Two UC school districts win grants for innovative high school models

$30M investment to reimagine high schools, boost postsecondary success

NASHVILLE — Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced two Upper Cumberland school districts, Macon and Cumberland County Schools, were among the 21 school districts awarded grants for the new Innovative High School Models program, intended to foster local community partnerships that boost student readiness and prepare high schoolers for jobs and careers in their local communities.  

The goal of the Innovative High School Models program is to encourage strong, strategic and innovative partnerships between Tennessee public school districts, postsecondary education institutions and local employers to reimagine how to prepare students for success after high school.

“Tennessee is investing $30 million to encourage school districts to reimagine the possible and create innovative, high-impact high school experiences for all students by developing strategic partnerships with business and industry in their local community,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Building upon our state’s history of strong public-private partnerships, the Innovative High Schools Models program will provide more opportunities for students to explore and succeed in high-demand careers, for industry to develop local talent and for schools to creatively meet the needs of their community.” 

In total, $30 million in grant funding was awarded through a competitive application process, with individual grant awards from $750,000 to $2 million, to establish strategic partnerships that accelerate and increase student attainment of high-quality, in-demand postsecondary credentials.

The grant awardees were selected based off their commitment to rethink and revision high school educational models – from the use of time and space, entrance requirements, instructional practices and modes of learning, scheduling and mentorship and training opportunities available to students – to provide new and additional pathways for students to be prepared for postsecondary success.

“These Innovative High School Models are another important step in connecting education to work,” said Commissioner Jeff McCord, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “It’s initiatives like these that help increase the prosperity of young people and the communities in which they live.” 

The 21 Tennessee school districts receiving grants, including a brief summary of their strategic partnership(s), are as follows:

  • Macon County Schools: TAPping Beyond Boundaries will support a state-of-art TAP Program of Study for students from Macon and Jackson counties by accelerating and developing the next generation of teachers by reimagining modes of learning, time and partnerships.
  • Cumberland County Schools: Cumberland County Schools will partner with Azure Flight Support to assist with the development of a training curriculum and provide expertise to train simulator instructors in flight.
  • Hamblen County Schools: Turning Pathways into Highways is a workforce ready partnership with Cocke County Schools to move students through career awareness, exploration and immersion via high quality CTE programs of study.
  • Gibson County Special School District: Pathways to Success Project allows students to attend high school through a modified school day at a partnering employer’s facility instead of the traditional classroom setting on a high school campus while also participating in a Career Advisement Program.
  • Rutherford County Schools: Empower Today’s Students to Grasp Tomorrow’s Opportunities will offer industry certification training classes after school hours and allow students to participate in employer led boot camps on jobs to learn soft and entry-level skills.
  • Clarksville-Montgomery County School System: The vision of CMCSS and this partnership is to be the leaders in innovative workforce development by meeting the vital needs of business and industry through the reimagining of the high school model with meaningful and seamless transitions from secondary to post-secondary to careers. 
  • Bradley County Schools: PIE Innovation Center will create an innovative student experience through collaboration with business, industry and nonprofit organizations changing learning pathways, providing experiential learning in STEM, embedded work-based learning experiences and the promotion of design thinking.
  • Shelby County Schools: Shelby County Schools will transform Bolton High School into a nationally prominent AgriSTEM high school where time, space, partnerships and modes of learning have been reimagined throughout the school.
  • Oak Ridge City Schools: Oak Ridge will be creating i-School, an integrative ecosystem learning model, that includes a school-based enterprise, solving real-world problems with iterative models and design thinking and will collaborate with Roane State Community College, The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratories Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (ORNL MDF).
  • Wilson County Schools: Wilson County Early College will grow their own workforce in high-demand, high-wage careers by aligning middle school and high school CTE programs to early college programs that allow students to earn industry certifications and associate degrees while in high school.
  • Cheatham County Schools: Cheatham County Schools, in partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville, Cheatham County Economic and Community Development Board and Cheatham County industries, A.O. Smith and Nashville Fabrication, will create a welding and automotive pipeline program in order to ensure a strong future workforce in both Cheatham County and Middle Tennessee.
  • Hardeman County Schools: Hosted primarily at Lone Oaks Farm, an outdoor, STEM education center of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, a new high school program will give students an opportunity to gain postsecondary credit and obtain industry approved credentialing and professional certifications.
  • Alcoa City Schools: TCAT Knoxville and the Alcoa Tornadoes- Funneling Students Into Successful Health Care Careers– will allow students to become part of the nursing pipeline for the area healthcare industry by reducing barriers to early postsecondary opportunities and providing supports and experiences so that all students can achieve success.
  • Collierville Schools: Collierville High School will collaborate with Helena Chemical, Rantizo Drones and with local global transportation and logistics company, FedEx, to provide a pathway to career opportunity in the agricultural industry as well as in the transportation/logistics pathway.
  • Hamilton County Schools: Hamilton County Schools and Chattanooga State Community College will create a MicroCollege program to provide a core set of introductory college courses during high school and offer a supportive environment in which students can earn dual credit toward their high school diploma and introductory college courses.
  • Bristol Tennessee City Schools: The new Tennessee High School Viking Career Center, an off-site innovative alternate learning program, will provide personalized educational and work-based learning options for students who choose an alternative pathway.
  • Carter County Schools: Carter County Schools will partner with Northeast State Community College and TCAT in Elizabethton to better prepare students for career readiness.
  • Wayne County Schools: Collinwood High School will transform the Bevis Educational Center into a forestry training center for students to take traditional and postsecondary coursework and access work-based learning opportunities.
  • Jackson-Madison County Schools: Innovation Impact Institutes will be created through a partnership between JMCSS and community organizations and postsecondary institutions to provide educational experiences for students through nontraditional schedules, learner-paced curriculum, and work-based learning opportunities.
  • Tullahoma City Schools: Tullahoma Virtual Academy (TVA) will provide students three possible pathways for accessing TVA courses: full-time virtual, FLEX and part-time virtual. Students will have the ability to customize their high school experience and support their individual needs.
  • Sequatchie County Schools: Reimagine Sequatchie County High School by Building UP STEAM will provide students with work-based learning opportunities, internships, apprentice opportunities, practicum experiences and dual enrollment opportunities with partners in the community.

This program will also help reinforce the work of the Tennessee Pathways model, which supports alignment among K-12, postsecondary, and industry partners to provide students with relevant education and training to jumpstart their postsecondary degrees and credentials. 

“The Innovative High School Models Grant initiative provides school systems with the opportunity to rethink their traditional approaches to education and provide students with increased opportunities to achieve postsecondary credentials and workplace skills,” saidBrandon Hudson, senior director of Workforce and Economic Development for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. “It is exciting to know that school districts now have the opportunity to meet students’ needs through innovative and non-traditional means. No longer will time and space be a barrier for students in reaching all their postsecondary and career-ready goals. Through increased partnerships and innovative modes of learning, these districts can now put all students, especially those often underserved in the traditional approach to education, on a pathway to success.”

This grant program is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funding. 

Information about the grant application process can be found here. For additional information about Tennessee’s Career and Technical Education initiatives and programs, including Tennessee Pathways, click here.

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