Tennessee Students Hit Five-Year High on ACT

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 | 7:59am

NASHVILLE — For the third straight year, Tennessee public high school students improved on the ACT, administered to all students statewide. The average composite increased from 19.3 last year to 19.4 this year, adding to what has been a three-year pattern of growth for the state.

Though this increase is incremental, Tennessee continues to be a state making steady gains while the national average has remained stagnant. In addition to overall growth, more Tennessee students than ever before are scoring college ready in all four subjects (math, English, reading, and science), showing a four percent increase from 2011. Even with this growth, only 27 percent of students met the college ready benchmark in math, 35 percent met the benchmark in reading, and 17 percent met the benchmark in all four subjects. 

“We are proud that our students are continuing to show growth on the ACT. It is particularly encouraging considering the urgent need for us to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.  “A high school diploma is no longer enough to ensure success after graduation. Our teachers and parents need better information every year to ensure our students are on track to be college and career ready.”

Beginning this school year, TNReady will serve as the new and improved TCAP test for math and English language arts in grades 3-11. TNReady is designed to assess true student understanding, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. TNReady measures problem solving and critical-thinking skills, providing more and better information to parents on what students know and can do. Information from TNReady will help parents and teachers tailor their support to individual students, ensuring that all students are on track for success after graduation.

While TNReady will help measure students' progress annually, ACT results are a critical benchmark to measure college and career readiness at the high school level. The department’s goal, as detailed in the department’s most recent strategic plan to be released in September, is to raise the average ACT composite score to 21 by 2020, allowing more Tennessee students to earn the state's HOPE scholarship. 

Seventeen school districts already have an average composite at or above 21, and 45 Tennessee school districts have an average ACT composite above the state average of 19.4. Tullahoma City Schools posted the largest gains in the state from 2014 to 2015, raising their average composite by two points to a 22.4. Germantown Municipal Schools had the highest average ACT composite in the state at 24.1, and Knox County had the highest average composite out of the four large urban districts in Tennessee, ranking 20th in the state for their average ACT composite at 20.7

Tennessee is one of 13 states nationwide that require all students to take the ACT.