State Board of Education Raising the Bar for All Tennessee Students
By: Allison Chancey
As a veteran teacher, I was honored to learn in August 2013 that Governor Bill Haslam had selected me to serve on the State Board of Education.
In all honesty, I was not exactly sure what all the State Board did. However, I had some questions about the state’s new teacher evaluation system and the higher education standards we were embracing. I was excited to serve and share the perspectives of my fellow teachers and our students.
I quickly learned that the State Board of Education is the official governing and policy- making body for Tennessee’s elementary and secondary schools. The board consists of ten voting members appointed by the governor – one representing each of Tennessee’s nine congressional districts, plus a student member. I came to understand that the board members’ variety of perspectives offers an extensive view of the state’s educational needs and opportunities.
I learned that in too many cases, major employers reported that our high school graduates did not have the skills required for the jobs being offered. I also learned that in the spring of 2007, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released an education report card about all the states, Tennessee received an “F” in the category of post-secondary and workforce readiness, and an “F” for truth in advertising when comparing proficiency on our annual state assessments to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
It was clear we needed to raise our educational standards and our expectations, and also to make sure our teachers were being prepared and supported to help all students succeed.
Tennessee adopted higher and more rigorous academic standards, launched a new teacher evaluation and accountability system for all classrooms, schools, and districts, and overhauled Career and Technical Education Courses. Last year, we launched a transparent and inclusive process to review and replace the state’s math and English language arts standards to make them more meaningful for teachers, parents, and students. Science and social studies follow this year.
Over the past four years, Tennessee has now become the fastest improving state in the nation for student achievement thanks to the hard work of students and teachers across the state.
But we know there is still much more to do.
Today, less than half of Tennessee’s third through eighth grade students are proficient in reading. And in the fall of 2014, more than 40 percent of our high school graduates failed to enroll in any kind of postsecondary program – and among those who did, nearly 60 percent of first-time freshman in Tennessee’s community colleges had to take at least one remedial or developmental course just to be ready for college.
So, in partnership with the Department of Education, the State Board has identified three crucial goals we will work towards to keep Tennessee moving in the right direction:
- Tennessee will rank in the top half of states on the NAEP by 2019.
- The average ACT composite score in Tennessee will be a 21, or a comparable score of 990 on the SAT by 2020, making sure more of our students are college-ready.
- The majority of High School graduates from the class of 2020 will earn a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree, to put them on a much better path for long-term career success
These goals are bold, but achievable. Teachers and students are moving out of their comfort zones to embrace these higher standards and expectations, and the accountability needed to be sure we stay on the right track.
It is a great time to be involved in education. Tennessee students and teachers are second to none. I am proud to serve my students in the classroom, and on the State Board of Education, to help support them in each step along the way.
Allison Chancey represents Tennessee’s third congressional district on the State Board of Education. She is a second grade teacher in Bradley County, TN.