Tennessee ACT Participation At All Time High

Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced today that a total of 63,829 students from Tennessee’s 2019 graduating class took the ACT, earning an average composite score of 20. This represents a 98 percent participation rate, which is an all-time high in the state. Of those students, 41.7 percent earned a score of 21 or higher, making them eligible for the HOPE scholarship.

The class of 2019 was the third cohort to have access to a free opportunity to retake the ACT. The state’s investment in the ACT retake has yielded promising results. Fifty percent of students who participated in the ACT Senior Retake Day increased their composite score from their junior year in 2018. Additionally, 3,825 seniors raised their composite score to a 21 or higher, allowing them to access more than $61 million in HOPE Scholarship funds. Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this opportunity on a statewide scale.

While the 2019 ACT composite is down slightly from the 2018 composite score of 20.2, the decline in Tennessee closely mirrors national declines in ACT results. Tennessee’s increase in participation affirms the state’s commitment to providing access to all students.

“More Tennessee students than ever before are taking advantage of the ACT and ACT retake,” said Commissioner Schwinn. “It is critical that we continue to increase access to these high-quality opportunities for all students, no matter where they live. This is one way that we will build a foundation to set all students on a path to success.”

The average ACT score for the public school graduating class of 2019 in each subject area was:

• 19.6 in English, 0.1 point decrease from 2018,

• 19.4 in math, 0.1 point decrease,

• 20.5 in reading, 0.2 point decrease; and

• 20.0 in science, 0.3 point decrease.

The department uses students’ best ACT score, meaning that if a student took the ACT multiple times, the score included in today’s results reflect his or her highest score. This is different than ACT’s calculation, which reports results based on the last score a student received, and also includes results from private school students.

Cannon County High School had 125 students tested in 2019 for a 95 percent participation rate.  This was up 20 students from 2018 and a participation rate of 99 percent. The average ACT score for the Cannon County High School graduating class of 2019 in each subject area was:

• 17.5 in English, with -0.27 Growth Measure       18.5 in 2018

• 18.1 in Math, with -0.00 Growth Measure           18.1 in 2018

• 19.0 in Reading, with -0.46 Growth Measure      19.3 in 2018

• 19.3 in Science, with -0.17 Growth Measure       19.2 in 2018

*18.7 in Composite Score, with -0.20 Growth Measure   18.9 in 2018.

39 Students at CCHS scored 21 or Higher in 2019 for 31.2% of the class, which was up 1 student from 2018.

Cannon County High School Principal Courtney Nichols stated, “CCHS maintained our own in ACT this year. We are working hard to see a significant increase in ACT Test Scores and have implemented measures for more effectiveness in the future.”

Cannon County Director of Schools William F. Curtis commented, “The ACT scores showed about the same results as last year.  We are currently implementing new strategies at Cannon County High School that will address student deficiencies in all areas.  This will enable us to achieve better results next year and in the years to follow.  Our VISION statement states, ‘The New E3 – Engaged in Excellence Every Day.’ We will continue this emphasis to reach our goals at CCHS.”

Thirty-four districts had a 100 percent participation rate on the ACT for 2019 graduates. 

Other encouraging results show that the composite score for students with disabilities remained steady despite the statewide dip. Additionally, participation rates increased for students who are economically disadvantaged, students classified as English learners, and students with disabilities.

“Tennessee continues to show a strong commitment to advancing student achievement,” Commissioner Schwinn continued. “As more students take this assessment, we are more aware than ever before of the diverse needs of our state. Our new strategic plan, Best for All, will strengthen supports around high-quality materials, the whole child, and our educators and leaders.”

ACT results serve as a national-normed measure to indicate college and career readiness. Under Tennessee’s accountability model, 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 a seamless entry into postsecondary education, the workplace, or the military. While ACT measures the culmination of what students have learned throughout their K-12 education, the state’s TCAP assessment complements ACT as a deeper, standards-based assessment that looks at what students learn annually and provides teachers and families with feedback each year. Together, ACT and TCAP help to identify if students are ready for their chosen path after high school.