Facebook Twitter

New ACT scores show most Tennessee students still not college ready

The average ACT score for public high school students in Tennessee didn’t budge in 2016, meaning that Tennessee still lags behind the national average on the college entrance exam, according to reports released Wednesday.

Tennessee held steady with an average score of 19.4 out of a possible 36, increasing its standing from eighth to seventh among the 18 states that require students to take the ACT. The national average score was 20.8, down from 21 last year.

The results stall the State Department of Education’s plan to raise the average ACT score to 21 by 2020. A 21 is the state’s benchmark for being considered “college and career ready,” meaning they can avoid remediation classes in college and also be eligible for Tennessee’s HOPE scholarship.

Even so, state officials celebrated that nearly 1,300 more Tennessee public school students hit the college-ready mark this year than last.

“Our ACT results show Tennessee is on the right track,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a press release. “While we still have room to grow, I believe in the potential of every Tennessee student, and we have built momentum toward our goal of a statewide average of 21 on the ACT.”

The 2016 results arrive as the state is elevating the significance of the college entrance exam and making investments aimed at increasing scores in 2017. This year for the first time, the Department of Education is using ACT participation rates to evaluate districts. And this fall, Tennessee becomes the nation’s first state to offer all high school seniors an opportunity to retake the test for free. Students who retake the ACT typically increase their composite score by 1 to 3 points. (Oct. 22 is Tennessee’s designated testing retake day.)

In 2016, only one-fifth of Tennessee public school students taking the ACT met all four subject benchmarks for being considered college-ready. English drew the best showing, with about 55 percent meeting that benchmark, followed by 34 percent in reading, and 27 percent each in math and science.

Germantown Municipal Schools, near Memphis, logged the highest average score for its public school students, a 24.1. Knox County Schools had the highest average score of the state’s four large urban districts, a 20.5.

The State Department of Education will release the remaining average scores from districts across Tennessee in the fall through its district report cards.

View the ACT’s 2016 national report here, with statewide averages that include both public and private school students. Tennessee’s average score was 19.9 when including private school students.