By Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education
Maury City Elementary in Crockett County is preparing students to dream big when they think about their future – and that means thinking about college.
As I interacted with district and school leaders and teachers during my recent Classroom Chronicles Tour visit to Crockett County, several cultural changes were clear. First, the district has made an intentional shift over the past several years to ensure its culture is one that is focused on long-term goals for students. A few years ago educators recognized they needed to raise expectations about what all of their students were able to achieve. Second, Crockett County wanted to develop well-rounded learners who were able to choose whatever path they wanted in life. This meant ensuring that they talked about college and aligned expectations to college-going work for every student.
One of the ways through which they are building that culture is the No Excuses University program. No Excuses University’s philosophy is that “every child deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares them for college. When schools exhibit a culture of universal achievement by believing in students, they collaborate and take action around that belief.” That is exactly the kind of environment Maury City Elementary is working to create for its kids and teachers as early as Pre-K and Kindergarten.
School leaders and teachers are noticing this expectation shift pay off, and it is rippling through both the classrooms in their building and in their broader community. Educators told me that parents are buying in and believing in every student’s potential to be successful in that next step after high school, even while many parents do not have college experience themselves. Maury City Elementary’s success is also being noticed – and replicated – by other schools in Crockett County, including the high school, which just joined the No Excuses University program itself.
This positive environment was palpable in the energy throughout the building and in the testimonials of the teachers and parents. One parent even said that her child didn’t like snow days because he would rather be at school. And Crockett County Schools Director Robert Mullins says TN Promise has only helped to strengthen what they are doing by showing that college is also within financial reach of every young person – so educators can really show they mean it when they say that every child should pursue some form of postsecondary education.
It’s clear how both students and teachers can thrive in the culture at Maury City Elementary. I’m grateful for the vision of these educators and know students will benefit.