Candice McQueen, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education announced that Tennessee public school students have once again broken the previous year’s record by earning an average composite score of 20.2 on the ACT in 2018.
Tennessee public high school graduates improved from the 2017 average of 20.1, with more than 2,000 additional students taking the exam this year, bringing the state’s participation rate up to 97 percent – also a new record high. The results also show that 1,463 more Tennessee public school graduates became eligible for the HOPE scholarship by earning composite scores of 21 or higher.
Elizabethton High School students broke the school’s ACT score, with an average composite score of 22.
"The ACT provides an opportunity for our students to show they are college and career ready, and seeing a higher average score at the same time more students are taking the test is a true testament to the work that is happening in Tennessee schools,” McQueen said. “Our schools are increasingly moving toward deeper teaching and learning that meets our higher expectations, and that focus pays off on tests like the ACT and SAT.”
Tennessee has focused on improving ACT results and expanding all students’ access to college and career readiness opportunities more broadly. The class of 2018 was the second group to have access to a free opportunity to retake the ACT, which the department expanded to ensure more students can retake the exam.
As Tennessee has removed barriers to retaking the ACT, the state has seen promising results from all students, specifically those who are economically disadvantaged, as previously noted. Nearly 52,000 students in the class of 2018 participated in the department's ACT Senior Retake Day last fall. Of those, nearly 40 percent increased their overall score. Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this opportunity on a statewide scale.
ACT results serve as a nationally normed measure to indicate college and career readiness. Under a new state accountability measure, called the Ready Graduate, earning a 21 on the ACT (or the equivalent on the SAT) is one of the four ways that students can indicate that they are prepared for life after high school and able to seamlessly enroll in postsecondary education and enter the workplace or the military.
While ACT is a survey test that is given in students’ 11th-grade year and looks at the scope of what they have learned throughout their K-12 education, it is complemented by TNReady, which is a deeper, standards-based test that looks at what students learn annually and provides teachers and families with feedback each year. Together, assessments like the ACT and SAT along with TNReady help to make sure students are ready for their chosen path after high school.
"With increased ACT access and participation, our state has sent a strong signal to the country that Tennessee is committed to providing opportunities for our students’ futures,” McQueen said. “With these results, more students are able to receive scholarship dollars, gain entry to postsecondary programs, and eliminate the need for remedial classes, allowing them to start their journey to lifetime success from day one.”
Because of the importance of the ACT in the college and scholarship application process, Elizabethton City Schools have taken a number of steps to increase achievement. At the high school, this includes an ACT Day in all grade levels in which freshmen, sophomores, and juniors take a practice test, and seniors do the free ACT retake provided by the state. Tennessee is the first state to offer a retake for free, and this it’s second year.
All students that test receive detailed feedback through a program called Analyze Ed. This service is provided by the school at no cost to students, so they will receive more than a score and will know exactly how to improve.
ECS principals and supervisors believe ACT success begins in elementary school. Representatives from all school levels participate in a regional ACT Collaborative with other northeast Tennessee school districts to help promote the test and recognize success.
Last year, EHS mounted an Academic Success Wall by the front office that recognizes all students who received a score higher than 30 or who increased their score by two points. These students are also recognized on the school website and social media. Students who score higher than 30 are recognized on a billboard.