TDOE Releases Intent to Apply for Innovative School Models Grant

Thursday, July 07, 2022 | 09:00am


Highlighting Innovative School Models Month; Intent to Apply Open July 7-22

Nashville, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the intent to apply for the $500 million Tennessee Innovative School Models grant opportunity to boost opportunities for career readiness and student success statewide is open beginning today, July 7 through Friday, July 22. Districts can access the intent to apply here

During the month of July, the department is celebrating Innovative School Models month, which is the primary state initiative within the Student Readiness priority in the Best for All strategic plan. The Innovative School Models grant opportunity expands on the department’s initial ESSER investment of $30 million with an additional $500 million investment of state funds designed to eliminate structural barriers that exist between middle and high school, workforce, and postsecondary opportunities. These models allow students the ability to seamlessly make connections earlier and graduate high school prepared to successfully complete a postsecondary credential or excel in a career pathway of their choice. 

“Thanks to the investment of Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly, the Innovative School Models Grant opportunity will provide half a billion dollars to maximize opportunities for students to explore and succeed in high-demand careers, for industry to develop local talent, and for schools to create programs that meet the needs of their communities,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “This opportunity can be a game-changer in helping districts to reimagine the possible and create innovative, high-impact, and meaningful experiences for middle and high school students in Tennessee.”

The state will invest $500 million over the next four years to give all traditional, public middle and high schools the opportunity to establish an Innovative School Model. Funding will be awarded to schools as follows:

  • Middle schools serving more than 100 students are eligible for up to $500,000.
  • Schools combining both middle and high school grades that serve more than 100 students are eligible for up to $500,000.
  • Middle schools and high schools serving less than 100 students are eligible for up to $200,000.
  • High schools serving more than 100 students are eligible for up to $1,000,000.

Supporting resources may be found here, including FAQs and a guidance document.  

In May 2021, the department awarded 21 school district 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. 

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.

“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. “We are partnering with the community in ways we never have before and changing the trajectory of our students’ futures with real-world experiences and opportunities for employment in high-demand industries. Many times, students know their interests but often don’t understand how those interests might translate into a career. By exploring local industries and post-secondary opportunities, we expose students to numerous career paths.”

“I am extremely pleased with the opportunity this grant has given our students,” said Rebecca Stone, Director of Schools, Alcoa City Schools. “We have double the number of students in our health science program and have laid the foundation for students to obtain their LPN Certification almost immediately after graduation.”

“The Innovative School Model initiative has allowed Rutherford County Schools to take a well-established foundation of opportunities to the next level,” said Dr. James Sullivan, Director of Schools, Rutherford County Schools. “Programs such as career nights, work-based learning, and teacher externships have been enhanced to reach more students, provide more choices, and build stronger bridges between students and our community. Within one school year, RCS doubled the number of TDOE approved industry certifications earned by students. Enhancements like these have increased student readiness and better equipped our students for the next steps after graduation.”

"The Innovative School Models grant has given us the time and resources to truly evaluate our course offerings and what opportunities we are providing for our students," said Dr. Christy Smith, Director of Schools, Hardeman County Schools. "These resources and opportunities have revitalized our focus on our partnerships and are setting up our students for success following graduation."

“Memphis-Shelby County Schools is reimagining careers in STEM by transforming Bolton High School into a world-class AgriSTEM school,” said Dr. Joris Ray, Director of Schools, Memphis-Shelby County Schools. “We want to help students connect the world of agriculture, technology, and sustainability, and also give them hands-on experiences and the opportunity to earn certifications in other fields such as automotive. With partners like Ford's Blue Oval Project, Tennessee State University, and the University of Tennessee, and funding from the state’s Innovative School Model grant, we’re reimagining the traditional high school experience.”

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

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact