Tennessee’s educational system has as its mission to prepare students with the skills to succeed in their chosen path in life. Education for all refers to providing individualized support for all students but with a special focus on students that are furthest behind. Programs in special education, English learning, homeless student education, migrant student education with school counseling and family resource centers have been at the center of improvement efforts. Four educational goals have been set: to improve the graduation rate to where the majority of students will earn post-secondary certificates or degrees, seventy-five percent of third graders will be proficient in reading, average ACT score will be 21, and Tennessee will rank in the top half of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Knox county school district alone has 88 schools, including 50 elementary, 16 middle, 16 high and 11 special schools. It employs over 8,300 people and serves over 60,000 students. In addition to the public schools, Knoxville has a large number of private schools. There are 51 top private schools that serve over 11, 000 students.
Higher education has become much more important since one of the four major goals of the Tennessee Department of Education has been to increase the number of students that obtain post-secondary degrees. There are 12 colleges in the Knoxville area. The University of Tennessee Flagship is the largest and was the first co-educational institution of higher learning in the state. The Knoxville main campus offers bachelors, masters and doctorate level degrees and over 900 programs of study. The University of Tennessee Public University System has 5 campuses and services nearly 50,000 students. The University is partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Tennessee Valley Authority in a joint research effort that promotes academic and economic growth in the Tennessee Valley. Other private and state funded institutions continue to expand into the area offering 4 year and technical programs. Numerous grants and scholarships are available to help students further their educations.
The Tennessee Promise Scholarship was established in 2014 and is seen as a landmark scholarship program allowing students tuition-free college. It has been a program that has set an example to be emulated by other states. Tennessee Promise is an expansion to a statewide effort from a local program that began in 2008 and had great success originally in Knoxville. The state of Tennessee was the first state in the country to offer tuition-free community college to all of its high school graduates. A program allowing adults to enroll tuition-free became available in 2018 known as Tennessee Reconnect.
Contributed by Maxine Perry