OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday morning announced Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will leave state service in January to become the CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), a non-profit organization that helps states, districts, and schools attract, develop, and retain high-quality educators.
Her transition will come as Haslam’s two terms as governor come to an end.
According to Lowell Milliken, chairman and founder of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, Nashville will become the new base of operations for the group.
Haslam appointed McQueen in January 2015, and while serving as commissioner, the state has experienced record high graduation rates of 89.1 percent and the best overall statewide ACT average and best overall ACT participation rate in the state’s history at 20.2 and 97 percent respectively. McQueen introduced a new strategic plan and vision for schools called Tennessee Succeeds, which has focused on increasing postsecondary and career readiness for all of Tennessee’s 1 million students. She has continued the state’s trajectory as one of the fastest-improving states in the country in K-12 education, while adding historic gains in science, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“Candice has worked relentlessly since day one for Tennessee’s students and teachers, and under her leadership, Tennessee earned its first ‘A’ rating for the standards and the rigor of the state’s assessment after receiving an ‘F’ rating a decade ago,” Haslam said. “Candice has raised the bar for both teachers and students across the state, enabling them to rise to their greatest potential. I am grateful for her service and know that she will continue to make an impact on education in Tennessee and across the country.”
Jamie Woodson, CEO of the nonprofit State Collaborative on Reforming Education, had praise for McQueen.
“Her priorities have been the right ones for our children: improving student achievement, with a specific focus on reading skills; advocating for great teaching and supporting teachers to deliver high-quality instruction; and emphasizing that students and schools with the greatest needs must receive targeted focus and support in order to improve,” Woodson said in a statement reacting to the news.
McQueen’s work has touched students in all grade levels. She launched Read to be Ready, a multi-faceted initiative that is focused on improving students’ reading abilities in the early grades, which has already shown initial early successes. And a record number of high school students are now taking and earning credit for early college coursework.
“Serving as education commissioner has been the honor of a lifetime, and it has been especially significant to help lead Tennessee’s schools in partnership with a governor who has been incredibly focused on improving education for all of our students,” Commissioner McQueen said. “I am proud to see what our students and educators have accomplished in these last four years and know we have laid a strong foundation for continued success. Through my new role with NIET, I will continue to be an advocate for Tennessee’s teachers and work to make sure every child is in a class led by an excellent teacher every day.”
McQueen’s career has been focused on teacher effectiveness – first as an award-winning teacher; then as a faculty member, department chair, and dean of Lipscomb University’s College of Education; and for the last four years as Tennessee’s education commissioner.
“Candice McQueen understands that highly effective teachers can truly transform the lives of our children, our classrooms, our communities and our future,” Millken said. “Dr. McQueen’s deep experience in developing and supporting great teachers and her proven leadership in working with so many state and local partners will enable us to expand and strengthen NIET’s work across the country. Dr. McQueen will build on the 250,000 educators, 30,000 teacher leaders and 2.5 million students already impacted by NIET to better develop teacher leaders, increase student achievement and provide greater opportunities for all students. We are so pleased to have her on board and leading us from our new base of operations in Nashville.”