TDOE Awards $560M in Innovative School Models Grants

Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | 09:46am


Historic Grant Funding to Support Reimagining Middle & High Schools

Nashville, TN – As part of the Tennessee’s ongoing commitment to bring Innovative School Models (ISMs) to every public middle and high school in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Education has awarded over $560 million across 137 public school districts and 45 public charter schools to invest in students and their postsecondary success. Thanks to the historic investment by Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly, this grant funding distributed over 182 grants to increase opportunities for career readiness and student success statewide.  

“Tennessee’s excitement for the Innovative School Models initiative continues to grow across our education institutions and local industries,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Thank you to our school districts for their hard work and dedication to creating innovative programs to boost student achievement and workforce readiness, and now, all state investment to support this work has been awarded.”

Through a statewide application process, grant recipients received $1 million per high school, $500,000 per middle school, and $200,000 per school serving less than 100 students. Combination schools, or schools that serve both middle and high school aged students, were awarded $1 million each, and $500,000 was awarded to those that serve elementary and middle school aged students. 

The grant application process required applicants to outline their plans for reimagining time, space, and learning experiences for their students, including innovative approaches and creative opportunities, such as:

  • The Innovation Hub, Williamson County Schools: The Innovation Hub will provide a project-based learning space to support the growth of CTE programs. The space will host unique programming that will look, feel, and mimic industry partners’ workplaces for accelerated growth and exposure for students.
  • Middle School Career Exploration Space, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System: The Middle School Career Exploration Space will include various innovative spaces and opportunities for students to explore career clusters and pathways, which align with their aptitudes and interests at the middle school level. These middle school students will have opportunities to engage with existing CTE programs of study at their feeder high schools. 
  • Exploring, Elevating, and Expanding Career and Technical Education Pathways, Hamilton County Schools: Throughout the district, middle school students are exploring career and post-secondary exploration opportunities through new class offerings and opportunities to dive into their interest and aptitudes. High school students are seeing their current CTE programs of study elevate with high quality instructionalresources, improved engagement strategies, relevant equipment, and mirroring industry standard spaces. Throughout the district all of the students are seeing expanding opportunities offered to students with additional Career and Technical Education programs of study, additional Early Post Secondary Opportunities, or additional access to more real-world applications.
  • Transportation and Equipment, Pickett County Schools: A focus on transportation and equipment will reduce barriers to TCAT enrollment. This model will also allow the school district to obtain modern, industry-standard equipment and supplies that will enhance skills for students in the plant science and veterinary science programs. This will establish a unique, school-based enterprise that will include plant sales to the public and provide fresh produce for the school system's cafeteria.   

“Our team has been focused on ensuring our students are graduating prepared for high-demand, high-wage careers aligned to individual aptitude and interests,” said Dr. Jean Luna-Vedder, Director of Schools, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. “The Innovative School Model funding that I was fortunate to play a part in advocating for will allow our district to reimagine, enhance, and expand our CTE programs at the secondary level. Our team is extremely grateful for the funding and excited to implement our plans in the fall.”

“Expanding career horizons and exposing students to CTE opportunities at an earlier age can be instrumental in helping students prepare for in-demand careers that may have been otherwise difficult to access,” said Dr. Olivia Bagby, Future Ready Students Director, Hamilton County Schools. “As a district leader, I am thrilled to see such a significant investment being made in our schools, so that students will have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in life after high school. This historic investment represents a bright future for our students and community.”

“The Clarksville Montgomery County School System is looking forward the opportunities the ISM Grant funding will allow us to bring to our students, including new programs such as Aviation and Electrical Systems at the high school level and career exploration in middle school,” said Dayna Paine, Director of Career & Technical Education, Clarksville Montgomery County Schools. “With increased access to resources and state-of-the-art equipment, students across all grade levels will develop and hone the academic, technical, and employability skills needed to be productive citizens when they leave the doors of our high schools.” 

The goal of the Innovative School Models initiative is to encourage strong, strategic, and innovative partnerships between Tennessee public school districts, public charter schools, postsecondary education institutions, and local employers to prepare students with real-world, in-demand skills, credentials, and knowledge. This grant opportunity expands the department’s initial Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) investment of $30 million. In 2021, 21 districts across the state were initially awarded ISM grant funding. These districts have made incredible strides in boosting student readiness through exemplary ISM programming.

For more information on Innovative School Models, click here

For additional information about Tennessee’s Career and Technical Education initiatives and programs, including Tennessee Pathways, click here.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact