TREND Winter 2017/2018 - Page 12

special section: from COmmissioner McQueen WHETHER I AM IN OUR STATE OR SPEAKING IN ANOTHER ONE, I REGULARLY GET ASKED A question like: “So, what is the secret to the growth we have seen in Tennessee?” or “What would you point to as reasons for Tennessee’s upward movement?” While those asking the question often desire a “silver bullet” answer, there is simply not one. But, there is a clear reason why we have seen this progress and it centers around two elements: smart, pragmatic policy and even smarter, pragmatic people. For starters, Tennessee leaders, lawmakers, and educators have embraced courageous policies – such as those focused on improving college and career-readiness standards and an aligned assessment, teacher evaluation, school improvement, and teacher preparation – that set high expectations and share accountability for students’ success from the classroom to the commissioner. These policies have pushed us to develop rigorous graduation requirements that are some of the best in the country, set expectations for standards and assessments that align to college-readiness for all students, elevated the work to improve educational outcomes for historically underperforming students, and ensured transparency and equity in accountability. For over a decade, Tennesseans have continued to embrace these changes, which has led to the state’s “fastest improving” status by the national gold star assessment. And more recently, our growth has been highlighted – literally – in a map from Stanford researchers that shows student growth in districts across the country. In this study, students in Tennessee regularly outpace their peers in other states. While I fundamentally believe that smart policy has pushed Tennessee’s educational outcomes forward, there is another, significant element that is at work: smart, pragmatic people. I have never been more proud to be a Tennessean – born and raised in our state’s public education system – as I am now. The “can do” and goal-oriented spirit of the leaders and educators across our great state should inspire you and encourage you about what has been accomplished and what else is possible. Tennesseans have already pushed each other to improve by focusing on the fundamentals of standards, assessment, and accountability and are now connecting the dots among all components of the education lifecycle – early childhood, K-12 education, higher education and career pathways that seamlessly connect to business and industry, the economy, healthcare, and productive citizenry. Local communities have emerged as the unrelenting support structure for students to take advantage of Tennessee Promise and now Tennessee Reconnect. These same communities have bought in and led the work to ensure students have a strong start in reading so we can build a more