ACT scores heighten urgency for reform

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | 11:32 am
Nashville -- Today ACT is releasing “The Condition of College and Career Readiness,” a report which highlights statewide data on ACT scores, academic achievement and post-secondary aspirations. Tennessee’s results from the April 2011 test show the state’s public high school students’ composite ACT score dropped from 19.1 in 2010 to 19.0 out of 36 in 2011, highlighting the ongoing need for education reform to achieve the state’s Race to the Top goal of broader college readiness.
 
Across the state, 24 percent of students are college-ready in math, 55 percent in English, 38 percent in reading and 17 percent in science. The report also shows a wide achievement gap between white students and black students. Only 7 percent of black students are college-ready in math, according to ACT results.
 
In a survey administered as part of the exam, nearly 75 percent of Tennessee’s public high school students said they aspire to attain at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, but most are not prepared to take college classes in core academic subjects without remedial help.
 
“These results are unacceptable, and we have to do more to ensure that our high school students’ academic results align with their aspirations,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted in his visit to Tennessee last week, we must aspire to be the fastest growing state in the country, while being honest about where we stand and how far we still need to go.”
 
Every year, the Tennessee Board of Regents spends $26 million for remedial and developmental courses for underprepared students, said TBR Chancellor John Morgan.
 
"We cannot continue to provide remediation as a stop-gap for poor high school outcomes. It is imperative that our institutions work closely with our high schools, our current teachers and our future teachers to help improve preparation."
 
Tennessee officials believe that a nearly 4 percentage point gain in students scoring on grade level in reading on last year’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, and 7 percentage point gain in math will translate into higher ACT scores in future years.
 
“College readiness is not an issue determined in 11th grade, but is the culmination of an entire system of education,” Huffman said. “I am encouraged by the progress we are making in earlier grades, and feel a sense of urgency to ensure that this translates into higher skill levels by graduation.”
 
Well-educated and fully prepared high school graduates are the key to a successful community and a thriving economy, said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
 
“Whether our students choose to attend trade schools, community colleges or four-year universities, it is critical that they have a solid K-12 foundation, Woodson said.
 
The ACT is a nationally recognized measure of college readiness. If students meet benchmarks on the standardized test in English, math, reading and science, they are considered college-ready, meaning they could take a college-level course in that subject area and earn at least a “C.”
 
To see more data on college readiness in Tennessee and other states, visit www.act.org.
 
For more information, contact Kelli Gauthier at (615) 532-7817 or Kelli.Gauthier@tn.gov.
 
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