Tennessee high school students are dragging the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ACT test scores.
In information released this week, Tennessee ranks second to last in the nation when it comes to average ACT score. Tennessee, with an average ACT of 19.7, ranks only ahead of Mississippi. The national average is 21.1.
The news doesn’t get any better when it comes to Warren County scores. With 389 students taking the ACT locally, the county posted an average of 18.1.
“You can see we have a lot of work to do when it comes to ACT scores,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox. “This is not a 9-12 issue. It’s a K-12 issue and we have to work on increasing the rigor of our curriculum. You can look and see when students take higher level courses, they perform better on the ACT so we have to work on raising the bar.”
Cox says his goal is to raise local ACT scores by 1 point per year for the next four years. If achieved, that would put the average Warren County ACT score at 22.1, a full point above the current national average.
As a way to improve scores, Cox says an ACT prep course is now being offered at the high school. He says the school system is also partnering with OdysseyWare, an online resource for students looking for more stringent course work. He says OdysseyWare includes an ACT component.
Plans are also in the works to offer the ACT prep course before and after school for students who don’t take the semester-long course.
One thing working against Tennessee is all of its students are required to take the ACT. The General Assembly enacted that requirement in 2010. The only other states with this requirement are Mississippi, Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and Wyoming.
This means all of Tennessee’s students are being measured against only the college-bound students in many other states. In 2009, the year before all students were required to take the ACT in Tennessee, Warren County’s average was 20.2, which is 2.1 points higher.
“That does make a difference,” said Cox, “but I don’t want to use that as a crutch or an excuse because we have work to do in improving our ACT scores.”
The ACT report found 59 percent of Tennessee graduating seniors were ready for college-level work in English. In other categories, ACT found 43 percent were ready in reading, 29 percent were ready in math, and 21 percent were ready in science.
Just 16 percent of Tennessee’s 68,095 graduating seniors were fully prepared for college, according to ACT.
The report also tracked 2011 graduates and found student opportunities after high school were directly related to how well they scored on the ACT.
Those who were more academically ready for college, shown by the number of benchmarks they met, were more likely to enroll in four-year schools. Those who entered two-year colleges, or pursued other options, were likely to have met fewer benchmarks.