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Defining Tennessee Education: A Glossary of Education Terms

A     C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K    M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

A list of acronyms and terms can be found below the alphabetical entries.

 

A

See chronic absenteeism.

Academic standards, which may also be referred to as instructional standards, provide a common set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade or course. Standards, which establish expected learning outcomes, differ from curriculum, which is the program of instruction and related resources (e.g., lessons, activities, textbooks) that school districts use to ensure that students master the academic standards. Each individual school district establishes its own curricular programs that support student mastery of Tennessee’s academic standards.

The Tennessee State Board of Education is charged with adopting academic standards and reviewing them every six years at a minimum.

In 2015, the General Assembly passed a law codifying a standards review process for all four core academic areas – math, English/language arts, science, and social studies – including the appointment of standards recommendation committees for each subject area.

Subject

Implementation in schools

English language arts and math

2017-18

Science

Physical education/wellness and health

Fine arts (art, music, theatre, arts, dance, media arts) 

2018-19

Social studies

World languages

2019-20

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

2020-21

Math

2023-24

Science

2024-25

Social studies

2025-26

English language arts

2026-27

See also

  • curriculum
  • State Board of Education

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Accountability in K-12 education typically refers to the process of holding school districts and schools responsible for student performance. Federal accountability requirements are described in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed by Congress in December 2015 to replace both the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and states’ related NCLB waivers. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) received approval of its accountability plan under ESSA from the U.S. Department of Education in August 2017. Tennessee transitioned to the new district and school accountability model in the 2017-18 school year.

The federal education law focuses on accountability, while giving states flexibility in designing their own systems. States must continue the standards-based reform efforts begun under NCLB, including establishing standards, assessments aligned with standards, accountability systems, and systems of support for low-performing schools.

In 2016, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law requiring an A-F grading system for all schools to be included on the annual State Report Card. TDOE has been unable to implement that grading system as of school year 2019-20 due to various testing issues, including test cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, see OREA's 2016 report "Every Student Student Succeeds Act

See also

  • chronic absenteeism
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • high school graduation rates
  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver
  • priority school
  • school grading
  • Targeted Support and Improvement Schools

 

 

 

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Achievement gap refers to the disparity in academic performance between groups of students. The term is often used to refer to the performance gaps between white students and minorities, or students from higher-income and lower-income backgrounds.

Other subgroups for which achievement gaps may be shown include male and female students, students who are learning English and native English speakers, and nondisabled students and students with disabilities.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act focused greater attention on achievement gaps by requiring schools and districts to report test scores and other performance data by subgroups of students, and holding schools and districts accountable for academic performance targets for student subgroups. The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in December 2015, which replaces NCLB, continues the focus on achievement gaps in its provisions.

See also

  • English Learner students
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver

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The Achievement School District (ASD) was created by Tennessee’s First to the Top Act in 2010 as one of three interventions that the Commissioner of Education may require to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools. An organizational unit of the Tennessee Department of Education, the ASD provides oversight for the operation of schools assigned to it or schools which the ASD itself authorizes. Priority schools, those schools with performance levels that place them in the bottom 5 percent in the state, are eligible to be placed in the ASD.

The ASD selects priority schools to place in its jurisdiction based in part on community input and neighborhood advisory council processes. The ASD may either directly operate a school or recruit charter operators to convert an existing traditional public school that has been identified as a priority school.

If schools placed within the ASD do not meet or exceed growth expectations (level 4 or 5 growth, as measured by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System or TVAAS) by the third year, the current operator will be replaced with a new operator, a process that could repeat itself up to three times, at years three, six, and nine, if the school fails to meet growth expectations. Schools may stay within the ASD for a maximum of 10 years. Schools may begin to transition out of the ASD and back to their original district if they do not appear on the priority school list – run every three years – for two consecutive cycles. Public Chapter 777 (2020) requires TDOE to develop a transition plan for returning schools in the ASD to their original school districts no earlier than the 2024-25 school year.

In 2020, 27 schools operate in the ASD: 25 in Shelby County and two in Metro Nashville. 

See also

  • First to the Top Act
  • priority school
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

The ACT is a national college admissions test created by ACT Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides assessment, research, and other services to support college and career readiness. ACT Inc. offers several assessments for students to gauge their skills and knowledge at the middle school, high school, and college levels. ACT also offers assessments for adults in the workforce to gauge their skills and knowledge.

State law requires that all grade 11 students take an exam to assess “student readiness for postsecondary education.” Districts may use the ACT or SAT to fulfill this requirement.

The state provides funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP) for students to take either the ACT or SAT in grade 11. Additionally, economically disadvantaged students may be eligible for two fee waivers to take the ACT at no charge on a national test date.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing retakes of the ACT at no cost to students meeting certain criteria, and in 2017 the state expanded the offer of free retakes to all students in the senior class. The class of 2019 was the third cohort to have the opportunity to retake the ACT at no cost.

The ACT includes subject level tests in English, math, reading, and science. Students receive scores that range from 1 to 36 on each subject and an overall composite score (which is an average of the four subject test scores). The ACT composite score (reflecting public school students’ highest score) for the class of 2019 was 20. The score for the class of 2018 was 20.2.

For more information, see OREA's 2018 memorandum "Review of ACT Inc. in Response to the Misadministration of Fall 2017 ACT Retakes at Bearden High School and the Alvin C. York Institute"

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • college and career readiness
  • SAT
  • standardized test
  • Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE)

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Tennessee state law requires all school districts in counties with a pregnancy rate exceeding 19.5 per 1,000 females, ages 15-17, to create and implement a family life education program. Family life education programs are to be locally developed or districts may adopt the curriculum approved by the State Board of Education.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) calculates pregnancy rates by county for several age ranges, including those for females ages 15-17. TDOH publishes updated rates online annually.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "County Pregnancy Rates and School Districts' Family Life Education Requirements"

See also

  • family life education

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Adult education refers to educational services provided to adults (over age 17) or minors (ages 16 to 17) with justifiable circumstances who are not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers federal and state funds to help adults prepare for the high school equivalency (HiSET) exam, the American citizenship test, employment, postsecondary opportunities, and economic self-sustainability. School districts, community colleges, or community-based organizations provide adult education programs in all 95 counties. Programs include Adult Basic Education, high school equivalency test preparation (HiSET), and English for speakers of other languages. Some additional adult education services are also provided and funded by nonprofits, businesses, and other state and local agencies.

See also

  • high school equivalency exam
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)

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The Advanced Placement (AP) program, which is administered by the College Board, provides high school students with rigorous, college-level courses taught by high school teachers in over 30 different subject areas. If students score a 3 or higher on the 5-point AP exams offered at the end of each course, many postsecondary institutions will award students college credit. Tennessee’s public universities and community colleges may award college credit to students with passing AP exam scores.

More than 33,800 Tennessee public school students took AP exams in the 2018-19 school year. For the 2017-18 school year, 32,000 Tennessee public school students took AP exams. 

See also: 

  • College Board

Afterschool programs are generally K-12 learning and enrichment programs held outside regular school hours with the goal of enhancing academic opportunities for students. The Tennessee Department of Education administers two afterschool programs: the federally-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Lottery for Education Afterschool Programs (LEAPs), funded with unclaimed lottery prizes. The competitive grant programs are available for school districts, community-based organizations, faith-based groups, and other public and private organizations. The programs are required to provide academic enrichment activities targeting low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.

In 2018-19, 229 LEAP programs served 13,065 at-risk students in 47 counties across Tennessee. That same year, 429 21st Century programs served 24,234 students in 63 counties.

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In 1984, the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing the establishment of alternative schools for students who have been suspended or expelled from their regular schools. State law allows school districts to establish alternative schools for students in grades 1 through 6; at least one alternative school must be available for students in grades 7 through 12.

Alternative schools are operated according to rules established by the State Board of Education (SBE), and state law requires the SBE to provide a curriculum for alternative schools to ensure students receive the specialized attention needed to maximize their success. The SBE defines an alternative school as “a short-term intervention program designed to develop academic and behavioral skills for students who have been suspended or expelled from the regular school program.”

State law requires that students in grades 7 through 12 who have been expelled or suspended from a regular school be assigned to an alternative school or alternative program, dependent on available space and staff. Students who attend an alternative school continue to generate state education funds for their regular school district. All coursework and credits earned in an alternative school are to be transferred to the student’s regular school, which must grant credit earned and recognize academic progress made while at the alternative school as if earned at the regular school.

See also

  • State Board of Education

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The American Council on Education (ACE) is a higher education association that includes the presidents of U.S.-accredited, degree-granting institutions. Members include over 1,700 two- and four-year colleges, private and public universities, and nonprofit and for-profit entities. Primary activities include representation and advocacy on federal higher education issues, leadership development, and policy research and information sharing. In recent years, issue areas for ACE have included Pell Grant funding, scientific research, access for adult learners, and programs for veterans.

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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is a union of education professionals that describes itself as championing fairness, democracy, economic opportunity, and high-quality public education, healthcare, and public services. AFT is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and represents 1.7 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.

Membership includes teachers and other school-related personnel in pre-K through high school; higher education faculty and staff; early childhood educators; government employees from the federal, state, and local levels; nurses; and healthcare professionals. Activities include community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining, and political activism.

See also

  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET)
  • Tennessee Education Association (TEA)

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The Aspire Award is a lottery-funded, need-based supplement to the HOPE scholarship awarded to entering freshmen. To qualify for the award, a student must be eligible for a HOPE scholarship and have an adjusted gross income that does not exceed $36,000. A student may receive up to $750 per semester at four-year institutions and $250 per semester at two-year institutions as a supplement to the HOPE scholarship. In addition to fall and spring semesters, the Aspire Award may be used in the summer semester. A student may receive either the Aspire Award or the General Assembly Merit Scholarship, but not both. Recipients of the nontraditional HOPE Scholarship are not eligible for the Aspire Award or the General Assembly Merit Scholarship.

In the 2019-20 academic year, about 18,000 students received approximately $84.6 million from the Aspire Award.

See also

  • General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS)
  • HOPE Scholarship
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

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Assessment is a process used to evaluate student progress in learning and success in achieving educational goals. The use of tests is considered a part of assessment, which may also involve other demonstrations or indicators of student progress, such as portfolios or laboratory assignments.

Assessment may be used in different contexts to refer to large-scale educational assessments, such as state standardized testing programs, or classroom assessments developed and administered by individual teachers.

Formative assessments are generally given frequently throughout a learning term to gauge each student's progress and help teachers plan the instruction that follows based on students' learning needs. Formative assessments can take multiple forms, including a writing assignment, a test, an assigned project or performance, and asking questions. Formative assessments are generally low-stakes tests, meaning they have little, if any, point value for students.

A summative assessment is given at the end of a unit (e.g., every six weeks or the end of a school year) to assess students' mastery of a topic after instruction. Examples of summative assessments include a final paper, a midterm exam, and a senior recital. Summative assessments are generally high-stakes tests, meaning they have a high point value for students.

For more information, see OREA's 2019 report, "Students in Tennessee Instructed by Consecutive Ineffective Teachers" and OREA's 2020 report, "TN Ready Test Development: Process and Cost"

See also

  • standardized test
  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP)
  • TN Ready

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Average daily attendance, or ADA, is the average number of students present at a school during the time it is in session. ADA differs from average daily membership, or ADM, which represents how many students are enrolled in school. Because of factors that may result in a student missing school, such as truancy or sick days, ADA results in an overall lower student count than ADM. When per-pupil revenues or expenditures are divided by a district’s ADA, it results in a higher figure than if divided by a district’s ADM.

Tennessee law requires counties to divide any county revenues collected for general school operations and maintenance among all public school districts in the county on the basis of ADA. If a county issues school bonds and taxes all properties to pay interest on the bonds, then the bond proceeds must be divided among any city or special school districts in the county on the basis of each district’s ADA.

See also

  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • county school district

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Average daily membership, or ADM, is a measure of student enrollment. ADM represents how many students are enrolled in school and is commonly used for per-pupil funding calculations.

ADM is also the primary driver of funds generated by the state’s education funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP). A district’s ADM generates funding calculated by the BEP formula for a variety of components, including positions, supplies, equipment, and textbooks. Each school district is responsible for reporting ADM each month from October through June to the Office of Local Finance within the Tennessee Department of Education, which, in turn, calculates BEP funds for each school district. To determine each district’s share of state funding, the BEP funding formula uses a weighted average for months two (12.5 percent), three (17.5 percent), six (35 percent), and seven (35 percent). Because each school district operates under its own calendar, the months are based on 20-day funding months (e.g., funding month two is attendance days 21 to 40). ADM is also used to determine the per-pupil funding calculations for charter schools and the Achievement School District.

ADM is different from average daily attendance (ADA), which calculates the average number of students present at school during the time it is in session. Because of factors that may result in a student missing school, such as truancy or sick days, ADA results in an overall lower student count than ADM.

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • average daily attendance (ADA)
  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • charter schools

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B

A balanced calendar, also referred to as modified, year-round, or nontraditional calendar, reorganizes the traditional school calendar by shortening the summer break and lengthening existing breaks within the school year. For example, summer break may be shortened, and spring, fall, and winter breaks may each be increased. The two- to four-week breaks between instructional periods are called “intersessions,” and may be utilized by schools or districts for remedial or accelerated educational activities.

Schools operating on a balanced calendar are required to meet the state standard of at least 180 instructional days. Schools are prohibited from starting the school year earlier than August 1, unless the school district’s board of education votes to establish a year-round or alternative calendar for any or all schools within its district.

The Basic Education Program (BEP) is a formula that determines the funding level required for each school district to provide a common, basic level of service for all students. Adopted in 1992, the formula consists of 46 components grouped into four categories: Instructional Salaries and Wages, Instructional Benefits, Classroom, and Non-classroom. The BEP does not require district budgets or spending to reflect the specific funding levels of each component; however, districts are required to meet a few spending requirements:

  • funds from the Instructional Salaries and Wages category must be spent on teachers’ salaries unless districts meet a specified salary threshold, in which case funds may be spent on salaries or benefits, and
  • funds from the Classroom category must be spent on either teachers’ salaries or benefits or classroom needs (and funds from the Non-classroom category can be spent at the districts’ discretion).

Thus, the BEP is generally termed a funding formula rather than a spending plan.

Total state funding of the BEP for 2019-20 was $4.8 billion. The required local share of BEP funding in the same year totaled $2.5 billion.

Calculations using the BEP formula are performed as a two-step process: (1) determination of total funding levels, and (2) division between state and local shares, with adjustments for local jurisdictions’ ability to pay.

Part 1 – Determination of Total Funding

Calculations to determine the funding level of each component are based primarily on average daily student enrollment, also known as average daily membership, or ADM. The BEP funding formula has been classified as a unit cost funding model, allocating a set dollar amount per unit. For example, the BEP allocates the predetermined unit cost of one teaching position for every 25 students in grades 4-6.

Part 2 – Division between State and Local Shares

Each of the four BEP categories is funded with a different state-local split:

  • Instructional Salaries and Wages (e.g., salary unit cost for teaching positions): 70 percent state and 30 percent local,
  • Instructional Benefits (e.g., health insurance unit cost and retirement contribution percentage for teaching positions): 70 percent state and 30 percent local,
  • Classroom (e.g., unit costs for textbooks and instructional equipment): 75 percent state and 25 percent local, and
  • Non-classroom (e.g., unit costs for capital outlay and transportation): 50 percent state and 50 percent local.

The state and local shares are calculated on the statewide total funding levels for all districts.

The state’s total funding share for each category is allocated among the districts based on the county’s ability to pay, known as its fiscal capacity. (A county’s fiscal capacity is determined by a 50/50 blend of two formulas, one created by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) and one created by the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).)

The application of the resulting fiscal capacity determinations (a process known as equalization) can cause state and local shares of BEP funding to differ from the statewide splits bulleted above. For example, after fiscal capacity is accounted for, one district’s Instructional Salary funding might be 57 percent state and 43 percent local, while another district’s Instructional Salary funding might be 85 percent state and 15 percent local. Because fiscal capacity is based on a county’s ability to generate local education revenue, all school districts within a county, including municipal and special school districts, are assigned the same fiscal capacity.

The local BEP share calculated is the minimum required funding a local jurisdiction must pay in order to receive the state BEP share. This is commonly referred to as the local match. Most Tennessee jurisdictions fund their school districts at levels that exceed the required local match.

For more information, see OREA's interactive tool on the Basic Education Program

See also

  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER)
  • fiscal capacity
  • local match
  • school district (or LEA)
  • Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)

State law requires the State Board of Education to establish a review committee for the Tennessee K-12 education funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP). The committee is directed to meet at least four times a year and regularly review the BEP components. The committee is to provide an annual report on or before November 1 of each year to the Governor, the State Board of Education (SBE), and the education committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The report is to include recommendations on needed revisions, additions, and deletions to the formula, as well as an analysis of instructional salary disparity among school districts, including an analysis of disparity in benefits and other compensation among districts.

As directed by state law, the members of the BEP Review Committee are:

  • the Executive Director of the State Board of Education,
  • the Commissioner of Education,
  • the Commissioner of Finance and Administration,
  • the Comptroller of the Treasury,
  • the Director of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations,
  • the chairs of the standing committees on education of the Senate and House of Representatives,
  • the Director of the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis, and
  • at least one member from each of the following groups: teachers, school boards, directors of schools, county governments, municipal governments that operate school districts, and district finance directors (one each selected from urban, suburban, and rural school systems).

Any changes recommended by the BEP Review Committee must be approved by the Commissioner of Education and Commissioner of Finance and Administration before being submitted to the State Board of Education. Changes approved by the SBE may then be introduced as legislation in the General Assembly for passage into law.

For more information, see OREA's interactive tool on the Basic Education Program

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)

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Although there is no commonly used definition for blended learning, in general it refers to an integrated learning experience that combines (or blends) face-to-face classroom instruction with online delivery of content and instruction. Blended learning was the initial focus of Tennessee’s venture into personalized learning.

See also 

  • personalized learning 

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A block schedule, which may be used in middle and high schools, consists of three or four longer periods of daily instruction compared to the six-, seven-, or eight-period schedule in a traditional school day.

Common forms of block scheduling include:

  • “4x4” semester plan - students meet for four 90-minute blocks every day over four quarters
  • alternate day schedule - students and teachers meet every other day for extended time periods rather than meeting every day for shorter periods
  • trimester plan - students take two or three courses every 60 days to earn six to nine credits per year.

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The Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research (also referred to as CBER) is housed at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and conducts research on national and state economic trends for a variety of organizations, including state agencies.

In education, the Boyd Center is known for its formula to determine the fiscal capacity of counties, which the Tennessee Department of Education uses (along with the formula created by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations) to set the state and local funding shares of each district's Basic Education Program funding.

The Boyd Center also prepares the annual economic report to the Governor, maintains the econometric model that provides fiscal forecasts of the state's economy, serves as the State Data Center for U.S. Census Bureau data, and provides other analysis for state agencies.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • fiscal capacity
  • Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)

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C

Capital outlay refers to expenditures for the acquisition of, or additions to, major fixed assets such as land or buildings. Capital outlay also includes the repayment of debt related to such expenditures.

Capital outlay is included in the state’s education funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), as a non-classroom component. The formula takes into account a certain cost per square foot, per student, at the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. The formula also adjusts for equipment costs, architects’ fees, debt retirement, and a building lifespan of 40 years. A district’s average daily membership (ADM) is then applied to the formula to determine the number of square feet per school system to determine the total amount of state funding to be provided. As a non-classroom component of the BEP, capital outlay is funded at the statewide level based on a 50/50 split between the state and local governments. Each individual district’s local match may be higher or lower than 50 percent, however, depending on its fiscal capacity to raise local funds.

See also

  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • local match

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A career academy is a program within a high school that is linked to a specific career. Career academies link students with peers, teachers, and community partners in a structured environment that encourages academic success.

Examples of career academies in Tennessee high schools include the Academy of International Business and Communication and the Academy of Aviation and Transportation, both in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

See also

  • small learning community

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Career and Technical Education (CTE), also referred to as vocational education, comprises programs of sequenced courses aligned with industry needs that provide students with skills and knowledge in specific career areas.

Typically offered to high school students, CTE is required by state law to also be made available to students in grades 6-8 beginning in 2019-20.

CTE is funded by the Basic Education Program (BEP), which in 2018-19 generated nearly $170 million in total funding for CTE teachers’ salaries and benefits, classroom materials and supplies, and college readiness exams.

In 2019, Governor Bill Lee announced the grant-funded Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) initiative. GIVE uses public-private partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities and provides funding for four dual enrollment credits for high school juniors and seniors, doubling the previous number of credits high school students could earn.

Tennessee’s career and technical education programs of study are aligned with the 16 nationally recognized career clusters:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Finance
  • Government and Public Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
  • Marketing, Distribution, and Logistics
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Transportation

CTE is not exclusive to middle and high schools and may be offered in other settings, including career academies, regional career and technical centers, Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs), and community colleges. Students may also participate in CTE through dual enrollment or dual credit programs.

The Council for Career and Technical Education – a group of representatives from business, industry, agriculture, trade and labor organizations, secondary and postsecondary career and technical institutions, and members of the General Assembly – advises and reports to state officials and the public on all facets of career and technical education including policies, spending and financial assistance, availability, quality, and coordination of these programs.

See also

  • career academy
  • community college
  • dual credit
  • dual enrollment
  • program of study
  • Student Industry Certification (SIC)
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)

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Chairs of excellence are endowed college or university faculty positions to attract teachers of regional or national prominence. In Tennessee, the Chairs of Excellence Trust is governed by a board of trustees and administered by the Department of Treasury. There are 100 positions divided among all eligible institutions, with 50 allocated to locally governed institutions (e.g., Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Memphis) and 50 allocated to University of Tennessee institutions (e.g., UT Chattanooga, UT Health Science Center, UT Knoxville, and UT Martin). A minimum endowment of $1 million is established as a base level requirement for all approved Chairs of Excellence.

Tennessee law requires character education instruction in grades K-12. Character education refers to the collaborative effort among home, school, and the community to guide students into developing positive ideals and good habits. The focus of character education is to teach students to be conscientious and productive citizens in their school, community, and society, and for students to become more socially responsible. Students are taught character traits such as caring, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, citizenship, and fairness.

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Charter schools are public schools operated by independent nonprofit governing bodies that are authorized by one of three entities in Tennessee: local boards of education, the Achievement School District (ASD), or the State Board of Education (SBE). The majority of charters in Tennessee are authorized by local boards of education.

As of 2020, charter schools operated in Tennessee in six school districts:

  • Hamilton County Schools
  • Knox County Schools
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Shelby County Schools
  • Achievement School District
  • State Board of Education

Charter schools must meet the same academic performance standards as traditional public schools but have greater autonomy in areas such as personnel and salary policies, curriculum and instruction methods, and financial decisions. In exchange for more autonomy, charter schools face a heightened level of accountability. A public charter school must be closed if the Tennessee Department of Education has designated it as a priority school, with academic achievement in the bottom 5 percent in the state. A charter school may be closed if it demonstrates poor academic performance, violates the charter agreement, or fails to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management.

Tennessee law allows for the creation of new charter schools and the conversion of traditional public schools into charter schools. State law prohibits virtual charter schools and the management or operation of charter schools by for-profit corporations.

Funding for charter schools

State law requires that local boards of education allocate to charter schools an amount equal to the school district’s per-student state and local funding, including funds that exceed the BEP local match requirement (with the exception of local funds designated for debt obligations and associated debt service). Charter schools in the ASD receive the same funding as charter schools authorized by the local board of education (i.e., an ASD charter school in Memphis receives the same per-student allocation as a charter school authorized by Shelby County Schools). Charter schools are entitled to all applicable federal dollars, including Title I and other Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds.

For more information, see OREA's 2016 report "Tennessee Charter School Funding" and OREA's 2019 legsilative recap "Understanding Public Chapter 219: Public Charter School Commission

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • capital outlay
  • charter school authorizer
  • local match
  • priority school
  • school board
  • Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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A charter school authorizer is the entity designated by law as responsible for oversight of a charter school. Authorizers are responsible for approving or denying applications to open a charter school; drafting and negotiating charter agreements and any fee for service agreements; overseeing the academic, organizational, and financial health of the schools; and renewing contracts with successful charters while closing those that fail to meet academic and financial expectations.

As of the 2019-20 school year, local boards of education, the Achievement School District (ASD), and the State Board of Education (SBE) may authorize charter schools. Public Chapter 219 (2019) transferred the duties of the SBE as an appellate authorizer to a new, nine-member state commission, the Public Charter School Commission, on January 1, 2021.

The majority of charter schools are authorized by local boards of education. As of the 2020-21 school year, charter schools operated in Tennessee in six school districts:

  • Hamilton County Schools 
  • Knox County 
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools 
  • Shelby County Schools
  • Achievement School District
  • State Board of Education 

At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the three public charter schools authorized by the State Board will transfer to the Public Charter School Commission, and the revenue collected from the authorizer fee (up to 3 percent of the per-pupil state and local funding allocation) for these three schools will transfer to the commission.

The ASD may authorize charter schools within the jurisdiction of an existing school district. The ASD may either directly operate a school or recruit charter operators to convert an existing traditional public school that has been identified as a priority school. All ASD-authorized charter schools must serve students zoned to attend or enrolled in schools that are eligible to be placed in the ASD. The ASD serves as authorizer of the charter school for the duration of the charter agreement, which is for a period of 10 years. The ASD may charge an authorizer fee of up to 3 percent of the annual state and local per-pupil funding allocation for its authorized charter schools. Local boards of education may charge an authorizer fee of either 3 percent of the annual per-pupil state and local funding allocation or $35,000 per school, whichever is less.

Public Chapter 219 (2019) changed the basis on which the appellate authorizer may overturn a local board of education’s denial of a public charter school application. If a local board of education denies a charter school sponsor’s application, the sponsor may appeal the decision to the commission. The commission will conduct a de novo (new) review of the sponsor’s application. The commission must either approve or deny the application no later than 75 days from its receipt of the notice of appeal. The commission’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.

If the commission upholds the local board of education’s denial of the charter school sponsor’s application, the public charter school will not open. If the commission overturns the local board of education’s denial of the application, the commission then becomes the authorizer of the charter school; however, the local board of education in which the charter school is geographically located and the charter school may agree in writing that the local board of education, rather than the commission, will be the authorizer for the charter school.

For more information, see OREA's 2014 report "Charter Schools: Funding Tennessee's Authorizers and School"

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • charter school
  • priority school
  • public charter school commission
  • school board
  • State Board of Education

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Chronic absenteeism is a term used to describe excessive student absences from school for any reason. The term does not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences because either is a measure of lost instructional time. Any absences occurring at any time of year, at any grade level (K-12), and for any reason (e.g., student choice, illness, transportation issues, and out-of-school suspensions) all count toward a student's chronic absenteeism status.

Chronic absenteeism is not defined in Tennessee state law. The Tennessee Department of Education classifies a student as chronically absent if she or he misses at least 10 percent of the school year, or approximately 18 days. Because the definition is based on a percentage of lost instructional time, the measure can be an early warning indicator of potential student performance problems.

Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, chronic absenteeism was added to district and school accountability measures in accordance with the state’s ESSA plan.

See also

  • accountability
  • truancy

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Civic education refers to the study of government and citizenship with the aim of increasing students' understanding of the principles, values, institutions, and history of constitutional democracy in order to participate in community life and the American democratic system.

The Tennessee General Assembly requires that school districts assess students in civics at least once in grades 4 through 8 and at least once in grades 9 through 12. The civics assessments, which began in the 2012-13 school year, are required to be project-based assessments developed and implemented by school districts. They are to be designed to measure the civics learning objectives contained in the social studies standards and to demonstrate understanding and relevance of public policy, the structure of federal, state, and local governments, and both the Tennessee and the United States constitutions.

Beginning January 1, 2017, Tennessee high school students must also take a United States civics test based on the civics test taken by those wishing to become naturalized citizens. School districts are responsible for creating the test, which must contain 25 to 50 questions pulled from the civics test administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The civics test may be taken anytime during high school (i.e., grades 9 through 12) and districts may allow students to retake the test multiple times to achieve a passing score of 70. A student must pass the civics test to earn a diploma upon graduation from high school. High schools with graduating classes that have a pass rate of 85 percent on the civics test will be recognized annually on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website as United States civics all-star schools.

In 2019, the Governor’s Civics Seal was created to recognize public schools and local education agencies that implement high-quality civic education programs.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Chapter 652 (2020) waives state assessment and accountability requirements, including the 2019-20 project-based civics assessment and requirement for seniors to take and pass the civics test to meet the social studies course credit requirements to earn a diploma. Schools were unable to earn the U.S. Civics All-Star School designation for the 2019-20 school year.

For more information, see OREA's 2013 report "Civic Education Assessments in Tennessee"

See also

  • assessment

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Tennessee imposes class size restrictions for all grade levels and for Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes, as set out in state law and State Board of Education rule. The average size of any grade level unit (for example, grades K-3) in a school building may not exceed the required average, though any individual class in the unit may exceed the average. No class may exceed the maximum size.

Grade Level Average Maximum Class Size
K-3 20 25
4-6 25 30
7-12 30 35
Career and Technical Education 20 25

The average class sizes for grades K-3, 4-6, and 7-9 are used in the Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula to determine the number of regular education teachers that are funded per district.

The General Assembly established class size limits following the Tennessee Project STAR study undertaken in 1985, which concluded that smaller class sizes in the early grades had positive and lasting effects on student learning.

In certain cases, state law permits an individual virtual school to increase the enrollment in virtual classes by up to 25 percent over the maximum class size limits in the table above. To exceed the class size limits, the virtual school must have achieved a school effect score (TVAAS) of 3 or higher as reported by the Tennessee Department of Education in the prior year.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)
  • virtual school

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Collaborative conferencing is a process used by local school boards and teachers to establish agreements about employment conditions. A 2011 Tennessee law requiring collaborative conferencing replaced the former provisions on collective bargaining. The current law specifies issues that can be addressed in conferences, allows multiple organizations to represent teachers, prescribes the final result of conferencing to be memoranda of understanding that are binding for up to three years, and allows school boards to set policy on any conferencing issues for which agreements have not been reached.

The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), with representatives of school leaders and administrators and professional employee organizations, is required by law to develop a training program on the principles of collaborative conferencing to be implemented within each local school district.

See also

  • Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET)
  • Tennessee Education Association (TEA)
  • Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS)

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College and career readiness generally refers to whether students graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in first-year college courses or entry-level work. Tennessee measures achievement of college and career readiness using specific scores on college entrance exams or other college placement tests, primarily ACT testing products. Tennessee requires all public high school juniors to take the ACT, although students have the option to substitute the SAT.

TDOE includes a Ready Graduate indicator in its accountability metrics, which measures the percent of students who earn a regular high school diploma and meet specific milestones that increase the probability for postsecondary success.

For more information, see OREA's 2018 "Learning Support in Tennessee's Public Colleges and Universites"

See also

  • ACT
  • Ready Graduate indicator
  • SAT

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The College Board is a nonprofit organization founded in 1900 to expand access to higher education. The College Board administers the Advanced Placement (AP) program and the SAT college admission exam, as well as other SAT-related exams.

See also

  • Advanced Placement (AP) program
  • SAT

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Community colleges are two-year public schools that provide affordable postsecondary education leading to technical certificates and associate degrees. They also provide a pathway to a four-year degree at other postsecondary institutions. Community colleges generally serve their surrounding geographical areas. The Tennessee Board of Regents oversees the 13 community colleges in Tennessee, which offer Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), and Associate of Applied Sciences (A.A.S.) degrees in a range of degree programs.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Tennessee Promise Evaluation"

See also

  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect

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The Community College Reconnect Grant, passed by the General Assembly in 2015, created a grant program for adults who had completed some college credit, but had not yet attained a degree. The grant provided eligible students with a last-dollar scholarship, meaning that a student would use Pell and other grant aid before Community College Reconnect funds were applied for the tuition and mandatory fees at a public two-year institution. The Community College Reconnect Grant served as the pilot program for the Tennessee Reconnect Grant, which was established in 2017 by Public Chapter 448 and was fully implemented in fall 2018.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "Tennessee Community College Reconnect Program: Conclusions and Policy Considerations"

See also

  • community college
  • Drive to 55
  • Tennessee Reconnect Grant
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)

Community schools are public elementary or secondary schools that form partnerships with community organizations (also called providers) and use additional staff to meet the educational, physical, and emotional needs of economically disadvantaged students, their families, and the community. Initiated and implemented at the local level, community schools have existed in Tennessee since 2014, with the passage of the Tennessee Community Schools Act. As of the 2018-19 school year, there are at least 100 community schools in Tennessee. Community school providers can be either nonprofit organizations or divisions within a district’s central office that fund and implement the community school operational model in one or more public schools. In Tennessee, community school providers may serve one school or multiple schools in a district.

For more information, see OREA's 2018 report "Community Schools in Tennessee"

See also

  • service learning

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Competency-based learning is an approach to education that allows students to learn at their own pace and awards credit for evidence of proficiency, not for the amount of time students spend in a classroom.

In some contexts, the term is synonymous with “proficiency-based learning,” which the Education Commission of the States defines as “an option for students to demonstrate mastery of key knowledge and skills in a given course in lieu of completing seat time.”

Competency-based learning may also be referred to as “mastery-based learning.”

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The Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA) of 2010 focuses on increasing college completion at Tennessee’s public higher education institutions. The CCTA requires the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to:

  • develop a blueprint for higher education success that seeks to increase the education attainment levels of Tennesseans, recognize higher education institutions’ different missions, and address the economic, workforce, and research needs of the state,
  • develop an outcomes-based funding formula that distributes public funds to colleges and universities based on their success in achieving higher education outcomes such as student retention, timely progress toward degree completion, degree production, and end of term enrollment, and
  • collaborate in the development of Tennessee Transfer Pathways, an initiative designed to ease the path to a four-year degree for community college students.

The CCTA also directs the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) to transition its community college system from independently managed institutions to a unified system and prohibits all of the state’s public four-year universities, both locally governed institutions and those in the University of Tennessee system, from offering remedial or developmental education courses.

See also

  • locally governed institution
  • outcomes-based funding formula
  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)
  • Tennessee Transfer Pathways (TTP)
  • University of Tennessee (UT)

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The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to determine whether schools are eligible for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI), a federal designation for schools in need of improvement. Although Public Chapters 881 and 1026 (2018) prohibited the use of 2017-18 testing data for identifying priority schools, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) still required the Department of Education to use data inclusive of 2017-18 to identify the bottom 5 percent of schools for CSI. Most schools identified for the federal CSI designation are also identified as priority schools.

Schools identified as CSI in 2019 include all schools identified in 2018 as priority schools and 2018 CSI schools. Additionally, CSI schools include all schools in the Achievement School District (ASD), regardless of performance, because they are currently receiving the most intensive state intervention.

Schools identified for CSI include schools that:

  • ranked in the bottom 5 percent based on data from 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 AND
  • earned a one-year TVAAS score of 3 or less in 2016-17 and/or 2017-18 OR
  • had a graduation rate of less than 67 percent for the 2017-18 school year OR
  • are in the Achievement School District (ASD).

Due to school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, no accountability measures were completed for the 2019-20 school year. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education required that 2018-19 designations, including those of CSI schools, are maintained through 2020-21. Those schools will continue to receive supports and interventions as they did the previous year.

See also

  • accountability
  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • priority school
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)
  • Targeted Support and Improvement Schools

Coordinated school health programs support the connection among good health practices, academic achievement, and lifetime wellness. Coordinated school health initiatives consist of eight core components:

  • health education
  • health services
  • nutrition
  • physical education
  • healthy school environment
  • school counseling, psychological, and social services
  • student, family, and community involvement
  • school staff wellness

Tennessee’s coordinated school health program began as a pilot program in 2000, before expanding to all 95 counties in 2006. Tennessee is unique in the nation in requiring and funding a coordinated school health initiative in all school districts.

See also

  • physical education and physical activity

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Corporal punishment refers to paddling, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment imposed on a student as a method of discipline. State law allows corporal punishment to be used in Tennessee public schools and directs local boards of education to adopt policies governing its use within their districts. Based on an August 2017 review of board policies by OREA, 109 districts had a board policy allowing the use of corporal punishment; the remaining 39 districts did not allow its use, either explicitly through policy or through lack of a board policy allowing its use.

In 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment for a student with disabilities (i.e., a student receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and/or Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973) unless the student’s parent provides written consent.

Data on the use of corporal punishment is reported biennially (i.e., once every two years) to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Education. As of the 2018-19 school year, such data is also reported annually to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). Data reported to TDOE from each school is to include information about each instance of corporal punishment, including the reason for its use, if the instance involved a student with disabilities, and if so, information regarding the student’s type of disability. State law requires all LEAs report and TDOE publish on its website the number of instances corporal punishment is used in each district for students with and without disabilities.  

For more information, see OREA's 2018 report "Corporal Punishment in Tennessee"
 

See also:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The cost differential factor (CDF) is used to adjust salary calculations in the state's education funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), for school districts in counties where wages in nongovernmental sectors are above comparable statewide figures. The CDF was developed based on the idea that school districts in counties with generally higher wages may need to offer higher salaries to attract and retain teachers. Counties with above-average wages receive an increase in funding for salaries and retirement contributions, and counties with average or below-average wages do not receive an increase.

BEP 2.0, passed in 2007, eliminated CDF from the funding formula. Because BEP 2.0 was only partially phased in, however, counties qualifying for a CDF adjustment received 50 percent of the calculated CDF. The 2016 changes to the BEP decreased CDF adjustments to 25 percent, and the appropriations act further reduced CDF to 20 percent in fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, and 16 percent in fiscal year 2019-20. In fiscal year 2019-20, 15 districts were receiving CDF adjustments. The CDF is still slated to be eliminated from the BEP formula contingent on future increases to the Instructional Salaries and Wages category.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • fiscal capacity

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State law assigns counties the responsibility for operating public school districts, and each of the state's 95 counties has the ultimate responsibility for educating all students at all grade levels, kindergarten through grade 12. County school districts do not have the option to cease or transfer school operations as do municipal (city) and special school districts. The two exceptions to the law requiring county school systems are when:

  • all students within the county are served by city or special districts, or
  • a combination of counties operates a multi-county system.

Tennessee has 94 county school districts. One of those, Carroll County, does not operate a K-12 program but does provide transportation, vocational education, and special education services to the five special school districts within Carroll County. Gibson County does not operate any form of county district since all students are served through other districts (municipal and special). No multi-county systems have been established.

County boundaries (with the exception of areas carved out for any municipal or special districts) geographically define which students are eligible for county school district enrollment and which voters are eligible to elect county school boards.

Counties must apportion any county revenues collected for general school operations and maintenance among all public school districts within the county on the basis of average daily attendance. Similarly, if a county issues school bonds and taxes all county properties to pay interest on the bonds, then the bond proceeds must be divided among any city or special school districts in the county on the basis of each district's average daily attendance.

See also

  • average daily attendance (ADA)
  • municipal school district
  • public school
  • school district (or LEA)
  • special school district

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Tennessee’s Course Access Program Act authorizes an eligible public student in grades 7-12 to enroll in courses offered by other education providers when the student’s school cannot or does not offer a comparable course or the student is prevented from enrolling in a comparable course. The courses must be offered by a provider approved by the State Board of Education, such as a nonprofit entity, school district, charter school or charter management organization, higher education institution, state agency, or other entity as approved by the board and designated in the course access catalog.

Each school district is authorized to fund two courses per school year per student. A portion of the district’s per student state and local basic education program (BEP) funding shifts to the course provider to cover course tuition and fees. A student may take more than two courses from other providers per school year for credit with approval from their school district; however, the student must pay for the additional courses out of pocket.

See also 

  • blended learning    
  • charter schools    
  • dual enrollment     
  • State Board of Education 

Credit recovery is a strategy that permits high school students who have failed courses to recover course credits, allowing them to graduate. Successfully providing credit recovery options for students may also help schools, districts, and states improve their graduation rates.

Schools may provide credit recovery in a variety of settings, including traditional classrooms and online or a combination of the two, and at various times, including before, during, and after school, as well as during the summer months. Students may repeat entire courses, or credit recovery may be designed to target student deficiencies in specific concepts. The latter approach is more likely to occur in an online setting.

Most Tennessee districts with high schools provide a credit recovery option for students in the high school grades. State Board policy requires local boards of education to adopt credit recovery program rules, regulations, and processes. At a minimum, local credit recovery policies must address standards for student admission to and removal from credit recovery, instruction, content and curriculum, and grades.

For more information, see OREA's 2015 report "Credit Recovery Practices in Tennessee High School"

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Curriculum is the program of instruction and related resources (e.g., lessons, activities, textbooks, software applications) that school districts use to ensure students master the academic standards approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education. While academic standards lay out what students are expected to know in a given subject, curriculum provides an instructional guide for teachers so that students meet those expectations.

See also

  • academic standards

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Cut scores are selected points along a scale of test scores. The points are used to determine whether a particular test score is sufficient for a specified purpose. For example, student performance on Tennessee’s TN Ready test is classified into one of four proficiency levels – mastered, on track, approaching, or below grade level – on the basis of cut scores for each level. Qualifying scores on professional assessments, such as Praxis or edTPA, for teacher licensure in Tennessee are another example. The minimum qualifying scores on these assessments are the cut scores.

See also

  • teacher licensing
  • standardized test
  • TN Ready

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D

Most children in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) attend public schools in the communities where they reside. For children in state custody who are placed in one of the state's three Youth Development Centers (YDCs), state law authorizes DCS to serve as a school district. The Commissioner of DCS serves as the board of education and director of schools for the DCS district. DCS receives state funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP), using the same formula used for other school districts.

The DCS Education Division central office is primarily responsible for operating the DCS school district. The division works with the YDC schools to ensure compliance with Tennessee State Board of Education rules and regulations related to state mandated testing, special education/Section 504 law, teacher licensure, textbook services, curriculum implementation, and graduation standards. In addition, the central office education staff is responsible for providing technical assistance and general oversight to residential treatment facilities that have in-house schools, and for supervising the daily activities of the regional Education Specialists throughout the state.

DCS employs an Education Specialist in each of the department's 12 regions. Education Specialists advocate for students in state custody who attend public schools or in-house schools offered by provider agencies. Specialists meet with school staff and attend child and family team meetings and Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings to assist with issues regarding school enrollment, school records, discipline, and the provision of special education and related services. They also provide educational training for resource parents, family service workers, and other DCS staff.

For more information, see OREA's 2006 report "Educating Tennesse's Children in Custody

See also

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • special education
  • Youth Development Center (YDC)

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Distance education refers to academic programs that allow students who are not physically present in the classroom to attend classes online, either synchronously (in real time), or asynchronously (at any time).

Many of Tennessee's public and private higher education institutions offer distance education, either as individual courses or as full online degree programs. Some higher education programs allow students to complete their degree coursework entirely online, although students may be required to physically attend an orientation session or meetings on campus at some point during the program. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) requires any institution that offers distance education programming to Tennessee students to maintain school authorization and establish a physical presence in the state.

Tennessee, along with 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) initiative, which offers a process for institutions authorized to grant degrees in their home states to offer postsecondary distance education programs to students in other states.

The State Board of Education has policies on distance learning and e-learning for K-12 students in Tennessee public schools. Districts may offer online programming for students with health-related issues, for credit recovery, for alternative learning settings, and for other reasons.

See also

  • virtual school

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Distance education refers to academic programs that allow students who are not physically present in the classroom to attend classes online, either synchronously (in real time), or asynchronously (at any time).

Many of Tennessee's public and private higher education institutions offer distance education, either as individual courses or as full online degree programs. Some higher education programs allow students to complete their degree coursework entirely online, although students may be required to physically attend an orientation session or meetings on campus at some point during the program. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) requires any institution that offers distance education programming to Tennessee students to maintain school authorization and establish a physical presence in the state.

Tennessee is one of 47 states that have joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) initiative, which offers a process for institutions authorized to grant degrees in their home states to offer postsecondary distance education programs to students in other states.

The State Board of Education has policies on distance learning and e-learning for K-12 students in Tennessee public schools. Districts may offer online programming for students with health-related issues, for credit recovery, for alternative learning settings, and for other reasons.

For more information, see OREA's 2014 report "Online Learning in Higher Education"

See also

  • virtual school

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Drive to 55 is a statewide initiative, begun in 2013, to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025. In 2018, 45.2 percent of Tennesseans, ages 25-64, had a postsecondary credential.  The Drive to 55 includes a suite of programs and initiatives including Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, and TCAT Reconnect. Key areas of attention are college readiness, access, and completion; helping adults who have earned college credit complete a credential, and connecting education to workforce demands.  

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Tennessee Promise Evalutation"

See also

  • TCAT Reconnect
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect

See high school dropout rates.

A dual credit course allows high school students to earn credits for a high school course that can also be counted as postsecondary credit. Tennessee has two types of dual credit courses: statewide and local. Both types are high school courses.

Statewide dual credit courses are high school courses that are aligned to postsecondary standards. Students can earn credit at any Tennessee public postsecondary institution through these courses. High school and postsecondary faculty work together to develop learning objectives aligned with postsecondary standards. Students enrolled in a statewide dual credit course take an online challenge exam, developed and approved by the Consortium for Cooperative Innovative Education, that assesses mastery of the learning objectives. The Consortium for Cooperative Innovative Education − composed of the chief executives or their designees of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the State Board of Education, and the University of Tennessee − must approve all statewide dual credit courses before they are introduced.

A local dual credit course is provided through a partnership between a local postsecondary institution and a K-12 public school district. High school students enrolled in a local dual credit course are given an assessment that is developed and/or approved specifically for credit at that institution.

See also

  • dual enrollment

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Dual enrollment courses are postsecondary courses open to high school students who may enroll and earn college level credits while still in high school. Dual enrollment courses are either offered at a college or university or taught by a member of a college faculty at a high school or online. Upon completion of a dual enrollment course, students can earn college credits that can be used towards a postsecondary credential. High school credit is awarded based on local policy.

The dual enrollment grant is one of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships, and it provides grant funding for dual enrollment tuition and fees. Students receive funding for one dual enrollment course per semester, with funding for an additional course per semester if they meet the minimum HOPE Scholarship academic requirements at the time of dual enrollment.

Students who receive more than four dual enrollment grants over their time in high school will have the excess funding (i.e., funding that exceeds the cost of four dual enrollment grants) reduced from their HOPE Scholarship awards.

Eligible high school juniors and seniors may qualify for additional dual enrollment grants through the 2019 Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act. The GIVE Act authorized the use of lottery funds for additional dual enrollment courses per year if recipients are enrolled in a program of study in high-need job fields.

For more information, see OREA's 2019 legislative brief "Understanding Public Chapter 203: The Governor's Investment in Vocational Educational Act"

See also

  • dual credit
  • Governor's Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act
  • HOPE Scholarship
  • program of study
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

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Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulties with word recognition and interpretation, as well as poor spelling. These difficulties can affect a student’s ability to comprehend what he or she reads, which adversely affects vocabulary development and contextual understanding. It is estimated that one in five school-age children exhibit some of the characteristics of dyslexia.

Tennessee’s “Say Dyslexia” law, passed in 2016, directed the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) to develop guidance for districts in identifying the characteristics of dyslexia through the universal screening process required by the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) framework and to provide “dyslexia-specific tiered interventions” for students that demonstrate a need.

As directed by the law, TDOE also created a dyslexia advisory council, which advises the department on matters relevant to dyslexia. The council reports annually to the House and Senate education committees concerning the number of students screened and those provided with dyslexia intervention services, and on its work to increase dyslexia screening and identification. The council also publishes annual reports.

See also

  • Response to Intervention (RTI)
  • universal screener

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E

Early postsecondary opportunities (also known as EPSOs) allow students to earn postsecondary credits while in high school, become familiar with postsecondary expectations, and decrease the time and cost of completing a certificate or degree.

Early postsecondary opportunities available in Tennessee vary widely by school district. Examples include dual enrollment, local dual credit, statewide dual credit, advanced placement (AP), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), International Baccalaureate (IB), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), and Student Industry Certification (SIC).

Beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, school districts are required by the state to make available at least four early postsecondary opportunities for high school students. These opportunities may be provided through traditional classroom instruction, online or virtual instruction, blended learning, or other educationally appropriate methods.

See also

  • Advanced Placement (AP) program
  • blended learning
  • dual credit
  • dual enrollment
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Student Industry Certification (SIC)

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Economically disadvantaged students are identified for multiple purposes, such as:

  • determining their eligibility for programs like free or reduced-price meals that address their financial needs,
  • monitoring schools’ accountability for meeting their academic needs, as required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and
  • providing BEP funding for school districts to meet their educational needs.

Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, economically disadvantaged students (or “at risk” students) are defined – for purposes of school accountability and BEP funding – as those who are directly certified for specific state and federal assistance programs, and those who are identified as homeless, migrants, or runaways as well as students in foster care.

Students who are directly certified are those whose families are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or Head Start.

The BEP allocated $915.25 per at-risk student in fiscal year 2020.

See also

  • accountability
  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • direct certification
  • Free and Reduced Price Meals (FRPM)

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The Education Commission of the States (ECS) was created by states in 1965. ECS tracks state policy trends, summarizes and explains academic research, provides nonpartisan advice, and creates opportunities for state leaders to learn from each other. The Commission’s work encompasses all education levels, from pre-K through higher education. ECS is funded mostly from the states it serves. Each state or territory is represented by seven commissioners who are selected through a process specified in their statutes. Commissioners serve on various committees, which guide ECS’s policy directions, oversee the budget and investments, and plan an annual meeting.

ECS maintains a searchable database of state education laws from 1994 to the present, as well as 50-state databases on specific education issues, such as kindergarten, remedial education, and dual enrollment.

See also

  • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)

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Public Chapter 506 (2019) creates the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) program, which would allow eligible students in Shelby and Davidson counties to use state and local BEP funds toward expenses, such as tuition or fees, at certain private schools. ESA-eligible students would come from households with an annual income that is no more than twice the annual income eligibility guidelines for the federal free lunch program.

The law’s constitutionality has been challenged. Two rulings, one from a Davidson County chancery court and the other from a state appeals court, have prevented implementation of the ESA as of October 2020. Further action may be taken by the state to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 legislative recap "Understanding Public Chapter 506: Education Savings Accounts

See also      

  • vouchers

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ETS, formerly known as the Educational Testing Service, is a worldwide, nonprofit educational research and assessment organization founded in 1947. ETS administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually. ETS tests used in Tennessee include:

  • HiSET, a high school equivalency test
  • GRE, a professional and graduate school admissions test
  • Praxis Series educator licensure tests
  • TOEFL, an English language test

ETS also conducts educational research, analysis, and policy studies, and develops customized services and products for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education.

See also

  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)

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See teacher preparation.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) is a federal law primarily aimed at helping states pay for the education of disadvantaged children. The act initiated a greater federal role in education, and provided money to states to distribute to school districts through basic and special incentive grants “to contribute particularly to meeting the special needs of educationally deprived children.”

Title I, which targets grant funds at the lowest-achieving students in high poverty schools, is the most well-known and largest program under the ESEA.

The ESEA has been reauthorized several times since its enactment, including in 1974, 1978, 1981, 1994, and 2001, when it was signed into law as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Over time, the ESEA has been revised to address the needs of specific at-risk groups, including English language learners, homeless students, and Native American students.

In December 2015, Congress passed and the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the newest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

See also

  • English Learner students
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • homeless students
  • Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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End of Course (EOC) exams are standardized assessments given to high school students annually as part of the TN Ready testing program. Two EOC exams were eliminated in 2018-19 to reduce the testing burden on students. Exams are administered to students enrolled in:

  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Biology
  • English I
  • English II
  • Geometry
  • Integrated Math I
  • Integrated Math II
  • Integrated Math III
  • U.S. History and Geography

State Board of Education policy requires local districts to set policies for incorporating students’ EOC scores into final course grades. EOC scores must be weighted between 15 percent and 25 percent of the course grade average. If EOC scores are not received by districts within the last five instructional days of the course, districts may opt to not include the exam scores in students’ final course grades.

See also

  • standardized test
  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP)
  • TN Ready

According to federal law, an English Learner student is one “whose difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language may be sufficient to deny the individual the ability to meet the challenging state academic standards, the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English, or the opportunity to participate fully in society.”

There are a variety of terms used to refer to these students, including, but not limited to, English Learners (EL), English Language Learners (ELL), Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, or English as a Second Language (ESL) students. These terms are often used interchangeably in a general sense, but some school districts and states may define the terms differently for distinct classifications of students. The Tennessee Department of Education generally uses the term English Learner.

In the 2019-20 school year, according to the State Report Card, English learners made up approximately 4.6 percent of the state’s total student population. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee students speak about 140 different languages.

Under the federal Title III formula grant program of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the U.S. Department of Education distributes funding by formula to states, which then make subgrants to school districts based on the number of EL students enrolled and any significant increases in the number of immigrant students.

Under Title I of ESSA, states must have English language proficiency standards that specify what students who are new to English should know and be able to do on their way to becoming fluent in English, as well as assessments aligned to those standards, which assess EL students annually in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Tennessee adopted the WIDA English Language Development standards in 2013. The WIDA Consortium is a nonprofit cooperative group housed at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from denying a free public education to undocumented immigrant children, regardless of their immigration status.

See also

  • Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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E-rate is a federal program that provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible public and nonprofit K-12 schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications services and internet access. Schools, school districts, and libraries, individually or as a consortium, must conduct a competitive bidding process for services and may then apply for the E-rate discount. The level of funding support and discounts depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the student population served. E-rate is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, an independent, not-for-profit corporation, which is under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.

Between 1998 and 2020, eligible Tennessee schools, libraries, and consortia received an average of $61 million each year through the E-rate program.

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The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law December 2015, is the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the previous version of the 1965 education law. ESSA’s overall framework is similar to NCLB, and the new law leaves many previous provisions in place. States are still required to test students in reading and math each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. States must also continue reporting performance for all students, as well as for specific subgroups of students (e.g., economically disadvantaged children and English language learners, among others). Additionally, states must maintain or revise their academic standards and systems to measure academic progress.

While many of NCLB’s original elements remain, ESSA’s legislative intent was to provide state and local governments with more control over education policy. For example, ESSA does not mandate 100 percent student proficiency by a certain date, as did NCLB. Furthermore, while states must intervene in low-performing schools, they are no longer required to follow federally prescribed turnaround models.

Titles under ESSA include Title I, which requires state accountability systems with plans for addressing poorly performing schools and targets funding at disadvantaged students; Title II, which intends to improve teacher and principal quality; and Title III, which directs funds to the teaching of English Learner students. Other titles concern a variety of education-related issues, including school safety, school choice, and grants for the education of homeless children.

For more information, see OREA's 2016 report, "Every Student Succeeds Act"

See also

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)
  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver
  • Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act

Tennessee state law and State Board of Education rule define expulsion as removal from attendance for more than 10 consecutive days or more than 15 days in a month of school attendance. Multiple suspensions that occur consecutively constitute expulsion. School districts are not eligible to receive funding for an expelled student.

See also

  • suspension
  • zero tolerance

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Extended learning time (ELT) in schools, either through more hours in the day or more days in the week or year, is one of many reforms designed to improve student achievement in low-performing schools, especially those in urban, disadvantaged neighborhoods. The number of hours schools add when implementing extended learning time can vary significantly, ranging from 90 hours per year (30 minutes added per day) to more than 320 hours per year (two hours added to most days and five days more per year).

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F

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records, including:

  • the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school;
  • the right to request that a school correct records they believe to be inaccurate or misleading; and
  • the right to a hearing and to place a written statement within the record if the school disagrees with the parents.

These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent (or eligible student) in order to release any information from a student’s education record. FERPA allows schools to disclose those records without consent, however, to the following parties or under the following conditions:

  • school officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
  • accrediting organizations;
  • to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
  • state and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. In such cases, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow them a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose it. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA.

See also

  • student data privacy

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Tennessee law defines family life education as an abstinence-centered sex education program that builds a foundation of knowledge and skills relating to character development, human development, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention. Among the requirements, the curriculum must be abstinence-based, provide factually and medically accurate information, and educate students on topics such as the age of consent, puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and healthy relationships. The curriculum must not promote any gateway sexual activity that encourages students to experiment with sexual activity or provide or distribute materials on school grounds that condone, encourage, or promote sexual activity among unmarried students.

Additionally, state law urges the Tennessee Department of Education and local school boards to develop curriculum for grade 7-12 students on teen dating violence and sexual violence. The curriculum should explain how to define, prevent, and report all forms of teen dating violence and sexual violence, as well as emphasize the consequences of committing these acts.

State law requires all school districts in counties with a pregnancy rate exceeding 19.5 per 1,000 females, ages 15-17, to create and implement a family life education program. Family life education programs are to be locally developed or districts may adopt the curriculum approved by the State Board of Education.

For more information, see OREA's 2013 legislative brief "Response to Public Chapter 585 (2012): HIV/AIDS Prevention Education in Tennessee Public Schools

See also

  • adolescent pregnancy rates
  • coordinated school health

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Public Chapter 794 (2020), called the Financial Aid Simplification for Tennesseans (FAST) Act, was unanimously passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in June 2020 and makes a variety of changes in higher education policy.

The act updates definitions in state law of “Tennessee resident,” “program of study,” and “grade point average,” which have implications for over a dozen financial aid programs. The FAST Act also makes changes to the terminating events for the Tennessee Promise and HOPE scholarships, and makes specific changes for a variety of other programs, including dual enrollment grants, the Minority Teaching Fellows program, the Helping Heroes Grant, the HOPE Scholarship for nontraditional students, and the Tennessee STEP UP scholarship.

The act also ends four financial aid programs:

  • the Tennessee Teaching Scholars Program,
  • the Christa McAuliffe Scholarship Program,
  • the Tennessee HOPE Teacher’s Scholarship (also called the Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program), and
  • the Tennessee HOPE Access Grant.

In addition, the FAST Act adds to the powers of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) by adding them to the list of governmental entities that are exempt from the state’s standard procurement process. This allows them to receive funds from state and federal governments, in addition to other entities, and pass them on more quickly to colleges and universities. Also, TSAC ended its role in guaranteeing and collecting student loans in 2016, and the FAST Act removes sections from state law that outlined or referred to TSAC’s former involvement with federal student loans.

See also

  • dual enrollment
  • Helping Heroes Grant
  • HOPE Scholarship
  • HOPE teacher’s scholarship
  • STEP UP Scholarship
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)

The General Assembly passed the Tennessee First to the Top Act in January 2010, as part of its process to qualify for the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant for K-12 education. Tennessee was successful, receiving one of the first two grants awarded in 2010, totaling $501 million for the four-year grant period. The act included provisions that laid the foundation for the reforms described in the state’s application for RTTT.

Among the act’s provisions and reforms were:

  • creating the Achievement School District, an organizational unit of the Tennessee Department of Education that may take over priority schools, defined as those performing in the bottom 5 percent academically in the state;
  • requiring teachers and principals to be evaluated annually, with the inclusion of student achievement data in the evaluation criteria; and
  • adopting new academic standards and assessments.

The final year of RTTT grant funding for Tennessee was 2013-14.

See also

  • academic standards
  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • priority school
  • Race to the Top (RTTT)
  • teacher evaluation

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Fiscal capacity is a statistical estimate of a county's relative ability to raise revenue. When applied to the Basic Education Program (BEP), the state's K-12 education funding formula, fiscal capacity estimates result in the state directing a higher proportion of state funds to districts with less ability to raise local revenue, a process known as equalization.

Under the BEP, the state funds 70 percent of both instructional components (i.e., instructional salaries and wages, and instructional benefits), 75 percent of classroom components, and 50 percent of non-classroom components on a statewide basis. The level of state funding for individual districts varies considerably, however. For example, a district with higher fiscal capacity has been determined through the BEP formula to possess a greater ability to raise revenue through local sources and may receive state funds of 50 percent for classroom components, while a district with lower fiscal capacity has been determined through the BEP formula to possess less ability to raise local revenues, and as a result may receive state funds of 75 percent for the same classroom components.

The fiscal capacity of each county is determined through a 50/50 blend of two indices, one created by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and one created by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR). The CBER model determines a county's capacity to raise local revenues for education from its property and sales tax base. The TACIR model evaluates factors such as the per-pupil own-source revenue (i.e., revenue raised directly by local governments), per-pupil equalized property assessment, per-pupil taxable sales, per-capita income, tax burden, and service burden of the county.

For more information, see OREA's interactive tool on the Basic Education Program

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER)
  • cost differential factor (CDF)
  • Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)

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In general, a fiscal year is an official 12-month accounting period. In Tennessee, the fiscal year for state and local governments is July 1 through June 30. The federal fiscal year is October 1 through September 30.

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The Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act, passed in 2016, is a state law that changed the governance of Tennessee’s public universities previously governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). The affected institutions are Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Memphis.

The FOCUS Act created local governing boards of trustees for each university that are responsible for the management, control, and operation of the university. The local governing boards are appointed by the Governor and are subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. Boards assumed their new roles in summer 2017.

TBR remains the governing body for the state’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology (TCATs).

The FOCUS Act also required the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to take on new roles, such as training local governing board members, approving institutional mission statements, coordinating capital projects, and collecting higher education data.

The FOCUS Act of 2016 is distinct from the UT FOCUS Act, passed in 2018, which restructured the University of Tennessee’s board of trustees and created advisory boards for each of the UT campuses (Knoxville, Martin, Chattanooga, and the Health Science Center).

See also

  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)
  • University of Tennessee FOCUS Act

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See Targeted Support and Improvement Schools.

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Free and Reduced-Price Meals are provided to eligible students as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program (often referred to as the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch or FRPL program); the programs are administered by the Tennessee Department of Education. All public schools in Tennessee participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which makes nutritious, affordable lunches available for purchase to all students. The lunches, and breakfasts offered at participating schools, are provided free or at a reduced cost for eligible students.

Students are eligible for free meals if their family income is at or below 130 percent of the poverty level; students from families with incomes above 130 percent, but no more than 185 percent, of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals.

School districts may also directly certify students through household enrollment in another qualifying assistance program. Once directly certified, the student automatically becomes eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. The household does not have to submit a separate application or complete any additional paperwork.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is an option that allows all students, regardless of economic status, to participate in the NSLP. Eligibility for CEP requires a district or school or group of schools to have at least 40 percent of students who are directly certified.

See also

  • direct certification
  • economically disadvantaged students

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The federal government requires that individuals complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal student aid in postsecondary institutions. Federal student aid comes in several forms: grants, work-study, and student loans. The FAFSA is also required for several Tennessee-specific scholarship and grant programs, including the HOPE lottery scholarships, Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, and TCAT Reconnect.

The Office of Federal Student Aid, a federal office, is responsible for managing student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Tennessee Promise Evaluation

See also

  • Hope Scholarship
  • last-dollar scholarship 
  • TCAT Reconnect
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)
  • Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965

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Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is an educational right of children with disabilities that is guaranteed by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). One of the purposes, as stated in the IDEA, is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”

See also

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • special education

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G

The General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS) is a lottery-funded, merit-based supplement to the HOPE Scholarship for students who have an overall weighted high school grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.75 and a minimum ACT score of 29 (or minimum SAT score of 1330). Students must meet all of the other HOPE Scholarship requirements.

The GAMS award amount is $500 per semester. A student may receive either the GAMS or the Aspire Award, but not both.

See also

  • ACT
  • Aspire Award
  • HOPE Scholarship
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

The General Education Development (GED) test is an exam that individuals not currently enrolled in high school can pass to earn a high school equivalency diploma. As of July 2016, the GED is no longer offered in Tennessee, and the only high school equivalency exam offered in Tennessee is the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET).

See also

  • high school equivalency exam
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • high school graduation rates

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The GIVE Act provides lottery-funded grants for four dual enrollment courses for eligible high school juniors and seniors so they can graduate from high school with credits toward a postsecondary credential in a high-demand technical field. To qualify for the grants, students must choose a course within a program of study that is aligned with the state’s workforce needs. A program of study is a sequence of postsecondary courses that lead to a specific degree or certification in vocational education.

GIVE Act grant funding for dual enrollment courses first became available in the 2020-21 school year and covers tuition costs. Costs for fees, books, and course-related equipment and technology are not covered by GIVE Act grant funding.

Certain industries require employees to have specific technical or applied trade skills to perform a job (e.g., welding, medical transcription, pipefitting). For some jobs, industries struggle to find local workers with the required skills. Such jobs are determined by the state to be in high demand, and postsecondary courses related to these high-demand jobs are eligible for GIVE Act dual enrollment grants.

For more information, see OREA's 2019 legislative recap "Understanding Public Chapter 203: The Governor's Investment in Vocational Education Act

See also

  • Career and Technical Education
  • dual enrollment
  • program of study

See high school graduation rates.

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In October 2019, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) approved the state’s first “Grow Your Own” partnership between a school district and a state university to help districts recruit and better prepare future teachers. Such partnerships generally focus on certification in areas with shortages of teachers, such as K-5 or special education.

The first partnership between Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools and Austin Peay State University is designed to provide 40 teacher candidates with an accelerated free path to become full-time teachers in three years while concurrently working as teaching paraprofessionals who earn a salary with benefits. The school district also partnered with Lipscomb University to offer up to 20 future teachers a similar path to earning a master’s degree with dual certification at no cost following a one-year, full-time paid residency experience.

In 2020, the General Assembly funded the Grow Your Own initiative with over $300,000 in annually recurring funds and $5 million in non-recurring funds. In October 2020, TDOE awarded $2 million in “Grow Your Own” competitive grants to seven educator preparation programs, allowing them to form or expand state-recognized partnerships to increase access to the teaching profession. The grants awarded will expand existing partnerships between local school districts and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Austin Peay State University, and Lipscomb University. The 2020 awards will impact 35 school districts and are expected to develop 262 new teachers.

 

See also

  • teacher preparation

H

The Helping Heroes Grant provides financial aid to qualifying veterans who attend eligible postsecondary institutions. The grant amount is $500 per semester for those enrolled as part-time students, and $1,000 per semester for those enrolled as full-time students. The grant is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and is available for up to eight full semesters.

The Helping Heroes Grant is part of the state’s system of lottery-funded scholarships.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "Supporting Tennessee veterans in postsecondary education: The Helping Heroes Grant program"

See also

  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)
  • Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support Act (TN VETS Act)
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill

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Tennessee has four types of high school diplomas:

  • Regular High School Diploma – awarded to students who (1) earn the prescribed 22 credit minimum, (2) complete the ACT or SAT, and (3) have a satisfactory record of attendance and discipline.
  • Alternate Academic Diploma – awarded to students who (1) participate in the alternate assessments, (2) earn the prescribed 22 credit minimum, (3) receive special education services or supports and make satisfactory progress on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), (4) have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct; and (5) complete a transition assessment that measures, at a minimum, postsecondary readiness in the areas of postsecondary education and training, employment, independent living, and community involvement.
  • Occupational Diploma – awarded to students with disabilities at the end of their fourth year of high school who have (1) not met the requirements for a regular high school diploma, (2) received special education services or supports and made satisfactory progress on an IEP, (3) satisfactory records of attendance and conduct, (4) completed the occupational diploma Skills, Knowledge, and Experience Mastery Assessment (SKEMA) created by the Tennessee Department of Education, and (5) completed two years of paid or non-paid work experience. The determination that an occupational diploma is the goal for a student with a disability is made at the end of grade 10 or two academic years prior to the student’s expected graduation date.
  • Special Education Diploma – awarded to students with disabilities at the end of their fourth year of high school who have (1) not met the requirements for a regular high school diploma, (2) satisfactorily completed an IEP, and (3) satisfactory records of attendance and conduct. Students who obtain the special education diploma may continue to work toward the regular high school diploma through the end of the school year in which they turn 22 years old.

See also

  • ACT
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • SAT
  • special education

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The Tennessee Department of Education defines a student who has dropped out as an individual who:

  • was enrolled in school at some time during the previous school year;
  • was not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year;
  • has not graduated from high school or completed a state-approved educational program; and
  • does not meet any of the following exclusionary conditions:
    • transfer to another public school system, private school, or specifically approved state education program
    • temporary absence due to suspension or excused illness
    • death

The definition is derived from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Tennessee also uses methodology developed by NCES to calculate a dropout rate.

There are three kinds of dropout rates commonly cited:

  • Event dropout rates describe the proportion of students who leave school each year without completing a high school program.
  • Status dropout rates provide cumulative data on dropouts among all young adults within a specified age range. Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts ages 16 through 24, regardless of when they last attended school.
  • Cohort dropout rates measure what happens to a single group, or cohort, of students over a period of time – for example, how many students starting in grade 9 drop out before the end of grade 12.

See also

  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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A high school equivalency (HSE) exam is a test that individuals who are not currently enrolled in high school can pass to earn a high school equivalency diploma. As of 2020, three HSEs are offered in the United States:

  • the General Education Development test (GED) designed by the GED Testing Service
  • the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) designed by ETS (Educational Testing Service)
  • the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) designed by the Data Recognition Corporation

After the GED was discontinued in Tennessee in July 2016, the HiSET became the only high school equivalency exam offered in the state.

The Division of Adult Education in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers Tennessee’s adult education programs, which can help prepare students to take an HSE exam. HSE recipients are eligible for some postsecondary scholarships and grants funded by the Tennessee lottery.

See also

  • General Education Development (GED) test
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • high school graduation rates
  • standardized test
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

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The High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is an exam that individuals who are not currently enrolled in high school can take to earn a high school equivalency diploma. The HiSET consists of five subtests: language arts/reading, language arts/writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. After the General Education Development test (GED) was discontinued in Tennessee in July 2016, the HiSET became the only high school equivalency exam offered in the state.

Individuals taking the HiSET must be at least 18 years of age or 17 years of age with a waiver signed by the local director of schools. Residents of Tennessee who meet eligibility requirements can obtain vouchers to cover the costs of the HiSET through their local adult education program. 

See also

  • Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • General Education Development (GED) test
  • high school equivalency exam
  • high school graduation rates

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Tennessee has received national attention because of its steady increase in high school graduation rates over the last several years. The statewide average graduation rate for 2019-20 was 89.6 percent, down slightly from the 2018-19 rate of 89.7, which was the highest rate the state had ever attained.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education revised its regulations concerning the calculation of high school graduation rates. With the cohort graduating in the 2010-11 school year, Tennessee began calculating a four-year adjusted cohort graduation, disaggregated by all subgroups, at the school, district, and state levels. Prior to this change, states used a variety of methods for calculating graduation rates, resulting in state graduation rates that could not be compared.

Every student entering the 9th grade is part of a cohort of students who are expected to graduate within four years. Students may be removed from their four-year cohort only when school officials document in writing that they have transferred to another school or district (where they will be added to another cohort) or have emigrated to another country. If a student leaves school for any other reason (other than death), they remain part of the cohort. At the end of the 12th grade, only those students in the cohort who successfully complete all requirements to achieve a regular high school diploma are then counted as graduates. (The graduation rate comprises all summer terms, including the summer term after 12th grade.) Students who obtain an alternative credential, such as a high school equivalency diploma, and students who take longer than four years to graduate are not counted as graduates. The basic calculation used is depicted below:

Graduation Rate =

Number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of a specific school year (including summer term after grade 12)

Divided by:

Number of first-time 9th graders in fall of first year of cohort (starting cohort) plus students who transferred in, minus students who transferred out, emigrated, or died during the four school years of the cohort

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed with the state’s alternate assessment and awarded a state-defined alternate diploma that is aligned to the state requirements for the regular high school diploma are included in the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.

See also

  • accountability
  • high school diploma

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See outcomes-based funding formula.

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In 2013, the General Assembly created the position of Higher Education Resource Officer (HERO) within the Comptroller of the Treasury. The HERO was established to help resolve issues, answer questions, and provide information to Tennesseans who are faculty, staff, or employees of Tennessee’s higher education institutions and systems. The HERO reviews the organizational and financial operations of the institutions and systems, and evaluates higher education administrative policies.

For more information, see the HERO's website

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Historically black colleges and universities (also known as HBCUs), as defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965, are institutions established prior to 1964, with a principal mission to educate African Americans.

HBCUs are designed to offer all students, regardless of race, an opportunity to develop their skills and talents. HBCUs consist of both two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities, including some federally-designated land-grant institutions. HBCUs are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education.

Tennessee has seven HBCUs represented among each of the state’s grand divisions: American Baptist College, Fisk University, Knoxville College, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Meharry Medical College, and Tennessee State University.

In May 2017, the General Assembly passed the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to enhance economic and community development by encouraging collaboration between HBCUs and public and private organizations. The initiative is an organizational unit of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and works in consultation with the Consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The initiative is charged with serving the state’s needs through five core tasks:

  • strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in state programs;
  • fostering enduring private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships while promoting specific areas and centers of academic research and programmatic excellence throughout all HBCUs;
  • improving the availability, dissemination, and quality of information concerning HBCUs to inform public policy and practice;
  • sharing administrative and programmatic practices within the consortium for the benefit of all; and
  • exploring new ways of improving the relationship between the state and HBCUs.

See also

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission

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A home school is a school conducted or directed by a parent or legal guardian for his or her own children. Tennessee law allows parents to home school their children in grades K-12 under two options: the independent home school option or the church-related umbrella school option.

Students who receive education at home through either a public or private online school (also known as virtual schools) are not classified as home school students; they are considered enrolled in the public or private school that operates the online services.

State law does not require home school students to adhere to state academic standards or to use any particular curriculum or textbooks. Both independent home schools and church-related umbrella schools must be conducted for the same length of term as public schools.

Independent home school students are required to take standardized tests in grades 5, 7, and 9 for reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Public schools that offer Advanced Placement (AP) exams or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) exams are required by Tennessee law to administer these exams to independent home school students who choose to take them. Independent home school parents must have a high school diploma or GED.

Church-related umbrella schools are exempt from any regulations relating to student testing or parent qualifications, except that parents of students in grades 9 through 12 must have a high school diploma or GED.

To ensure compliance with truancy laws, home schooled students must be registered with their local public school districts. Parents providing independent home schools must register their students directly with local school districts. Church-related umbrella schools typically notify local districts on behalf of their home-schooling parents.

State law requires all Tennessee state and local government entities, such as public higher education institutions, to recognize and accept high school diplomas awarded to home school students as equivalent to diplomas awarded to public school students.

For more information, see OREA's 2018 report "Home Schooling in Tennessee" and OREA's 2018 report "State Standardized Testing Requirements for Public, Private, and Home Schools"

See also

  • Advanced Placement (AP) program
  • virtual school

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The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, originally signed into law in 1987, provides a range of services to homeless individuals and families. One section of the law, added in 1994 to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and now a part of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), places certain requirements on states and school districts to ensure that each homeless child and youth has access to the same public educational services as other children and youth. The act defines homeless children and youth as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes:

  • children and youths who are
    • sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as “doubled up”);
    • living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
    • living in emergency or transitional shelters; or
    • abandoned in hospitals;
  • children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
  • children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
  • migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.

The U.S. Department of Education awards McKinney-Vento funds annually to states by formula, based on the proportion of funds each state receives under Title I, Part A of the ESEA. The award is conditional ‒ if states choose to accept McKinney-Vento funding, and currently all do, then they must carry out the act’s provisions. States are required to award at least 75 percent of the total state allocation to school districts through competitive grants. If a state chooses to accept McKinney-Vento funding, every school district in the state must provide services to homeless children and youth whether or not the district receives a subgrant, and the state is responsible for providing technical assistance to all school districts. The remaining grant funds not distributed as subgrants may be used to carry out the functions of the State Coordinator for Education of Homeless Children and Youths, which is required to be established in each state.

The Tennessee Department of Education was awarded $1,787,419 in federal McKinney-Vento funds for fiscal year 2019.

In school year 2019-20, Tennessee school districts served 12,174 homeless children and youths.

See also

  • economically disadvantaged students
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)

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Tennessee’s HOPE Scholarship is a lottery-funded, merit-based scholarship for postsecondary education. Eligible students must have either an overall high school grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 or attain a composite ACT score of at least 21 (or combined SAT score of at least 1060). Students who earn a high school equivalency diploma by taking the HiSET exam may also qualify with a minimum score of 15. (Although Tennessee no longer gives the GED exam, a student who becomes a Tennessee resident and who has taken the GED previously can qualify with a minimum score of 170.) Since 2015, full-time freshmen and sophomores at four-year institutions and two-year institutions with on-campus housing receive up to $1,750 per semester; full-time juniors and seniors receive up to $2,250 per semester. The HOPE Scholarship awards up to $1,500 per semester for other two-year institutions.

To continue receiving a HOPE Scholarship, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 at the 24- and 48-semester hour thresholds, maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 at the end of any subsequent academic year, complete the FAFSA annually, and continue to meet nonacademic requirements. A student can receive the award until either five years have passed from the date of initial enrollment at any postsecondary institution or the student has completed a bachelor’s degree.

The HOPE Scholarship includes three programs designed for students who meet certain criteria: the HOPE Access Grant, the nontraditional HOPE Scholarship, and the HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant.

HOPE Access Grant

The HOPE Access Grant requires students to have a weighted cumulative high school GPA of at least 2.75 but no higher than 2.99 out of 4.0, and an ACT score no lower than 18 and no higher than 20 (or SAT combined score no lower than 960 and no higher than 1050), as well as an adjusted gross income of $36,000 or less. The award provides up to $1,250 per semester at a four-year institution and $875 per semester at a two-year institution.

The HOPE Access Grant is available only for the first 24 semester hours attempted by eligible students. On meeting certain GPA requirements at the end of the 24 semester hours, a HOPE Access Grant recipient may gain eligibility to receive the HOPE Scholarship.

Nontraditional HOPE Scholarship

The nontraditional HOPE Scholarship is for eligible students who are 25 or older, have an adjusted gross income of $36,000 or less, and meet other basic eligibility criteria. The award amount is the same as the HOPE Scholarship. To maintain the award, a student must be continuously enrolled and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 at the 24- and 48-semester hour thresholds, and maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 at the end of any subsequent academic year. Recipients of the nontraditional HOPE Scholarship are not eligible for the Aspire Award or the General Assembly Merit Scholarship.

HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant

A student eligible for the HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant must certify foster child status and meet the requirements of the HOPE Scholarship or HOPE Access Grant. The award amount shall be the cost of attendance (tuition and mandatory fees), less any gift aid. The grant shall not exceed the statewide average for tuition and mandatory fees for a public four-year or two-year postsecondary institution.

See also

  • Aspire Award
  • General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS)
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

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The HOPE teacher’s scholarship, also called the Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, provides financial assistance to Tennessee’s public school teachers seeking an advanced degree in math or science, or a certification to teach math or science. The recipient must sign a promissory note that stipulates a repayment of the scholarship under certain circumstances. The repayment obligation is forgiven once the teacher has fulfilled the requirements to teach math or science in Tennessee public schools for one year for each year of funding provided by the scholarship.

Eligible teachers must be tenured, admitted to an eligible postsecondary institution, maintain satisfactory progress in their program of study, and agree to teach math or science in a Tennessee public school system upon completion. The program of study selected by the teacher must be completed within five years, beginning with the first term for which funds are awarded. A teacher’s eligibility expires if the teacher has a break in enrollment at an eligible postsecondary institution of more than 12 months.

Under this program, teachers receive $2,000 per year, not to exceed $10,000 for all years required for the teacher's program of study.

The HOPE teacher's scholarship accepted its final applications in August 2020. Current students may continue receiving funding through the program as long as they remain eligible.

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The Tennessee State Board of Education defines an Individual Health Plan (IHP) as “a health care plan developed by a Registered Nurse for children with acute or chronic health issues. Parents and other health care providers involved with the child participate in the development/approval of the plan.”

State law requires public school nurses to update and maintain an IHP for students with acute or chronic health issues.

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The Tennessee General Assembly’s passage of the Individualized Education Act in 2015 created an Individualized Education Account (IEA) program for children with disabilities, sometimes referred to as an education savings account or a special education voucher program. The program allows parents to remove their eligible child from a public school and receive public funds deposited in their IEA equal to the amount of the per-pupil state and local funds generated and required through the Basic Education Program (BEP). Although the per-pupil amount varies by school district, the statewide average IEA payment for 2020-21 is approximately $7,068 per student.

The funds can be used for certain education-related services and costs of private or home school options (such as tuition, fees, transportation, curriculum, and technology devices). A parent or guardian’s IEA is administered by the Tennessee Department of Education, which may deduct 6 percent of the payment to cover administration and oversight costs.

Eligible students must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) before enrolling for an IEA. At least one of the following disabilities must be documented in the IEP:

  • autism
  • deaf-blindness
  • hearing impairments
  • visual impairments
  • intellectual disability
  • orthopedic impairments
  • traumatic brain injury
  • developmental delay
  • multiple disabilities

Students attending a Tennessee school for the first time may also receive an IEA if they meet other eligibility requirements. Students remain IEA-eligible until they return to public school, graduate from high school, or reach the age of 22.

Participating schools that accept IEA funding must comply with government regulations such as health and safety codes and non-discrimination requirements.

See also

  • education savings account (ESA)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • special education
  • vouchers

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An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement that ensures a student with a disability has access to the general education curriculum and is provided the appropriate learning opportunities, accommodations, adaptations, specialized services, and supports needed to progress toward meeting the same learning standards as students without disabilities, and to meet his or her unique needs related to the disability. Each student receiving disability services through a school must have an IEP in effect by the beginning of each school year. Federal and state laws and regulations specify the information that must be documented in each student’s IEP.

An IEP team must initially develop, annually review, and, if appropriate, revise the IEP. The development of the IEP occurs following an evaluation of the child to determine if the disability is affecting his or her ability to learn. The composition of the IEP team is stipulated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The school district is responsible for ensuring that the IEP team for each child includes the parents or guardians of the child, a special education teacher, at least one regular education teacher, a school district representative who is knowledgeable of resources available to the child, and someone who can interpret evaluation results. The IEP team may also include, at the discretion of the parents or the school district, related services personnel, such as a school psychologist, an audiologist, an English Learner instruction professional, and others.

Tennessee includes additional categories beyond the 13 disability categories listed in federal law for which students are required to have an IEP. The federal categories are:

  • autism
  • deaf-blindness
  • deafness
  • emotional disturbance
  • hearing impairment
  • intellectual disability
  • multiple disabilities
  • orthopedic impairment
  • other health impairment
  • specific learning disability
  • speech or language impairment
  • traumatic brain injury
  • visual impairment

Tennessee additionally includes these three categories:

  • developmental delay
  • functional delay
  • intellectually gifted

See also

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • special education

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In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In order to receive federal funds, states are required to develop and implement policies that assure a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities. In 2018-19, Tennessee received $239,217,149 in IDEA funds, which was allocated to school districts.

IDEA defines “child with disabilities” as a child “with intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance . . . , orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.”

IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth through age 2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3 through 21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

See also

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • special education

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Innovation Zones (I-Zones) are one method of intervention a school district may pursue to monitor, oversee, and improve the performance of schools designated as priority schools (i.e., schools performing in the bottom 5 percent in the state in overall achievement or with graduation rates below 67 percent). The Tennessee Department of Education must approve a district’s plan to create an I-Zone, as well as any schools designated for inclusion. Once approved, the district must establish an I-Zone office, appoint an office leader with management authority to hire staff for the office, and appoint a leader for each school placed in the I-Zone. I-Zone schools remain under the management of the local school district but have autonomy over financial, programmatic, and staffing decisions, similar to the autonomy granted to schools placed in the Achievement School District.

Only districts with multiple priority schools can establish I-Zones. As of 2019, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Shelby County Schools, Hamilton County Schools, and Knox County Schools had established I-Zones.

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • priority school

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The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The mission of IES is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share information broadly. IES conducts in-house research and provides funding for education research nationwide. IES resources include the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, which is also known as the Nation's Report Card), the What Works Clearinghouse, and ERIC education databases.

See also

  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)

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The United States participates in three major international assessments designed to provide information about the performance of the nation's K-12 education system relative to education systems in other countries: the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS); the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The U.S. also participates in an international assessment to measure cognitive and workplace skills for adults, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

The three major assessments for elementary and secondary students differ in purpose, subjects tested, and grade (or age) of students tested. Both PIRLS and TIMSS are designed to measure how well students are learning what they are taught in the classroom — PIRLS tests 4th grade reading every five years, and TIMSS tests 4th and 8th grade mathematics and science every four years. PISA is designed to measure whether 15-year-olds are able to practically apply what they have learned both in and out of school in reading, mathematics, and science. The test is administered every three years. PISA tests students in all three subjects, but focuses more heavily on one of the three subjects each time the test is given.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) sponsors all four assessments in the U.S. Two of the tests – PIRLS and TIMSS – are products of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). PISA and PIACC are products of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

For more information, see OREA's 2019 report "Mapping International Assessments"

See also

  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

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The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a nonprofit educational foundation founded in 1968, which offers rigorous coursework and examinations based on an internationally developed curriculum. IB programs operate within existing schools as authorized by the IB organization, and are referred to as IB World Schools.

IB has four programs: primary years (ages 3-12), middle years (ages 11-16), diploma (ages 16-19), and career-related (ages 16-19). In 2020, IB programs in Tennessee operated in 24 schools throughout the state (23 public and one private). Successful IB high school students can earn college credit, advanced standing, and scholarships at some universities, including the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Middle Tennessee State University; and Tennessee Technological University.

See also

  • Advanced Placement (AP) program

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ISTE Standards (formerly the NETS) were developed and are maintained by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE is a nonprofit educator membership organization dedicated to supporting the use of information technology to aid in learning and teaching. ISTE created and maintains education technology standards for students, teachers, administrators, technology coaches, and computer science educators.

The Tennessee Educational Technology Association (TETA) is an ISTE affiliate. As of 2020, TETA individual members are employed in 109 Tennessee school districts and nine other educational organizations.

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L

A last-dollar scholarship refers to a funding model in which a student draws from other funding sources before being awarded the last-dollar scholarship. Tennessee Promise, TCAT Reconnect, and Tennessee Reconnect are last-dollar scholarships available to eligible Tennessee residents. To qualify for these last-dollar scholarships, applicants are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines other federal and state scholarships and grants the applicant is eligible to receive.

Tennessee Promise and Reconnect scholarship dollars are applied to a student’s remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after funds for the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS), the Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA), and the Pell Grant have first been applied. Because Tennessee Promise and Reconnect are applied after these other sources of gift aid, a Promise or Reconnect student’s award amount can range from zero to the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Tennessee Promise Evaluation

See also

  • Drive to 55
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • TCAT Reconnect
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships (TELS)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect Grant
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)
  • tuition and mandatory fees

Local match is the commonly used term for the required share of total Basic Education Program (BEP) funds that local jurisdictions must allocate to schools in order for each school district to receive its state-funded share of BEP dollars. The Tennessee Department of Education uses the BEP funding formula to calculate a total dollar amount for each public school district, which is then funded on a shared basis between the state and each local jurisdiction that operates a school system (county, municipal, or special school district). The majority of districts are funded by their local jurisdictions at levels above their required BEP local match.

The state and local shares of BEP funding are prescribed by law for the four BEP categories:

  • Instructional Salaries and Wages (salary for teaching positions): 70 percent state and 30 percent local
  • Instructional Benefits (benefits for teaching positions): 70 percent state and 30 percent local
  • Classroom (textbooks, instructional equipment, etc.): 75 percent state and 25 percent local
  • Non-classroom (capital outlay, transportation, etc.): 50 percent state and 50 percent local

These prescribed state and local shares are calculated based on the total, statewide BEP funds of all districts combined. The resulting dollar amount of the total local shares is then divided among each district based on the local county's ability to pay, known as its fiscal capacity. (Municipal and special school districts within a county are assigned the same fiscal capacity as the county school district.) After fiscal capacity formulas have been applied, the resulting local share for a specific district may differ from the state and local splits required for the statewide totals. For example, after fiscal capacity is accounted for, one district's instructional funding might be 57 percent state and 43 percent local, while another district's instructional funding might be 85 percent state and 15 percent local.

For more information, see OREA's interactive tool on the Basic Education Program

See also

  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • fiscal capacity

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Following passage of the 2016 FOCUS Act, the governance of six public universities shifted from the Tennessee Board of Regents to a local governing board of trustees. Those six universities are referred to as locally governed institutions: Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Memphis.

See also

  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act

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Maintenance of effort laws for education require that local funding bodies allocate at least the same amount of funding to school districts that they budgeted the previous year for operating expenditures, excluding capital outlay and debt service, unless there is a decline in student enrollment. Maintenance of effort laws ensure that financial contributions by one funding body are used to enhance existing financial support from another. For example, these laws ensure that new or increased state funding provides additional support to schools, and does not result in simply replacing existing local funding, also known as supplanting.

The Tennessee Department of Education confirms each school district's compliance with maintenance of effort laws by comparing the total budgeted local revenues for day-to-day operations with the budgeted local revenues from the previous year, excluding capital outlay and debt service. In cases of declining enrollment, the department compares budgeted local revenues on a per-pupil basis.

Maintenance of effort provisions are not unique to education funding. In Tennessee, several other county departments have maintenance of effort provisions, including law enforcement, public libraries, highways, and election commissions, although they may be calculated in different ways. There are also maintenance of effort requirements that states must meet for certain federal funds, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B funds.

For more information, see OREA's 2015 report "Understanding Tennessee's Maintenance of Effort in Education Laws"

See also

  • capital outlay
  • revenue sources

A middle college high school is a school within a school, a technical high school, or a high school or technical center located on the campus of a postsecondary institution. Middle college high schools are designed to be cooperative programs between high schools and public postsecondary institutions. These programs target students who are either at risk of dropping out of high school or who would benefit from accelerated academic instruction.

Middle college high schools are designed to be flexible and customizable, enabling students to obtain a high school diploma in less than four years, begin or complete an associate degree program, earn a certificate or diploma in a career or technical program, or earn up to two years of postsecondary, transferrable credits.

Qualified high school juniors and seniors enrolled full-time at an eligible postsecondary institution may receive the Middle College Scholarship. The scholarship, established in 2018, is funded by state lottery proceeds and was increased in 2019 by the General Assembly to $1,000 for each semester of full-time attendance. As of the 2019-20 school year, Tennessee has six active middle college high schools.

The Move on When Ready (MOWR) program, created by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2011, allows students to graduate from high school significantly early under an abbreviated course load, provided they meet certain academic requirements, such as a 3.2 grade point average. It differs from districts’ traditional early graduation programs that do not allow students to waive certain graduation requirements.

Under traditional early graduation, most students graduate one to three semesters ahead of schedule; MOWR, by contrast, allows students to graduate significantly early – using the program, a student may theoretically graduate in as little as one and a half years, or halfway through his or her sophomore year of high school. To allow for this accelerated timeline, MOWR reduces the number of credits required for graduation, and permits students to waive several requirements.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "Evaluation of the Tennessee Move on When Ready Program"

See also

  • high school diploma

Municipal, or city, school districts are generally authorized under city or town charters, and are not required to offer all grade levels. Tennessee has 33 municipal school districts across 22 counties. Municipal boundaries geographically define which students are eligible for enrollment and which voters are eligible to elect municipal school boards. Municipal school districts typically receive a designated portion of city tax revenues, in addition to their share of county tax revenues and their state Basic Education Program (BEP) funds. A municipality can choose to cease school district operations and transfer administration of its district to the county board of education under procedures set by state law.

A statutory ban on the creation of any new municipal school districts was lifted in 2013, allowing the formation of six new municipal school districts in Shelby County, which opened to students in 2014-15. Municipalities that want to create a new school district must meet State Board of Education minimum standards to serve at least 1,500 students and allocate city revenues to the schools that are equivalent to at least $0.15 per $100 of taxable municipal property.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • county school district
  • school district (or LEA)
  • special school district

N

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a national system of testing in K-12 schools to measure what U.S. students know and can do in core subjects. NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). NAEP collects and reports academic achievement results at the national level and, for certain assessments, at the state and district levels. NAEP results are not reported at the school or individual student level. Assessment results are referred to as “The Nation's Report Card” once they have been processed and compiled into results that are presented to the public.

NAEP assesses several subject areas at the national level: mathematics, reading, science, and writing, as well as the arts, civics, economics, foreign language, geography, technology and engineering literacy, and U.S. history. NAEP assesses mathematics and reading at the national level every two years, and assesses science, writing, and the other subject areas less frequently. The national NAEP includes students at grade levels 4, 8, and 12.

NAEP assesses four subjects at the state level: mathematics, reading, science, and writing. Since 2003, all 50 states have participated in state-level NAEP assessments for reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. The state-level NAEP is also given at grade 12 in some states. The state-level assessments for reading and mathematics occur every two years, and are administered along with the national level assessments. Science and writing are assessed less frequently. NAEP state assessments began in 1990; Tennessee first participated in 1992.

The national NAEP assesses students in public and private schools. State-level NAEP assesses students in public schools only.

Not every school or student participates in NAEP assessments. NAEP tests small samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the national and state-level assessments. To ensure that a representative sample of students is assessed, NAEP is given in schools with students that reflect the varying demographics of a specific jurisdiction – i.e., the nation, a state, or a district.

See also

  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • standardized test

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a national, independent, nonprofit organization working to advance the quality of teaching and learning by maintaining rigorous standards for accomplished teaching and certifying teachers who meet those standards. Founded in 1987, the NBPTS has certified over 125,000 teachers in the United States, including 1,155 in Tennessee, as of September 2020.

NBPTS certifications are available in 25 certificate areas, spanning a variety of academic disciplines and grade levels. Candidates have five years to complete the certification process, which requires teachers to complete a computer-based assessment of content knowledge and to compile three portfolios demonstrating their differentiation in instruction, teaching practice and learning environment, and effectiveness as a teacher.

See also

  • teacher professional development

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

NCES activities include administering:

  • national assessments, which are the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the National Assessments of Adult Literacy.
  • international assessments, including the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
  • the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program to help states develop and implement longitudinal data systems in K-12 and postsecondary systems. In 2019, Tennessee received an SLDS grant of $3.5 million to help improve the governance, metadata, documentation and training regarding data in the P20 Connect TN data system. Tennessee received an SLDS grant of nearly $7 million in 2015; it previously received $3.2 million under the program in 2006.

See also

  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • international assessments
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Education Association (NEA) describes itself as the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing over three million members at every level of education – from pre-school to university graduate programs. The stated mission of the NEA is to advocate for education professionals and to unite its members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

NEA has affiliates in all states, including the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). NEA provides research, advocates, and takes positions on federal and state education issues. NEA educational activities include conferences, seminars, and training programs for members, as well as teaching tools and education-related publications. 

See also

  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET)
  • Tennessee Education Association (TEA)

Navigate Reconnect provides general guidance and assistance to adult learners in Tennessee who want to continue postsecondary education. Staff, called “navigators,” based in regions across the state, help adults who want to enroll or re-enroll in postsecondary education to explore college options, answer questions about financial aid and the enrollment process, and provide additional supports to adult students once they are in college through graduation.

Navigate Reconnect assists adult students on and off campus. For example, navigators connect adult students with local resources such as childcare and affordable transportation options, make direct referrals to campus contacts (e.g., financial aid, admissions, academic advising), and provide encouragement throughout the process. Navigators serve adult learners in four regions: west, middle, east, and northeast Tennessee.

Navigate Reconnect is part of the Tennessee Reconnect program, which provides eligible adult students with a last-dollar scholarship to complete a certificate or associate degree. Grant recipients must participate in a Reconnect Success Plan, which is an annual questionnaire that matches the student with resources and information through their college and regional Reconnect Navigator. All Tennessee adult college students are eligible for Navigate Reconnect services, even if they do not receive the Tennessee Reconnect grant.

Navigate Reconnect replaced what were formerly known as Tennessee Reconnect Communities on July 1, 2019.

See also 

  • Tennessee Reconnect Grant
  • Drive to 55
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)

In December 2015, Congress passed and the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Prior to that, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) constituted the federal education law.

The NCLB Act, passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002, made significant alterations to the ESEA. Some of NCLB’s major provisions are retained in ESSA, including the requirement that states test students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school based on state standards. Under both NCLB and ESSA, states are required to report the results for the entire student population and for subgroups of students (e.g., racial minorities, children from low-income families, English language learners, and students with disabilities).

See also

  • assessment
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)
  • English Learner students
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • homeless students
  • standardized test

Non-public schools, by definition in state law, include private schools, church-related schools, and home schools.

Non-public schools are classified by the State Board of Education into five categories based primarily on the level of oversight by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) or by various private accrediting agencies or membership associations. The five categories are:

  • Category 1 schools are approved by the State Department of Education.
  • Category 1-SP (previously Category 7) schools are Special Purpose schools encompassing some pre-K programs and transient care facilities serving Department of Children’s Services (DCS) students.
  • Category 2 schools are approved by a private school accrediting agency which has been approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education. Schools holding full accreditation status with an approved agency are approved by TDOE.
  • Category 3 schools are regionally accredited (by, for example, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).
  • Category 4 schools are Church-Related Schools as recognized by associations listed in TCA 49-50-801.
  • Category 5 schools are Acknowledged for Operation.

Schools in Categories 1, 2, 3, and 1-SP are considered to be approved schools for pupils transferring from one school to another and transferring credits and transcripts. Students in Categories 1, 2, and 3 can qualify for the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA).

Church-related schools are one of the five categories and are unique in that they are authorized to establish students’ homes as satellite campuses of their schools, with parents as the teachers.

Home schools not affiliated with a church-related school are known as independent home schools.

Private schools include those approved by TDOE, those accredited by an agency recognized by the State Board, or those which are recognized as members of school associations identified in TCA 49-50-801.

See also

  • Department of Children’s Services education services
  • Education Savings Account (ESA)
  • home school
  • private school
  • public school

O

With the passage of the 1992 Education Improvement Act, the General Assembly created the Office of Education Accountability within the Comptroller’s Office. The office was constituted by the Comptroller in 1994 as the Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA). The law charges OREA with conducting research, analyses, evaluations, and other projects as may be assigned to it by the General Assembly or the Comptroller, or that the office may determine to be necessary to inform discussions and decisions in the legislature. OREA has issued reports covering a wide range of policy topics since 1994, from education to health care to criminal justice. The office produces objective, accurate, nonpartisan research, evaluation, and analysis.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international organization with a focus on economic development. OECD is composed mainly of industrialized countries. As of 2020, membership consists of 37 countries, including the United States.

The OECD coordinates two education-related international assessments: the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) given to 15-year-olds and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) given to adults between the ages of 16 and 65. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) sponsors the administration of PISA and PIAAC in the United States.

See also

  • international assessments
  • Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)
  • Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA) required the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to establish an outcomes-based funding formula that funds public colleges and universities for outcomes that align with the goals of the state’s master plan. The outcomes used in the formula focus on measures of student progression, completion, and efficiency, such as credit hour accumulation, degree/certificate completion, and degrees/certificates awarded per 100 full-time enrolled students, among others. Institutions’ total funding is a combination of funds calculated on these outcome measures, plus funds for fixed costs and quality assurance funding. State funding is allocated to colleges and universities based on the calculation of their shares of appropriated state dollars. The institutions’ shares are determined based on their performance on outcome measures, their peers’ outcome performance, and the amount of any new funds appropriated for higher education by the General Assembly.

The CCTA also created a formula review committee that is responsible for reviewing formula components, identifying needed revisions, additions, or deletions, and assuring that the formula is linked to the state’s master plan for higher education. Although the formula review committee meets annually to review the formula and propose minor changes, THEC has chosen to keep the formula structure relatively stable for five years at a time. At the end of a five-year cycle, THEC, in consultation with the committee, convenes to discuss and institute any major structural changes to the formula.

The last formula cycle came to an end with the distribution of the 2020-21 fiscal year appropriations in November 2019. In early 2020, the formula review committee began reviewing changes or additions for the 2020-2025 model. This review process was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Due to this delay, THEC plans to use the 2015-2020 formula to make the 2021-22 appropriation request. The formula review committee plans to restart discussions about the 2020-2025 model before summer 2021.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "Funding Tennessee's Public Colleges and Universities: The Outcomes-Based Funding Formula"

See also

  • Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA)
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)

P

Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and teaching methods are tailored to the educational needs of individual students, often with the help of data analysis. Learning objectives and instructional content may vary according to learning needs and interests.

Two strategies to implement a personalized learning approach are blended learning and competency-based learning. In the 2016-17 school year, the Tennessee Department of Education piloted blended learning (a combination of face-to-face classroom instruction with online delivery of content and instruction) with 50 math teachers to differentiate instruction for their students. Another pilot in the 2018-19 school year explored how competency-based learning may lead to more student-centric learning strategies in classrooms.

See also

  • blended learning
  • competency-based learning

Physical education is a planned, sequential pre-K-12 curriculum that includes basic movement skills; physical fitness; rhythm and dance; cooperative games; team, dual, and individual sports; tumbling and gymnastics; and aquatics. Qualified professionals, such as physical education teachers and physical activity specialists, provide physical education and related fitness activities.

The State Board of Education (SBE) has adopted physical education standards for pre-K and grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The SBE does not require a minimum number of minutes or days per week that students should be in physical education class. According to SBE rules, “The health education and physical education programs, provided annually, shall be based on state curriculum standards and shall be developmentally appropriate with instruction focusing on activities which will promote good health habits and enhance physical fitness.”

Per SBE rule, students must achieve one high school level unit of Wellness and a half-unit of Physical Education in order to graduate with a high school diploma.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act. It requires that elementary students participate in a physical education class at least two times per full school week for no less than 60 minutes each, and provides that students with disabilities or medical reasons may receive accommodations or be excused. Another law passed in 2019, Public Chapter 475, delays implementation of the act until the 2020-21 school year.

Every school district must file an annual report with the Commissioner of Education confirming it has met the physical education requirements for the school year.

Physical activity includes walking, jumping rope, playing volleyball, or other forms of activity that promote fitness and well-being. As of 2017, Tennessee state law requires school districts to integrate:

  • a minimum of 130 minutes of physical activity per full school week for elementary school students; and
  • a minimum of 90 minutes of physical activity per full school week for middle and high school students.

Walking to and from class does not constitute physical activity for the purpose of this law.

Encouraging adequate physical activity and providing physical education for all students are central tenets of Tennessee’s Coordinated School Health Program. The program’s office, in the Tennessee Department of Education, publishes an annual report on physical activity and physical education in Tennessee’s public schools.

For more information, see OREA's 2016 report "Physical Education and Physical Activity in Tennessee"

See also

  • academic standards
  • coordinated school health
  • curriculum  

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The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a federal education benefit program for individuals who served on active duty after September 10, 2001. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Benefits include tuition and fee payment, monthly housing allowance, book and supplies stipend, tutorial assistance, and licensing (such as attorney license or cosmetology license) and payment of costs for certification tests (such as SAT or LSAT). Tuition is paid directly to the school, and benefits may be used at public and private colleges and universities (including Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology), and for on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and at flight schools.

For veterans who served a total of at least 36 months of active duty, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays 100 percent of allowable benefits for up to 36 months. Veterans with less service receive a percentage of the maximum benefit, based on their period of active duty.

 See also:

·         Helping Heroes Grant

·         Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support Act (Tennessee VETS Act)

Tennessee's state-funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) program served approximately 18,500 three- and four-year-olds in all 95 counties for the 2019-20 school year. Enrollment in pre-K is prioritized for four-year-olds and students identified as economically disadvantaged, followed by students with disabilities, those identified as English Learners, those in state custody, or those educationally at-risk due to circumstances of abuse or neglect. Communities, through the local school districts, may contract and partner with non-school providers (e.g., nonprofit, for-profit, and local Head Start programs). In 2018-19, pre-K classrooms received approximately $83.6 million in funding allocated from the state’s education budget.

See also

  • economically disadvantaged students
  • English Learner students

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A prior learning assessment (PLA), also known as Timewise TN, is a method to evaluate a student’s experience, knowledge, and skills obtained outside of formal classroom learning for college credit. PLA may also be referred to as experiential learning credit or credit for prior learning. PLA credit is granted only for knowledge that is relevant to the student’s degree. A student seeking PLA credit must demonstrate that their mastery of the subject is at the college level. Fees charged for credits earned through PLA are lower than those charged as tuition for credits earned through traditional classes.

A student can demonstrate PLA in three ways:

  • credit by examination (test-based PLA): the student takes an examination to prove what he or she knows.
  • credit recommendation services: a student’s prior training (typically from the military or workplace) is evaluated for potential credit. This evaluation is performed by one of several national organizations.
  • portfolio assessment: this method is used to evaluate a student’s knowledge or experience when it cannot be measured by taking an exam or having previous training evaluated for credit. In this instance, faculty at the college or university will evaluate the student’s portfolio and award credit based on their assessment.

In 2012, the Tennessee Prior Learning Assessment Task Force established recommended standards for all 22 public community colleges and universities in the state. These standards ensure that PLA credit is awarded equitably and that PLA credits awarded at one institution can be transferred to other public institutions across the state.

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Under Tennessee's education accountability plan, developed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are three pathways for identifying priority schools:

  • schools that rank in the bottom 5 percent based on state assessment results from 2015-16 and 2016-17, AND
  • schools that did not earn schoolwide TVAAS composite levels of 4 or 5 in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 OR 2016-17 and 2017-18 OR
  • schools with a graduation rate of less than 67 percent for the 2017-18 school year.

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) will evaluate priority schools annually through its school accountability framework and by monitoring school improvement plan implementation. The “priority exit” accountability designation recognizes priority schools that made progress in the areas for which they were identified.

TDOE released the first priority school list under the state’s approved ESSA plan in summer 2018. A new priority school list is planned for release every three years, but schools that are eligible may exit annually.

The 2018 priority school list identified 82 schools from eight districts. In 2019, seven schools exited the priority school list. No school was identified as a priority school using 2017-18 TN Ready data.

Due to school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, no accountability measures were completed for the 2019-20 school year. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education required that 2018-19 designations, including those of priority schools, are maintained through 2020-21. Those schools will continue to receive supports and interventions as they did the previous year.

See also

  • accountability
  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • Targeted Support and Improvement Schools
  • TN Ready

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Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) is a statewide professional organization that includes teachers, administrators, and non-certified staff from kindergarten to graduate school level in public and private schools. PET’s primary mission is to create a quality educational experience in a safe environment for Tennessee students. Primary activities of PET include advocacy on statewide education issues, professional development, and shared resources for teachers and parents. PET describes itself as an alternative to union participation. PET does not endorse candidates or support strikes or work stoppages.

See also

  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • Tennessee Education Association (TEA)

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A program of study is a sequence of postsecondary courses that lead to a specific degree or certification in career and technical education.

Tennessee’s career and technical education (CTE) programs of study provide a framework of industry-aligned courses. Industry certifications and postsecondary recognized credentials are available through the corresponding CTE course within each program of study.

Programs of study are available for Tennessee’s 16 career clusters. Career clusters identify the knowledge and skills needed to follow a pathway toward career goals and provide ways to explore different occupations. They are aligned with the U.S. Department of Education’s structure of CTE:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Finance
  • Government and Public Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
  • Marketing, Distribution, and Logistics
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Transportation

There are four levels identified for each career cluster and program of study. Although certain levels are encouraged for certain high school grades, school districts have the discretion to make scheduling decisions that work best for the community and students. Each level should include opportunities for dual enrollment, dual credit courses, and college level exams for each program of study.

To qualify for a grant under the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act in Tennessee, high school students must choose a course within a program of study that is aligned with the state’s workforce needs.

See also

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • dual credit
  • dual enrollment
  • Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act

In general, promotion refers to a student progressing from one grade level to the next after successfully meeting academic requirements, and retention refers to a student being retained to repeat an academic year of school.

In Tennessee, local school systems develop and implement grading, promotion, and retention policies for grades kindergarten through 8. The policies are required to be communicated annually to students and parents.

In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring that students may not be promoted past grade 3 unless they “have shown a basic understanding of curriculum and ability to perform the skills required in the subject of reading as demonstrated by the student's grades or standardized test results.” Students who do not meet the criteria may be promoted, however, if they participate in a district-approved research-based intervention prior to the beginning of the next school year. Special education students are exempted from the requirement.

See also

  • academic standards
  • curriculum

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Created in 2019, the Public Charter School Commission is the state-level, independent appellate authorizer of charter schools in Tennessee. Public Chapter 219 transferred the authority of the Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE) as the state’s appellate authorizer of public charter schools to the commission.

If a local board of education denies a charter school sponsor’s application, the sponsor may appeal the decision to the commission. The commission will conduct a de novo (new) review of the sponsor’s application. The commission will review the applications on appeal in accordance with SBE’s quality public charter school authorizing standards. The commission must either approve or deny the application no later than 75 days from its receipt of the notice of appeal. The commission’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.

If the commission upholds the local board of education’s denial of the charter school sponsor’s application, the public charter school will not open. If the commission overturns the local board of education’s denial of the application, the commission then becomes the authorizer of the charter school; however, the local board of education in which the charter school is geographically located and the charter school may agree in writing that the local board, rather than the commission, will be the authorizer for the charter school.

Effective January 1, 2021, the appellate authorizer duties switch from SBE to the commission. The three charter schools authorized by SBE transfer to the Public Charter School Commission, effective July 1, 2021.

The commission is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by a joint resolution of the General Assembly. The commission must have at least three members from each grand division and a majority of the commission members must reside within the geographic boundary of a school district in which at least one public charter school operates. Members do not receive compensation but will be reimbursed for travel expenses.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 legislative brief "Understanding Public Chapter 219: Public Charter School Commission"

See also

  • charter schools
  • charter school authorizer
  • State Board of Education

A public school is the basic administrative unit of a state, county, city, or special school district, consisting of one or more grade groups, one or more teachers to give instruction, and one principal. Public schools are subject to the state statutes of Tennessee, and to rules, regulations, and minimum standards of the Tennessee State Board of Education.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, there were 1,867 public schools in Tennessee in school year 2019-20.

See also

  • school district
  • State Board of Education

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Q

 

No Terms

R

Race to the Top (RTTT) was a federal competitive grant that awarded funds to states and districts implementing educational reforms. The RTTT program required states to adopt reform efforts such as:

  • the creation of rigorous standards and assessments,
  • using data systems for improved academic instruction,
  • recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals, and
  • turning around persistently low performing schools.

RTTT funds were awarded in four-year grant periods, beginning with the 2010-11 school year. Tennessee was awarded $501 million in federal RTTT funds in 2010 in order to implement education reforms throughout the state, as outlined in the Tennessee First to the Top Act. Districts received 50 percent of the RTTT funds awarded to Tennessee. The funds were distributed to districts based on their Title I funding allocation. Tennessee's final year of RTTT grant funding was 2013-14.

See also

  • accountability
  • First to the Top Act

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Tennessee’s Ready Graduate indicator measures the percent of students who earn a regular high school diploma and meet specific milestones that increase the probability for postsecondary success.

Students are considered Ready Graduates if they meet at least one of the following four criteria (a student can only count once):

  • earn a composite score of 21 or higher on the ACT (or 1060 or higher on the SAT) OR
  • complete four EPSOs OR
  • complete two EPSOs and earn an industry certification OR
  • complete two EPSOs and earn a score of 31 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

The Ready Graduate indicator is calculated by dividing the number of on-time graduates from the cohort who meet one of the above criteria by the number of students in that cohort.

See also

  • ACT
  • college and career readiness
  • early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs)
  • SAT

In 2019, Public Chapter 569 established provisions for the creation of recovery high schools in Tennessee. Recovery high schools are public schools for students who have a primary or secondary alcohol or other drug abuse or dependency diagnosis or co-occurring substance use and psychiatric diagnosis.

The schools provide a high school education that leads to a diploma while including a structured plan of recovery for the students. Enrollment in recovery high schools is voluntary. A school can enroll students residing outside the school district in which the school is located, pursuant to the district’s out-of-district enrollment policy.

Remediation, also referred to as “learning support,” is an umbrella term used to describe various forms of academic assistance provided by postsecondary institutions to students who arrive on campus academically underprepared in core subjects like math, reading, and writing. The purpose of remediation is to help students become proficient in the academic skills they need to be successful in credit-bearing, college-level coursework. Remediation can take different forms, including additional courses, more face-to-face time with an instructor, peer tutoring, or computer-based independent study.

Higher education institutions in Tennessee primarily use ACT scores to determine whether a student needs additional academic assistance. In 2016, 76 percent of community college students, 50 percent of students at locally governed institutions, and 27 percent of University of Tennessee students did not meet their institution’s ACT benchmarks for college-readiness in math, reading, and/or writing. Students who do not meet their institution’s ACT benchmarks must either demonstrate proficiency through other avenues or enroll in some form of remediation.

The Tennessee Board of Regents requires community colleges to use the corequisite model of learning support for academically underprepared students. Under the corequisite model, students who have not demonstrated subject-area proficiency are placed directly into a college-level course and required to enroll in a paired learning support course, which is designed to provide the skills necessary to be successful in the college-level course. Under the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010, Tennessee’s four-year universities cannot offer remedial or developmental courses and instead provide supplemental instruction to underprepared students. Supplemental instruction is a less intensive form of learning support in which students enroll in a college-level course and receive additional academic instruction.

For  more information, see OREA's 2018 report "Learning Support in Tennessee's Public Colleges and Universities"

See also

  • ACT
  • college and career readiness
  • community college
  • Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA)
  • locally governed institution
  • Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS)
  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • University of Tennessee (UT)

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See distance education.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a tiered approach that educators use to identify and address learning needs for individual students. In Tennessee, RTI is known as RTI2, which stands for Response to Instruction and Intervention. Under RTI², general education teachers, special educators and specialists use data to identify which students are underperforming and to what degree, then target academic interventions accordingly.

Students are placed in one of three tiers based on academic need and intensity of the intervention, with Tier I instruction provided to all students as a baseline, and Tiers II and III provided to students that need more intensive assistance to progress.

Progress of Tier II and Tier III students is regularly monitored by instructors.

The BEP allots funding for a minimum of one RTI position per district, plus additional funding at a ratio of one position for every 2,750 students.

Revenue sources for school districts include those from federal, state, and local government funding. In fiscal year 2018-19, Tennessee’s districts overall received 48 percent of current revenues from state funds, primarily through the Basic Education Program (BEP). The state’s BEP funding comes from state sales taxes, and mixed drink and cigarette taxes. Districts received another 41 percent of their revenues from local sources, primarily from property taxes or payments in lieu of property taxes, local option sales taxes, and − for municipal districts − appropriations from city general funds. The remaining 11 percent of districts’ revenue came from federal funding, primarily from grants passed through the state for school breakfast and lunch programs, Title I programs that serve low-income students, and IDEA programs for students with disabilities.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • maintenance of effort
  • municipal school districts
  • Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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Reverse transfer applies to students who have completed some credits toward an associate degree at a community college and then transferred to a participating four-year university. Eligible students can complete the remaining credits for their associate degree while enrolled at the four-year university. These credits are transferred back to the community college and the community college then awards the student an associate degree. Students are eligible for reverse transfer if they have completed more than 25 percent of the credits toward an associate degree while at community college.

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Reward schools are the top 5 percent of schools in the state for performance – as measured by overall student achievement levels – and the top 5 percent for year-over-year progress – as measured by schoolwide value-added data.

Under the state’s federal education plan, developed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Tennessee will continue to annually recognize, as it has since 2012, reward schools.

See also

  • accountability
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • priority school
  • Targeted Support and Improvement Schools

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S

Tennessee law requires schools to conduct several safety drills each school year with various parameters set around each type of drill. These drills include:

  • earthquake
  • fire and fire safety educational announcements
  • armed intruder
  • non-evacuation safety drills
  • CPR/AED

Tornado drills are not required in Tennessee, although schools may conduct them.

For more information, see OREA's 2018 report "Earthquake Drills for K-12 Schools: Requirements, Compliance, and Policy Considerations"

The SAT is a college admissions test created by the College Board. The SAT assesses critical reading, writing, and math skills.

State law requires that all grade 11 students take an exam to assess “student readiness for postsecondary education.” Districts may use the ACT or SAT to fulfill this requirement.

The state provides funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP) for students to take either the ACT or SAT in grade 11.

See also

  • ACT
  • College Board

School districts must demonstrate compliance with state laws and State Board of Education (SBE) rules by submitting an annual compliance report to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). Department staff use the compliance report to approve each school district annually. The Commissioner of Education grants approval to school districts that are either in compliance with state education laws and board rules, or have a plan for compliance. The compliance report form, which TDOE provides to districts, states that all districts are responsible for checking the status of compliance with all applicable laws and rules. The compliance report requires the signatures of the district director of schools and the school board chair attesting to the following statement: “I certify that, except for those items listed in the attached document which includes a compliance plan for each item, the LEA is in compliance with all Tennessee statutes and board rules.”

TDOE also uses data sources other than the compliance report to determine whether a district is in compliance.

The Commissioner of Education notifies school districts that are not in compliance with laws and rules and affords districts the opportunity to respond with a plan for corrective action. If corrective action is not made within the time frame specified, the Commissioner is authorized to impose sanctions, which may include withholding part or all of state school funding to the district.

The department’s Internal Audit Division annually audits a sample of districts’ documentation to verify compliance with state laws and board rules.

TDOE is required to report annually to the SBE regarding each school system’s compliance with the rules and regulations. The report includes the approval status of each local school system, deficiencies by school as identified during the approval process, an assessment of action needed to attain approval, the local school system’s response, and any sanctions imposed on systems that do not comply.

See also

  • school district (or LEA)
  • State Board of Education
  • Tennessee Department of Education

In general, a school board is a local board or authority responsible for the provision and maintenance of schools.

State law specifies the duties and powers of the local boards of education in Tennessee, members of which must be residents and voters of the county in which they are elected. Members of county legislative bodies or other county officials are not eligible to be elected to a local board of education.

Members of special school district boards of education are elected according to special or private act.

Except in Davidson and Shelby counties, members of municipal boards of education may be elected in the same manner as the members of the municipality’s governing body, either from districts or at large, or a combination of the two.

State law and State Board of Education rule require that every school board member receive seven hours of annual training.

The local board of education is required to hold regular meetings at least quarterly and to elect a member as chair annually.

Duties of a local board of education include:

  • employing and evaluating annually a director of schools
  • managing and controlling all public schools under its jurisdiction
  • approving tenure for teachers recommended by the director of schools
  • dismissing tenured employees (after providing hearings, if requested)
  • purchasing supplies, furniture, fixtures, and materials of every kind
  • suspending, dismissing, or alternatively placing students who are disruptive, threatening, or violent
  • establishing standards and policies governing student attendance
  • preparing and approving a budget, and submitting the budget to the appropriate legislative body

Tennessee school boards vary in size, between three and 12 members, with the most common size at seven members.

See also

  • school district
  • State Board of Education
  • Tennessee School Boards Association

School bus drivers in Tennessee must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and a school bus driver endorsement issued by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

State law requires school bus drivers to pass a criminal background check and have an unrestricted driving record for the previous five years; the hiring school district performs these checks, although districts that contract for school bus operations may have the contractor perform them. School bus drivers are required each year to take four hours of training provided by the state.

School districts that transport students must enter the names of their bus drivers into a statewide database maintained by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The department will then notify the districts if any bus driver’s license has been suspended or revoked. In addition to state requirements, school districts may set additional criteria for drivers to meet.

To obtain a CDL, an applicant must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, obtain a Department of Transportation medical card, and pass both a general knowledge test and a skills test. To obtain the school bus driver endorsement, a CDL holder must have five years of unrestricted driving experience, hold a passenger endorsement, and pass a school bus knowledge and skills test.

State law requires applicants for a school bus endorsement to be at least 25 years old. New school bus drivers are required to complete a school bus driver training program. School districts must also appoint a transportation supervisor responsible for monitoring and oversight of student transportation within the district.

See also

  • school buses

Tennessee state law authorizes local boards of education to provide school transportation for public school students. State law also sets the length of time that school buses may remain in service.

State Board of Education rules govern the operation of school buses, and the State Board reviews and maintains school bus standards for the state.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security oversees all school bus inspections and determines whether public school bus systems are in compliance with the safety requirements in state law. The department also provides mandatory annual training for school bus drivers. School districts that transport students must enter the names of their bus drivers into a statewide database maintained by the department, which will then notify the districts if any bus driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.

Buses are classified as Class A, B, C, or D. Class C and D buses are larger and may be used until they have been in service for 18 years. At that time, the Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security may approve additional years of service, as long as the bus has not been operated more than 200,000 miles and meets all requirements for continued safe use and operation. Class C and D buses that are in use for more than 15 years must be inspected at least twice annually.

Some funding for pupil transportation is provided by the state’s funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), as a non-classroom component. Funds are allocated to school districts based on the number of pupils transported from over one and a half miles away from their schools, miles transported, and density of pupils per route mile.

The Tennessee Department of Education reports school bus statistics from school districts in the Annual Statistical Report. In school year 2018-19,

  • 9,134 school buses transported students
  • 51 people were treated for injuries related to school bus accidents
  • one fatality resulted from school bus accidents

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • school bus drivers

School choice is a reform movement that focuses on granting parents the right to choose which school their child attends. While parents have traditionally had the option to choose private schools over the public schools their students are zoned for, the school choice movement has primarily focused on choice within the public school sector.

In Tennessee, some school districts offer school options such as charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, or traditional public schools with a specialized focus on a subject area such as STEM or the arts. In selected districts where the Achievement School District operates, it offers parents additional school choices. Student eligibility and school admission criteria vary by school choice option. Districts may allow students to enroll in traditional public schools regardless of whether or not the student lives in the school’s geographical zone.

Non-public school choice options include home schools, and in some states, programs that allow parents to use public funds for private school tuition (often called vouchers, opportunity scholarships, or individualized education accounts). The Tennessee General Assembly’s passage of the Individualized Education Act in 2015 created an Individualized Education Account (IEA) program for children with disabilities.

Public Chapter 506 (2019) creates the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) program, which allows eligible students in Shelby and Davidson counties to use state and local BEP funds toward expenses, such as tuition or fees, at certain private schools. The law’s constitutionality has been challenged. Two rulings, one from a Davidson County chancery court and the other from a state appeals court, have prevented implementation of the ESA program as of October 2020. Further action may be taken by the state to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • charter school
  • Education Savings Accounts
  • home school
  • Individualized Education Account (IEA)
  • non-public schools
  • STEM
  • virtual school
  • vouchers

School climate refers to factors in the school environment that impact whether students feel:

  • safe – physically, socially, and emotionally,
  • academically challenged,
  • valued, and
  • connected to their school settings.

A positive school climate is based on norms, values, and patterns of behavior that support a safe and engaging school culture and learning environment. Research studies have recognized the importance of positive school climate in increasing student achievement and school performance, reducing achievement gaps, enhancing healthy development and life skills, and reducing problem behaviors and violence. Elements contributing to a positive school climate include clear rules, high expectations, fair enforcement of discipline measures, an orderly and welcoming school environment, parent and community involvement, and collaboration among administrators, faculty, and students.

The Tennessee Department of Education provides as a free resource to schools and districts a package of surveys known as the Tennessee School Climate Measurement System. The measurement system includes surveys on school engagement, safety, and environment for students in elementary, middle, and high school, and for teachers and parents. The system also includes consent forms and a memo of understanding needed to administer the surveys.

See also

  • school safety
  • Tennessee Educator Survey

School districts – also called school systems or local education agencies (LEAs) – are the organizing structure for operating and managing most public schools. Typically, districts are governed by an elected school board (board of education), and run by a director of schools hired by the board.

Local school districts in Tennessee are one of three types: county, municipal, or special. There are 141 local school districts in the state. Districts vary widely in the number of schools administered and the number of students served, from Shelby County Schools’ 210 schools and 104,902 students, to Richard City Special School District’s one school and 244 students. Tennessee’s local districts differ from those in many other states in that most are not financially independent. All but the special school districts are financially dependent on another government body, either a county or a city.

In addition to local districts, the state operates stand-alone special schools, education programs, and districts, each of which may be counted as a school district for various purposes. Funding sources and governing authorities vary for these state-run programs, which include :

  • Achievement School District (ASD), which can be assigned the state’s lowest-performing public schools;
  • state appellate charter school authorizer, which is the State Board of Education until July 2021, when the charter schools it oversees will be transferred to the new Public Charter School Commission;
  • Department of Children’s Services’ education programs for children placed under its authority; and
  • five state special schools: Tennessee School for the Blind, Tennessee School for the Deaf–Knoxville, Tennessee School for the Deaf–Nashville, West Tennessee School for the Deaf (Jackson), and Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute.

See also

  • Achievement School District (ASD)
  • county school district
  • Department of Children’s Services education services
  • municipal school district
  • Public Charter School Commission
  • public school
  • school board
  • special school district
  • state special schools in Tennessee

In 2016, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law requiring an A-F grading system for all schools, with a grade for each school to be included on the annual State Report Card. Due to a cancellation of state assessments in spring 2020, the Tennessee Department of Education plans to assign every school an overall letter grade based on Tennessee’s accountability framework developed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) following the end of the 2020-21 school year.

See also

  • accountability
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)

School safety refers to policies and programs to ensure the safety of students and school personnel. In Tennessee, the Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act of 2007 established state-level comprehensive planning and accountability requirements to ensure that school districts address school safety and implement violence prevention efforts. The SAVE Act includes specific requirements for emergency response plans, violence prevention, and data collection to assess school safety. The act also incorporates other state requirements toward addressing school violence such as written codes of conduct and discipline, prohibition of guns and drugs, character education, and conflict resolution programs.

See also

  • safety drills
  • school climate

In place statewide since 2013, the Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) program is a form of learning support for math that takes place during the senior year of high school. SAILS is offered to students who score below 19 on the math subsection of the ACT. Students who successfully complete the SAILS program are considered proficient in math and can enroll directly into a credit-bearing math course with no learning support at any of the state’s 13 community colleges and some of the four-year universities.

See also

  • ACT
  • remediation
  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)

Section 504 is a civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs or activities that receive federal funding. Because public school districts, institutions of higher education, and other state and local education agencies receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education, they are subject to the provisions of Section 504. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), within the U.S. Department of Education, enforces Section 504 compliance.

Section 504 contains many of the same provisions as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): disabled students have the right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment and have due process rights to protect them from discrimination. In the educational setting, Section 504 protects all students with disabilities whether or not they are categorized as special education students. Section 504 is broader than IDEA and contains no funding provisions.

See also

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

Service learning is a form of experiential learning through which students develop knowledge and critical thinking skills while performing community service activities. Models for integrating service learning into a course of study include preparation and background understanding of the issue, the service action itself, and meaningful reflection on the experience.

Tennessee teachers who wish to integrate service learning teaching methodology into their classes must complete a one day training course offered by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). A set of five curriculum standards guides teachers through the process of developing a service learning approach.

See also

  • community school
  • work-based learning

Small learning communities (SLCs), also known as schools within a school, are autonomous programs designed to offer more personalized learning environments for groups of students in large high schools. SLCs generally have their own academic program, culture, personnel, students, budget, and school space.

See also

  • career academy

Social and emotional learning, also known as social and personal competencies, are the skills, attitudes, and knowledge students can develop to be more successful in life. Tennessee does not require schools to teach these skills. There are five core skill or competency areas:

  • self-awareness,
  • self-control/self-management,
  • social awareness,
  • relationship skills, and
  • responsible decision making.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), created in 1948, is a regional compact for education policy comprising 16 states, including Tennessee. SREB advises states on what works in policy and practice, garners consensus on education initiatives among member states, and can work directly with public schools and educators for educational improvement. SREB provides resources for policymakers, educators, and parents on a wide range of education policy areas.

The board includes the Governor and four gubernatorial appointees, including a state legislator and an educator, from each member state. SREB is funded through appropriations from member states, grants and contracts, and other support.

See also

  • Education Commission of the States (ECS)

The term “special education” generally refers to programs designed to serve children with mental and physical disabilities. Tennessee policy requires school districts to provide special education services sufficient to meet the needs and maximize the capabilities of children with disabilities.

Two principal federal laws protect the educational rights of children with disabilities: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Local school districts receive funding to provide special education services through federal IDEA formula grants and through the Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula. In school year 2018-19, approximately 129,399 Tennessee students with disabilities received special education services, or about 13 percent of all enrolled students.

See also

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
  • Individualized Education Account (IEA)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS)

Unlike county and municipal school districts, special school districts are established by private acts of the state legislature. The private acts establish special school districts’ boundaries – which do not necessarily align with existing city or county boundaries – and geographically define which students are eligible for enrollment and which voters are eligible to elect special school district school boards.

Because special school districts are not tied to the taxing authority of a county or a municipality, they must have the state legislature’s approval for any tax levy to support operations. These revenues provide additional funding to the district’s prescribed share of county education revenue and its state Basic Education Program (BEP) funding. Special school district tax revenues do not have to be shared with any other district.

A 1982 state law preventing the creation of any new special school districts was revised in 2011 to allow the creation of new special school districts in specific situations in which a transfer of the administration of a special school district to a county school district would result in at least a 100 percent increase in enrollment.

A special school district board can choose to cease operations and transfer administration of its district to the county board of education under procedures set by state law.

Tennessee has 14 special school districts across seven counties. Special school districts do not have to offer all grade levels.

See also: 

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • county school district
  • municipal school district
  • school district (or LEA)

A standardized test requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or questions from a common bank of questions, in the same way, and is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, making it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. Achievement tests, aptitude tests, college-admission tests, international comparison tests, and psychological tests are examples of the most common types of standardized tests.

Standardized tests can be classified as either criterion-referenced or norm-referenced.

Criterion-referenced tests (or standards-referenced tests) are designed to measure student performance against defined standards or requirements. These are the tests used to measure the progress of groups of students in meeting proficiency levels. The TN Ready tests are criterion-referenced tests.

Norm-referenced tests are designed to identify differences between students, comparing their performance to that of others who have taken the same test. Test scores are generally reported as percentages or percentile rankings and are expected to follow a bell curve, with most students’ performance in the middle (at average levels) and few students scoring at the high and low ends of performance. The SAT, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are examples of norm-referenced tests.

For more information, see OREA's 2015 report "Use of Value-Added in Teacher Evaluations: Key Concepts and State Profiles

See also

  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
  • SAT
  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP)
  • TN Ready

The State Board of Education (SBE) is the governing and policy-making body for the Tennessee system of public elementary and secondary education. As directed by law, SBE has the responsibility to develop and maintain a master plan for K-12 public education, and to set rules and policies concerning all facets of education, including teacher preparation, licensing, and evaluation; public school and district operations; student attendance, grading and graduation requirements; state academic standards; Individualized Education Accounts (IEAs) and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs); and the private school approval process. SBE also staffs the Basic Education Program (BEP) Review Committee. SBE coordinates its efforts with the Tennessee Department of Education, which implements laws established by the General Assembly and policies adopted by the board.

Since 2014, SBE has had authority to authorize charter schools on appeal; it was the authorizer for three schools in school year 2019-20. By July 1, 2021, charter schools authorized by SBE will be transferred to the Public Charter School Commission. SBE will be responsible for ensuring that all charter authorizers in the state meet quality standards.

SBE is composed of nine appointed members – one from each of Tennessee’s nine congressional districts – and one high school student member. In addition, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is an ex officio, nonvoting member of SBE. The Governor makes all appointments of members, subject to confirmation by the Senate and House of Representatives. Board members serve a five-year term; the student member serves a one-year term.

See also

  • BEP Review Committee
  • charter school authorizer
  • Public Charter School Commission
  • Tennessee Department of Education

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is a Tennessee nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy and research institution, founded in 2009 by former U.S. Senator Bill Frist. SCORE supports high academic standards, development of excellent district leaders, school leaders, and classroom teachers, the use of data to improve student learning, and preparing students for college and the workforce. SCORE also advocates for certain policies at state and local levels.

SCORE is governed by a 16-member board of directors comprising Tennessee philanthropic and business leaders. The organization’s work, including an annual report on the state of education in Tennessee, is guided by a 37-member steering committee comprised of education stakeholders across the state.

It was announced in the summer of 2019 that Complete Tennessee, a nonprofit education advocacy organization that focused on increasing postsecondary access and completion in Tennessee, would merge with SCORE in 2019 and continue its work under the name of the collaborative.

There are five state special schools in Tennessee:

  • Tennessee School for the Blind, located in Nashville, provides residential and educational programs for students, grades pre-K through 12, with multiple disabilities (primarily visually impaired).
  • Tennessee School for the Deaf–Nashville, at a shared campus with Tennessee School for the Blind, provides educational programs for students, grades pre-K through 2 (with grade levels to be added), with multiple disabilities (primarily hearing impaired).
  • Tennessee School for the Deaf–Knoxville, provides residential and educational programs for students, from toddlers through age 22, with multiple disabilities (primarily hearing impaired).
  • West Tennessee School for the Deaf, located in Jackson, provides educational programs for students, ages two through 13, with multiple disabilities (primarily hearing impaired).
  • Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute, located in Jamestown, a public school operated by the state. The York Institute was founded as a private agricultural school in 1926 by World War I hero and Tennessee native Alvin C. York. In 1937, the school was transferred to the state of Tennessee.

Programs offered at the schools for the blind and deaf include academic instruction, self-care skills, counseling, pre-vocational training, child health and safety, independent living skills, consultation services to local school districts, and identification and diagnosis of learning problems.

State law does not designate the state special schools as part of any school district, instead giving the State Board of Education (SBE) the responsibility for the schools. The state special schools are almost entirely state-funded. SBE approves the budgets for the schools before they are submitted to the Governor and the Department of Finance and Administration for approval and transmission to the General Assembly.

Information about the state special schools appears on the annual State Report Card.

Created in 2014 to replace the former State Textbook Commission, the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission is responsible for recommending a list of textbooks and instructional materials for approval by the State Board of Education for use in Tennessee’s public schools. The commission publishes the list of board-approved textbooks and materials (which also includes electronic textbooks, computer software, and other electronic materials) that may be adopted by local boards of education for use in their districts. The commission can also develop rules related to physical standards for the durability of textbooks and materials, conditions under which it contracts with publishers, and the distribution of all textbooks and materials under contract.

The commission may establish advisory panels of teachers and subject experts to assist in reviews and advise the commission. Reviews are to determine whether the textbooks and other materials conform to state academic standards, are free of substantive factual or grammatical errors, and reflect the statutory values related to the founding of the state and the nation, as well as the associated foundational documents. The commission and advisory panels are required to review public comments on the textbooks and materials under consideration for adoption. The Tennessee Department of Education provides training to new commission members and to advisory panel members on their duties.

The commission consists of 10 members: the Speaker of the House, the Speaker of the Senate, and the Governor each appoint three members, one from each grand division of the state, and the Commissioner of Education or the commissioner’s designee serves as a voting member and ex officio secretary of the commission. Of the appointed members, two are to be directors of schools; one is to be a principal; three are to be teachers or instructional supervisors, each in one of the grade spans K-3, 4-8, and 9-12; and the final three are to be citizens not employed in the public education field.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "An Evaluation of the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission" and OREA's 2020 legislative brief "Legislative Recap - Understanding Public Chapter 770: Tennessee Textbook Commission"

STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is an initiative designed to improve students’ skills and knowledge in these disciplines. STEM initiatives typically include more in-depth coverage of math and science topics and instruction in how to integrate and apply multidisciplinary knowledge to solve problems. STEM education is designed to develop skills in critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

Expanding STEM education is a priority nationally and in Tennessee. Tennessee used federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funding to create the STEM Innovation Network, a public-private collaboration to promote and expand the teaching and learning of STEM in K-12 public schools. There are seven regional STEM innovation hubs in Tennessee, which work to increase STEM programming through partnerships of school districts, postsecondary institutions, businesses, and community organizations. Since 2018, 48 schools have earned STEM designations, which recognize schools’ implementation of STEM learning opportunities.

 See also

  • Race to the Top (RTTT)

The STEP UP Scholarship is a lottery-funded scholarship for students with intellectual disabilities attending eligible postsecondary programs at select Tennessee institutions. Eligible programs are those that have received a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program designation from the U.S. Department of Education. Five universities in Tennessee currently offer such programs: Lipscomb University, Union University, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

The award amount is set by the General Assembly in the general appropriations act. As of fall 2015, the award amount is $1,750 per semester for freshmen and sophomores and $2,250 per semester for juniors and seniors. To continue receiving the STEP UP scholarship, a student must maintain continuous enrollment and make satisfactory academic progress.

See also

  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

In general, student data privacy refers to efforts to maintain the confidentiality of information that identifies individual students. Student data is often specifically defined within the law or regulation that governs its collection and/or disclosure. Student data can take the form of any personally identifying information about students, such as demographic information, grades and test scores, and attendance or behavior records.

Several laws, at both the state and federal level, regulate how to protect student data privacy. The growing interest in and use of customized learning applications and other types of educational technology has generated increased demand for personal student data and a corresponding concern for student privacy.

Laws governing student data privacy in Tennessee include:

  • The Student Online Personal Protection Act – a state law that addresses student privacy concerns relating to online services. The act prohibits the operator of a website, online service, online application, or mobile application used primarily for K-12 students from using or selling student information.
  • The Data Accessibility, Transparency, and Accountability Act – a state law that authorizes the State Board of Education to establish a data inventory and dictionary or index of data elements in the student data system along with the purpose or reason for inclusion in the data system. This law also establishes the right of parents and guardians to inspect their children's educational records.
  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA also gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records.
  • The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) – a federal law that governs the administration to students of a survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of eight protected areas, which include political affiliation, sexual behavior, religious affiliation, and income.
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) - a federal law that authorizes regulations on operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps) directed to children that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children under age 13.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "K-12 Student Data Privacy Law: Questions and Answers"

See also

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Student Industry Certifications (SICs) are industry-recognized occupational credentials developed by industry groups or professional associations, which may be completed in both secondary and postsecondary career and technical education courses (CTE) in Tennessee. SICs may be used in particular industries as requirements or considerations for career entry and job placement, and can be accepted for credit hours in some fields by postsecondary institutions, including Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs).

Examples of SICs include First Responder, Certified Nursing Assistant, Certified EKG Technician, Certified Pharmacy Technician, and ServSafe (food preparation and serving safety). To receive certification, students must pass an exam. The Tennessee Department of Education encourages students to enroll in CTE programs aligned with corresponding certifications, but course enrollment is not mandatory to sit for an exam. The cost of SIC exams vary based on the industry area and type of exam.

See also

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT)

The Tennessee STRONG (Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen) Act creates a pilot program to provide a last-dollar tuition reimbursement for eligible Tennessee National Guardsmen seeking their first bachelor’s degree at a Tennessee community college or university.

An eligible student is one in good standing with and currently serving in the Tennessee National Guard. The reimbursement for each student will vary based on their remaining financial need after all available federal tuition assistance and any other aid is applied.

The student must apply for reimbursement within 90 days of completing a course. The tuition reimbursement is paid directly to the college or university on behalf of the student for no more than 120 credit hours or eight semesters toward a bachelor’s degree.

See also

  • Helping Heroes Grant

Tennessee state law and State Board of Education rules define suspension of a student as being dismissed from attendance at school for any reason for not more than 10 consecutive days. The student on suspension shall be included in the school’s enrollment count (i.e., average daily membership or ADM) and will continue to be counted for funding purposes. Multiple suspensions are not permitted to run consecutively and school officials may not use multiple suspensions to avoid a student’s expulsion from school.

Students may also receive in-school suspension, which state law describes as suspension of a student from attendance at a specific class, classes, or school-sponsored activity without suspending the student from attendance at school.

See also

  • average daily membership (ADM)
  • expulsion
  • zero tolerance

T

Under Tennessee's education accountability plan, developed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are two types of focus schools: Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI).

TSI schools are those that fall in the bottom 5 percent for their weighted overall accountability score for any given student subgroup (i.e., Black/Hispanic/Native American, economically disadvantaged, English learners, or students with disabilities) or any given racial or ethnic group.

Additional Targeted Support and Improvement schools are a new federal designation for schools that need particular focus on their student group performance. Schools designated as ATSI in 2018 are the schools with the lowest performance across student groups, using 2017-18 data. These schools will be supported by the Tennessee Department of Education and are eligible for additional funding.

There are two paths through which a school can be designated as ATSI:

  • a school earns an overall school accountability score of 1.0 or less on the state’s new accountability framework AND ranks in the bottom 5 percent for at least one accountability student group (i.e., Black/Hispanic/Native American students; economically disadvantaged students; English learners; and students with disabilities), OR
  • a school ranks in the bottom 5 percent for two or more student groups.

See also

  • accountability
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • high school graduation rates
  • priority school

The TCAT Reconnect grant was established in 2014 as the Wilder-Naifeh Reconnect Grant, part of the Tennessee Promise legislation. This lottery-funded grant provides financially independent students (determined by tax-filing status) the opportunity to attend one of the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of costs associated with tuition and mandatory fees.

One of the state’s Drive to 55 initiatives, the TCAT Reconnect grant covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees, less all other gift aid, meaning students first use any other financial assistance, such as Pell Grants or Tennessee Student Assistance Awards, before applying the grant to any remaining tuition and fees. An eligible student must meet the following conditions: be admitted to the program of study as a full-time student, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be a financially independent student, and be eligible under Tennessee state law (e.g., a Tennessee resident, not in default on a federal student loan, among other eligibility requirements). A grant recipient must maintain continuous enrollment and is eligible to receive the grant for all coursework required for the program of study.

See also

  • Community College Reconnect Grant
  • Drive to 55
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • program of study
  • Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT)
  • Tennessee Promise

Tennessee state law requires that teacher evaluations be used by school and district officials to inform decisions such as hiring, promotion, tenure, dismissal, and compensation. Teacher evaluations are required annually and consist of three main components: classroom observations and other qualitative measures, student achievement (such as TCAP scores, graduation rates, and ACT scores), and student growth (TVAAS scores for individual teachers or schools, or approved alternative growth measures). Districts may use either the state’s teacher evaluation model – the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) – or one of four alternative models (Project Coach, TIGER, TEM, or, for pre-K only, CLASS). Districts may modify TEAM with State Board of Education approval. All models use the same student achievement and growth measures with the same weighting. The models differ primarily in how they evaluate classroom instruction and on other qualitative components.

See also

  • ACT
  • high school graduation rates
  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP)
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

The purpose of teacher licensure (also called certification) is to ensure that individuals who serve in Tennessee classrooms and schools meet the state’s minimum standards. The Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE) establishes the standards educators must meet to earn and renew a teaching license, and to advance from one license level to another.

As of September 1, 2015, teachers beginning their careers must obtain a Practitioner License. After completion of an approved educator preparation program, qualifying scores on practitioner assessments, three years of experience, and either a recommendation from the Director of Schools or documentation of 30 professional development points, teachers are eligible to advance to a Professional License valid for six years. If the conditions for advancement are not met, an educator may apply to renew the Practitioner License for an additional three-year period. If a teacher does not earn a Professional License after six years, or does not meet licensure expectations, their Practitioner license will become inactive and he or she will be unable to teach. In most cases, educators must renew a license during the final year of its validity period.

See also

  • teacher preparation
  • teacher professional development

Teacher preparation refers to an aspiring teacher’s training, which has traditionally consisted of college-level coursework and student teaching experiences offered through postsecondary institutions. As of 2018, 36 traditional teacher preparation programs exist in Tennessee. There are also four alternative teacher preparation programs not managed by an institution of higher education. These programs include Teach for America and the Memphis Teacher Residency, which recruit teacher candidates who already hold bachelor’s degrees and provide them with specialized coursework to prepare them to teach in high-poverty schools.

All providers of teacher preparation programs that lead to licensure must be approved by the State Board of Education, and must ensure that their licensure programs meet all applicable literacy and specialty area standards.

The Educator Preparation Report Card is published annually by the State Board of Education. The report card, which is required by law, provides an overall picture of teacher preparation programs in the state and snapshots of individual programs. Since 2016, the TDOE Primary Partnership Initiative has required districts and educator preparation providers (EPP) to partner in the training of new teachers in an effort to improve communication and collaboration.

For more information, see OREA's 2019 "Tennessee's Educator Preparation Providers"

See also

  • teacher licensing
  • teacher professional development

Teacher professional development refers to activities designed to expand the content knowledge and instructional skills of educators. The Tennessee State Board of Education requires teachers to complete a certain amount of professional development to advance beyond their initial licensure status and, once the teacher has advanced beyond initial status, to renew their license. Teachers earn professional development points for completing professional development activities, such as training, coursework, or achievement of National Board Certification. To advance from the initial Practitioner License to a Professional License, 30 points are required, and renewing a Professional License requires 60 points. Practitioner Licenses are valid for three years and may be renewed one time for an additional three-year period if a teacher has not met the criteria for advancement to a Professional License. Professional Licenses are valid for six years.

State law requires that five days out of the 200-day mandatory minimum for a school year are to be allocated to in-service education (teacher professional development).

In Tennessee, teacher professional development is primarily provided for and funded at the local level.

See also

  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
  • teacher licensing
  • teacher preparation

Tenure is a continuing employment status for teachers. A tenured teacher cannot be fired without just cause and due process, and tenured teachers’ employment contracts are automatically renewed until they resign, retire, are dismissed for cause (fired), or are returned to probationary status.

In Tennessee, teachers are first eligible for tenure following completion of a five-year probationary period if they have received an evaluation score of 4 or 5 in the last two years of the period. Teachers may also become eligible for tenure by receiving an evaluation score of 4 or 5 for any two consecutive years following completion of the probationary period.

A teacher who fails to receive an evaluation score of 4 or 5 for two consecutive years but does not receive an evaluation score lower than 3 can remain in probationary status indefinitely.

Tenured teachers who receive an evaluation score of less than 3 for two consecutive years return to probationary status and must receive an evaluation score of 4 or 5 for two consecutive years to regain tenure eligibility.

A teacher who becomes eligible for tenure, whether initial status or regaining, must be recommended for tenure by the director of schools to the local school board. School boards are not bound to accept a director of school’s tenure recommendations. If the school board does not grant tenure, the teacher can no longer continue employment in the district.

See also

  • school board
  • teacher evaluation
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), created by the state legislature in 1978, is a 25-member board of state and local public officials and private citizens that serves as a forum for the discussion and resolution of intergovernmental issues. In total, 10 members have local government as their primary affiliation, 11 represent the state legislature, two are drawn from the executive branch, and two are private citizens. Commission staff produce research reports for commission members and other state and local policymakers to use in improving the overall quality of government in Tennessee and the effectiveness of the intergovernmental system.

Education financing and accountability has been one area of TACIR’s research over several years. TACIR developed the fiscal capacity index adopted by the Tennessee State Board of Education to fulfill the requirements of the Education Improvement Act of 1992 for fiscal equalization in the Basic Education Program (BEP). Currently, the TACIR index is used in conjunction with another index developed by the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research to determine state and local funding shares for each school system. Other areas of education research include capital expenditures for public schools and school renovations and replacement needs by county.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER)
  • fiscal capacity
  • Tennessee Education Improvement Act (EIA)

In 1972, the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) was created by the General Assembly to establish, govern, manage, and control Tennessee’s public universities (other than the University of Tennessee system), community colleges, and colleges of applied technology. The FOCUS Act, passed in 2016, shifted governance of the six public universities under TBR to local governing boards of trustees for each institution.

The TBR board consists of 19 members: nine citizens (one from each congressional district); three at-large members (either residents from different geographical areas of the state or non-Tennessee residents); two faculty members from a community college or college of applied technology who served as faculty senate presidents during the prior academic year; and one student from a system institution, all appointed by the Governor; and four ex officio members (the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission).

TBR oversees 40 institutions: 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

See also

  • community college
  • Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act
  • locally-governed institutions
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)
  • University of Tennessee (UT)

Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs), previously known as Tennessee Technology Centers, are overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents. There are 27 TCATs located within the state. TCATs provide students with technical skills and professional training in areas such as nursing, automotive technology, and industrial maintenance.

Each TCAT is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. TCATs use a competency-based curriculum, which allows students to work at their own pace in mastering skills. In addition, for some programs, industry-developed standards and assessments are used to measure student learning. The completion of a program of study at a TCAT culminates in a diploma or certificate.

The Tennessee Promise program, Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant, and TCAT Reconnect grant offer financial aid opportunities for students enrolled in TCATs.

For more information, see OREA's 2016 report"Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology: A Primer"

See also

  • career and technical education (CTE)
  • competency-based learning
  • TCAT Reconnect Grant
  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant

The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) was established as the state’s standardized testing program in 1988. It includes:

  • TN Ready assessments in math, English language arts, social studies, and science, for students in grades 3-8 and for high school students enrolled in classes with End of Course exams;
  • TCAP Alternative (TCAP-Alt) and MSAA assessments for students with special needs; and
  • the optional grade 2 assessment for districts that choose to participate.

The results of these assessments are reported to parents, teachers, and administrators, and are used for accountability purposes. TCAP results can be found on the Tennessee Department of Education’s TN Ready page and on the annual State Report Card, which is released each fall.

Public Chapter 652 (2020) removed the requirement for districts to administer TN Ready assessments (including End of Course exams), as well as English learner assessments, and alternate TCAP assessments due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Districts may choose to administer tests at their own discretion, but districts will not have testing windows or state-level supervision or administration. Student performance and student growth data from voluntarily administered TCAP tests will not have a negative impact on measures such as school grades or teacher evaluations.

See also

  • End of Course (EOC) exams
  • standardized test
  • TN Ready

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) is the state department charged with implementing the elementary and secondary education laws and policies established by the General Assembly and the State Board of Education (SBE).

The many statutory duties of the department include those in the areas of:

  • Policy: making recommendations to the Governor for improvements of the public school system and developing rules, to present for SBE’s approval, to implement education laws and policies.
  • Funding: calculating and disbursing Basic Education Program (BEP) funds to school districts.
  • Compliance: approving and monitoring a variety of district activities, such as school improvement plans and differentiated pay plans, and withholding BEP funds if necessary to enforce school district compliance with state requirements.
  • District Oversight: developing and prescribing a standardized system of financial accounting and reporting for all school districts, reviewing public school district fiscal records to ensure expenditure of funds is properly accounted for and safeguarded, and prescribing a management information system through which local school districts report information to the department.
  • Teachers: preparing an annual minimum state salary schedule for all licensed personnel in local school districts, and determining that the rights and privileges of teachers (salary, pension and retirement, tenure, contract) are not impaired or diminished when the governance of school systems is changed due to unification, transfer, consolidation, abolition, or reorganization.
  • School Data Collection and Reporting: collecting and reporting public school system information, including data on school district revenues and expenditures, student achievement, student discipline, school staffing, as well as the results of compliance and performance audits of local school systems.
  • Other: from inspecting and approving child care programs operated by public schools and church-related schools to developing a tracking system of students who leave charter schools, as well as working with other agencies and providing assistance on numerous initiatives impacting student health and safety, parental involvement, and other issues.

State law specifically requires TDOE to include a division of Career and Technical Education and the Achievement School District as organizational units.

See also

  • State Board of Education
  • U.S. Department of Education (USDOE)

The Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) is a voluntary educational program for families with very young children with disabilities or developmental delays. TEIS helps connect these families to appropriate supports and services. Administration of TEIS transferred from the Department of Education to the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) on July 1, 2020.

Under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every state is required to provide a program for children from birth through two years of age and their families. Federal funds are allocated to each state to help support Part C programming. Each state determines its own eligibility rules for its Early Intervention System.

See also

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • special education

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) is a union that represents elementary and secondary teachers, school administrators, education support professionals, higher education faculty, and students preparing to become teachers. TEA is an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA).

See also

  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET)

The Education Improvement Act of 1992 (EIA) was one of the most sweeping pieces of K-12 education legislation in Tennessee history. The 88 sections of the EIA brought about significant changes in state and local administration of schools, including the establishment of a new funding formula (the Basic Education Program, or BEP) for public schools, the creation of a new local governance structure for public education (including the appointment, rather than the election of, directors of schools), and the enactment of an accountability system requiring local schools and school systems to meet state standards and goals, which included use of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) to review teacher, school, and school district effects on educational progress.

Among other major changes, the EIA:

  • raised the state’s compulsory education age, from 16 to 17 years of age;
  • established average and maximum class size limits;
  • made kindergarten mandatory for all Tennessee children; and
  • included funding for classroom technology.

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • class size
  • Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

The Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) programs provide financial assistance for Tennesseans to attend postsecondary institutions. The programs are funded through lottery proceeds. A lottery scholarship recipient must be a Tennessee resident, file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and be admitted to an eligible postsecondary institution, among other eligibility criteria. The following are specific TELS programs described in more detail under separate glossary entries:

  • Aspire Award
  • dual enrollment grant (see dual enrollment)
  • General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS)
  • Helping Heroes Grant
  • HOPE Scholarship
  • STEP UP Scholarship
  • Tennessee Math and Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (see HOPE teacher’s scholarship)
  • TCAT Reconnect
  • Tennessee Middle College Scholarship
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect
  • Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant

The Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Programs are overseen by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC).

See also

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)

The Tennessee Educator Survey is an annual survey conducted since 2011 by the Tennessee Department of Education in collaboration with Vanderbilt University’s Tennessee Education Research Alliance. The survey provides Tennessee teachers, school administrators, and certified staff the opportunity to provide their opinions through answers to questions about a range of topics, including instructional practice and materials, evaluations and teacher pay, and professional learning and school climate. In 2019, about 62 percent of educators responded. Survey results from current and past years are publicly available on the department’s website.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly to coordinate the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) institutions and the University of Tennessee (UT) institutions.

THEC is responsible for developing a statewide master plan for higher education that addresses state economic and workforce needs, ensures increased degree production, and uses differences in institutional mission to recognize efficiencies across the higher education sector. In addition, THEC has developed and continues to update an outcomes-based funding formula that rewards institutions for desired outcomes, such as student progression and degree completion, among others.

THEC has other roles and responsibilities that are described in statute, such as making annual funding recommendations to governing boards, the Governor, and General Assembly; approving the mission statements of public higher education institutions as part of the statewide master plan revision process; approving new degree programs; and studying the need for programs, departments, and divisions, to minimize duplication and overlapping services, among others.

The 15-member commission is appointed by the Governor, and is made up of one member from each of the state’s nine congressional districts, the Comptroller of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education (non-voting), and two student members (with alternating voting responsibilities by higher education system, TBR or UT, each year).

See also

  • outcomes-based funding formula
  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)
  • University of Tennessee (UT)

The Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) is a membership organization of many of Tennessee’s private higher education institutions. TICUA is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1956 to promote better cooperation among private institutions in Tennessee. TICUA members collaborate on public policy issues, cost containment, and professional development.

TICUA membership includes all independent, nonprofit, regionally accredited colleges and universities with a traditional arts and science curriculum. TICUA members include Christian Brothers University; Rhodes College; Fisk University; Maryville College; and Carson-Newman University, among others. TICUA is run by a board of directors, which includes representatives of TICUA institutions, local nonprofit organizations, and foundations, and other organizations.

Begun in fall 2018, the Tennessee Middle College Scholarship provides lottery funding to students at middle college high schools who are also enrolled in a public two-year postsecondary institution. The scholarship awards eligible students $1,000 for each semester of full-time attendance at the postsecondary institution.

To receive this scholarship, a middle college student must submit an application under Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation guidelines, be classified as an in-state student by the postsecondary institution, have a minimum 3.0 grade point average at the end of the sophomore year of high school, and be enrolled in a public two-year postsecondary institution that offers middle college in the student’s junior year of high school.

If students do not receive the scholarship in the fall semester of their junior year, they are not eligible for the scholarship in any future semesters. Students who receive the Tennessee Middle College Scholarship are not eligible to receive a dual enrollment grant.

See also

  • dual enrollment
  • middle college high school
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)

The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) is a nonprofit advocacy organization for public education in Tennessee. TOSS was established in 1975, and full membership is open to active superintendents or directors of public school systems within Tennessee. TOSS provides information, proposes legislation, and takes positions on public education issues in the Tennessee General Assembly. In addition, TOSS provides school superintendents with policy resources and professional development opportunities.

See also

  • collaborative conferencing
  • Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA)

Tennessee Promise is a scholarship and mentoring program that provides a last-dollar scholarship for recent high school graduates seeking an associate degree, technical diploma, or certificate at a community college, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), or other eligible institution. The maximum scholarship amount is the average cost of tuition and mandatory fees at a Tennessee public community college (about $4,400 in 2018-19). The scholarship for each student will vary based on their remaining cost of tuition and mandatory fees after other gift aid is applied. Tennessee Promise does not cover books, supplies, or non-mandatory fees. Students who graduated from high school in 2015 were the first class eligible for the program.

Each Promise applicant is paired with a mentor whose purpose is to assist students with the college application and financial aid process during the senior year of high school and the summer between graduation and enrollment in college. There are two mentoring organizations associated with Tennessee Promise: TN Achieves and the Ayers Foundation.

To be eligible to apply for Tennessee Promise, students must hold U.S. citizenship and live in Tennessee for at least 12 months prior to enrollment in a postsecondary institution.

The Promise application process takes place during the senior year of high school and in the summer after high school graduation. To become a Tennessee Promise student, applicants must:

  • file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),
  • attend a mentor meeting,
  • complete eight hours of community service,
  • enroll in an eligible institution, and
  • complete FAFSA verification (if selected).

To remain in the program, Promise students must maintain continuous full-time enrollment unless granted a leave of absence, earn a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA, complete eight hours of community service each semester, and refile the FAFSA annually. Promise students may remain in the program until they earn an associate degree or diploma for up to five semesters or eight trimesters.

State law requires the Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) to review, study, and determine the effectiveness of Tennessee Promise on an ongoing basis.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Tennessee Promise Evaluation"

See also

  • community college
  • Drive to 55
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • last-dollar scholarship
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)
  • tuition and mandatory fees

Tennessee Reconnect, passed by the General Assembly in 2017, revised the previously established Community College Reconnect Grant. The Community College Reconnect Grant served as the pilot program for the Tennessee Reconnect Program and officially ended with the 2017-18 academic year. Starting in fall 2018, the Tennessee Reconnect program provides eligible adults with a last-dollar scholarship, meaning that a student would use the federal Pell Grant and other financial aid before Tennessee Reconnect funds are applied to tuition and mandatory fee expenses. Reconnect funds can be used toward a certificate or associate degree at a community college or an eligible four-year public or private postsecondary institution that offers a certificate or associate degree program, though the scholarship amount cannot exceed the average cost of tuition and fees at a community college.

Eligibility is limited to individuals who:

  • have not previously earned an associate or baccalaureate degree,
  • are independent as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),
  • have been a Tennessee resident for at least 12 months,
  • participate in a Reconnect Success Plan (an annual questionnaire that matches the student with resources and information through their college and regional Reconnect Navigator), and
  • meet other criteria specified in state law.

Students receiving Reconnect funds are required to enroll in at least 6 credit hours each fall and spring semester, maintain a 2.0 grade point average, maintain continuous enrollment (unless granted a leave of absence), reapply for the grant and refile the FAFSA annually, and continue participation in a Reconnect Success Plan. A student may continue receiving the grant for up to five years, or until they earn an associate degree, complete the total number of credits necessary to complete an associate degree, or fail to maintain continuous enrollment or the minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. If a student ceases to be eligible for Reconnect at any time, he or she is unable to regain eligibility.

State law requires the Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) to review and study the Tennessee Reconnect program on an ongoing basis to determine the effectiveness of the program.

For more information, see OREA's 2017 report "Tennessee Community College Reconnect Grant Program: Conclusions and Policy Considerations"

See also

  • community college
  • Drive to 55
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • last-dollar scholarship
  • Navigate Reconnect
  • TCAT Reconnect
  • tuition and mandatory fees

The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) is a nonprofit, private service organization with a mission to assist school boards in effectively governing school districts. The Tennessee legislature in 1953 officially recognized TSBA as “the organization and representative agency of the members of school boards of Tennessee” and authorized TSBA to provide services through membership dues paid by local school boards. The association represents members on legislative and other public education issues and provides training, conferences, and communication services for members and staff. TSBA also provides services to school boards in areas such as legislation, education law, school board policies, and community relations. TSBA develops and conducts the majority of required training for all local school board members per State Board of Education rules.

See also

  • Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS)

 

The Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA) is a financial assistance program administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) for undergraduates with financial need. TSAA awards are granted to students who are residents of Tennessee, are enrolled or intend to enroll in an eligible institution, have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and are otherwise eligible under state law.

Awards are based on the financial need of the student and cannot exceed the cost of tuition and mandatory fees charged by the institution. Awards are renewable, and the length of time for which the award may be renewed varies based on the postsecondary credential sought (i.e., four academic years for a baccalaureate degree or six months for a certificate). Awards can be revoked if students do not meet minimum academic achievement levels or are expelled or suspended.

In 2017-18, 62,300 students received TSAA awards totaling approximately $104.6 million; the average award amount was $1,678 per student. The TSAA is funded through General Assembly appropriations ($90.7 million for 2017-18), lottery, and program reserve funds. Prior recipients who are eligible for renewal are the first to receive funds, followed by eligible applicants with the greatest financial need who complete their FAFSA by February 1, until TSAA funds are exhausted.

See also

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC)

The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) is a nonprofit corporation that administers various federal and state financial assistance programs, such as the HOPE Scholarship program.

Created by the General Assembly in 1974, TSAC is governed by a Board of Directors, including the Governor, the president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), the State Treasurer, the Comptroller of the Treasury, the Commissioner of Finance and Administration, the Commissioner of Education, the Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the president of the University of Tennessee (UT), the president of the Tennessee Proprietary Business School Association, the president of the Tennessee Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, two students enrolled in a higher education institution in Tennessee, and three private citizens.

TSAC was responsible for the administration of postsecondary education loan programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 but ended this role in 2016.  

See also

  • HOPE Scholarship
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)
  • Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965

Tennessee Transfer Pathways (TTP) was designed to ease the path to a four-year degree for community college students. TTP was created with the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA). The FOCUS Act of 2016 requires the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) to work with the university boards to guarantee continued alignment between community colleges and state universities.

TTP requires Tennessee Board of Regents, University of Tennessee institutions, and locally governed institutions to develop transfer pathways for at least 50 undergraduate majors consisting of 60 hours of credit (41 of general education and 19 of pre-major coursework). Some existing pathways include accounting, biology, and political science. In addition, the two systems are to implement common course numbering and course offerings that clearly identify courses not designed for transfer. TTP also applies to some private four-year institutions, such as Fisk University, Maryville College, and Union University, among others.

A related program is Tennessee Reverse Transfer, which awards credit for an associate degree while completing a bachelor’s degree. This program is for students who transfer to a four-year institution after completing at least 15 credits at a community college, but before completing all the credits for their associate degree. Upon completion of all remaining credits at the four-year institution, a student is eligible to earn their associate degree.

See also

  • Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA)
  • Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act
  • locally governed institution

The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, known as TVAAS, is a statistical method based on standardized test data that is used to measure the influence of a district, school, or teacher on the academic progress (growth rates) of individual students or groups of students from year to year. The concept behind TVAAS is that schools should add value every school year for each student, regardless of whether the student begins the year above, at, or below grade level. The use of value-added assessment was enacted in Tennessee law in 1992 as part of the Education Improvement Act. State law requires the use of TVAAS annual estimates of teacher, school, or school district effects on student progress in teacher evaluations and the state’s education accountability system for schools and districts.

For more information, see OREA's 2020 report "Student Growth Portfolios for Teacher Evaluation", OREA's 2019 report "Students in Tennessee Instructed by Consecutive Ineffective Teachers", and OREA's 2015 report "Use of Value-Added in Teacher Evaluations: Key Concepts and State Profiles"

See also

  • accountability
  • standardized test
  • teacher evaluation
  • Tennessee Education Improvement Act (EIA)

The Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act establishes a recognition program for higher education institutions that provide resources for veterans’ successful transition from military service to college enrollment. Both public and private nonprofit higher education institutions may apply to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for a VETS Campus designation if they meet certain criteria. In 2020, all of the state’s public universities had a VETS designation, along with eight community colleges and five institutions of higher education.

The VETS Act also exempts veterans from paying out-of-state tuition or fees when the veteran is enrolled in any public higher education institution in Tennessee and living in the state (regardless of the individual’s formal state of residency).

See also:

  • Helping Heroes Grant
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill

Title I, originally passed as part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), is a program under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. The purpose of Title I is “to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps.” Title I uses a combination of four formulas to allocate funds to districts with greater numbers and higher concentrations of students in poverty. All school districts in Tennessee receive some Title I funding. In fiscal year 2019, the state’s school districts were allocated approximately $304 million from Title I.

School districts have some discretion in how their Title I funds are distributed. Title I schools may operate either as targeted assistance or schoolwide programs. Targeted assistance schools identify students who are at risk of not meeting the state’s content and performance standards and provide individualized instructional programs to the identified students to assist them in meeting the state’s standards. Schoolwide programs use their funds to improve the entire program of the school, which affects all students.

See also

  • economically disadvantaged students
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)

Title II, Part A, a part of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, authorizes formula grants for improving teacher and principal quality. States may use the funds to assist districts in improving teacher and principal evaluation programs, reform teacher and principal certification programs, and expand alternative certification options.

The Tennessee Department of Education is responsible for applying to the U.S. Department of Education for grants to be disbursed to individual school districts.

School districts may use Title II, Part A, funds to conduct a variety of programs and professional development for teachers, principals, and staff. Examples include:

  • programs to recruit and retain teachers, principals, and staff members, including monetary incentives such as scholarships, signing bonuses, or differential pay options; and
  • professional development for improving content knowledge and classroom practices for special populations, such as low-achieving or special education students.

See also

  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)
  • teacher professional development

Title III is a part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Under Title III, the U.S. Department of Education awards grants to states, which, in turn, award these federal funds through subgrants to school districts to improve the education of students with limited English proficiency (LEP), including immigrant children and youth, by assisting them in learning English and meeting state academic content and achievement standards. These students may also be referred to as English Learners (or EL, the term commonly used in Tennessee), English Language Learners, and English as a Second Language students, among other labels.

Under ESSA, accountability for English language proficiency has moved from Title III to Title I and is another factor schools and districts are evaluated on under the Title I accountability system.

In the 2019-20 school year, according to the State Report Card, English learners made up approximately 4.6 percent of the state’s total student population. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee students speak about 140 different languages.

For fiscal year 2019, Tennessee received $6,625,406 under Title III out of a total of $709,835,146 in overall federal funds for elementary and secondary education programs in Tennessee.

See also

  • English Learner students
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)

The federal Higher Education Act, originally passed in 1965, established financial assistance programs for students in postsecondary institutions, among other provisions. The act is reauthorized by Congress periodically, most recently in 2008. Title IV governs a variety of federal financial aid programs including:

  • grants – such as Pell Grants, GEAR UP, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarships, and Teach grants;
  • loans and loan forgiveness programs – including Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (also known as Stafford loans) and Direct Plus Loan programs; and
  • the federal work-study program – funding for part-time work for low-income students at participating institutions.

Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarship programs for students enrolling in community or technical college, depend on students first using available funds from other sources, such as the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant program is the largest federal student assistance program, providing $28.4 billion in grants to seven million eligible low-income students nationwide in the 2018-19 academic year. In that year, approximately 126,000 Tennesseans received $510.4 million from the federal Pell Grant.

See also

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect
  • TCAT Reconnect

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support gender discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices. Title IX applies, with a few specific exceptions, to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities, though it is likely best known for its application to athletic programs offered by schools. In addition to traditional educational institutions such as colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary schools, Title IX applies to any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance.

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education enforces Title IX.

See also

  • U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

The nonprofit corporation tnAchieves is the partnering organization for the Tennessee Promise scholarship in 90 of the 95 counties in Tennessee. As a partnering organization, tnAchieves is responsible for recruiting and training volunteer mentors, pairing Tennessee Promise applicants with mentors, and tracking students’ community service hours. In the 2018-2019 academic year, tnAchieves recruited and trained nearly 7,800 volunteers to serve as mentors to over 60,000 Tennessee Promise applicants as they transitioned from high school to college.

In 2008, tnAchieves was established under the name Knox Achieves and launched a last-dollar community and technical college scholarship program in Knox County that paired students with volunteer mentors and required its students to complete at least eight hours of community service each semester. Between 2008 and 2014, the Knox Achieves program became available to students in other counties across Tennessee and the organization was renamed tnAchieves. Tennessee Promise was created in 2014 based on the Knox Achieves program and tnAchieves became a Tennessee Promise partnering organization. In 2019, tnAchieves launched a new initiative called Knox Promise, which provides Tennessee Promise students from Knox County with additional financial and coaching supports aimed at helping students complete college degrees.

See also

  • Tennessee Promise

TN Ready is the set of Tennessee’s general education assessments in math, English language arts, social studies, and science for students in grades 3 through 8, and in high school. Part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), TN Ready is aligned to the state’s academic standards and includes essay and short answer questions, as well as multi-step math problems, which are considered better measures of complex skills than multiple choice questions alone.

Schools had planned to administer TN Ready assessments online during the 2015-16 school year, unless they had opted for the paper alternative. Due to technical and logistical issues, TN Ready was cancelled for grades 3 through 8, but testing at high schools continued as scheduled. After switching to a new test vendor, the state administered the assessments in 2016-17, primarily using the paper format.

In 2017-18, over half of the assessed students took the paper version of TN Ready. The students that took the online version in 2017-18 were subject to several technical issues, prompting the General Assembly to pass legislation in 2019 requiring the 2019-20 TN Ready tests to be administered in paper format.

The 2018-19 school year marked the first online administration of TN Ready without significant issues. The state switched to a new vendor for the 2019-20 school year. Due to the disruption of the normal school schedule by the COVID-19 outbreak, however, lawmakers removed the requirement for TN Ready assessments in 2019-20.

For more information, see OREA's 2019 report "Students in Tennessee Instructed by Consecutive Ineffective Teachers"

See also

  • accountability
  • assessment
  • standardized test
  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP)

Tennessee law defines truancy as missing five or more unexcused days of school. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, school districts are required to adopt a progressive truancy intervention plan to address truancy at the school level before a truancy violation is referred to juvenile court. This three-tiered plan must be initiated once a student has accumulated five unexcused absences.

Tier one must include a meeting with the student, parents or legal guardians, and school officials to develop an attendance contract outlining expectations, consequences, and any necessary interventions based on the student’s individual needs. If the attendance contract is violated, tier two is implemented, which includes an individual assessment by a school employee to determine the reasons a student has been absent. The student may be referred to counseling, community-based services, or other in-school or out-of-school services to address the attendance problems. If the student continues to accumulate unexcused absences, the intervention plan moves to tier three, which may consist of school-based community services, restorative justice programs, or teen court. If tier three interventions are unsuccessful, the student is referred to juvenile court.

See also

  • chronic absenteeism

Tuition and mandatory fees are required dollar amounts that are charged to all students for enrollment at a postsecondary institution. Tennessee Promise, TCAT Reconnect, and Tennessee Reconnect are last-dollar scholarships available to eligible residents. These scholarships pay up to the cost of tuition and mandatory fees after other sources of gift aid (i.e., Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships, Tennessee Student Assistance Award, Pell Grant) have been applied.

Tennessee Promise and Reconnect students are financially responsible to pay for other costs associated with enrollment in a specific course or program that are not charged to all students, such as books, tools, supplies, or specific course fees (e.g., natural science lab, allied health, or online course fees).

See also:

  • last-dollar scholarship
  • TCAT Reconnect
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships (TELS)
  • Tennessee Promise
  • Tennessee Reconnect Grant
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)

U

Uniform grading refers to the Tennessee policy to standardize the grading scale and course weighting used by school districts to calculate high school grade point averages, which are used to determine eligibility for Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships.

School districts must use the Uniform Grading System to calculate eligibility for financial assistance administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. Districts may, however, adopt an additional local grading scale(s) for other purposes.

Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, the State Board of Education cannot modify the uniform grading system more frequently than once every two years.

See also

  • Advanced Placement (AP) program
  • dual credit 
  • dual enrollment
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

A universal screener is a core component of the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) framework, which is a tiered approach that educators use to identify and address learning needs for individual students. Universal screeners are brief, diagnostic assessments to measure a student’s proficiency on a specific skill. They can take the form of a quick checklist or a survey, but they can also be more structured assessments (such as reading and spelling screeners for phonological awareness). Screeners are typically focused on target skills and are administered three times per year to provide information about a student’s progress. Each local school district selects its own universal screener using criteria provided by the Tennessee Department of Education.

See also

  • Response to Intervention (RTI)

The University of Tennessee (UT) system was created in 1968, uniting the Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, and Memphis campuses in the system’s overall mission of teaching, research, and public service. The UT system is made up of four campuses and three institutes (the Institute of Agriculture, the Institute for Public Service, and the Space Institute).

UT is governed by a Board of Trustees, which consists of 12 members: 10 members appointed by the Governor, the Commissioner of Agriculture (ex officio), and one nonvoting UT student member appointed by the board.

See also

  • Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC)

In April 2018, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Public Chapter 657, enacting the University of Tennessee Focusing on Campus and University Success (UT FOCUS) Act. Distinct from the FOCUS act, which created local governing boards for universities previously governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the UT FOCUS Act restructured the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. Under the new law, the board, which oversees the academic and operational activities of the UT system, consists of 12 members, down from 27 members. Of the 12 members, 10 are appointed by the Governor and must be confirmed by a joint resolution of the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives. The other two members are the Commissioner of Agriculture as an ex officio member and a nonvoting UT student.

The UT FOCUS Act also established advisory boards for each of the UT campuses (Knoxville, Martin, Chattanooga, and the Health Sciences Center). The purpose of the advisory boards is to provide information and recommendations to the chancellors of their respective institutions and to the UT Board of Trustees regarding each institution’s operating budget, strategic plan, campus life, academic programs, and other matters relevant to the campuses. Each advisory board has seven members, five of whom are appointed by the Governor and approved by the General Assembly. The boards also include a faculty member and student from their institutions.

See also 

  • Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act
  • University of Tennessee (UT)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers, and coordinates most federal assistance to elementary and secondary schools. The department is also responsible for federal financial aid to postsecondary students. In 2018, the USDOE had 3,672 employees, and it was allocated $71.4 billion in the 2019 budget. Primary activities and programs include establishing policies for and distributing federal financial aid for education, collecting data and disseminating research on schools, focusing national attention on specific educational issues, and prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

See also

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)
  • Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA)

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights enforces federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funds. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. The mission of the office is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through enforcement of civil rights. The office investigates complaints, provides technical assistance, and conducts civil rights-related compliance reviews of educational institutions.

The Tennessee Department of Education also has an Office for Civil Rights to enforce students’ civil rights in Tennessee public school districts and programs that receive federal education funds.

V

In general, virtual school refers to a school that is not housed primarily in a “brick and mortar” building, and which provides student services and courses mainly through internet technology.

In 2011, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Virtual Public Schools Act. The act describes virtual schools as public schools that use technology to deliver a significant portion of instruction to students via the internet in a virtual or remote setting. As of 2019, 10 school districts have established virtual schools: Bradley County, Bristol City, Hamilton County, Metro Nashville, Robertson County, Shelby County, Sumner County, Union County, Washington County, and Wilson County.

Under the law, virtual schools must comply with the same laws as traditional public schools on curriculum standards, class size, length of the school day and school year, regular student assessments, and teacher qualifications. School districts may manage their own virtual schools or may contract for services with nonprofit and for-profit entities.

In certain cases, state law permits an individual virtual school to increase the enrollment in virtual classes by up to 25 percent over the maximum class size limits in the table above. To exceed the class size limits, the virtual school must have achieved a school effect score (TVAAS) of 3 or higher as reported by the Tennessee Department of Education in the prior year.

Any student who is eligible for enrollment in a Tennessee public school may enroll in a virtual school, although districts have the option of charging tuition to a student who does not currently live within district borders. Students have the option of enrolling full-time or part-time. Full-time students take all of their courses online through the virtual school; part-time students take one or more courses online while enrolled in another public school.

Students with special needs, including disabilities and limited English proficiency, may enroll in a virtual school. Virtual schools are required to provide the services included in each special education student’s Individualized Education Program. Virtual schools are also required to ensure their students have access to instructional materials and technology, such as a computer, printer, and internet connection that may be necessary to participate in the program.

Virtual schools in Tennessee are funded the same way as traditional public schools. School districts can use Basic Education Program (BEP) funds from both local and state sources to implement and operate their virtual education programs. Districts are also encouraged to apply for grants and accept donations to help fund their virtual education programs.

Virtual schools are included in the annual State Report Card published by the Tennessee Department of Education. The department also produces an annual report on all virtual schools established by school districts.

For more information, see OREA's 2012 report "K-12 Virtual Schools"

See also

  • Basic Education Program (BEP)
  • distance education        
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)

See pre-kindergarten.

Vouchers, sometimes known as opportunity scholarships, generally refer to programs that allow parents to remove their eligible child from public schools and receive a voucher to pay for private school costs or other education services. A voucher may cover partial or full tuition at a private school. States’ voucher programs vary by student eligibility criteria, responsibilities of participating private schools, and other program specifics. As of 2020, 16 states, including Tennessee, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have voucher programs.

Three other types of programs that provide public funding support for parents that choose to move their children from public to non-public schools are:

  • individual tax credits and deductions, authorized in eight states,
  • tax-credit scholarships, authorized in 19 states, and
  • education savings accounts, authorized in five states, including Tennessee.

Individual tax credits and deductions allow parents to receive state income tax relief for approved educational expenses (such as private school tuition, books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation). Tax credits lower the total taxes a person owes and deductions reduce a person’s total taxable income.

Tax-credit scholarships allow individuals and businesses to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. The amount of tax credits distributed is determined by state legislatures and affects the availability and size of the scholarships.

Education savings accounts allow parents to remove their child from a public school and receive public funds deposited into a government-authorized savings account for educational expenses (such as private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, educational therapies, and certain higher education expenses).

Tennessee’s Individualized Education Account is an education savings account that was established in law in 2015 and began serving students in January 2017.

See also

  • education savings account (ESA)
  • Individualized Education Account (IEA)

W

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The goal of the WWC is to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central source of scientific evidence about “what works” in education. The work of the WWC is done under contract with the USDOE (via the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance at IES) by several firms with expertise in education, research methodology, and dissemination.

See also

  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

The Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant is a lottery-funded grant program for students seeking a diploma or certificate from a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). To be eligible for the grant of up to $2,000, students must be 18 or older and have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year immediately preceding the date of their grant application. Grant recipients are not required to have a high school diploma and can be admitted as either full or part-time students.

No student shall be eligible for more than one Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant. As of July 2015, students who were previously awarded a HOPE Scholarship may qualify for a Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant.

See also

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Hope Scholarship
  • TCAT Reconnect Grant
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)
  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS)

Work-based learning (WBL) is one method for students to develop the skills necessary for postsecondary education and future careers. WBL develops a student’s academic, technical, and social skills through collaborative activities with industry and allows the student to explore possible career options. Introductory WBL activities in the elementary and middle school years may include school-directed experiences that expose students to a broad range of industries and career opportunities, such as field trips and tours, career fairs, and guest speakers from various career and industry fields. Advanced activities in high school may include a more comprehensive experience both inside and outside of the classroom through job shadowing, service learning projects, and practicum experiences for credit. Juniors and seniors who are 16 years or older may earn high school credit for capstone WBL experiences, such as internships, apprenticeships, and paid work experience. Students may apply credit-bearing capstone WBL experiences to fulfill the three elective credits required for graduation.

Teachers must have an active WBL certificate from the Tennessee Department of Education to teach most WBL courses and oversee credit-bearing experiences. Students may also participate in WBL experiences through various other career and technical education practicum courses when the teacher of record holds an active WBL certificate.

See also

  • service learning

The federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 created a partnership of the federal government with state and local governments to provide educational opportunities for adults not enrolled in school and who lack a high school diploma or the basic skills needed to function effectively in the workplace and in their daily lives. The WIA was intended to consolidate, coordinate, and improve a variety of employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs under the oversight of local workforce investment boards.

In 1999, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Workforce Development Act, creating a new department – the Department of Labor and Workforce Development – that integrated numerous workforce-related components from multiple state departments. The legislation called for closer collaboration among the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

In 2014, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which supersedes the WIA.

See also

  • adult education
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • General Education Development (GED) test
  • high school equivalency exam
  • High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)
  • TCAT Reconnect Grant

X

No Terms

Y

The Youth Development Centers (YDCs) in Tennessee house juvenile offenders who have committed multiple serious offenses. YDC facilities are hardware-secured, long-term confinement facilities for juvenile offenders.

The Office of Juvenile Justice in the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) operates one of the state’s two Youth Development Centers, Wilder located in Somerville, providing year-round schools and intensive services for its students. Mountain View in Dandridge is a privately-operated secure facility for juveniles.

See also

  • Department of Children’s Services education services

Z

The phrase “zero tolerance” is frequently used to refer to efforts, such as the federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, to toughen disciplinary actions in K-12 schools for infractions that are considered severe. The federal act required all states to pass laws that would expel for one calendar year any student who brought a firearm to school. The federal law allows the director of schools or superintendent to modify the year-long expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis. Any state failing to enact such legislation would forfeit federal education aid. Tennessee passed its corresponding statute in 1995.

The Tennessee General Assembly has defined offenses other than possession of a firearm that should be treated in the same manner, i.e., student expulsion for one calendar year unless modified by the director of schools. In Tennessee, the state-mandated zero tolerance offenses are:

  • possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs,
  • possession of handgun,
  • possession of rifle or shotgun,
  • possession of explosive, incendiary device, and
  • aggravated assault of teacher or staff.

See also

  • expulsion
  • suspension

list of acronyms and terms

Items in italics do not have their own entry in the glossary, but are part of other glossary entries. 

ADA average daily attendance
ADM average daily membership
AP Advanced Placement
ASD Achievement School District
BEP Basic Education Program
CDF cost differential factor
COE chairs of excellence
CTE Career and Technical Education
ED economically disadvantaged
EIA Tennessee Education Improvement Act
EL English Learner
ELT extended learning time
EOC End of Course
ESA education savings account
FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid
FAPE Free Appropriate Public Education
FRPM Free and Reduced Price Meals
GAMS General Assembly Merit Scholarship
GED General Education Development
HERO Higher Education Resource Officer
HiSET High School Equivalency Test
HSE high school equivalency
IB International Baccalaureate
IEA Individualized Education Account
IEP Individualized Education Program
IHP Individual Health Plan
I-Zone Innovation Zone
LEA local education agency (school district)
LEP Limited English Proficient
LEAP Lottery for Education After-school Programs
NAEP National Assessment of Educational Progress
PIAAC Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
PIRLS Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
PISA Program for International Student Assessment
RTI Response to Intervention
RTI 2 Response to Instruction and Intervention
SAILS Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support
SIC Student Industry Certification
SIG School Improvement Grant
SLC mall learning community
STEM Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
TCAP Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program
TEAM Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model
TEIS Tennessee Early Intervention System
TELS Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship
TIMSS Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
TSAA Tennessee Student Assistance Award
TTP Tennessee Transfer Pathways
TVAAS Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System
WBL work-based learning
CCTA Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010
EIA Tennessee Education Improvement Act
ESEA Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
ESSA Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
FOCUS Focus on College and University Success Act
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
NCLB No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
RTTT Race to the Top Act
SAVE Schools Against Violence in Education Act
WIA Workforce Investment Act
ACE American Council on Education
AFT American Federation of Teachers
CBER Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research
DCS Tennessee Department of Children's Services
ECS Education Commission of the States
ETS Educational Testing Service
IES Institute of Education Sciences
ISTE International Society for Technology in Education
NBPTS National Board of Professional Teaching Standards
NCES National Center for Education Statistics
NEA National Education Association
OCR Office for Civil Rights
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
OREA Office of Research and Education Accountability
PET Professional Educators of Tennessee
SBE State Board of Education
SCORE State Collaborative on Reforming Education
SREB Southern Regional Education Board
TACIR Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
TBR Tennessee Board of Regents
TCAT Tennessee College of Applied Technology
TDOE Tennessee Department of Education
TEA Tennessee Education Association
THEC Tennessee Higher Education Commission
TICUA Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
TOSS Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents
TSAC Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation
TSBA Tennessee School Boards Association
USDOE U.S. Department of Education
UT University of Tennessee
WWC What Works Clearinghouse
YDC Youth Development Center