Woodson is the executive chairman and chief executive officer of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving Tennessee students’ success at the secondary education level.
She also previously served as a state senator and spent three terms in the state House.
“For me, I got into this work because I fundamentally believe that economic independence is one of the greatest gifts that we can give a citizen of our country,” said Woodson. “It’s what makes Tennessee an incredible place to live work and play; that a person can, through their effort, their labor and their choices feed their family and have the quality of life that they would like to choose for themselves.”
According to Woodson, in 2007, Tennessee received an F grade from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in truth and advertising in regards to education. The state claimed 90 percent of its graduated students were prepared for secondary education, but in reality, only about 25 percent were ready.
“This is like having kids practice on a 3-foot goal when we know the world is going to show them a 10-foot goal,” said Woodson. “If they’re practicing and slam dunking on a 3-foot goal, but the world expects of them to be able to function and aim and be successful on that 10 foot goal, we had a huge disconnect.”
Woodson joined the SCORE in 2011 dedicated to seeing an improvement in Tennessee’s students, who now rank as the fastest-improving students in the nation.
In 2010, Tennessee’s fourth graders were ranked 45th in the country in math and currently they rank 25th. Eighth graders in 2010 ranked 32nd in the country in science and currently rank 21st.
“This is real and meaningful historic success that the leaders of this state, the children of this state, have accomplished in a shockingly short period of time,” said Woodson.
Woodson stressed while her organization is happy with the results in the last several years, it is by no means satisfied.
“As I imagine a climb to a great summit, we would not get midway there, from the bottom to that point and say, ‘we’re the best of the bottom half,’ right?” said Woodson. “It’s progress, but that’s not really our goal. Our goal is to achieve that peak.”