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Great Public Schools Criteria for Tennessee

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in Tennessee.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten:

State funding for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Pilot Program started in 1998 and was supplemented with significant TANF funds in the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years. ECE funds are distributed through a competitive grant process, and programs are operated by public schools, Head Start, private child care providers, and institutes of higher education. First priority for enrollment is given to children whose family income falls below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The state requires all programs to operate at least 5.5 hours per day, and all teachers must be licensed with a Pre-K endorsement, regardless of program location. (NIEER)

At least 5.5 hours per day of developmentally appropriate curriculum must be provided. Each program is expected to serve as a model early care and education program and as a training site for other program's staff. (ECS)

The legislation for the Voluntary Pre-K for Tennessee Act of 2005 was passed by both the House and the Senate in May of 2005. This law provides for the use of $25 million in excess lottery dollars to establish quality pre-kindergarten classrooms through a competitive grant process. The Voluntary Pre-K for Tennessee initiative is to provide for Tennessee's four-year-old children, with the first priority to those four-year-olds who are at-risk, an opportunity to develop school readiness skills (pre-academic and social skills) in an environment that fosters the love and joy of learning and promotes success in kindergarten and throughout the child’s life.

For more information about the benefits of early childhood education and the history of the Voluntary Pre-K for Tennessee initiative, visit the governor's Pre-K Web page. (TDOE)
Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program

Quality Conditions

Class Size.
Legal Basis:

  1. Pilot TENN. CODE ANN. § 49-6-3501. Enacted 1984
  2. TENN. COMP. R. & REGS. 0520-1-3. Issued 1985.

The legislation creates demonstration centers (operated by local boards) with class maximum enrollment of 17. Two hundred teaching positions were funded by the department of education. The demonstration centers are meant to provide information on the effects of reduced pupil-teacher ratio on the academic achievement of students.

The second statute specifies that local boards of education are required to implement policies ensuring that pupil-teacher ratios do not exceed ratio prescribed.

Current Average Elementary School Class Size: 19.7


Statute: Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-1-601 – 49-1-602, House Bill 3159 (2002 Regular Session)

Tennessee does not reward but it sanctions districts on the basis of performance. State sanctions on districts include the requirement that either the district or another entity create and implement a plan for improvement, or have the state take over the school district.

Tennessee does not reward but it sanctions schools on the basis of performance. State sanctions of schools include the requirement that either the school or another entity create and implement a plan for improvement, placing the school on probation, or take-over by the state.

Low-performing schools in Tennessee are placed on probation. The state allows the state commissioner of education to take any of the following actions against a school on probation for low performance:

After two consecutive years of probation, if  the school still fails to meet the AYP requirement, the state commissioner of education can assume any or all powers of governance for the school.

This policy was enacted as part of the state accountability system that was in place prior to the enactment of NCLB and appears to be unrelated to NCLB's AYP timeline. [49-1-602]