Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

Within public policy, education reform is full of acronym organizations, but SCORE is one of those organizations that says exactly what it does. It is the State Collaborative On Reforming Education.

Founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Tennessee Senator Bill Frist three years ago, the organization has been an impact player in establishing our state’s reputation as a national leader in education reform.

“SCORE has been an important leader in our goal of preparing students for college and work,” said Hyde Foundation Executive Director Teresa Sloyan. “Senator Frist has rolled up his sleeves and is doing the hard work to inspire others to sustain momentum around a common reform agenda.  We are proud to be a partner with him and his team in developing creative solutions to our state’s educational challenges.”

SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said the organization partners with “state leaders on a wide variety of reform initiatives, most notably in support of the “First to the Top Act of 2010,” which led to Tennessee winning the $500 million grant from the federal government.   

“The Hyde Foundation has provided generous financial support to SCORE as well as key leadership for our board of directors and steering committee through the contributions of Barbara and Pitt Hyde and Teresa Sloyan. The Foundation is a key partner in facilitating partnership with other groups working to improve public education in the Memphis area and throughout the state.”

SCORE is seeking two outcomes:

1) Ultimately, every student in Tennessee graduate high school prepared for college and career, and

2) Tennessee is the fastest improving state in the country on the key student outcomes that lead to college and career preparedness.

To do it, SCORE keeps its focus on high academic standards, developing great school leaders, ensuring excellent teaching in every classroom, and using data to enhance learning.

“Tennessee has also joined the Common Core State Standards movement,” added Ms. Woodson. “In advance of the 2010 TCAP examinations, Tennessee adopted more rigorous standards, and student proficiency rates declined sharply in a reflection of how low Tennessee’s expectations were before.  However, students in 2011 improved their reading proficiency by an average of three percent.  Students showed greater gains in math with proficiency rates increasing by an average of seven percent across the state.  We are moving the needle.”

In addition, important steps have been taken to improve the lowest-performing schools, and the state has overhauled its approach to teacher evaluation, a recommendation that SCORE made in its initial Roadmap report in 2009. 

And all of this has taken place in three years, attesting to the power of the approach and the impact of a champion like Mr. Frist.  

“In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issues a report giving Tennessee an ‘F’ for ‘truth in advertising’ on the state’s standards, said Ms. Woodson.  “Essentially, Tennessee was passing students through high school without preparing them for success in college and the workforce.  Senator Frist saw a need to generate statewide attention around an honest dialogue to improve the quality of public education in Tennessee.”

To start that conversation, Mr. Frist founded SCORE and with more than 60 events in 2009, he engaged educators, parents, students, policy experts, and state and local officials to produce its Roadmap to Success report.  Since that time, SCORE has continued to be the go-to organization for best practices, research, and advice on college and career-readiness programs.

Ms. Woodson said that through the monitoring of school reform activities, SCORE tracks the advance of its Roadmap recommendations, and in support of broader advocacy, it publishes quarterly reports and awards the SCORE Prize to identify promising practices and help them spread.  

Two Memphians serve on SCORE’s steering committee and attest to its effectiveness.  Memphis Urban League President and CEO Tomeka Hart said, “SCORE has emerged as an important organization that leads and supports education reform in Tennessee and it is now a model for other states.  SCORE provides assistance to the state as it develops its reform agenda and also holds the state accountable for results.  She said her role is to “represent the voice of Memphis so that through SCORE, the rest of the state understands and learns from the important work we’re doing in education reform, including teacher and principal effectiveness.”

Tennessee Executive Director for Stand for Children, Kenya Bradshaw, echoed the support.  “SCORE serves a critical role of illuminating the significant progress that Tennessee has made in education and highlighting the continual educational gaps we need to address.  Memphis is the epicenter for education reform not only in our state but in the country, and through the work of SCORE, our work is being shared across the state and policies are being developed to ensure that every student in Tennessee graduates high school prepared for college and college.”