Dr. Candice McQueen has been NIET's chief executive officer since mid-January 2019. In her inaugural year at NIET, Candice is leading a comprehensive and collaborative vision-setting and strategic planning process focused on ensuring that NIET continues to successfully partner with states, districts, schools and universities to enhance educator excellence. Candice is also seeking to expand NIET's reach and services with attention to innovative practices that provide equitable opportunities for all students.
Candice has been a lifelong educator, and prior to her role at NIET, she was Tennessee's commissioner of education from January 2015 to January 2019. During her time at the state department of education, Candice led the creation of a new, educator-informed strategic plan, called Tennessee Succeeds, which later became the department's plan to transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The comprehensive plan provided aligned goals, priorities, and strategies focused on increasing college and career readiness for Tennessee's 1 million students. At each step of her work, Candice opened lines of communication between the department and external stakeholders, ultimately connecting with tens of thousands of Tennessee teachers in every county in the state throughout her time as commissioner.
Candice also undertook a number of initiatives to strengthen areas that support students' long-term success. In February 2016, she launched Read to be Ready, a bold and multi-faceted initiative centered on a goal of having 75% of Tennessee third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. Through statewide Read to be Ready summer camps, thousands of students have showed statistically significant gains in their learning and reading skills and thousands of teachers have increased their knowledge of how to teach reading to all students. Additionally, as part of Tennessee Succeeds, Tennessee has been a leading state in ensuring all high school students have access to a variety of college, career and technical education pathways. This has included offering all high school students the opportunity to take and retake the ACT for free—making Tennessee the first state in the country to do so—and supporting early postsecondary coursework and industry credentials in high school.
Under Candice's leadership, the department also increased transparency by working with families and community members to create new, user-friendly score reports for the state assessment and a new state report card website with user-friendly dashboard metrics and ratings. Similarly, the department and state board of education partnered to increase transparency in education preparation to clearly highlight the outcomes for education preparation providers as they prepare first-year teachers, as well as strengthen the review process for those programs. Further, Candice worked with state leaders and the Tennessee General Assembly to pass the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee history and advocated for historic increases in teacher salaries.
Candice has been a staunch advocate for focusing on human capital as the primary lever for change. In 2018, while Candice was commissioner, researchers at Georgetown University pointed to Tennessee's teacher evaluation and professional development model, which incorporates the NIET rubric and is supported by NIET, as laying the foundation for substantial, career-long improvement in the state's teachers and resulting gains in student achievement. In addition to being recognized as one of the fastest-improving states in the country over the past decade through its results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Tennessee has earned recognition from national researchers at Stanford University for its growth compared to other states. Additionally, Education Next noted the quality of Tennessee's academic standards moved from an "F" to an "A" over the past decade, with Tennessee also being the only state to both raise expectations and improve student performance simultaneously.
Before her role as Tennessee commissioner of education, Candice served as senior vice president and dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University. She also served as a higher education faculty member and department chair before being named dean in 2008.
While at Lipscomb, Candice served as a member of the university’s executive leadership team and oversaw both her college and the 1,300 pre-K-12 grade students in three schools at Lipscomb Academy. Under her leadership, Lipscomb's college of education and teacher preparation program were consistently highlighted as one of the top teacher training programs in the state of Tennessee for quality and effectiveness based on the Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs and was pointed out as the second-highest ranking program in the nation by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Candice also founded the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb. The institute has a focus on improving professional learning for teachers by focusing on embedded professional development, coaching and new approaches to leadership training and support.
Prior to joining Lipscomb University, Candice was awarded multiple awards for both her teaching and the curriculum design of a new magnet school. Candice has a bachelor's degree from Lipscomb, a master's degree from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She started her education career as a classroom teacher, teaching in both public and private elementary and middle schools in Tennessee and Texas.