wrap around services for students, such as work-based learning, postsecondary opportunities, industry certifications and pre-apprenticeships. The resources in this center have and will continue to allow students to align their coursework to career pathways during the school day.

"The impact the ISM grant has already had on our district is immeasurable,” said Dr. Linda Cash, Director of Schools, Bradley County Schools. “We have been able to reimagine learning through collaborative partnerships with our local community college and TCAT to develop three new programs in Chemical Technology, MEP, and Medium/Heavy Truck Technology. In addition, we have been able to reimagine learning through the use of space at our PIE Innovation Center. The purchase of innovative, industry-aligned equipment will allow students the opportunity to obtain specialized training and increased opportunities for EPSOs. The ISM grant allowed us to break all barriers to provide equity and access for all students in Bradley County Schools."

Macon County Schools established a Teaching as a Profession (TAP) program of study made available to all students from Macon and Jackson counties by utilizing state-of-the-art technology, time, and partnerships. This program gives students the opportunity to not only observe diverse classroom settings but also lead classrooms through planning, presenting, and assessing alongside their mentor teacher. These experiences will lead to the development of the next generation of teachers. 

"This grant funding has opened the doors for new opportunities for students in Macon County to find their passion for teaching," said Daniel Cook, Interim Director of Schools, Macon County Schools. "The TAP program allows our students to see the teaching profession from a different perspective. During the program, students help lead a classroom, which helps foster their love for teaching and will hopefully encourage students to choose to pursue becoming an educator as their future career."

Milan Special School District, Trenton Special School District, and Gibson County Special School Districts have collaborated to implement a Pathway to Success Project to reimagine the traditional classroom setting. Through a modified school day consisting of an online platform and working up to 30 hours per week at over 25 partnering employers, 90 students have met their academic requirements and benefitted from the program. Several students have been offered full-time employment opportunities and formed lasting networks that will lead to success in their futures. After only one year of implementation of the Pathways to Success Project, students participating will have earned $490,000 combined, making a significant economic impact in West Tennessee. 

“The Innovative High School Model has reimagined the use of high school time and space to create an individualized path and plan of success for each student”, said Jonathan Criswell, Director of Schools, Milan Special School District. “Student learning has become more real since it is now more relevant to each student and their individual life goals after high school. This shift in focus allowed over 95 percent of our graduating seniors this year to leave high school "College and Career Ready"!”

“The Innovative High School Model grant has allowed our district to leverage partnerships with local businesses and recreate the school day for students,” said Eddie Pruett, Director of Schools, Gibson County Special School District. “Students can now work up to 30 hours during the school day and still successfully achieve their academic requirements. This program allows our students to gain work experience, contribute to the local economy and receive long-term job offers after completion of the program to put them on the track to future success.”

“The Innovative HS grant is one of the best undertakings we have ever endeavored at Peabody,” said Tim Haney, Director of Schools, Trenton Special School District. “During the second semester of the 21-22 school year, we were able to employ 80 seniors (out of 100 in the class) at 20 different work locations across Gibson County.  Before and during their placement, we had the opportunity to work with students on soft skills, resumes, job applications, interview preparation, how to dress for success, budgeting, Gibson County job research, addressing envelopes, sending thank you notes, offer letters, and many other workplace readiness needs; things that don't traditionally get done during a student's school experience. The students now feel more confident and prepared as they search for and start a new job.”

For additional information about Tennessee’s Innovative School Models initiative, click here

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact