Tennessee Public School Students Set New Record with ACT Average Score of 20.1

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Rutherford County Schools:

Students who graduated from Rutherford County Schools last year earned an eight-year high average score on the ACT assessment, according to information released today by the Tennessee Department of Education.

The ACT is a national college level entrance exam that includes math, reading, English and science, and students receive scores from 1-36.

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The state's report shows that Rutherford County Schools' composite ACT average for 2017 is 20.8, which is up more than a half a point from last August's 20.2 composite score. In addition, Rutherford continues to outperform the state average, which has reached 20.1, according to the report.

"As a school district, we have emphasized the importance of students enrolling in as many advanced classes as they can to help them stretch and reach their potential," Director of Schools Don Odom said. "Our high school principals have carried the same message because research shows students who take higher level classes tend to maintain high achievement in their academic careers after high school. Our ACT scores reflect that philosophy."

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In 2010, Tennessee began requiring all juniors to take the ACT regardless of whether they were planning to pursue a college degree. Seniors have the option to retake the assessment. This year's scores for Rutherford County mark the highest average since the 2010 requirement was implemented.

Central Magnet School leads all Rutherford County high schools -- and most others in the state - with a composite ACT score of 30, which is .9 higher than last year's score. Central was one of two schools in the state that was specifically highlighted by the Tennessee Department of Education in its press release about the results.

Central is an academic magnet school serving grades 6-12. Last spring it was named the best public school in Tennessee and 37th best in the country, according to rankings released by U.S. News & World Report.

"The biggest factor is our kids are challenged in all our classes," Central Principal Dr. John Ash said. "We offer a large number of Advanced Placement courses and that pushes the kids in every class because of the more difficult requirements. The teachers have high expectations of the students, and the students have high expectations in themselves. They challenge themselves in everything they do."

Much of RCS' success is attributed to making core curriculum a priority by ensuring students are taking the right courses, evaluating the rigors of those courses and planning guidance activities based on college and career aspirations.

The district is also utilizing a software program known as Shmoop, which provides students in grades 7-12 with the ability to practice the test and receive analysis of their skill levels.

RCS 2017 ACT Composite scores by school:

Blackman High School

21.7

Central Magnet School

30.0

Eagleville School

20.6

Holloway High School

16.3

LaVergne High School

18.3

Oakland High School

20.1

Riverdale High School

20.3

Smyrna High School

19.3

Siegel High School

20.8

Stewarts Creek High School

21.1

Below - Release from the State of Tennessee Dept. of Education:

Central Magnet in Rutherford County Schools, had school-level average ACT scores of 30 or more. Over the past year, Central Magnet raised its average score 0.9 points since 2016.

Education Department Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that Tennessee public school students have crossed a new threshold, earning an average composite score of 20.1 on the ACT. Tennessee public high school students improved from the 2016 average of 19.9, with more than 3,500 additional students taking the exam this year. 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; and
    • 20.3 in science, up 0.2 points

"These results are incredibly encouraging. More students are unlocking HOPE scholarship funds and creating options for their future, and we are on our way to meet our goal of a statewide average of 21 by 2020," McQueen said. "The ACT allows our students to show they are college and career ready, and crossing the threshold to 20.1 shows we are on the right pathway to prepare more students for life after high school. 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. 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.

District scores

The department uses students' best ACT scores--meaning that if a student took the ACT multiple times, the score included in today's results is his or her highest score. This data is different than the results reported nationally by ACT, which are based on the last score a student received, regardless of whether it was the highest, and also include private school results.

Germantown Municipal School District had the highest ACT composite in the state for the second year in a row, posting a 25.5 average, up from their 2016 average of 24.9. Additionally, White County Public Schools posted the largest gains in the state from 2016 to 2017, raising its average composite by 1.7 points to 20.3. Knox County Schools once again had the highest average composite out of the four large urban districts in Tennessee, maintaining their average score of a 21.1.

Three districts had more than three-quarters of their students scoring at or above a 21 on the ACT: Germantown Municipal School District (83.1

Another highlight of these results is that two high schools, Merrol Hyde Magnet in Sumner County Schools and Central Magnet in Rutherford County Schools, both had school-level average ACT scores of 30 or more. Merrol Hyde raised its average score 1.1 points over last year and Central Magnet raised its average score 0.9 points since 2016 as well.

Additional takeaways from the 2017 ACT results:

    • Almost 1,000 more graduates hit all four college ready benchmarks on the ACT test in 2017 compared to 2016.
    • Within each subject area, 57.4 percent of public school students met the college ready benchmark in English, 30.6 percent met the benchmark in math, 40.7 percent met the benchmark in reading, and 31.1 percent met the science benchmark.
    • 23 districts now have an average composite at or above 21, up from 18.
    • 48 Tennessee school districts have an average ACT composite above the state average.
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Murfreesboro, Rutherford County Schools, Tennessee schools
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