StudentsFirst, a national education reform lobbying organization headed by Michelle Rhee, announced its first set of grades for state education systems Monday, giving Tennessee a C-.

In order to rank the states, the organization looked at which states were enacting laws they believe lead to effective educational environments.

Using a criteria to measure the elevation of teaching as a profession, the empowerment of parents and the wise spending of funds, the organization compiled scores for all 50 states. No school in the organization’s rankings earned higher than a B-, with Louisiana and Florida being the only two states that were awarded scores in the B range.

Despite the average score, Tennessee’s grade was good enough to rank 11th nationwide.


“Tennessee has made significant strides to identify excellent teachers and principals, but it must do more to ensure these educators are retained,” the report’s summary reads. “The state has adopted meaningful educator evaluations, developed alternative pathways to certification and reformed tenure. The state must now link performance with salary decisions, ensure ineffective teachers are exited from the classroom and prohibit seniority from driving layoff decisions.”

The group suggests Tennessee offer “more meaningful” retirement options in order to retain good teachers and create an opportunity scholarship program for low-income students. It also offered a compliment to the state’s Achievement School District, which is tasked with turning around the lowest-performing schools.

“The state’s new model for state governance, the Achievement School District, is already inspiring other states to take on their lower-performing schools,” the report reads.

In 2011, Rhee visited Chattanooga to deliver a speech as part of the Hunter Lecture Series.

To read the full report summary, click here.