The Academic Affairs Division performs a wide array of tasks related to academic programming at Tennessee colleges and universities, and is the THEC division charged with reviewing and evaluating new and existing academic programs at universities and community colleges. The Academic Affairs Division also monitors compliance with certain facets of the Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA) of 2010, coordinates the state Performance Funding program, and administrates federal and state grant programs.
In concert with the legislative changes enacted under the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 and the 2014 Moratorium, the academic policies for new academic programs was revised and approved by the Commission at the January 29 2015 meeting. Effective July 2015, governing boards should adhere to these policies in submitting a Letter of Application for proposing any new academic programs. Major revisions to Academic Policies A1.0 and A1.1 are as follows:
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission's Performance Funding program has been in operation for over thirty years. It is nationally recognized as a successful statewide supplemental funding incentive to encourage continuous improvement of programs and services. All public universities and community colleges have been able to earn additional funds (up to 5.45 percent of the institution’s state funding) on the basis of quality improvement as measured by a common set of indicators.
The incentive has encouraged institutions to build comprehensive evaluation systems whereby they can reliably measure student learning. The Performance Funding Program serves as an accountability instrument for each five-year Master Plan and tracks measures the Commission is statutorily required to report annually to the Tennessee General Assembly. For the 2010-15 cycle, institutions will focus on two quality standards: Quality of Student Learning and Quality of Student Support and Success.
The Chairs of Excellence program began in the midst of the education reform and improvement measures passed by the General Assembly in the mid-1980s. This program brings eminent scholars to Tennessee public institutions and attracts research initiatives and private funding to our state. The program has resulted in an unprecedented level of donations to higher education from private and corporate sources.
In 1984, the General Assembly and the Governor of Tennessee announced the creation of a new "Centers of Excellence" program for Tennessee public higher education. Selected through a statewide competitive process, the Centers of Excellence are designed to build upon the research strengths of the campuses of Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee. Their purpose is to focus on the capabilities of public higher education to serve the people of Tennessee by expanding the state's research base; thereby, increasing its national and international stature and its economic competitiveness.
The Centers of Emphasis program (formerly called "Campus Centers") began in 1984 with matching funds from the state. The Centers have been established at each community college on a competitive basis through formal proposals submitted to the Tennessee Board of Regents for approval.
In 2010, Tennessee was awarded $501 million by the federal government’s Race to the Top competition. Tennessee’s First to the Top program centers on five areas of improvement: Great Teachers and Leaders, Standards and Assessments, Data Systems to Support Instruction, Turning Around Low-Performing Schools, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education. In addition, Tennessee has made a commitment to increasing student achievement, college and career readiness, and increasing access and success in post-secondary education. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission manages six projects that represent $20 million. Additional information on First to the Top work in Tennessee can be found at http://www.tn.gov/firsttothetop/.
The integration of CCSS standards into pre-service teacher training programs was developed to increase understanding of new standards and assist programs in incorporating the standards into pre-service curricula. The Higher Education Common Core Advisory Council was created to direct this work to reflect the needs of training institutions. To date, 500 higher education faculty have attended training around these resources. THEC, the Higher Education Common Core Advisory Council and the Ayers Institute at Lipscomb University collaborated to create 19 video modules and accompanying resources demonstrating CCSS aligned lessons taught by proven highly effective Tennessee teachers. Resources can be found at http://www.lipscomb.edu/ayers/invest.
The goal of integrating of TVAAS training into pre-service teacher training programs is to increase understanding of value-added data in order to assist pre-service teachers in using data to target the unique needs of students. The project includes the creation of eLearning modules which have been used by 1,250 college professors and students in teacher preparation curriculum. The resources were highlighted by the National Council of Teacher Quality as outstanding resources for increasing data literacy. Links to the modules can be found below. In addition, research has been conducted to investigate the factors that impact the performance of teacher program completers once they enter the K-12 classroom. Two white papers and a study entitled Advanced Analytics can be accessed through the links below.
The UTeach Program was replicated in Tennessee with the goal of increasing the number of high quality STEM teachers. Based on the teacher training program at the University of Texas Austin, the UTeach program provides STEM degree majors the opportunity to simultaneously train as K-12 teachers. Currently, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and University of Tennessee Knoxville utilize the UTeach program to train undergraduate STEM teachers.
In the initial years of replication, the UTeach Institute provided program assistance and monitored the progress of new sites. The two most recent Progress Reports can be found below.
The STEM Professional Development project was designed to promote innovate practices in K-12 STEM classrooms by bringing together members of higher education STEM and education faculty to provide professional development to K-12 teachers. A total of 29 grants were distributed to 8 higher education institutions for a total of $4.5 million dollars. Since 2010, over 700 K-12 teachers across 57 counties have received professional development. An evaluation of the effectives of Round 1, Round 2, and an Overall Effectiveness reports are now available. . The STEM PD evaluation reports can be accessed through the links below.
In 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation requiring the publication of a report on the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs throughout the state. Tennessee Code requires reporting on three indicators: placement and retention rates, Praxis II scores, and teacher effect data based on Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores. Through First to the Top, the report now includes a demographic and academic profile of each teacher preparation program and trend data on the effectiveness of program completers over time. The Report allows programs access to data from which to make targeted improvements and provides the public information on the effectiveness of teacher program completers. Reports and data guidelines can be can be accessed at http://tn.gov/thec/Divisions/AcademicAffairs/rttt/report_card.shtml.
The US Department of Education released a report highlighting the work of Tennessee in producing the Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs. The report entitled “Tennessee Improves Teacher Preparation Programs through Report Cards” highlights the importance of using data to inform teacher training program curriculum. The report can be accessed at
The School Leader Preparation Supply and Demand Study aims to provide Tennessee’s nineteen school leader preparation programs and state policy makers the resources necessary to make data driven policy decisions around the training of school leaders in Tennessee. A report comparing new school leaders to state-wide averages on various indicators can be accessed below.
School Leader Preparation Supply and Demand Study
The Academic Affairs Division is responsible for outreach to institutions via both state and federal grant programs, including the Improving Teacher Quality grant program, Diversity in Teaching, the UTeach program, and SREB Doctoral Scholars Program.
This federal program was established to provide grants for colleges and universities to develop and implement workshops for K-12 teachers in the areas of mathematics, science and humanities. The purpose is to establish a collaborative planning partnership between higher education and K-12 education for teacher preparation and continuing professional development.
The Diversity in Teaching Grant (formerly known as the Minority Teacher Education grant program) is a competitive matching grant program that aims to increase the number of qualified teachers from under-represented groups who are committed to diversity as an instructional tool and entering the teaching profession in grades K-12.
In partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas-Austin, THEC is proud to announce the opening of three UTeach replication sites across the state. Each of these sites seeks to increase the number of K-12 Math and Science teachers in Tennessee by providing high-quality advising and instruction to Math and Science majors who wish to pursue a career in teaching. For more information, please visit one our three campus UTeach sites.
In partnership with the Tennessee Board of Regents and Chattanooga State Community College, THEC is currently piloting a statewide initiative to reduce the number of Tennessee students that require mathematics remediation. The SAILS program embeds high quality remedial math instruction in the senior year of high school, allowing students to address math deficiencies prior to entering higher education. Funded by the Governor’s Online Innovation budget, SAILS will reach over 8,000 high school seniors in 2013.
Core to College is a multi-state grant initiative designed to promote strong collaboration between higher education and the K-12 sectors in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments. Core to College is funded by Rockefeller Philanthropy Associates with technical assistance provided by Education First.
With the support of the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee, faculty redesign teams have been formed to assess and align the K-12 Common Core State Standards to credit bearing, entry level courses in English and Math.
Eight regional Curriculum Councils were formed in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education Centers of Regional Excellence (CORE) Offices to promote better communication and relationships between K-12 and higher education regarding Common Core implementation.
In 2006, the Tennessee Post- Secondary Education (PSE) Taskforce was created to increase awareness and develop postsecondary opportunities for students who have a developmental and intellectual disability, and are seeking continuing education and career development opportunities at a Tennessee college or university. The findings of the taskforce led to the implementation of the first pilot PSE program at Vanderbilt in 2009. The taskforce continues to meet quarterly and has since been renamed as the Tennessee Alliance of Postsecondary Education Opportunities. Currently, there are four programs in Tennessee for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities: Vanderbilt University, UT Knoxville, Lipscomb University, and The University of Memphis. The Think College website is an excellent resource for learning more about postsecondary education opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities across the nation.
With the passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act amendments (PL 110-315) in 2008, students with developmental and intellectual disabilities were granted access to higher education and federal financial aid. Students with developmental and intellectual disabilities attending an approved Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP) can apply for federal financial aid to cover their educational expenses. Currently, PSE programs at Vanderbilt University, Lipscomb University, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville are eligible CTPs.
The Tennessee STEP UP Scholarship is a program designed to assist students with developmental and intellectual disabilities who have completed high school in Tennessee, and enroll in an eligible PSE program within 16 months of completion. All four of the PSE programs in Tennessee are considered eligible programs for the STEP UP scholarship.
Eligible students will receive $1,750 per semester. In order to receive the scholarship, students and parents must complete the STEP UP scholarship application and submit the completed application to the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC). A full listing of student and program eligibility requirements can be accessed on the TSAC website.
Recipients of the STEP UP Scholarship must also complete the Free Application for Federal
Student Aid (FAFSA) which can be accessed using the following link: https://fafsa.ed.gov/