Randy believes that a high-quality education is the key to opening the doors of opportunity for all Tennesseans – a good job, a bright future, a better life. Randy understands that education is the great equalizer and is the vehicle to transform lives and offer social and economic mobility.

Randy applauds the amazing progress that students and teachers have made in Tennessee – the fastest improving state in the nation in 2013 and moving from 44th place in math to 25th from 2009 to 2015 – but Randy also knows that we are only half way home with a long way to go.

Randy is the only candidate who has the experience to understand that our job creation strategies must be tied to our interconnectedness and interdependence of our student-centered reform agenda and postsecondary completion agenda. Simply put, Randy knows that education = jobs. And more and better education = more and better jobs.


THE SMARTEST STATE IN THE SOUTH: Randy believes Tennessee is poised to be the smartest state in the South by 2025 as measured by postsecondary credentials (beyond a high school diploma). As architect of Tennessee’s Drive to 55, Randy will work tirelessly to complete the mission of reaching 55%+ postsecondary educational attainment by 2025. Randy gets that education = jobs, and it starts with a world class K-12 education that prepares our kids for college and career. Randy calls it the K–to–J pipeline (kindergarten to a good job). Randy has experience in creating 700 jobs as a businessman, and as commissioner of ECD, Randy helped create 50,000 new jobs in two years of public service. Randy understands that all new and existing economic projects rely on a strong local and regional workforce bench. He will be a relentless champion and chief advocate for providing opportunities for all Tennesseans to attain more skills, certificates, credentials and degrees to help them advance in growing careers. Randy will tie the K–to–J education reforms directly to the TN Promise and TN Reconnect opportunities and align them directly to tailored regional and local economic and workforce strategies.


COMMUNITY SCHOOLS: Randy believes education is local and personal. Decades of research confirms that student achievement is influenced by what happens in school and out. Students need great teaching, but some children bring to the classroom overwhelming poverty-related challenges and emotional and physical issues that need tending to as well. Randy championed and helped fund the Knox County’s Community Schools Initiative, pioneered at Pond Gap Elementary School, and now implemented in 14 local schools. It’s a common sense, holistic, local approach to use the school as a hub for organizing community resources to improve health and safety and student academic success, including academic enrichment, youth development, mental, social, physical and dental health and disease management. When the school becomes the heart or cornerstone of the community, good things happen. Randy will bring this kind of best practice model to local communities and neighborhoods, urban and rural, wherever the need exists. Randy believes every school can be a community school.


HIGH EXPECTATIONS LEAD TO HIGH ACHIEVEMENT: Randy believes that Tennessee children are just as talented, smart and full of grit as children anywhere else in the world. Randy rejects federally mandated standards like Common Core or overreach into our local school districts, and believes that Tennessee teachers and local partners have set our own high expectations, developed our own rigorous standards and aligned measurements which are the cornerstones for improving student learning. Randy believes our high expectations will keep us in the hunt for high quality jobs and continue to grow the economy in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. When we expect more, our kids can achieve more and the doors of opportunity will swing wide open for them to maximize their God given talents and potential.


TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS ARE EVERYTHING: At the core, Randy knows that the power of learning happens in classrooms with great, caring teachers and in schools with principals who create dynamic, supportive, effective and accountable school environments. Randy wants to make Tennessee the best state in the nation to teach and lead schools. Every child deserves a great teacher in every class every day every year. As a businessman, Randy understands that student progress and success are functions of great leaders and talented teachers who are committed to continuously improving professionally. Randy will make it a priority that Tennessee is truly the best state to teach and lead schools, and that includes not only the commitment to invest in teacher pay, but on creating positive and meaningful professional development conditions.


THIRD GRADE READING COMPACT: Learning to read before third grade is important to ensure that children then read to learn voraciously throughout their K–to–J experience. In Tennessee only 43% of third graders are reading at grade level. Students who are not reading at grade level by third grade have only a 5% chance of ever catching up to grade level through their entire K-12 experience. To help ensure that Tennessee’s younger students have the reading skills they need to succeed later in school – and in life – Randy will approach this critical milestone with the full attention and suite of resources, creating a “Third Grade Reading Compact” that will ensure early identification of at-risk students, focused reading interventions and monitoring plans. A “Third Grade Reading Compact” can focus our collective priorities on this most fundamental learning milestone and we will build on what is working and find new ways to help our kids read at grade level by the third grade. Randy, through this new compact with parents, teachers and local community partners, will wage an intervention war on illiteracy, social promotion and remediation.


FEWER, MORE MEANINGFUL MEASUREMENTS: Randy believes the most important test is whether your child gets a great job. Measuring how our students are progressing is critical to student interventions, teacher feedback and development, and parent engagement and support at home. Without meaningful measurements that are communicated clearly and timely to students, teachers, principals and parents, we don’t really know whether our children are getting what they need and whether they are advancing or falling behind until it’s too late. Measuring learning is critical to making sure our public tax dollars are being spent wisely and effectively. Randy also wants to make sure we use common sense in testing, stressing that testing must be meaningful, effective, timely and informative, not random or duplicative.



INNOVATION, COMPETITION, SCHOOL CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Randy supports high quality charter schools and wants to expand successful experiences. Randy also supports the concept of vouchers as an opportunity to provide viable options for families stuck in underperforming schools. Randy steadfastly believes in empowering local communities to choose, own and drive the type of innovation that best fits their unique situation. As an entrepreneur and businessman, Randy understands the value of competition, innovation and consumer choice. Randy wants as many proven tools in our collective toolbox when it comes to creating a world-class education for all our children. But as a CEO, he also understands the value of data and evidence for what works, and what doesn’t. Tennessee has been a beacon for high quality school choice and innovation with a clear recognition that accountability is critically important. Randy believes in a straightforward approach when it comes to innovation in education: When we identify choice options that are working well, let’s do everything in our power to spread and scale success. Where innovation is not working effectively for kids, shut it down immediately. Randy will support innovation that works.


DELIVERING ON THE TN PROMISE: Tennessee is a national leader in creating tuition free opportunities for postsecondary training and education. Thanks to Randy’s leadership, Tennessee is the first state in the nation to commit to every citizen the opportunity to attend a technical or community college free of tuition and fees. As the chief architect of the Drive to 55, under Governor Haslam, Randy understands just how important this mission is to the State but more importantly to every student, parent and family. Reaching that goal in Tennessee will equate to $9 BILLION in additional income for Tennesseans, meaning more money in their wallets, purses and personal checking accounts. Randy has helped create a game changing opportunity for high school graduates and adults looking to finish college or upgrade their skills. The next Governor has the chance to deliver on this TN Promise. In order to finish the job, Randy will approach delivering on the TN Promise like he would a $9 BILLION economic development project.


NEW TECHNICAL TRAINING–EDUCATION CAMPUSES: Within the next decade, over half of all new jobs in Tennessee will require workers to have training and education beyond a traditional high school diploma. College means technical training and skills education, too, like welding, construction and mechatronics. Randy plans to expand the reach of the 27 technical colleges by proposing new technical–education campuses across Tennessee. As Governor, Randy will create opportunities for all Tennesseans to take advantage of TN Promise and TN Reconnect via new and expansive technical–education campuses. Every high school can serve as a technical and community college campus. Every high school in Tennessee can serve as a “dual enrollment” and “dual credit” campus for the community – where every student can pursue a high school diploma plus a technical “work ready” credential or community college degree at the same time. Randy believes that our time is now for re-imagining the traditional, static way we have delivered education and training. Randy is willing to challenge and disrupt the traditional notion that time is fixed and learning is variable. As Governor, Randy will create common sense opportunities in the education system where time can be variable and learning is competency–based, allowing students to fast track into opportunity skills pathways beyond high school.

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