School districts in Tennessee can now apply for Innovative School Model Grants that focus on job training for students.

“Through reimagining the middle or high school experience, students will have a variety of opportunities to gain real-world experience, explore various industries and available jobs, and choose a pathway best suited to their skillset,” said Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I thank Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly who passed this historic opportunity, all districts interested in applying for this funding, and those who helped us celebrate throughout the month.”

The state plans to give out $500 million in grants to schools that apply and are accepted into the program, which was piloted last year.

“In May 2021, the department awarded 21 school district Innovative High School Model grants, which included an initial investment of $30 million to foster local community partnerships that boost student readiness,” according to a TDOE release. These partnerships have already shown an incredible impact on students’ experiences and readiness for the workforce and postsecondary opportunities.

Innovative School Models are meant to prepare Tennessee’s students to join the workforce in a job that is suitable for their skillset. There is a heavy focus on “reimagining the high school experience,” as mentioned by Schwinn.

“The future of innovative programs to boost student and workforce readiness in Tennessee is brighter than ever,” TDOE says. “Through reimagining the high school experience; becoming more strategic about engaging younger students in career exploration; expanding access to courses; improving how data is collected and used; and being even more intentional in how we listen to—and learn from—Tennesseans, we will continue to keep our state’s workforce strong for years to come.”

In addition, the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously passed a law requiring school districts to implement new computer science course guidelines.

“The new computer science requirements include providing professional development for teachers to successfully implement computer science instruction, all elementary schools must provide each student with a grade-appropriate computer, all middle schools must provide students access to computer science instruction for a minimum of at least one grading period of one school year, and all high schools must provide all students who pursue a traditional diploma with at least one course credit of computer science education,” TDOE says.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Autoshop Class” by the US Department of Education. CC BY 2.0.