MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee education advocacy groups are working on ways to ensure your children are fully prepared for the future.

“We must redesign how schools, colleges, and industries all work together,” Memphis Education Fund CEO, Terrence Patterson, said.

It’s a step Tennessee education reformists believe is necessary to bridge the gaps between K12 education, postsecondary education, and the workforce. It was the main topic of discussion during the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) group’s panel at the National Civil Rights museum.

SCORE’s President and CEO, David Mansouri, said their report reveals while the number of students in Tennessee completing college is increasing at a steady pace, the number of students attending college after high school has decreased by nine percent over the past two years.

“The really concerning trend of the declining number of Tennessee students who are graduating from high school and then moving on to post-secondary education,” Mansouri said.

He said the numbers have been dropping at a concerning rate since the COVID-19 pandemic with more students heading straight into the workforce after high school.

“The challenge though is how do we make sure that students are prepared for a life of economic opportunity and not just economic opportunity over the next year or the next two years,” Mansouri said.

He said data shows out of every 100 ninth-grade students in Tennessee, only 16 of those students are graduating with a post-secondary credential or degree within six years of leaving high school.

To address the decline, Mansouri said they’re going to focus on three key priorities for 2023:

  • Advancing high-quality instruction for every student
  • Addressing Tennessee’s college-going decline with urgency
  • and Effectively preparing all Tennessee students for the workforce.

Workforce leaders said it all comes down to communication from all sectors.

“Folks in the education field have to communicate with employers and determine what’s the balance,” Kyle Spurgeon, President and CEO of Jackson Chamber of Commerce, said.

SCORE’s president said the goal is to present these findings and solutions to policymakers and community leaders with hopes of reimaging the education-to-work pipeline.

SCORE said Thursday’s panel is only one of many to take place across the state of Tennessee.