TDOE Releases 2019-20 ACT State Results and Participation Rate Data

Friday, November 20, 2020 | 02:21pm


Participation Rate Remains Stable, State Average Composite Dips Slightly


Nashville, TN—Today the Tennessee Department of Education released the ACT state results and participation rate for the 2020 graduating class. Participation remained relatively stable with 62,564 graduates taking the ACT, and the state average composite ACT score for 2019-20 school year is 19.9, also relatively stable from the average composite score of 20.0 for the 2018-19 graduating class. 

The ACT provides an important opportunity for our state to understand students’ college and career readiness and how we are preparing the next generation to transition to post-secondary opportunities. Each fall, the department releases statewide ACT results for the most recent graduating class representing each student’s highest ACT score. ACT senior retakes allowed about a third of the 2020 graduating class to increase their highest ACT composite score. 

“Despite so many changes and challenges during 2019-20 school year, we are incredibly proud to report the state’s ACT participation rate held steady for 2020 graduates. This did not happen by accident,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “While we can all agree that we must continue the work to improve our student’s scores on the ACT, maintaining strong participation this year is a testament to the hard work of our districts, schools and educators across the state in supporting their students through an unprecedented pandemic.”  

Although the state and federal government waived mandatory testing including ACT participation, due to COVID-19, the rate of Tennessee students taking the ACT remained relatively stable, with a one percentage point decrease between 2019 (98% participation, 63,829 graduates) and 2020 (97% participation, 62,564 graduates). Twenty-seven districts had 100% participation rates for the ACT.  

However, fewer districts submitted appeals this year, which may contribute to the slight decline in the statewide composite score. Additionally, COVID-19 caused significant disruptions to in-person learning in the spring, which could have also affected performance due to limited opportunities for re-take and fewer ACT support programs. The department uses students' best ACT score, meaning that if a student took the ACT multiple times, the score included in today's results reflect his or her highest score. This is different than ACT’s calculation, which reports results based on the last score a student received and includes results from private school students. Only 1,107 appeals were received this year, down from 2,094 appeals in 2019. 

Access the 2019-20 ACT participation rate data here, under the Additional Data heading:

The average ACT score for the public school graduating class of 2020 in each subject area was:  

  • 19.5 in English, 0.1 point decrease from the graduating cohort of 2019,  
  • 19.2 in math, 0.2 point decrease,  
  • 20.5 in reading, equal to 2019; and  
  • 19.9 in science, 0.1 point decrease. 

College Ready Benchmarks are developed by ACT from research linking ACT subject scores to performance in the correlated course in college. These benchmark scores are 18 for English, 22 for Math, 22 for Reading, and 23 for Science.  

The average highest ACT composite score has been relatively stable over the last 5 years, hovering around 20.0. However, the percent of students in the cohort who score a 21 or higher has been declining in recent years, which can be seen across student groups.  

The percent of students meeting these college readiness benchmarks has fallen slightly in recent years, except for English—where the state saw an increase 0.4 percentage points this year but was still 1.7 points below 2018.  

District highlights include:

  • Germantown Municipal School District recorded a 25.6 average composite, the highest in the state.  
  • Tullahoma City Schools had the highest ACT composite growth, with 2020 graduates scoring a 21.8 average composite score on the ACT, compared to a 20.4 last year. 
  • Perry County School District showed the highest growth in percent of graduates scoring 21 or higher on the ACT, where 29.4% of 2020 graduates scored a 21 or higher, compared to 18.2% of 2019 graduates. Perry County, which is also a distressed county, also had the second highest ACT composite growth, raising the average score from 17.3 in 2019 to 18.7 in 2020. 
  • Additionally, 27 districts had a 100% participation rate. To view the districts with 100% participation rate, click here.

“We are so proud of our Tullahoma High School students and their achievement in demonstrating success with the ACT,” said Dr. Catherine, Stephens, Director of Schools for Tullahoma City Schools. “Achievement and growth are elements of the educational journey that we monitor and evaluate as we desire to meet the varied needs of our students to ensure they are college and career ready. We are especially proud of the fact that Tullahoma has the highest ACT composite growth. This is a testament to our talented teachers and outstanding students!” 

ACT results serve as a nationally-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. 

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact