Profiles and Trends Section II. Student Preparation

Figure 2.1

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  • 2.1. Educational Progress of 8th-graders: 2015 NAEP Math and Reading Average Scores: U.S., SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee
    Educational Progress of 8th-graders: 2015 NAEP Math and Reading Average Scores
  • Educational Progress of 8th Graders Data
  • Academic performance of secondary school students is a valid indicator of readiness for college and a reliable predictor of future college success.

    Figure 2.1 depicts the educational progress of eighth-grade students in the nation, SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee, as measured by students’ performance on mathematics and reading tests. These tests were conducted in 2015 as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Black students underperform in comparison to other ethnic groups, both in mathematics and reading, and are thus less academically prepared for college-level work. Asian students are the best-performing group; however, their data are not available for Tennessee. Black students in Tennessee score below the U.S. and SREB averages in mathematics; however, they perform on par in reading. Hispanic students in Tennessee score at the national or regional levels, or better, in both subjects. 

Figure 2.2

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  • 2.2. Average Composite ACT Scores by State: SREB States (2015)
    Average Composite ACT Scores by State
  • Average Composite ACT Scores by State Data
  • At the individual level, ACT scores are another measure of readiness for college-level work, and a useful predictor of future academic performance. At the state level, states with higher average scores on this test produce larger numbers of high school graduates who are prepared for college. Figure 2.2 shows the average composite ACT score for each SREB state in 2015. When comparing state performance, one should be aware that the proportion of high school graduates tested in each state is different. These percentages range from 21 percent in Delaware (where SAT is mandatory) to 100 percent in states with a mandatory ACT testing—Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

    In 2015, Delaware had the highest average score (23.5), while North Carolina and Mississippi, both at 19, had the lowest performance among SREB states. Tennessee, with an average score of 19.8, ranked 12th among SREB states. In 2014, Tennessee also ranked 12th in the SREB region with the average score of 19.8 (not shown on the graph). However, these results are greatly affected by the percent of test takers and the voluntary / mandatory nature of college entrance exams. Tennessee is at the top of SREB states with 100 percent participation: it trails only Kentucky but is ahead of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina. 

Figure 2.3

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  • 2.3. High School Students’ Share of Undergraduate Credit Hours Attempted: 2007-08 and 2011-12 
    High School Students’ Share of Undergraduate Credit Hours Attempted
  • High School Students’ Share of Undergraduate Credit Hours Attempted Data
  • Students taking higher education courses while in high school are more likely to enroll and succeed in college. Positive trends in high school student involvement in higher education may attest to greater college accessibility and the effectiveness of relevant state policies.

    Figure 2.3 displays changes in the percent of undergraduate credit hours taken by high school students at 2- and 4-year institutions from 2007-08 to 2011-12 for select SREB states. This metric measures high schoolers’ involvement in higher education. Tennessee shows solid, if not accelerated, progress on this metric at both community colleges and universities. To some extent, this can be attributed to the lottery-sponsored Dual Enrollment Grant program.

Figure 2.4

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  • 2.4. Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates from Public High Schools: U.S., SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee (1991-2012)
     Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates from Public High Schools
  • Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates from Public High Schools Data
  • High school graduates are the primary source of postsecondary education enrollees. Changes in high school graduation rates affect the pool of potential college students; increasing rates may offset the effects of the reduced size of college-age population caused by demographic shifts. The Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) is an estimate of the percentage of an entering high school freshman class graduating from high school in four years. It is estimated as the total number of diploma recipients in a year divided by the average membership of the 8th-grade class four years prior, the 9th-grade class three years prior, and the 10th-grade class two years prior. The AFGR differs from the graduation rates in Figure 2.5; thus, Figures 2.4 and 2.5 are not directly comparable.

    Figure 2.4 shows public high school graduation rates for the nation, SREB, and Tennessee. From 1991 to 2012, these rates have grown for the majority of the states and the nation as a whole. Since 1998 (the lowest point in the period), Tennessee’s graduation rate has risen by 23 percentage points, surpassing the SREB median by a large margin. In 2012, the high school graduation rate in the state reached 81 percent, trailing the national average of 83 percent.

Figure 2.5

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  • 2.5. Public High School Graduation Rate: U.S., SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee (2011-2014)
    Public High School Graduation Rate
  • Public High School Graduation Rate Data
  • In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education introduced a new, common metric for four-year high school graduation rates across states. This new measure—Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR)—is more accurate than the one used previously (reported in Figure 2.4); however, it is not directly comparable to the data reported in the prior years.

    Figure 2.5 compares the current high school graduation rates for the nation, SREB states (The median for the 15 states, excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee from 2010-11 to 2013-14. The national estimate for 2013-14 is not yet available.

    The new data show that Tennessee continues to demonstrate consistently high graduation rates, which surpasses that of the nation and the median for the other SREB states. In 2014, Tennessee with a graduation rate of 87.2 percent ranked 2nd among the SREB states (Texas, with 88.3 percent, ranked 1st) and 11th in the United States.

Figure 2.6

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  • 2.6. Public High School Graduation Rate by Race / Ethnicity: Tennessee, SREB (excluding Tennessee), and Texas (2013-14)
    Public High School Graduation Rate by Race / Ethnicity
  • Public High School Graduation Rate by Race / Ethnicity Data
  • Figure 2.6 presents public high school graduation rates by race/ethnicity for Tennessee, Texas, and SREB states (excluding Tennessee) in 2013-14. The national data were not available for this year at the time of this report. Texas was selected for comparison because it is the SREB state with the highest high school graduation rate.

    The position of Tennessee relative to Texas and the SREB median remains constant for all students and across different racial/ethnic groups. Tennessee generally does better than a typical SREB state and trails Texas’s performance. Only Black students in Tennessee have a graduation rate that is on par with the SREB median.

    Regarding racial groups, Asian students demonstrate the highest graduation rate, followed by white students. Black and Hispanic students show lower graduation rates from public high schools. In 2013-14, the graduation rate gap between white and Black students was 12.3 percentage points in Tennessee, 8.1 percentage points in SREB, and 8.8 percentage points in Texas.