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Academic Affairs

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.

  • Academic

  • Performance

  • Grant
    & Outreach
  • P-16

  • Core to

  • Chairs &

  • First to
    the Top

Academic Programs

In concert with the legislative changes enacted under the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010, the approval process for new academic programs was recently modified, and includes heightened attention to institutional mission distinction, a focus on the importance of institutional collaboration, and workforce development, and avoidance of duplication of programs and services.


Academic Policies

A1.0 - New Academic Programs: Approval Process

A1.0 - Attachment A (Financial Estimate Form)

A1.0- Attachment B (Letters of Intent)

A1.1- New Academic Programs

A1.1- Attachment A (Financial Estimate Form)


As described in Academic Policy A1.0, institutions wishing to begin the Letter of Intent process for proposing new academic programs should reference the following resources while conducting their initial feasibility study:


Institutional Mission Profiles
Program Actions

Academic Program Inventory

Annual Academic Program Review

Active Letters of Intent

Post Approval Monitoring Summary

2010 Supply and Demand Study

High Need Fields


Performance Funding

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.


Performance Funding 2010-2015 Cycle




Institutional and Governing Board Contact Information

2010-11 Update



Performance Funding 1978 – 1982 Standards (pilot cycles)

Cycle 1:  Performance Funding 1982 – 1987 Standards

Cycle 2:  Performance Funding 1987 – 1992 Standards

Cycle 3:  Performance Funding 1992 – 1997 Standards

Cycle 4:  Performance Funding 1997 –  2000 Standards

Cycle 5:  Performance Funding 2000 – 2005 Standards

Cycle 6:  Performance Funding 2005 – 2010 Standards


Peformance Funding: Points and Dollars Recommendations

Performance Funding Recommendations

Performance Funding Recommendations: Community Colleges

Performance Funding Recommendations: Universities



Outcomes-Based Funding Formula

Academic Program Inventory: Low-Producing

Community Colleges:  Embedded Certificates Proposal

Community Colleges:  Certificate Inventory

Accreditation Agency Report

High Need Fields

Student Sub-Populations

Assessment Implementation Training Workshop

NSSE in Tennessee- Key Findings 2011

CSSE in Tennessee- Key Findings 2011


Resources - National

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Council for Higher Education Accreditation

Educational Testing Service

NCHEMS Information Center

National Survey of Student Engagement

Community College Survey of Student Engagement

State Higher Education Executive Officers

October 2011 NSSE Workshop
Carnegie Classifications



Performance Incentives and Public College Accountability in the United States:  A Quarter Century Policy Audit (2010)

Higher Education Stakeholders' Perception of Tennessee's Current Performance Funding Policy (2005)

Changing Perceptions and Outcomes:  The Tennessee Performance Funding Experience (2004)

Designing State Incentive Programs that Work in Higher Education (1989)

Annotated Bibliography on Performance Funding


Grant and Outreach Programs

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.

Improving Teacher Quality Grants

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.


2015 ITQ RFP

Diversity in Teaching Grants

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.


2013-15 DIT Grant Awards



UTeach Replication Sites

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.


MTeach - Middle Tennessee State University

VolsTeach - University of Tennessee, Knoxville

UTeach Memphis - University of Memphis


SREB Programs

SREB Electronic Campus Program

SREB Electronic Campus Course Nomination Form

SREB Electronic Campus Program Nomination Form

SREB Doctoral Scholars Program

SREB Academic Common Market


Postsecondary Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Since 2007, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Council on Developmental Disabilities have participated in a statewide taskforce to increase awareness and develop postsecondary opportunities for students who have an intellectual disability and are seeking continuing education and career development opportunities at a Tennessee college or university.  Currently, there are two programs in Tennessee for students with intellectual disabilities:  Vanderbilt University and UT Knoxville.  The Think College website is an excellent resource for learning more about postsecondary education opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities across the nation.


P-16 Initiatives

Several P-16 Initiatives are housed within the Academic Affairs Division, the most notable of which is the higher education portion of Tennessee's First to the Top Program.


THEC First to the Top - See the First to the Top Tab

Tennessee Department of Education First to the Top

Core to College - See the Core to College Tab


Seamless Alignment and Integration of Learning Support (SAILS)

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.


SAILS Homepage

SAILS Presentation

Inside Higher Ed SAILS Story




Core to College Newsletter and Registration


Core to College Overview

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.


Core to College Interim Grant Report - November 1, 2013


Core to College Projects

Core to College Curriculum Alignment

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.


P-16 Curriculum Councils

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.


Additional Resources

  • Achieve: In partnership with Achieve, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Education Counsel have developed State Transition to High-Quality, College/Career-Ready Assessments: A Workbook for State Action on Key Policy, Legal and Technical Issues to provide states with a workbook to inform their transition to high-quality, CCR assessments, with a particular focus on the policy, legal and technical decisions states must address. This workbook (along with state team meetings and other supports) is meant to help each state evaluate its current readiness for this important transition, identify priority issues for state action and develop a work plan to guide assessment transition over time. Achieve will continue to revise and expand the workbook as appropriate to keep information updated and relevant.

  • Center for American Progress: A Guide to the Common Core State Standards - State Fact Sheets To better frame the conversation about the role of the Common Core, the Center for American Progress has compiled a series of 14 fact sheets on states implementing the Common Core. The series documents the current state of student achievement, demonstrates the imperative on why higher standards are important, and offers a side-by-side comparison on how the Common Core State Standards will raise student achievement.


  • Council of the Great City Schools: Communicating the Common Core State Standards: A Resource for Superintendents, School Board Members and Public Relations Executives (October 2013) This guide includes recommendations for key elements of a successful communications plan about the Common Core, including content (messages), spokespeople (key and secondary messengers) and delivery (strategies and tactics). It offers sample resources and materials from Council member dis­tricts and partner organizations. Finally, it includes a closer look at Raise the Bar Louisville, the public engagement campaign led by Jefferson County Pub­lic Schools in Kentucky, the first state to begin implementation of the Com­mon Core State Standards.

  • Education First: A Primer on Common Core-Aligned Assessments Education First has been working closely with state leaders, foundations and other organizations to help provide information, analysis and strategic support to facilitate sound decision-making and implementation of high-quality, Common Core-aligned assessments. This deck distills and synthesizes the key issues involved, and provides the most up-to-date resource on the content, use, purpose and quality of current state tests and PARCC, Smarter Balanced and ACT Aspire.


  • Education Week: A Common Core Status Tracker developed by Education Week tracks the development in various states of legislation seeking withdrawal from the Common Core State Standards. The tracker also provides a short synopsis and a timeline of recent actions for each bill. The site allows viewers to customize alerts to follow the progress/status of particular bills.

  • Education Week: ACT to Drop 'Explore' and 'Plan' Tests ACT Inc., is offering its Explore and Plan tests for the last time this school year as it gears up to debut a new suite of tests for grades 3-11 that are aimed at capturing a big chunk of the common-standards testing market. ACT intends its new Aspire system to fill the holes created by the disappearance of Plan and Explore, as well as those created by states' shifts to new Common Core assessments. Aspire, which will be available this coming spring, is being pitched aggressively to states as an alternative to PARCC and Smarter Balanced, which will be available in the spring of 2015. The Aspire system will cost states $20 per student for five subject areas: mathematics, science, reading, writing, and English. That's less than the price estimates PARCC ($29.50) and Smarter Balanced (about $22 or $27, depending on the package) have issued for their tests in English language arts and math. Aspire will be given online, although paper-and-pencil versions will be available for an extra $5 to $6 per student.


  • Education Week: New Tools Gauge Fidelity of Lessons to Common Core Several new tools have been designed to help teachers and leaders gauge alignment to the Common Core State Standards. EQuIP (Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products),originated with the work of three states-Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island-that designed a set of criteria to use in judging lessons and units for alignment with the standards. Other tools or processes designed to evaluate instructional materials for Common Core alignment include free portals by the two teachers' unions where teachers can post and comment on lessons, and a set of free online tools by Student Achievement Partners that can be used to judge the fidelity of instructional materials to the standards. For-profit groups-like the Austin, Texas-based Learning List, which uses panels of judges to size up instructional materials-are also wading into the alignment-evaluation business, and the Business Roundtable is talking with partners about creating a group to do "Consumer Reports-type reviews" of Common Core materials. Finally, a group of experts led by Maria M. Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, is creating a nonprofit to review the most widely used Common Core math materials.

  • Education Week: States Grapple with Common Test-Score Cutoffs The two common assessment consortia are taking early steps to align the "college readiness" achievement levels on their tests with the rigorous proficiency standard of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This move is expected to set many states up for a steep drop in scores since fewer than four in 10 children reached the "proficient" level on the 2013 NAEP in reading and math. Facing that music on yet another round of tests will be politically painful for the many states planning to use the Common Core exams being developed by the Smarter Balanced and PARCC in 2015. However, it appears unlikely that students themselves will feel the sting right away because states are taking a wait-and-see approach to attaching individual-level student stakes-such as high school graduation or grade-to-grade promotion-to those high cutoff scores.


  • Institute of Politics, University of Chicago: Video Implementing the Common Core: The Politics and Promise of Higher Learning Standards What is the Common Core? Does it represent a federal overreach? What challenges and opportunities does it present for students, teachers, administrators and parents? And how is it playing out in classrooms in Illinois? In this video, recorded October 24, 2013, we hear from key education stakeholders about how the Common Core standards will shape the country's challenging-and changing-education landscape. Interviews with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, are followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A.
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP): Leadership for Common Core NAESP released two surveys in December 2013 that examined principals' views of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative, as well as their preparation and ongoing support for implementation of the higher standards. The surveys, which reflect the views of 1,000 principals in 14 states that have adopted CCSS, reveal that principals overwhelmingly support the CCSS initiative and have a strong willingness to continue to engage deeply in instructional leadership activities as states move forward with the new standards. One of the surveys focuses specifically on urban schools.

 TN Core to College Logo

  • PARCC: PARCC Sample Test Questions Now Ready for Computer Practice PARCC has posted sample test items for every grade on the testing platform students will use when taking the field test later this spring. This means teachers, students, parents and others will be able to engage with the sample items using computer-based tools such as drag-and-drop, multiple select, text highlighting, and an equation builder. PARCC also released online tutorials that demonstrate how students will navigate the test; how to use the computer-based tools; and features that make the test more accessible for all students, including those with disabilities and English learners.



Chairs of Excellence

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.

Chairs of Excellence Academic Policy

Chairs of Excellence Roster

Chairs of Excellence 2013 Report



Centers of Excellence and Emphasis

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.

Centers of Excellence Policy

Centers of Excellence Roster

Centers of Emphasis Roster


First to the Top Overview

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


Integrating Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into Pre-Service Teacher Training Programs

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


Integrating Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) into Pre-Service Teacher Training

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.


Replication of the UTeach STEM Teacher Training Program

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.  UTeach programs have been established at Middle Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and University of Tennessee Knoxville.  Race to the Top directly funds the Tigers Teach program at the University of Memphis


STEM Professional Development

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.


Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs

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


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


School Leader Preparation Supply and Demand Study

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






Academic Affairs Contact Information


Betty Dandridge Johnson Vacant Herbert Brown
Associate Executive Director Assistant Executive Director Academic Affairs Analyst
Academic Affairs Academic Affairs 615-741-0060
615-741-7573 615-532-9704  
Melissa Stugart Victoria Harpool Courtney Lennartz
Core to College Director First to the Top Program Graduate Assistant
615-741-3055 Coordinator 615-253-8873