At today’s SCORE conference on the state of education in Tennessee, former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, SCORE’s founder, suggested that based on SCORE’s bold plan, Tennessee could fulfill its pledge to families and students.
Here’s the tweet summarizing his closing remarks:
So, like every SCORE conference (they put these on every year), it all sounds great and generally means nothing.
SCORE, which stands for State Collaborative on Reforming Education, has been in existence since 2009.
Since that time, Tennessee has remained near the bottom in the country in investment in public education.
In fact, based on information from the Comptroller of the Treasury and the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee schools are underfunded to the tune of some $1.5 billion. This includes a $500 million shortfall in the funding of teaching positions across the state.
So, all that “bold visioning” over at SCORE hasn’t resulted in meaningful new investments in schools. But maybe, just maybe, SCORE’s policy pushes have nudged the state forward academically.
In fact, after that one “fastest-improving” year, we’ve regressed to the mean:
If you analyze NAEP data, Tennessee has not experienced sustained improvements in 4th and 8th grade reading and math tests over the last 3 testing periods. In 2017, 33 percent of Tennessee 4th graders and 31 percent of 8th graders achieved NAEP proficiency in reading. In math, 36 percent of 4th graders and 30 percent of 8th graders achieved NAEP proficiency.
There’s also the declining ACT average:
Tennessee’s average ACT score declined slightly for a second straight year, while the number of students taking the college entrance exam also dropped, according to results released Friday.
Public school students in the Class of 2020 finished with an overall average of 19.9 on a scale of 36, down from 20 last year and 20.2 the year before.
So, SCORE keeps pushing a “bold” agenda while Tennessee’s schools lack funding and Tennessee students are not moving forward academically.
Meanwhile, the organization took in $5.6 million according to its 2018 IRS form 990. That was, admittedly, down from some $10 million in revenue the year before. Still, SCORE reported assets of $11.5 million.
In 2018, then-Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson was paid $326,000 and President David Mansouri was paid $235,920. Three other employees were paid over $100,000. The group also spent $112,000 on “advocacy support” (lobbying) paid to a company out of North Carolina.
It’s interesting that the folks at SCORE, some of the highest-paid education “advocates” in the state, just aren’t getting the job done in terms of changing the narrative or moving funding into Tennessee schools. Still, year after year, foundations and donors pour cash into their coffers hoping for a different result. Or, maybe, hoping for the same result — more “feel good” conferences and no requests by the state that actual dollars be invested into our schools.
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