November 21, 2023
Recent conversation around school performance in Tennessee has been dominated by student growth and achievement measures. This is understandable, as both provide valuable insight for school accountability tools and have a strong correlation with student outcomes.
Yet an often-overlooked factor in the formula for student success is college and career readiness. After all, classroom work means little if it is not aligned with postsecondary or workforce expectations.
Aligning K-12 education with workforce needs requires a culture of communication, collaboration, and innovation between public schools and industry leaders. In Tennessee, some communities have taken the lead on this initiative, and we believe they deserve recognition.
Since 1986, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Education Foundation has been committed to supplementing and enhancing meaningful programs and initiatives that support positive outcomes. One component of this is the Partners in Education (PIE) program.
PIE is a collaborative effort between Clarksville Montgomery County School System and the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce that connects students with business, faith, civic, and military leaders in the Clarksville-Fort Campbell community. To date, PIE has facilitated 214 individual partnerships between schools and local organizations.
While each partnership is unique, the program gives students the opportunity to learn how their curriculum can be applied to in-demand skillsets such as financial literacy, environmental stewardship, and agricultural science.
Not only does this ignite creativity and entrepreneurialism in students, the partnership has opened a productive dialogue between schools and industry leaders, leading to a more responsive and aligned curriculum.
The Public Education Foundation (PEF) was founded in 1989 to support Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools, providing professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the district.
By partnering with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and philanthropic foundations, PEF has helped create numerous degree programs, certifications, and teacher recruiting initiatives to help foster a sustainable and effective educator workforce throughout the region.
In response to an increasing demand for STEM-experienced graduates, PEF partnered with Volkswagen North America and Hamilton County Schools to provide sixteen middle and high schools with state-of-the-art digital fabrication labs.
Dubbed the Volkswagen eLabs, these facilities offer students a hands-on learning experience in robotics, 3D printing, and renewable energy opportunities—skills align with the marketplace of the future.
Many of us were fortunate enough to have a particular teacher or class that opened our minds to a world of possibilities and potential, making learning exciting and applicable. Yet this experience is not common for all. Many students across the state struggle to understand how curriculum can translate into high-demand skills after graduation or are offered few courses that align with workforce needs.
Workforce partnerships like PIE and PEF have proven to be an effective solution to this problem, serving as powerful assets that can help bridge gaps between K-12 classrooms, college campuses, and rewarding careers.
Programs like these that invest in student success should be encouraged, supported, and most importantly, replicated in other parts of the state. Tennessee students have tremendous potential—if we can just light that spark for them, the future will be bright.