Over 50 percent of Tennessee public high school seniors raise score on ACT Senior Retake

Highest participation rate on record, 3,800 new students now eligible for $61.2 million in scholarships
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | 11:52am

NASHVILLE—Interim Commissioner Dr. Lyle Ailshie announced today that 76.1 percent of the state’s public high school class of 2019—53,478 students—participated in the department’s third ACT Senior Retake opportunity in October 2018, the state’s highest participation rate on record. Of those seniors who retook the ACT in 2018, more than 50 percent increased their composite score from their junior year score, a 10.2 percent point increase from 2017. Also, the average ACT composite score increased by 0.5 points for students who took the ACT during their junior year and through the ACT Senior Retake 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 that provide each student up to $16,000 to help pay for college in Tennessee. This number is up from 2,333 students in 2017.

The 2018 ACT retake also resulted in more students hitting the ACT college-readiness benchmarks across-the-board in each of the four tested subject areas: math, English, science, and reading. Meeting college-readiness benchmarks allows students to enroll directly into credit-bearing postsecondary coursework, avoiding remedial classes that take additional time and money and may make them less likely to graduate college. Scores earned from the 2018 ACT Senior Retake opportunity will save Tennessee students up to $11.4 million in remedial course costs.

Today’s results also highlight the efforts of local districts to ensure that the students whom research indicates will most benefit from a retake—typically those who were lower-performing—took advantage of this free opportunity. Twenty-eight hundred more students who scored below 17 on the junior day test participated in the 2018 retake compared to the 2017 retake. These students represented 34.9 percent of retake students compared to 31.2 percent in 2017. On average, these students earned a retake score that was 0.7 points higher than their original score, compared to an average 0.3 point growth for students who had previously earned a score of 25 or higher.

“Today is a proud day for Tennessee as thousands more public school students are eligible to receive HOPE scholarship funds, while more students can also enroll directly into credit-bearing postsecondary coursework,” Ailshie said. “We want students to graduate from high school with the ability to access whatever opportunity they choose to pursue, and too often low ACT scores create a frustrating barrier for them. The ACT retake allows another opportunity for our students to show what they know and earn the credit and scholarships that will set them on a path to success. I am grateful for the educators who have supported and taught our students along the way, enabling them to achieve success on college readiness exams such as the ACT. ”

Additionally, 88.2 percent of districts with a high school saw an increase in the percent of students earning a score of 21 or higher for students who took the ACT during their junior year and on the Senior Retake Day. Alvin C. York Institute, Perry County, Oneida Special School District, Lake County, and Moore County had the highest percentage point increase in the number of students who earned a score of 21 or higher on the Senior Retake Day.

Thirty-two districts had participation rates of 85 percent or higher with four districts in the state achieving an average participation rate of at least 95 percent of seniors who participated in both the junior state testing and the senior retake. Those four districts are Pickett County, McKenzie Special School District, Huntingdon Special School District, and West Carroll Special School District.

To learn more about the department’s college readiness exam initiatives, please visit the department’s website or contact Jerre Maynor, director of student readiness and pathways, at Jerre.Maynor@tn.gov. For media inquiries, please contact Chandler Hopper, deputy director of communications, at Chandler.Hopper@tn.gov or call 615-248-7073.