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NAEP: An Instrument of Policy Change in Tennessee

NAEP: An Instrument of Policy Change in Tennessee 

Panelist Biographies:

Kristy Brown started her career as a high school teacher and principal and currently serves as the Chief Academic Officer at the Tennessee Department of Education. Prior to joining the Department in July 2023, she was the Director of Jackson County Schools, a rural school district in middle Tennessee, bringing a unique perspective from a school district lens. 

In her current role, she leads and oversees the initiatives in Early Childhood Education, Academic and Instructional Strategy, Special Education and Student Supports, Career and Technical Education, District CORE supports, and Human Capital. The Department's Office of Academics is focused on continued implementation of strategic priorities in Early Literacy, Innovative School Models, Learning Acceleration, and ensuring every student has a highly effective teacher in their classrooms. 

Dr. Candice McQueen began her tenure as Lipscomb University’s 18th president in September 2021. She has more than 25 years of experience in education spanning classroom teaching, higher education leadership, state government and nonprofit sectors.

In her first two years in office, Dr. McQueen set records including welcoming Lipscomb’s largest two classes of new students and overseeing the two largest giving days in university history. Dr. McQueen also launched a compelling new strategic plan, visited alumni in 15 cities on her Be a Light tour, started a new President’s Student Advisory Council, brought back beloved student traditions like Beautiful Day, and opened the new Center for Vocational Discovery.

Prior to her appointment at Lipscomb, Dr. McQueen was CEO of the National Institute of Excellence in Teaching, a national nonprofit founded by the Milken Education Foundation to encourage and incentivize teaching excellence in states, districts, universities, and classrooms across the country. From January 2015 to January 2019, Dr. McQueen served as Tennessee Commissioner of Education under former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. In this role, McQueen collaborated with 147 school districts, hundreds of non-public and charter schools to serve the one million students in the state of Tennessee. During her tenure, Tennessee saw its highest graduation rates, ACT scores, postsecondary attendance, and investments in teacher salaries in the state’s history to that point.

Before becoming the state’s top education official, Dr. McQueen served Lipscomb University as dean of the university’s College of Education and as senior vice president, which included oversight of Lipscomb Academy, the institution’s 1,300-student pre-K-12th grade college preparatory school. She joined Lipscomb’s education faculty in August 2001, serving as chair of the undergraduate education department before her appointment as dean of the College of Education in 2008. Under her leadership, Dr. McQueen led the college through tremendous growth and to state and national recognition for excellence in teacher preparation and teaching outcomes. She was also the founding director of Lipscomb’s Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation that launched in 2012.

Dr. McQueen began her career in education as a teacher in private and public elementary and middle schools in Texas and Nashville, was on adjunct faculty at Vanderbilt University and was an assistant instructor and supervisor of student teachers at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. McQueen has a Bachelor of Science degree from Lipscomb University, a Master of Education in school administration from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She is an alum of Leadership Tennessee, Leadership Nashville and Chiefs for Change. She serves on the boards of PENCIL Foundation, United Way, and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

In January 2015, Sara Heyburn Morrison assumed the role of the Executive Director for the Tennessee State Board of Education. In this role, she works with the nine-member, Governor- and Speaker-appointed board on policy review and development across all areas of K-12 education. The state board also plays an important role in oversight of K-12 implementation, which involves close partnership with the Department of Education, educator stakeholders and members of the general assembly.

Morrison first joined the State of Tennessee in July 2010 as K-12 policy advisor in the Governor’s Office. From 2011 through the end of 2014, she served as Assistant Commissioner of Teachers and Leaders at the Tennessee Department of Education where she directed and oversaw policy and implementation related to increasing educator effectiveness. During this time, Tennessee became the fastest improving state in the nation as measured by NAEP.

Morrison’s work in education began as a high school English teacher and cross-country coach. In 2007, she earned her National Board Certification in Adolescent English Language Arts. In May 2010 she earned an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Morrison also has a BA in English and a MAT, both from the University of Virginia. 

Morrison lives in Nashville with her husband, Mark, and three young children – Roscoe, Charlie, and Virginia.

State Rep. Mark White (R-Tenn.) has been Tennessee's state representative for District 83, which contains part of Shelby County, since 2010. He chairs Tennessee’s House Education Administration Committee.

White started his career as an elementary school teacher and later served as the principal of an elementary school before becoming a small-business owner. He co-founded the Global Children’s Educational Foundation, which provided financial assistance and educational opportunities to impoverished children in Panama.

White has received numerous awards and recognition for his legislative work, including the Tennessee Community Organizations’ Le

Jamie Woodson has been at the forefront of Tennessee’s work to increase student success. First in the Tennessee General Assembly and later as executive chair and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). Woodson currently leads TriStar Strategies, LLC, as founder and principal. Woodson serves as Senior Advisor to the Ayers Foundation Trust, the John M. Belk Endowment, the Haslam 3 Foundation and SCORE.

Woodson serves on the boards of The University of Tennessee, The Rodel Institute, and the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. She is an Aspen Rodel Fellow, Pahara-Aspen Institute in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education Fellow, and a Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellow.

During her legislative career, Woodson chaired the Senate Education Committee, served as Senate speaker pro tempore, and spearheaded efforts to identify and support effective teaching, raise academic expectations, turn around low-performing schools, and support student-focused innovation. In addition, she was a key leader in Tennessee’s work to transform public higher education by aligning Tennessee’s postsecondary system and the state’s economic goals through changes in academic, fiscal, and administrative policies.

Woodson earned her bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She was selected as a “Torchbearer”, the highest honor a UTK undergraduate can receive.

A Conversation with Senator Lamar Alexander about NAEP and the Governing Board on the Occasion of the Board’s 35th Anniversary 

Panelist Biographies

Lamar Alexander is the only Tennessean to be elected both governor of the Volunteer State and United States Senator for the state. He served twenty-six years total in those positions, longer than any other Tennessean who has held both jobs. He won six statewide primaries, more than any other Republican. Between serving as governor (1979-1987) and senator (2003-2021), Alexander led the University of Tennessee, helmed the U.S. Department of Education for President George H.W. Bush, and served on the faculty of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

During just his final year in the Senate, Alexander spearheaded several laws including: the Great American Outdoors Act; the law to simplify the FAFSA; and the law ending surprise medical billing and increasing transparency for health care costs.

As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from 2015 to 2021, Alexander shepherded 91 bills that became law. He was principal sponsor of many of these, including the 2015 “Every Student Succeeds Act,” which President Obama called “a Christmas Miracle,” and the Wall Street Journal described as the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter century.”

In 2016, the nation’s governors created the James Madison Award to recognize members of Congress who support federalism and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing states’ rights. The governors named Sen. Alexander as the first-ever recipient of the award for his work to fix No Child Left Behind.

As Governor, Alexander benefited Tennessee through both supporting private industry and improving the public sector. He helped bring the auto industry to Tennessee, recruiting Nissan and Saturn to open factories in the state and sponsoring three major road programs. Alexander led Tennessee to become the first state to compensate teachers more for teaching effectively and departed office with a state government that employed fewer employees, established the third-lowest per capita taxes in the nation, earned a AAA bond rating, and had zero road debt.

His colleagues elected him Chairman of the National Governors Association (1985-1986) and of U.S. Senate Republican Conference (2007-2012).

In addition to this commitment to public service and leadership, Alexander co-founded a Nashville law firm and two successful businesses:  Blackberry Farm, Inc. (1976) and Corporate Child Care, Inc. (1987). He is a classical and country pianist and the author of seven books.

Lamar Alexander is a seventh-generation East Tennessean, born July 3, 1940, in Maryville. His father was an elementary school principal and his mother was a preschool teacher. He married Leslee (Honey) Buhler on January 4, 1969, and they had four children.

Martin West is the academic dean and Henry Lee Shattuck professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and editor-in-chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research on education policy. He is also deputy director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Dr. West is a political scientist who studies the politics of K-12 education in the United States and how education policies affect student learning and non-cognitive development. He previously worked as a senior advisor to Senator Lamar Alexander, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, taught at Brown University, and was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. West lives in Mass., with his wife and three sons.

Tennessee Data from The Nation’s Report Card