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More than half of Tenn. public high school seniors raise ACT score with retake

Staff Report • Jan 17, 2019 at 1:28 PM

NASHVILLE — More than three-fourths 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, interim Tennessee Commissioner of Education Lyle Ailshie announced Wednesday.

The exact tally was 76.1 percent.

“Today is a proud day for Tennessee as thousands more public school students are eligible to receive HOPE (lottery) scholarship funds, while more students can also enroll directly into credit-bearing postsecondary coursework,” said Ailshie, former Kingsport superintendent of schools. “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.”

This marks the state’s highest participation rate on record. Of those seniors who retook the ACT last year, 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.

In addition, 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. That 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.

The results also highlight the efforts of local districts to ensure that the students research indicates will most benefit from a retake — typically those who were lower-performing — took advantage of this free opportunity. Two thousand 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.

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