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Nearly 26,000 Tennessee High School Seniors Participate in First ACT Retake Day

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 | 9:11am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that 25,977 students in the state’s high school class of 2017 participated in the department’s first ACT Senior Retake Day last fall. Of those, nearly 40 percent increased their overall score, and 1,331 seniors raised their composite above a 21—creating access to HOPE Scholarship funds that provide up to $16,000 to help students pay for college. Tennessee is the first state to offer the retake opportunity on a statewide scale.

There were several highlights in the results. In addition to the students who raised their overall composite, thousands of students raised individual subject test scores, which will help them be more competitive at institutions that allow for students to “superscore,” where they take the highest individual subscores across multiple ACT tests. The ACT retake also resulted in more students hitting the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects. In Knox County Schools, for example, 25 percent of students who retook the ACT hit all four benchmarks during their junior year. The retake resulted in 32.1 percent of these students hitting all four benchmarks.  Statewide, the percentage of retake students in the class of 2017 who met all four benchmarks increased from 21.5 percent to 26.8 percent.

Additionally, over a third of school districts increased their district-wide ACT average, with the best gains in Maryville City, which increased its composite average by a full point.

“Our goal is to open more doors for students after high school, and these results are one more step toward that vision,” McQueen said. “We want students to graduate from high school with the ability to access whatever path they want to explore, and we know too often low ACT scores create a barrier. This retake option is not just strengthening our students’ future opportunities, but it is strengthening our state’s future, as well.” 

October 2016 was the first time Tennessee offered public high school seniors the chance to retake the ACT for free. The department proposed this option since its research shows students have a high likelihood of increasing their score when they take the college entrance exam a second time. Higher composite scores not only provide access to state support, but they also make a student more competitive for entry into higher education institutions and for institutional and private scholarships. They also allow students to enroll directly into credit-bearing coursework instead of remedial classes. Gov. Haslam’s FY18 budget, released last month, proposed to continue funding the ACT Senior Retake option.

Today’s results also point to areas where the state can target future efforts to maximize this investment. For example, the department is encouraging districts to focus on ensuring that the students whom its research indicates will most benefit from a retake—typically those who were lower-performing—take advantage of this free opportunity. A review of the data show that students who generally earned higher composite scores participated in the retake day last fall, while those who scored below a 17 were far less likely to do so. However, those students scoring in that lower range increased their composite score the most on average.

To learn more about the department’s ACT initiatives, please visit the department’s website or contact Jerre Maynor, director of student readiness, at Jerre.Maynor@tn.gov. For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast at Sara.Gast@tn.gov or call 615-532-6260.