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Tennessee ACT participation up compared to previous years

The class of 2019 was the third cohort to have access to a free opportunity to retake the ACT.
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TENNESSEE, USA — Most of Tennessee's 2019 graduating class took the ACT in 2019, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced Monday. 

She said a total of 63,829 students from Tennessee’s 2019 graduating class took the ACT and earned an average composite score of 20. 

"This represents a 98 percent participation rate, which is an all-time high in the state. Of those students, 41.7 percent earned a score of 21 or higher, making them eligible for the HOPE scholarship," a release from her office said.

The class of 2019 was the third cohort to have access to a free opportunity to retake the ACT.

RELATED: TN Dept. of Education: ACT retake scores up in 2018

"The state’s investment in the ACT retake has yielded promising results," the release said. 

According to the state, fifty percent of students who participated in the ACT Senior Retake Day increased their composite score from their junior year in 2018.

"Additionally, 3,825 seniors raised their composite score to a 21 or higher, allowing them to access more than $61 million in HOPE Scholarship funds."

Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this opportunity on a statewide scale, according to the state and while the 2019 ACT composite is down slightly from the 2018 composite score of 20.2, the state said the decline in Tennessee closely mirrors national declines in ACT results.

“More Tennessee students than ever before are taking advantage of the ACT and ACT retake,” said Commissioner Schwinn. “It is critical that we continue to increase access to these high-quality opportunities for all students, no matter where they live. This is one way that we will build a foundation to set all students on a path to success.”

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According to the state, the average ACT score for the public school graduating class of 2019 in each subject area breaks down as follows: 

  • 19.6 in English, 0.1 point decrease from 2018,
  • 19.4 in math, 0.1 point decrease,
  • 20.5 in reading, 0.2 point decrease; and
  • 20.0 in science, 0.3 point decrease.

The Tennessee Department of Education uses students' best ACT score, meaning that if a student took the ACT multiple times, the score included in Monday's results reflect his or her highest score.

You'll want to note, this is different than ACT’s calculation, which reports results based on the last score a student received, and also includes results from private school students.

Seven of the sixteen districts located in distressed rural counties showed average composite gains from 2018 to 2019: Jackson County Schools, Scott County Schools, Clay County Schools, Fentress County Schools, Lake County Schools, Lauderdale County Schools, and McNairy County Schools.

Thirty-four districts, including Anderson County, Alcoa, Campbell County, Cumberland County, Greene County, Greeneville, Hancock County, Roane County, and Warren County had a 100 percent participation rate on the ACT for 2019 graduates, the department said. 

“Tennessee continues to show a strong commitment to advancing student achievement,” Commissioner Schwinn said. “As more students take this assessment, we are more aware than ever before of the diverse needs of our state. Our new strategic plan, Best for All, will strengthen supports around high-quality materials, the whole child, and our educators and leaders.”

ACT results serve as a national-normed measure to indicate college and career readiness. Under Tennessee’s accountability model, earning a 21 on the ACT is one of the four ways that students can indicate that they are prepared for life after high school and a seamless entry into postsecondary education, the workplace, or the military.

All ACT data can be found https://www.tn.gov/education/data/data-downloads.html under the section titled Additional Data- ACT Data