Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen begins a new set of school visits today, focusing this school year on students’ perspectives and experiences, especially in the middle and high school grades. This revamped version of her Classroom Chronicles tour builds on the success of the first round of visits in 2015-16, when she met with more than 10,000 teachers and toured 121 schools in 82 districts across Tennessee.
“Every decision we make is centered on what is best for students. It only makes sense that we include and elevate their voices into the conversations we are having as a state,” McQueen said. “Students have a range of experiences and opportunities throughout the course of their K-12 experience, and I want to ensure that all students receive an education that meets their unique needs and prepares them to be successful for life after high school.”
Today’s visit to Arlington High School and tomorrow’s trips to Johnson County High School in Mountain City and Science Hill High School in Johnson City will be the first stops on the Classroom Chronicles tour this year. McQueen will continue to meet with educators at each school, but throughout the tour, McQueen will host roundtables with students from a variety of backgrounds to hear about their experiences and ideas. The conversations will cover a number of topics, from opportunities to prepare for college and career, to school cultures and discipline, to the goals that students are setting and the supports they need to reach them.
In addition to building on the first leg of the Classroom Chronicles tour, the focus on student conversations will continue other initiatives the department has engaged in the last few months. During the spring, every member of the department’s senior leadership team shadowed a student for a day to get a sense for the range of experiences high school students have across the state and the different opportunities that are available in different schools. Additionally, department officials began convening informal student advisory councils across the state to learn more about the challenges facing all types of students as they chart their paths through high school and beyond. Those conversations will also continue this fall and complement the Classroom Chronicles tour. A report will be available later this year documenting the key themes and outcomes from the student advisory council meetings.
Additional trips are still being scheduled and will be advised to local media. Recaps of each Classroom Chronicles school visit—often written by students—will be posted on the department’s blog.