Education, Policy

Tennessee Submits Final ESSA Plan to U.S. Department of Education

In April the TN Dept. of Education submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its final plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December of 2015 as the successor to the No Child Left Behind federal education law.  The product of a yearlong process of listening tours, town hall meetings, and stakeholder feedback, Tennessee’s ESSA plan—which is slated to take effect on July 1 following review and approval by the federal government—includes a new focus on career readiness which is expected to help more students to graduate from the K-12 system better-prepared for employment and higher education.

ESSA builds on the recent progress being made in educational systems in Tennessee and across the country, which is leading to rising high school graduation rates and declining dropout rates. The new law now requires that all students be held to high academic standards which prepare them for college or careers after high school. Tennessee’s strategic education plan, put in place prior to the enactment of ESSA, closely tracks the new law’s major priorities and requirements and provided a strong foundation on which to build the state’s ESSA plan.

In January, the Roundtable submitted its feedback to the draft ESSA plan developed by the Tennessee Department of Education. After reviewing comments from over 1,000 groups and individuals throughout the state, the Dept. of Education made edits and adjustments to the draft plan which addressed areas of concern held by many stakeholders.

“The Roundtable’s primary concerns during the ESSA plan development process, which we voiced loudly and clearly to the Department [of Education] throughout, were to protect Tennessee’s commitments to high K-12 academic standards and to assessments which align with those high standards, and to put workforce readiness on par with college readiness in measuring K-12 school performance,” points out TBR Vice Chair Tinker Kelly (VEBA, Nashville, TN). “TBR fought successfully for decades to raise our state’s academic standards and to hold our schools accountable by measuring student performance against those standards, and we’re very pleased that Tennessee has ‘doubled down’ on those commitments by submitting an ESSA plan which protects those rigorous standards and assessments—and which affirms more clearly than ever before that career-readiness is just as important as being ready for college.”

Two new key indicators in Tennessee’s ESSA compliance plan will break new ground for the state in its measurement of opportunity and readiness. Tennessee’s new “Chronically Absent” indicator focuses on students who miss 10 percent or more of the days they are enrolled in school, and aims to decrease absenteeism by addressing the underlying causes of their truancy. To address readiness, Tennessee’s new Ready Graduate indicator will identify the percentage of high school graduates who achieve specified post-secondary readiness benchmarks, including scoring 21 or better on the ACT exam or attaining certain industry-recognized technical credentials, that increase their likelihood of succeeding in college and careers.

In response to feedback from TBR and other business interests on its draft plan, Tennessee’s final ESSA plan includes an additional “readiness check” within its Ready Graduate indicator. Students who complete two Early Postsecondary Opportunities and receive a sufficient score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery will now be included within that accountability measure as “ready graduates.” Additionally, the accountability weighting of the Ready Graduate indicator has been increased from 20% to 25%, while the weighting of the Chronically Absent indicator has decreased. Changes like these will encourage schools to prioritize career readiness offerings, leading to more students graduating prepared for college or the job market.

Click here to read about more changes to the December Draft ESSA plan.

Policy, Transportation

Haslam’s IMPROVE Act to Fuel Tennessee’s Economy

Increased Gas, Registration Levies Offset by Cuts in Non-Gas Taxes; Local TN Govts Gain Surcharge Referendum Option to Fund Transit

Following weeks of negotiations, political posturing and legislative maneuvering, Governor Bill Haslam on April 26 signed into law the first major update to Tennessee’s road-funding program in over 25 years.

Coupling modest increases in the state’s fuel taxes and annual registration fees with four significant tax cuts, the enacted version of the IMPROVE Act paves the way for accelerated work on a backlog of over $10 billion in much-needed improvements to state highway routes and bridges—and provides new transportation revenue and options to Tennessee’s local governments. Continue reading


TBR Foundation, TN Board of Regents Boost College Advising

On March 1st and 2nd , the TBR Foundation hosted the Spring 2017 Tennessee Advising Academy, continuing the successful partnership it began with the Tennessee Board of Regents at the original College Completion Academy in 2011. This event was the first ever to focus solely on coordinating student advising functions within each college.
"Tennessee's businesses need our state's higher education system to produce greater numbers of highly- competent graduates with credentials that match employers' talent pipeline needs," says TBR President Pat Sheehy, who welcomed Advising Academy participants to Nashville on March 2. "Better college advising promotes higher rates of college completion and credentialing. Through our Foundation's support of this Advising Academy, TBR is helping its members meet their workforce needs by supporting excellence in advising among the Board of Regents' state universities, community colleges and TCATs."

BRT CEOs, McQueen Agree: Improving Reading is a Top Priority

Less than two months after top U.S. CEOs said that improving early
reading is the key to closing the “skills gap,” Tennessee’s state K- 12
education leaders have launched the second phase of an initiative
which aims at the “sweet spot” for literacy and future attainment:
third grade reading.

On February 23, Commissioner Candice McQueen and other leaders
from the TN Department of Education reported on progress made in
the first year of the Ready to be Ready initiative, which focuses on
improving elementary reading skills. McQueen and the Department
said that Tennessee’s approach to addressing its 3rd- grade- reading
gap should focus on these steps: Continue reading


TBR Helps Bring Home $2 Million for K-12 Career Readiness

On January 11, state leaders announced that Tennessee has won a $2 million grant to help our state’s K-12 students graduate college- and career-ready–thanks in part to the efforts of TBR.

Funded by JP Morgan Chase & Co. and awarded by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), this latest New Skills For Youth (NSFY) grant will fund three years of expanded work by the TN Dept. of Education in the area of “guided pathways”—programs and policies that help high- and middle-school students make earlier, better and more-intentional choices about aligning their studies with their post-high-school plans.  The new Phase II grant, one of only ten awarded by CCSSO, will help Tennessee build on work started in 2016 after our state and 24 others were each awarded a six-month, $100,000 Phase I NSFY planning grant. Continue reading

Leadership, Membership

Tennessee Business Roundtable Elects 2017 Officers


Tennessee Business Roundtable Elects 2017 Officers

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 24, 2017 – At its meeting on January 19, 2017, the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Business Roundtable (“TBR”, “the Roundtable”; elected nine senior-level state business leaders to serve as its Officers for the 2017 term.

Elected annually from among the Roundtable’s member company representatives, TBR’s Officers provide strategic direction and oversight to the Nashville-based state business policy group.  TBR’s 2017 Officer slate is comprised of senior Tennessee business professionals from a variety of the state’s business sectors, including health care, investment services, technology, law, retail, and human resources. Continue reading


TN SUPREME COURT: THANKS, TBR! Roundtable-backed Pilot Project Handles Nearly 100 Business Lawsuits

A little more than a year after its creation with support from TBR, a state judicial pilot project is succeeding in its goal:  It’s moving dozens of complex business lawsuits through the court system more quickly, speeding up justice for all.

Patterned in part after successful projects in other states, in May 2015 the Tennessee Supreme Court established a Business Court Docket Pilot Project with support from legal professionals and groups, including TBR, which advocated for handling business litigation through a separate docket process.  “By all measures,” says TN Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivens, in the eighteen months since its inception “this Pilot Project has been a tremendous success.” Continue reading

Business, Education

TBR Work-Based Learning Summit: A “Home Run” for TN Workforce Development

On Oct. 11th, the Roundtable convened a statewide Summit meeting of 140 business and education leaders to discuss the use of Work-Based Learning (WBL) at the high school level as a way of enriching the talent pipeline into high-need industries across the state. Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen, and Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Burns Phillips participated in the event to share the importance of WBL from each Department’s perspective.

The Summit’s panel discussions showcased several subject matter experts, businesses and non-company “connectors” who delivered key knowledge and insights about successful use of WBL to Summit attendees.  Many TBR members made substantial content contributions: Continue reading