Tennessee's public schools set new ACT score record

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Tennessee's public schools have set a new record for average ACT score - 20.1 - according to state officials.

Education Department Commissioner Candice McQueen today announced that the state's public school students improved from an average of 19.9 in 2016. More than 3,500 additional students took the exam this year, according to the release. The results also show that about 1,800 more Tennessee public school graduates became eligible for the HOPE scholarship by earning composite scores of 21 or higher.

Additionally, public school students improved in every section of the ACT by increasing their average score in English, reading, math and science. The average ACT score for public school students in each subject area was:

  • 19.6 in English, up 0.1 points
  • 20.5 in reading up 0.1 points
  • 19.4 in math, up 0.2 points
  • 20.3 in science, up 0.2 points.

"These results are incredibly encouraging," McQueen said in a statement. " Tennessee is one of 18 states that require all students to take the ACT or SAT – so today's results demonstrate what is possible for all students. We want every student to be able to take their diploma and seamlessly move into their next step."

Tennessee has focused on increasing ACT results over the past several years, according to the news release. The class of 2017 was the first one to have access to a free opportunity to retake the ACT, which the department expanded this year to ensure more students can retake the exam. Nearly 26,000 students in the class of 2017 participated in the department's first ACT Senior Retake Day last fall. Of those, nearly 40 percent increased their overall score. Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this opportunity on a statewide scale.

ACT results serve as a nationally normed measure to indicate college and career readiness. Under a new accountability measure, called the Ready Graduate, 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 able to seamlessly enroll in postsecondary education and enter the workplace or the military.