Public education in Tennessee
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- 1 State agencies
- 2 Regional comparison
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Academic performance
- 5 Educational choice options
- 6 Education funding and expenditures
- 7 Organizations
- 8 Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- 9 Transparency
- 10 Studies and reports
- 11 School districts
- 12 Education ballot measures
- 13 Recent news
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
- 16 References
List of school districts in Tennessee
Public education in Tennessee
School board elections portal
|“||The department is focused on the ambitious goal of ensuring that Tennessee is the state with the fastest improving student achievement. In doing so, we commit ourselves to the following core values.
Excellence: We hold ourselves and our colleagues to high standards for our daily work and for reaching our goals. We actively seek and give feedback in an effort to advance outcomes for ourselves and the students we serve. We believe in the importance of continuous improvement, and we constantly strive for a higher level of performance in all of our work.
Optimism: We believe in the potential of all Tennessee students to reach high levels of academic achievement. We believe that, in collaboration with our colleagues across the state, we can and will build a system that helps our students meet their potential. We operate with a strong sense of possibility that we can accomplish difficult tasks, and we foster innovation in ourselves and others.
Judgment: We aspire to make wise decisions. Therefore, we seek input from a diverse set of perspectives and think critically about the impact of our choices. We use accurate data to set goals, analyze results, and to make changes based on evidence.
Courage: We are unwaveringly student-centered in our decision making, prioritizing the needs of students over the comfort of adults. We align our words and our actions to the core belief that all students can achieve at a high level when we provide the opportunities that they deserve. We make hard decisions to improve the academic achievement and life prospects of Tennessee students.
Teamwork: We believe that excellent teams, composed of high-performing team members, can have an enormous impact on student achievement. We value the diverse experiences and commitment to service that each team member brings. We strive to communicate effectively within teams and across teams, ensuring that we are successful in helping all Tennessee students reach their potential.
The Tennessee State Board of Education is the governing body of the state's public education system. The board is composed of nine members (one from each of the state's congressional districts plus a student member). Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Tennessee General Assembly. All members serve five-year terms, with the exception of the student member, who serves a one-year term.
Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Tennessee State Board of Education adopted the standards on July 30, 2010. Full implementation took place during the 2013-2014 academic year.
- See also: General comparison table for education statistics in the 50 states
- See also: Education spending per pupil in all 50 states
The following chart shows how Tennessee compares to three neighboring states with respect to number of students, schools, the number of teachers per pupil, and the number of administrators per pupil. Further comparisons between these states with respect to performance and financial information are given in other sections of this page.
|State||Schools||Districts||Students||Teachers||Teacher/pupil ratio||Administrator/pupil ratio||Per pupil spending|
| Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.|
National Center for Education Statistics, Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12
The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Tennessee as reported in the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.
|Demographic information for Tennessee's K-12 public school system|
|Ethnicity||Students||State Percentage||United States Percentage**|
|Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. students||1,037||0.10%||0.42%|
|Two or more||9,995||1.00%||2.54%|
|**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.|
Enrollments by region type
A plurality of students in Tennessee attend rural schools. Approximately 54 percent of the state's students attend rural or town schools, compared to approximately 46 percent who attend city or suburban schools.
|Student distribution by region type, 2011 - 2012 (as percents)|
|State||City schools||Suburban schools||Town schools||Rural schools|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD) (timed out)|
- See also: NAEP scores by state
The National Center for Education Statistics provides state-by-state data on student achievement levels in mathematics and reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Compared to three neighboring states (Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi), Tennessee has the second highest share of fourth and eighth grade students who scored at or above proficient in both math and reading.
|Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013|
|Math - Grade 4||Math - Grade 8||Reading - Grade 4||Reading - Grade 8|
|Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014|
|NAEP assessment data for all students 2012-2013|
Graduation, ACT and SAT scores
|Comparison table for graduation rates and test scores*|
|State||Graduation rate, 2012||Average ACT Composite, 2012||Average SAT Composite, 2013|
|Percent||Quintile ranking**||Score||Participation rate||Score||Participation rate|
| *Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Rate (except for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, which did not report “Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate,” but instead used their own method of calculation).|
**Graduation rates for states in the first quintile ranked in the top 20 percent nationally. Similarly, graduation rates for states in the fifth quintile ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express
- See also: Public high school dropout rates by state for a full comparison of dropout rates by group in all states
The high school event dropout rate indicates the proportion of students who were enrolled at some time during the school year and were expected to be enrolled in grades 9–12 in the following school year but were not enrolled by October 1 of the following school year. Students who have graduated, transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. The average public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both SY 2010–11 and SY 2011–12. The event dropout rate for Tennessee was higher than the national average at 3.6 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, and 3.7 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Educational choice options
- See also: School choice in Tennessee
School choice options in Tennessee include: charter schools, intra-district and inter-district open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 7.96 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Education funding and expenditures
- See also: Tennessee state budget and finances
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the state spent approximately 17.7 percent of its fiscal year 2012 budget on elementary and secondary education. This is unchanged from fiscal year 2008.
|Comparison of financial figures for school systems|
|State||Percent of budget (2012)||Per pupil spending (2011)||Revenue sources (2011)|
|Percent federal funds||Percent state funds||Percent local funds|
| Sources: NASBO, "State Expenditure Report," Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures |
U.S. Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports," issued May 2013
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system revenues in Tennessee totaled approximately $8.6 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including revenue sources, for Tennessee and surrounding states.
|Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Federal revenue||State revenue||Local revenue||Total revenue|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics|
|Public school revenues by source, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system expenditures in Tennessee totaled approximately $8.9 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including expenditure types, for Tennessee and surrounding states.
|Expenditures by type, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Current expenditures**||Capital outlay||Other***||Total expenditures|
| **Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.|
***Includes payments to state and local governments, payments to private schools, interest on school system indebtedness, and nonelementary-secondary expenditures, such as adult education and community services expenditures.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
|Public school expenditures, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average national salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has declined by 1.3 percent from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. During the same period in Tennessee, the average salary decreased by 2.7 percent.
|Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**)|
|**"Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state."|
In 2012 the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now assessed the power and influence of state teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their rankings were based on 37 different variables in five broad areas, including: resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies and perceived influence. Tennessee ranked 41st overall, or "weak," which was in the fourth of five tiers.
The main union related to the Tennessee school system is the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). For the 2003 tax period NCAE had: $10.20 million in total revenue, $9.51 million in total expenses and $11.94 million in total assets.
List of local Tennessee school unions:
- Tennessee Education Association
- Memphis Education Association
- Metropolitan Nashville Education Association
- Shelby County Education Association
- Knox County Education Association
- Sumner County Education Association
- Hamblen County Education Association
- Tullahoma City Educational Association
- Marshall County Education Association
- AFT Jellico
- See also: Tennessee government sector lobbying
The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Tennessee School Boards Association.
Tennessee's official, statewide spending transparency database can be accessed here.
Studies and reports
Quality Counts 2014
- See also: Quality Counts 2014 Report
Education Week, a publication that reports on many education issues throughout the country, began using an evaluation system in 1997 to grade each state on various elements of education performance. This system, called Quality Counts, uses official data on performance from each state to generate a report card for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report card in 2014 uses six different categories:
- Chance for success
- K-12 achievement
- Standards, assessments and accountability
- The teaching profession
- School finance
- Transitions and Alignment
Each of these six categories had a number of other elements that received individual scores. Those scores were then averaged and used to determine the final score in each category. Every state received two types of scores for each of the six major categories: A numerical score out of 100 and a letter grade based on that score. Education Week used the score for the first category, "chance for success," as the value for ranking each state and the District of Columbia. The average grade received in the entire country was 77.3, or a C+ average. The country's highest average score was in the category of "standards, assessments and accountability" at 85.3, or a B average. The lowest average score was in "K-12 achievement", at 70.2, or a C- average.
Tennessee received a score of 73.9, or a C average in the "chance for success" category. This was below the national average. The state's highest score was in "transitions and alignment" at 92.9, or an A average. The lowest score was in "school finance" at 64.5, or a D average. Tennessee had the second lowest score for the "school finance" category in the country. The chart below displays the scores of Tennessee and its surrounding states.
Note: Click on a column heading to sort the data.
|Public education report cards, 2014|
|State||Chance for success||K-12 achievement||Standards, assessments and accountability||The teaching profession||School finance||Transitions and Alignment|
|Tennessee||73.9 (C)||68.8 (D+)||90.0 (A-)||80.3 (B-)||64.5 (D)||92.9 (A)|
|Alabama||72.0 (C-)||62.2 (D-)||92.2 (A-)||74.8 (C)||71.1 (C-)||85.7 (B)|
|Kentucky||74.4 (C)||70.3 (C-)||90.2 (A-)||82.1 (B-)||71.7 (C-)||92.9 (A)|
|Mississippi||68.9 (D+)||57.1 (F)||92.8 (A)||66.5 (D)||64.9 (D)||75.0 (C)|
|United States Average||77.3 (C+)||70.2 (C-)||85.3 (B)||72.5 (C)||75.5 (C)||81.1 (B-)|
| Source: Education Week, "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 18, 2015|
A full discussion of how these numbers were generated can be found here.
State Budget Solutions education study
State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009 to 2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates and average ACT scores. The study showed that the states that spent the most did not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor did they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. The full report can be accessed here.
- See also: School board elections portal
School districts in Tennessee are categorized by geographic boundaries. A municipal school district serves students in a particular city and a county school district operates schools within an entire county.
- See also: List of school districts in Tennessee
|Enrollment, 2011-2012||Per-pupil spending, 2012-2013|
|1.) Memphis City Schools||1.) Franklin City Elementary Schools|
|2.) Knox County School District||2.) Oak Ridge City Schools|
|3.) Shelby County Schools||3.) Memphis City Schools|
|4.) Hamilton County School District||4.) Manchester City Schools|
|5.) Rutherford County Schools||5.) Humboldt City Schools|
|6.) Williamson County Schools||6.) Alcoa City Schools|
|7.) Montgomery County Public Schools||7.) Greeneville City Schools|
|8.) Sumner County Schools||8.) Kingsport City Schools|
|9.) Wilson County Schools||9.) Johnson County Schools|
|10.) Sevier County Schools||10.) Bradford Special Schools|
School board composition
Tennessee school board members are generally elected by residents of the school district, although some school board members are appointed to fill vacancies until the next election for the seat is held. Tennessee school board elections typically follow one of these three methods, or a mixture thereof:
- At-large: All voters residing in the school district may vote for any candidates running, regardless of geographic location.
- Trustee area: Only voters residing in a specific geographic area within the school district may vote on certain candidates, who must also reside in that specific geographic area.
- Trustee area at-large: All voters residing in the school district may vote for any candidates running, but candidates must reside in specific geographic areas within the school district.
School board membership ranges from three members to 12 members. Board members serve four-year terms, which are often staggered every two years.
Tennessee does not impose statewide term limits on school board members. However, terms limits on school board members can still be imposed on the local level.
No top enrollment districts in Tennessee are scheduled to hold elections in 2015.
Path to the ballot
To qualify for the ballot as a school board candidate in Tennessee, a person must be:
- A citizen of the state
- 18 years of age or older
- A resident of the school district
- A high school graduate or holder of a G.E.D.
- A registered voter in the county
A candidate must submit a qualifying petition with signatures from at least 25 residents of the district to the county elections office. Candidates must also provide copies of their high school diplomas or equivalency degrees to qualify for election. The filing deadline for local candidates is the third Thursday in the third calendar month prior to the election.
State law requires candidates to appoint political treasurers and file campaign financial disclosure statements with the state's Registry of Election Finance. Candidates must file detailed reports for each reporting period where contributions exceeded $1,000. A shortened version of the financial disclosure statement is available when contributions do not exceed $1,000 for a reporting period. Local candidates can receive contributions up to $1,500 per individual and $7,400 per political action committee during a particular election.
Education ballot measures
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Tennessee + Education "
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Tennessee state budget and finances
- Tennessee Department of Education
- List of school districts in Tennessee
- School choice in Tennessee
- Charter schools in Tennessee
- Education Policy in the U.S.
- National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
- ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
- United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD); Table 2.—Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011-12," accessed May 12, 2014
- United States Department of Education, "ED Data Express," accessed May 12, 2014
- Tennessee Department of Education, "Core Values," accessed June 5, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Tennessee Department of Education, "About the Commissioner," accessed June 5, 2014
- Tennessee State Board of Education, "Biographical Summaries," accessed June 5, 2014
- Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State," accessed June 12, 2014
- Tennessee Department of Education, "TNCore," accessed June 17, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
- United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014
- ACT, "2012 ACT National and State Scores," accessed May 13, 2014
- Commonwealth Foundation, "SAT Scores by State 2013," October 10, 2013
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data File, School Year 2010-11, Provision Version 1a and School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a," accessed May 13, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11," accessed May 13, 2014 (timed out)
- Maciver Institute, "REPORT: How much are teachers really paid?," accessed October 29, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13," accessed May 13, 2014
- Thomas E Fordham Institute, " How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison," October 29, 2012
- Center for Union Facts, "Tennessee Education Association," accessed May 1, 2010
- Center for Union Facts, "Tennessee teachers unions," accessed May 1, 2010
- Education Week "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 19, 2015
- Tennessee Department of Education, "School Districts," accessed July 10, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed July 11, 2014
- Tennessee Department of Education, "Annual Statistical Report," accessed July 11, 2014
- Tennessee School Boards Association, "School Board Candidacy," accessed July 9, 2014
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