Tennessee First to the Top

Fellowship Informational Webinar

The application window for the 2014 fellowship is closed. We are no longer accepting applications.

Tuesday, February 4th at 6 p.m. CST
All candidates interested in the 2014 First to the Top Summer Fellowship are invited to attend a webinar/conference call. Fellowship Committee members will discuss the fellowship and candidates can pose questions.

AT&T Connect iMeeting:
Click here: https://connect9.uc.att.com/service32/meet/?ExEventID=86604828

1. Choose one of the following numbers to dial:
* Caller-Paid number: (213) 270-2124
* Toll-Free Number (in USA): 888-273-3658
2. When prompted, enter the Meeting Access Code: 6604828#

To prepare in advance for the conference (for all devices): https://connect9.uc.att.com/service32/Prepare/.
To view supported Operating Systems and devices: http://www.corp.att.com/attconnectsupport/supporteddevices


2014 First to the Top Summer Fellowship - Updated 1/9/14

Deadline: Friday, February 7, 2014.

This is an exciting time for education in Tennessee. As the first winner (along with Delaware) of the Race to the Top competition, we created compelling goals and a plan designed to make us the fastest-improving state in the country in educational outcomes. Tennessee’s results on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed the most growth of any state, and the largest recorded growth on a single administration since NAEP began testing all states ten years ago. These results also confirm the progress we have seen on state assessments and other indicators. We still have a long way to go in improving results for all students and closing gaps, but we have seen exciting progress in how much students are learning at a statewide level.

The First to the Top Summer Fellowship is a remarkable opportunity to learn about and contribute to the work happening in Tennessee. During the 8-10 week program, the summer fellows will play an integral role in the innovative and ambitious work taking place at the Tennessee Department of Education. The goal of the program is for fellows to have an impact on key strategic projects in a limited amount of time. For the 2014 fellowship, we plan to select six fellows who will each receive up to a $7,500 stipend.

“The FTTT fellowship pushed and developed my understanding of education policy at the state level. With a background as an engineer and MBA student, I was able to apply my project management and quantitative skills to high-impact projects affecting early childhood, virtual learning, and school climate.”
– Greg Mattes, 2013 Fellow


“Spending the summer at TDOE gave me the opportunity to understand both the work that has gone into producing exceptional improvement in Tennessee to this point, as well as the steps that are being taken to extend those improvements in the coming year. I had the chance to understand how leaders across the state approach their work, from Commissioner Huffman, to various Assistant Commissioners, to principals and teachers taking part in the rollout of Common Core. I walked away with a better appreciation for the challenges of state-level work, but also the promise of that work when conceived smartly and carried out faithfully.”
– Jefferson Pestronk, 2013 Fellowship Leader


“I was impressed and excited by how dynamic and change-oriented the department is. I felt like all the work I did was meaningful and impactful, which is not always the case with short-term commitments.”
– Courtney Seiler, 2012 Fellow, current TEAM Program Analyst, Tennessee Department of Education


“I still value so much the incredible on-the-ground work experience I got during the fellowship, working with the Curriculum and Instruction team. I strongly feel the exposure I got to Common Core and Tennessee’s reform efforts in summer 2012 were instrumental in ultimately landing my current job as a policy and research associate at the Fordham Institute.”
– Victoria Sears, 2012 Fellow

The Fellowship

High-impact work on essential projects tied to our strategic priorities and First to the Top goals

Unique cohort experience that features opportunities for networking with a select group of diverse individuals through peer collaboration and cohort-based activities

Engagement with the department’s senior leaders and interaction with key education leaders across Tennessee

Immersion into the work of state-level education reform in a fast-paced, results-driven environment

Past fellows' projects:

  • Creating a district data tool to allow regional offices to easily match similarly situated districts with differing levels of student achievement for visits to learn from each other.
  • Reviewing textbook laws and processes from other states as well as Tennessee’s current process to help inform potential changes that would allow districts to better access the curricular resources they need.
  • Analyzing survey data on school climate in comparison with achievement data to look for correlations and help the office of safe schools consider how to help schools think comprehensively about efforts to improve student achievement.

Minimum qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Substantial full-time professional work experience
  • Demonstrated record of success in achieving outcomes
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills

Preferred qualifications:

  • Skills and experience in strategic thinking and planning, project management, and data analysis
  • Experience working toward project-based goals
  • Self-starter able to work independently and to execute within timelines
  • Flexibility and organization skills necessary to work on multiple projects/tasks simultaneously

Application process:

The deadline for all applications is Friday, Febrary 7, 2014. To apply, please submit the following materials to FTTT.Fellowship@tn.gov:

  1. Cover letter explaining your interest in the First to the Top Fellowship and the Tennessee Department of Education
  2. Resume
  3. 2-3 page writing sample demonstrating your ability to think critically and write clearly (excerpts are acceptable)

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and you may be invited to participate in one or more rounds of interviews. Applicants will be notified of their application status by Friday, March 7. Candidate decisions must be communicated to the department by Friday, March 21.

For additional information or questions, please contact Chris Harris at Chris.A.Harris@tn.gov.

Schools/organizations represented in past cohorts:

  • Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Franklin & Marshall College, Office of the President
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Teach For America
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Michigan Ross School of Business
  • University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education