An influential group that advocates for Tennessee public school students is expanding its K-12 focus by joining forces with another nonprofit organization that concentrates on college and career.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education, which launched in 2009 to advocate for policies intended to boost student achievement, will combine forces with Complete Tennessee, which formed in 2016 to try to help more students finish college or other educational training after high school.

The consolidated work was announced Monday by the founders of both organizations and comes as Tennessee is seeking to align its K-12 education system with training after high school so that more students are better prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

“Our goal is to bring even greater focus to boosting K-12, college, and career success across Tennessee,” said Bill Frist, the former U.S. Senate majority leader who founded the collaborative known as SCORE.  

Randy Boyd, interim president of the University of Tennessee, said moving Complete Tennessee under SCORE makes sense and will “accelerate our shared focus on college success and completion.” A former economic development commissioner under former Gov. Bill Haslam, Boyd founded Complete Tennessee as part of Drive to 55, the state’s initiative to get more Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate.

Under the new arrangement, Complete Tennessee will move its offices to SCORE’s Nashville headquarters, and its work will continue under the name of the collaborative. David Mansouri, who became SCORE’s president and CEO in December, will oversee the expanded agenda.

The two groups worked collaboratively on several projects last year including the gubernatorial debate on education and a “future ready summit” about policies and practices that aim to help students find routes to college, career, and opportunity. But the decision to join forces came after SCORE sought feedback from stakeholders this year while developing a new strategic plan to mark its 10th anniversary.

“There was widespread agreement that a more unified and aligned effort between K-12 and higher education was needed to ensure more students are attaining the postsecondary credentials needed for rewarding careers and lives,” said a press release from SCORE.

SCORE’s new strategic plan emphasizes not only preparing excellent educators and setting high academic expectations but aligning K-12 with college and careers.

“The lines between K-12 and higher education are becoming increasingly blurred, so the time is right for this unified focus,” Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee, said in a statement.

Barbara Hyde, a board member with Complete Tennessee who leads the Hyde Family Foundation in Memphis, praised Lovett and his team for “raising awareness and engagement about the importance of postsecondary access and completion in the state, especially the many equity challenges we still face.”

SCORE and Complete Tennessee are supported by some of the same Tennessee-based philanthropic groups, including the Hyde and Ayers foundations. (Chalkbeat, which is an independent and nonprofit news organization, also receives funding from several of their funders. You can find our full list of supporters here.)