Tennessee State Profile

Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE)
Nashville, TN

Hamblen County Foundation for Educational Excellence and Achievement
Morristown, TN

Hyde Family Foundation
Memphis, TN

Niswonger Foundation
Greeneville, TN

State Collaborative on Reforming Education (TN SCORE)
Nashville, TN

Tennessee Board of Regents
Nashville, TN

Tennessee Business Roundtable
Nashville, TN

Tennessee Campaign for Achievement Now (TennesseeCAN)
Nashville, TN

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Nashville, TN

Tennessee Higher Education Commission
Nashville, TN

Tennessee State Board of Education
Nashville, TN

Tennessee State House
Nashville, TN

Anderson County School District
Clinton, TN

Bristol Tennessee City Schools
Bristol, TN

Milan School District
Milan, TN

Trousdale County School District
Hartsdville, TN 37074

Williamson County School District
Franklin, TN 37064

Educational and Workforce Landscape

Secondary K–12

Governed by:
Tennessee Department of Education

Public school enrollment K–12:

School Districts: 147

Public school enrollment 9–12:

Graduation rate: 88.7%

CTE Participation rate:
55.4% CTE Participation across schools

CTE graduation rate: 59%


Governed by:

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Tennessee Board of Regents

Enrollment/Completion Data:

  • 56%

Number by Type of Schools

  • 2-year Community College: 13
  • 4-year Public University: 11
  • 4-year Private University: 28
  • 2-year Technical College: 24


Workforce Agency:
Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Top Industries/Jobs:
In 2022

  • Health Care and Social Assistance: 387,200
  • Manufacturing: 364,900
  • Retail Trade: 341,000

Points of Interest

Consistent dedication to innovative education over 3 state administrations

TN Promise provides 2 years tuition- free enrollment at a community or technical college in TN.

The State invested over $500 million last year to implement Innovative School Models in all public high schools and middle schools across the state!

Manufacturing employment was almost 500,000 (499,200) in 1990 and represented 22.7% of TN’s total employment. In 2022, it was down to only 11.2% of total employment. Health Care and Social Assistance has more than doubled form 189,200 jobs in 1990 to 387,200 in 2022.

College & Career Pathways Successes

Legislation to support pathways

Innovative School Models
Building upon the state’s strong commitment to ensure Tennessee is future workforce ready, Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly made an historic investment of $500 million to bring Innovative School Models to every public high school and middle school in the state. By expanding Tennessee’s Innovative School Models aimed at building readiness and preparing students for success after high school, more students will have opportunities to participate in innovative local programs aligned to Tennessee’s highest-demand skills and careers.

May 2021, the department awarded 21 school district Innovative High School Model grants, which included an initial investment of $30 million to foster local community partnerships that boost student readiness. These partnerships have already shown an incredible impact on students’ experiences and readiness for the workforce and postsecondary opportunities.

The future of innovative programs to boost student and workforce readiness in Tennessee is brighter than ever. Through reimagining the high school experience; becoming more strategic about engaging younger students in career exploration; expanding access to courses; improving how data is collected and used; and being even more intentional in how we listen to—and learn from—Tennesseans, we will continue to keep our state’s workforce strong for years to come.

AP Access for All (APAA)
APAA is a partnership between Niswonger Foundation and TDOE that began in June 2021 with the goal to increase students’ access across the state to Advanced Placement (AP) courses. When the program began, approximately 50% of public school districts in the state had access to AP courses. Today, 97% of public school districts have signed on to participate in APAA! Over 4,000 students have taken courses through the program and approximately $1.2 million in potential tuition dollars has been saved by students earning college credit through qualifying exam scores. The program also provides professional development for teachers, enabling more teachers to be qualified to teach AP coursework. In the first two years of the program, almost 900 teachers have participated in AP Summer Institute training, increasing AP teaching capacity for both virtual APAA classes, as well as on ground AP classes at local school districts!

Chapter 979 of the Public Acts of 2022 – Computer Science Legislation
Tennessee believes computer science is foundational, not vocational, to a 21st century student and future worker. Access to the content and skills included in computer science and computational thinking are essential to function in the global society in which all students will live. Therefore, access will not be limited to only those who will work in that career field. Tennessee’s legislature and Governor agree with the importance of all students having access to high quality computer science instruction; exemplified in Chapter 979 of the Public Acts of 2022. The legislation has allowed funding to flow to meet the demands of the act which you can read about here.

There are four main components/results of the bill:

  • K-12 Computer Science Courses and Standards
  • New graduation requirement
  • Teacher endorsement opportunities
  • Professional Development to prepare all teachers for implementation

Dual Enrollment Grant
The Dual Enrollment Grant program is defined as a grant for study at an eligible postsecondary institution that is funded from net proceeds of the state lottery and awarded to students who are attending an eligible high school and who are also enrolled in college courses at eligible postsecondary institutions for which they will receive college credit.
The Dual Enrollment Grant program is funded by the Tennessee Lottery and administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. This program provides opportunities for students to earn an initial technical credential or a semester of college credit free of tuition and fees, while still pursuing a high school diploma.

Goals and Priorities for Launch

Tennessee sees a benefit in participating in this initiative because it has the potential to strategically support existing strategic priorities that will be delivered at scale over the next five years.

Innovative School Models Grants:
Despite consistent improvements in our state’s high school graduation rates, ACT performance, EPSO attainment, and seamless college enrollment rates since 2015, less than 30 percent of high school graduates are completing a postsecondary credential within 6 years of graduation. The biggest gap in the education-workforce pipeline occurs at the transition from K-12 to postsecondary education and training—meaning, many students who are academically qualified to earn a postsecondary credential never pursue one. The $500M state investment in Innovative School Models (ISM) is a way to eliminate these structural barriers that exist between high school, workforce and postsecondary systems while allowing students the ability to seamlessly make connections ensuring that all students graduate high school prepared to successfully complete a postsecondary credential or attain high-quality employment. ISM is the department’s strategy to empower schools to transform the traditional high school and middle school models to foster a culture of college and career awareness and readiness.

Considering the information above, Tennessee has significant strength historically and projecting into the future in this work. However, the state also has some considerable areas for immediate improvement if we are to maximize the potential impact: (1) more consistent and structured opportunities for districts, post-secondary institutions, and the business community to come together; (2) develop and execute high school programs in alignment with clear, proven, innovative school models in every school district; and (3) much better alignment between PK-12 and post-secondary to ensure credits and credentials earned by students will transfer and move the work forward. Currently this work depends on local relationships or proactive leadership and there is not a cohesive approach that districts of varying size could utilize to develop and implement thoughtful programming.

We also have significant growth that must take place if we are going to provide the best opportunities for our students. In terms of focus areas, Tennessee would like to begin the conversation by focusing on:

  • Stronger, aligned pathways at the regional level, including specific post-secondary preparation and partnerships (inclusive of policy adjustments to incentivize investments in strong pathways and ensure credit transfer for students).
  • Innovative schools that can be replicated, with clear metrics for quality.
  • Longitudinal data collection and analysis, integrated into our TDOE systems, family portals, and P-20 data project.

Local District Profiles

Milan Special School District

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

Northwest Region; Town
Total Student Enrollment: 1,865, across 4 schools

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Exemplary ISM Pilot District- Pathways to Success Project

Graduates from the Milan Special School District are equipped to succeed beyond our walls. Many of our CTE programs are taught by employees of TCAT and are aligned to opportunities that are both higher paying and in high demand in the West Tennessee area. 80 percent of current high school students in MSSD are enrolled in a CTE course! Students’ needs are being met to ensure individual success by providing special education support in CTE classes and by incorporating CTE standards into core academic classes. Currently, 82.4% of students have already met the qualifications as a “college and career ready” student as defined by the state in the Milan Special School District.

Jonathan Criswell

Trousdale County Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

Upper Cumberland Region; Rural
Total Student Enrollment: 1,375, across 3 schools

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

District Report Card Designation: Exemplary

Williamson County Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

Mid Cumberland Region; Mixed/Suburban
Total Student Enrollment: 41,251, across 51 schools

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

One of TN’s largest and fastest growing districts

Anderson County Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

East Region; Mixed/Rural
Total Student Enrollment: 6,091, across 19 schools

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

Anderson County CTE Center promotes EPSOs through Dual Enrollment

Bristol City Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

First/Northeast Region; City
Total Student Enrollment: 3,831, across 9 schools

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

ISM Grant Recipient- Viking Career Center

Bristol Tennessee City Schools embraces innovation in CTE programming to help all students become “Future Ready” graduates,” said Deidre Pendley, CTE Director, Bristol City Schools. “Our CTE programs provide more equitable access for students by our recently expanding middle school CTE courses in career exploration, STEM, health science, marketing/entrepreneurship, and information technology for high school credit. We have increased participation and eliminated barriers for students by expanding on-site dual enrollment in CTE programs including Automotive, Cosmetology, Welding, Construction, Machining, and Criminal Justice. In addition, we are increasing access to industry certifications through new programs in Agriculture and Cybersecurity. Another exciting initiative in our district is the addition of elementary career exploration resources.

Deidre Pendley,
Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Reference Links and More Information

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