Northeast Tennessee College and Career Ready Consortium Webinar

Last Updated: October 27, 2011

This article appeared in the October 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Students in northeast Tennessee, like rural students in most regions, face challenges to college attendance that are unique to their experience and their rural locale. The Northeast Tennessee College and Career Ready Consortium (NETCO), in partnership with the Niswonger Foundation, won an Investing in Innovation (i3) award and works to ensure that all students, especially those from under-represented populations, graduate from high school and are prepared to enter and graduate college or begin a career.

The fourth in a series of Rural Trust webinars on innovation in rural schools featured the work of the Consortium.

Fifteen school systems, all in northeast Tennesse, participate in NETCO, which serves 27,200 students in 29 high schools. 

The Consortium works to increase both the rates at which students in the region attend, persist in, and succeed in college and are ready to begin a productive career.

The Consortium pursues this goal using several strategies, several of which focus on increasing the number and quality of courses available to students in all 29 schools. More specifically, the Consortium is partnering with colleges to expand dual enrollment. Its goal is to increase by 10% the number of students who graduate high school with at least on year's of post-secondary credit and by an additional 20% the number of students who finish high school with at least one-half year of post-secondary credit.

The Consoritum is also expanding the number of courses available to students online. And, it has built a distance learning system that enables schools to "share" teachers. Already the Consortium has used distance learning to expand the number of foreign languages available to schools from one or two languages to five, including Mandarin Chinese, German, Latin, French, and Spanish. The distance learning system has proven helpful in providing professional development to teachers as well.

Finally, the Consortium is expanding the number of Advanced Placement classes available in the schools.

A coordinating body reviews course needs and resources in all the schools and plans ways to increase rigor and fill course needs gaps.

In addition, to increasing course offerings, the Consortium has hired nine college and career counselors. These counselors help coordinate between schools and post-secondary institutions in the region. They help create mentorships between college students and students in their home high schools. Counselors work with parents and students to assist in college and financial aid applications. And, they arrange college visits for students - along with their parents. 

Overall, the Consortium aims to increase post-secondary enrollment rates from 70% to 80% and to increase first to second year college persistence rates by 15%.

Presenting the webinar were Scott M. Niswonger, President, Niswonger Foundation; Linda Irwin, NETCO Director; Dr. Vicki Kirk, Green County Director of Schools; and Dr. Dale Lynch, Hamblen County Director of Schools.

You can list to the webinar audio and download the power point at

Read more from the October 2011 Rural Policy Matters.