Cane Ridge High receives governor, recognized for academic excellence

Cane Ridge High School in Antioch received significant recognition Thursday when Governor Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited the school to discuss a broadband initiative but also the education Drive to 55 program, designed to achieve the goal of having 55 percent of high school graduates attend post-secondary schools.

Cane Ridge High School was one of two featured in today’s report Seamless Pathways: Bridging Tennessee’s Gap Between High School and Postsecondary. The report indicates that Cane Ridge is one of only two Tennessee high schools that have “bridged the gap.”

Cane Ridge High School in Antioch.

According to the report, Cane Ridge, a school where 75 percent of the student body is economically disadvantaged, saw an increase of postsecondary enrollment from 55 percent of the student body in 2013 to 62 percent in 2015.  This is one of the largest gains by a large urban school in Tennessee.

According to Principal Michel Sanchez, credit goes to the school’s system of four academies – Arts and Communication, Health Management, Architecture and Construction, and Law. She also cited strong commitment from the schools six counselors as well as the school’s 40-plus community partners.

Finally, students are also graded on “college and career readiness,” in which factors such as being on time, respectfulness, and other “soft skills” can impact student grades.

The school hosted approximately 1,000 visitors for the announcement.

The second school singled out in the report is Grainger High School in Grainger County in northeast Tennessee

Since the 2013 launch of the Drive to 55—the governor’s initiative for 55 percent of Tennesseans to be equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025—leaders and educators in K-12 and higher education have risen to the challenge of preparing more students for life beyond high school.

To further these efforts, Tennessee has implemented a series of nationally recognized efforts aimed at helping high school students transition from graduation to postsecondary. These include providing financial support and mentorship through Tennessee Promise; sharing more guidance with students through AdviseTN; offering more early post secondary opportunities and increasing the spotlight on students’ access to them through a new school-level accountability framework; and hosting focus groups with high school students to hear firsthand about their experiences.

Additionally, Tennessee was named recently as a recipient of the highly competitive $2 million New Skills For Youth grant designed to build on locally and regionally led efforts through the statewide Pathways Tennessee initiative, which works to strengthen and expand education-to-career learning pathways for Tennessee’s students.

Even with this renewed focus, Drive to 55 remains an ambitious goal that will require the state to support and equip more high school students to be successful after graduation, especially as the job market increasingly demands credentials beyond a high school diploma.

“When you’re recruiting companies to Tennessee, you learn right away that conversations about economic development become conversations about education,” Haslam said. “Education isn’t K through 12, it’s K through J—kindergarten to job, and we won’t meet our Drive to 55 goals if we don’t succeed in K-12. We’re focused on getting students ready for college, into college, out of college and tying their education directly to workforce needs, and we’re seeing incredible results. Now we need to build on this success throughout our pipeline to make sure students’ high school diploma serves as a seamless passport into college and career success.”

“Tennessee is set to become the national leader in preparing students for the workforce of tomorrow.The opportunity to lead the nation is here. The opportunity to serve all students is here,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “The programmatic vision put into place by the Governor under Drive to 55, along with the aligned efforts of existing agency programs and priorities, has afforded Tennessee an opportunity to go further than any other state in implementing a seamless kindergarten-to-job approach for our students. And now, we have the ability to make research-based decisions about how to strategically invest our time, energy, and resources to maximize our students’ potential.”

Today’s release and launch event will help the department build on progress to date by highlighting where the state can continue to improve in K-12. Based on evidence presented in the Seamless Pathways report, the department offers four recommendations that districts, schools, and community stakeholders can employ to help students take advantage of postsecondary opportunities:

  1. Foster collective responsibility among middle and high school faculty and staff for the postsecondary preparedness of their students.
  2. Communicate with students about their postsecondary and career options early and often.
  3. Ensure all students have equitable access to course opportunities to increase postsecondary readiness and success.
  4. Leverage external partnerships and resources for added capacity, expertise, and influence.

Today’s report acknowledges these efforts will take a tremendous amount of work and calls for significant support from all partners—from public officials to community organizations and foundations to educators and parents—to support our schools and students. As a complement to this call to action, last month the state’s Career Forward Task Force—a group of industry leaders, non-profit organizations, state agencies, advocates, educators, parents and students—released its next steps to help ensure the further development of seamless learning pathways that successfully transition students from high school to postsecondary education and the workforce, as well as its profile of what academic, technical, and employability skills a successful K-12 student should possess at time of graduation. Both releases make clear that though Tennessee has made notable strides, more must be done across local, regional and state levels to ensure all students are set up for lifelong success.

Editor’s disclosure: Clay Morgan, Publisher of is a teacher at Cane Ridge High School.