During her first statewide listening tour that began in 2015, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen met more than 10,000 teachers as she visited 121 schools in 82 districts.
Now she wants to hear from students, especially those in middle and high schools.
McQueen kicked off her second tour Tuesday with a visit to Arlington High School, northeast of Memphis. On Wednesday, she travels to the other end of the state for stops at Johnson County High School in Mountain City and Science Hill High School in Johnson City.
“Every decision we make is centered on what is best for students. It only makes sense that we include and elevate their voices into the conversations we are having as a state,” McQueen said in a news release announcing her new tour.
If Tuesday’s visit is any indication, the stops will include roundtable discussions with students — part open to news reporters and some exchanges closed to the media.
“How is your school getting you ready for the next stage of life?” McQueen asked about 10 Arlington students during the open part of the first roundtable discussion.
Answers varied from career-related clubs to having good teachers, whether in Advanced Placement biology or regular English.
Statewide, the discussions will cover topics ranging from opportunities to prepare for college and career, to school cultures and discipline, to the goals that students are setting and the supports they need to reach them, according to the news release.
McQueen also will meet with educators at each school she visits.
Tuesday’s stop was at the only high school in Arlington Community Schools, which broke off in 2014 from the newly consolidated Shelby County Schools in Memphis.
“Arlington High School has always been one I’ve followed,” McQueen said of her choice for launching another tour. “You see encouraging growth at Arlington High school. (It’s) encouraging to come to places that obviously have a plan for growth … and are doing things to really pull the community together around education.”
McQueen highlighted the school’s extracurricular activities and students’ opportunities to intern for or shadow local professionals.
Eighty percent of the school’s students are involved in some sort of extracurricular, according to principal Chris Duncan. “We know how important hands-on experience is,” Duncan said. “Kids have the opportunity during school hours to go out and shadow, do internships at places they may want to work someday.”
Recaps of each new school visit, often written by students, will be posted on the State Department of Education’s Classroom Chronicles blog.