Archives: February 2020

How Businesses Are Partnering with Schools to Create Opportunities

It’s critical that communities work together to help students who are pursuing a degree or certificate, step into the career or job that will help students and local communities thrive. Career and technical education is critical because it allows students to pursue an area of expertise that isn’t usually found in a conventional general education classroom.

While exploring the incredible partnerships our state has to offer, TSS came across a remarkable collaboration between Nissan Group of North America and TCAT Smyrna. Dan Caldwell, Senior Manager of Learning Pathways at Nissan, leads a manufacturing training group for three U.S. manufacturing plants, and his team serves a population of 17,000 employees in their professional and personal growth.

One of the programs Nissan touts was birthed through a partnership with the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce and is an externship for K-12 teachers. Nissan brings teachers onsite to work alongside their employees, so teachers understand first-hand the skills and competencies Nissan requires, as well as the opportunities they offer. These teachers gain a clearer understanding of what happens in the manufacturing plant and the numerous job opportunities that are available for their students.

Watch below as Mr. Caldwell shares about a career awareness event Nissan sponsored with Smyrna Middle School and the opportunity each middle school student had to learn about the innovative opportunities that are available in their own community.

Inside TNSuccess: February 24

TN Legislative Corner

The House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Subcommittee (CTI) amended HB 1687/SB 1735, which proposed to eliminate academic standards for science and social studies in kindergarten through grade two. After concerns were expressed about the legislation as introduced, the State Board of Education helped to clarify the difference between standards and curriculum and provided historical context for this conversation.

The amended language, offered by Speaker Pro Tem Dunn, maintains current K-2 standards and empowers Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to develop and implement instructional programs that promote individual teacher creativity and autonomy, and incorporate science and social studies concepts into the English Language Arts instruction. TSS appreciates Rep. Cepicky and committee members for taking the time to review feedback and doing the hard work necessary to find solutions that put students first.

The committee process is a great opportunity to use your voice to influence state policy that impacts students. Please take a moment to email members of the Education CTI subcommittee thanking them for prioritizing a student-based agenda that continuously improves all aspects of public education.

Track progress on other education bills last week here.

For a complete list of education legislation filed by the 111th 2019-2020 General Assembly, click here.

#CTEMonth and How TN Students are Impacted

This week’s blog on CTE month comes from our Policy and Outreach Manager, Jessica Whitmill. Jessica recounts her travels through the state and how different districts and schools are preparing students for college and career through hands-on learning and technical education. She talks about several different schools and the teachers that are making sizeable impacts on students across the state. 

Read our latest blog here

ICYMI: State Board of Education Releases Preparation Report Card

Recently, the Tennessee State Board of Education released its Education Preparation Report Card, which is a useful tool to find information on educator preparation programs in the state to ensure every student has a well-prepared teacher. Additionally, it’s helpful for teachers to have guidance on the teacher prep programs they could apply to around the state. 

Click here to see how well TN prep programs performed.

Speaking of educator prep programs, a group of students from Freed-Hardeman University’s Teacher Education Program joined us for our Day on the Hill this month. These students engaged with different legislators on education issues, the legislative process, and how legislators got to where they are today. Check out a few photos from their visit below. 

Calendar of Events

February 25th10:30AM: House Higher Education Subcommittee

      12:00PM: House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Committee

      4:30PM: House K-12 Subcommittee 

February 26th – 9:00AM: House Education Committee

 2:30PM: Senate Education Committee

February 27th – Digital Learning Day

In Case You Missed It…

How Tennessee Schools Are Preparing Students for College and Career

By: Jessica Whitmill, Manager, Policy & Outreach

Tennessee is innovating in education.

I have the awesome opportunity as leading the outreach at Tennesseans for Student Success to visit schools across the state. During my travels, I’ve met hardworking teachers, seen progress and growth in-action, and experienced world-class programs.

World-class programs are peppered across our state in forms of career and technical education programs that are helping students build real-time skills for 21st-century jobs. These programs are helping students gain academic skills so they are better prepared for high school, college, career, and the future.

Cleveland High School in Bradley County is heavily invested in ensuring students are engaged with hands-on learning that is preparing them for their futures. Cleveland High School’s career and technical programs include Health Science where students get direct experience in their Raider Rescue, an ambulance simulator and health science training classrooms equipped with medical instruments that stimulate an actual hospital. Students also take flight in their Aviation Lab which allows them to use a Redbird FMX flight simulator, one of only two Tennessee high schools to have this tool for teaching. The flight simulator is used to provide students with a real-life feeling of flying in different weather conditions before they pilot an actual airplane. Cleveland’s STEM program was also highlighted during my tour, where community service and science are combined to create Project Malachi. This project was spearheaded by the robotics team and creates custom motorized wheelchairs for children with disabilities and has since expanded to be called the Malachi Movement. Learn more about this venture at

In Nashville, at KIPP Academy, they are helping students succeed through their innovative math program. KIPP Academy is located in East Nashville where students are historically underserved. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brittany Middlebrooks, the Assistant Principal over math, to learn more about how they are assisting students who enter their middle school deficient in math and help them graduate on or above grade level. KIPP Nashville uses strategies like Opening Tasks, which are grade level tasks that allow students to think through their previous knowledge of math by making connections, build on their learning, and engage in higher-level thinking. Seeing this in real time was incredible. This program is helping students think differently about their learning and preparing them for their future college path or career.

Lastly, Coffee County Central High School boasts robust CTE programs of study fulfilling 15 out of the 16 state focus areas. Of the 15 focus areas, Coffee County Central HS offers 23 programs of study which speaks to the high caliber of diversity students have access to in their studies. As I spoke with Richard Skipper, CTE Director for Coffee County Schools, he shared a student success story about a specific student who turned a corner in his academic studies because of his co-op program. These types of stories are common as I talk with teachers and am able to hear first-hand about how Tennessee’s students’ lives are being changed because of the innovative opportunities and programs they have access to across the state.

Innovation is a key ingredient to Tennessee’s historic success in recent years. Programs like the comprehensive CTE courses at Cleveland High School, Coffee County Central High School, and the innovative math program at KIPP Academy, highlight that Tennessee schools are helping students succeed. As we look at education policies moving forward, we should strengthen and invest in opportunities for all students to have access to programs that help them prepare for their futures.

Inside TNSuccess: February 17

TN Legislative Corner

Last week, TSS held our third annual Day on the Hill, which was a rousing success. Around 65 advocates, students, parents, and teachers with diverse backgrounds were in attendance to advocate for the success of all students in the state of Tennessee. We’re grateful for every legislator and thought leader who was able to meet with us and share about the work they’re doing to improve our state. Read below to hear more about the event. 

The House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Subcommittee (CTI) heard testimonies from several teachers on HB 1687/SB 1735. This bill proposes to eliminate academic standards for science and social studies in kindergarten through grade two. These teachers weighed in and highlighted the importance of maintaining high standards and the current flexibility that exists to incorporate multiple standards into literacy instruction. The concerns expressed by committee members reinforce that we all agree on improving educational outcomes for students, particularly building a strong foundation in early literacy, is an urgent matter. We oppose this bill because eliminating will not solve this challenge. CTI ran out of time and will continue this important debate on Tuesday.

Please take a moment to email members of the CTI subcommittee about the importance of academic standards for early grades today.

Watch Mary Owen Holmes, a high school history teacher from Nashville, testify her opposition to this bill. Take a look at a screen recording of her opening remarks here

There was some movement on quite a few education bills last week and we expect the next several weeks to be busy with about a month left for committee work. Catch up on committee action on education bills here.

In other Tennessee news, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill to officially recognize Tennessee as the “Volunteer State!”  For a complete list of education legislation filed by the 111th 2019-2020 General Assembly, click here.

A Successful TSS Day on the Hill 

Our #TSSDayontheHill2020 was quite a success, and we want to thank every person that was involved! We were thrilled to bring educators, advocates, and students from around the state to visit the Tennessee State Capitol to talk with Tennessee lawmakers about the great things happening in our schools and how we can work together to ensure every student has an opportunity to a great public education.  

Couldn’t make our Day on the Hill? Be a part of Tennesseans across the state raising their voice for students. We’ve created an easy way for you to contact your elected officials. Take a look around our site for advocacy and policy engagement, get signed up, and share your support.

Read our full statement on the day from President and CEO Adam Lister here

Protecting Accountability with Mrs. Marshall

For students to succeed, there must be accountability for everyone involved in the classroom. How do we hold everyone accountable? We measure success. Whether it’s student assessments, district report cards, teacher evaluations, or scorecards for legislators, we measure what we want to improve. Then we report those measures accurately and transparently, ensuring the tools for growth are available, and the focus remains on improving outcomes for students.

Mrs. Tameka Marshall, a third-grade teacher from Norman Binkley Elementary School, shares about the impact accountability has on the measurements and metrics used to capture growth among her students. Click here to watch the video. 

Hearing from Student’s About #CTEMonth 

The students featured below are just a few of the individuals we’ve spoken with this month on the impact their CTE program has had on their preparedness for their future. These students are excited about learning and the opportunities that are ahead of them.

From left to right: Nick is in the culinary arts program at Nashville State Community College in Nashville. Austin is in the robotics program at Cleveland High School in Cleveland. Andreya is in the therapeutic services program at West Creek High School in Clarksville. 

Calendar of Events

February 19th – President’s Day [State Offices Closed]

February 18th10:30AM: House Higher Education Subcommittee

      12:00PM: House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Committee

      4:30PM: House K-12 Subcommittee 

February 19th9:00AM: House Education Committee3:00PM: Senate Education Committee

In Case You Missed It…