Tennessee’s ESSA plan builds on our success

By Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education

I always feel a rush of adrenaline when I hit “submit” on a big project, and this week has been no different.

Today, we published our final state plan for how Tennessee will build on the work that we’ve started in our strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, and transition to the new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is a plan that was written by Tennesseans in response to the ideas and feedback of Tennesseans over the course of the past year. Most importantly, this is a plan that will deepen our work to better support our students and educators so we ensure that every child has the opportunity to be successful.

I want to share three reasons why I think Tennessee’s ESSA plan is important for our schools and why our state is perhaps uniquely positioned to move this work forward.

First, this is a plan that shines a spotlight on all students’ performance, and, second, it will expand opportunities for all our students to be successful. It increases transparency and strengthens accountability across schools and districts so that all students’ growth and achievement is important.

It builds on the work that is underway and pushes us to take it to the next level, particularly in areas like empowering innovation in districts; equipping high school students for college, careers, and the military; supporting great teacher and leader preparation; and strengthening reading practices in the early grades.

It is also aligned to our vision – not just the department’s strategic plan, but also to the Governor’s Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives. As a result, it strengthens our focus on preparing students for what’s next after high school graduation. We value this readiness and believe ensuring students have access to courses like dual enrollment and AP matters – and that student acquisition of industry certifications that prepare them for careers matter. These are opportunities that will both open doors for students and ensure they are prepared once they enter.

The third point I want to stress is how important our education community was to the development of this ESSA plan. Beyond alignment to what matters, the process of creating our ESSA plan also allowed us to reflect on what we’ve learned over the past several years and refine our policies and practices – such as in areas like school improvement and assessment – to continue to grow and improve.

Our state is very well positioned to move this work forward because our education community has been a thought-partner and contributor each step of the way.

Our stakeholder feedback process not only informed this plan – it created it. This is truly Tennessee’s ESSA plan, marrying the department’s ideas with those from stakeholders all across the state.

And because it is based on the strategies and feedback that came from our education community in Tennessee, I know we have educators, parents, advocates, and community leaders who will make sure this is successful.

Simply put, I believe Tennessee has one of the best ESSA plans in the country.

This is because of our focus on all students, our high expectations that will ultimately lead to postsecondary and workforce success, and the collaboration we had with our education community.

Our ESSA plan’s alignment with the work underway in our schools and the vision of our strategic plan will ultimately mean that Tennessee succeeds. I invite you to learn more on our website and continue the conversation with us in the months to come.