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November 28, 2021

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Free ACT Retake Opportunities For All TN High School Seniors to Help Boost Scores

The Tennessee Department of Education highlighted an opportunity this fall for all high school seniors to boost their scores on the ACT college entrance exam after taking the test the first time as a junior during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a recent ACT, Inc. study found that the 2020-21 ACT results indicated an anticipated decline in ACT scores nationwide, Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this free retake opportunity to every Tennessee high school senior this fall.

The ACT is a comprehensive college entrance exam covering a wide range of subjects that assess students' mathematical skills, grammar usage, science interpretation, and reading comprehension. Because results from college readiness tests like ACT are often used to determine eligibility for scholarships, including the Tennessee HOPE scholarship, ACT re-take opportunities empower students to fulfill requirements for college admission and demonstrate readiness.

This year, the department is urging all Tennessee high school seniors to take advantage of the fall ACT retake opportunity and has expanded the state testing windows to provide additional options. ACT Inc.’s research shows that students who take the ACT more than once increase their score by an average of 1 point. Students who improve their scores in one or more subject areas tested will have their super-score composite available to send to postsecondary institutions and scholarship programs.

“While the fall ACT retake has always been available to our seniors, this year’s retake opportunities offer our seniors one more chance to potentially boost their scores and demonstrate readiness for college and career,” says Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “ACT Inc.’s research shows that by participating in these opportunities, students are more likely to increase their ACT scores, and we want all our students to achieve their highest potential. I encourage our districts, schools, and families to help us ensure all Tennessee high school seniors can take advantage of this opportunity.”

Districts across the state will be able to offer the free fall ACT retake opportunities during one of the following three-day windows: 
October 5-7, 2021
October 19-21, 2021
November 2-4, 2021  

“ACT is proud to partner with Tennessee as we encourage all student to take advantage of Tennessee’s ACT Senior Retake to improve students’ composite scores. Last year, over 89% of Tennessee seniors participated in the ACT Senior Retake.  ACT data shows that when a student tests more than once, their ACT composite score increases by about 1 point,” said Catherine Hoffman, ACT’s Vice President of State and Federal Programs. “In many cases, this score increase provided scholarship funds and many students were not required to take remedial classes.  This resulted in dollars back into Tennessee families’ pockets and impacts that will last for generations.  Tennessee continues to put students first and make lasting change for students.”

Aligned with the department’s Best for All strategic plan, the ACT provides essential data and context for state and district leaders on student readiness for postsecondary opportunities. Students who score a 21 or higher on the ACT also meet criteria for Ready Graduate, the state’s indicator to reward schools and districts whose high school graduates demonstrate postsecondary readiness.

Fifty percent of students who participated in the Fall Senior Retake in 2019 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.

The department recognized the impending impact the global pandemic would have on K-12 education in Tennessee and has proactively and strategically committed investments to prioritize meeting the needs of all Tennessee students through the state’s ARP ESSER plan, which lays out the state’s spending strategy for its portion of federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding to benefit K-12 education in Tennessee, including supports for success on the ACT.

The department has partnered with the University of Tennessee at Martin to provide all Tennessee high school students and teachers with access to free, virtual workshops, office hours, and classes on how to succeed on the ACT. 

Throughout the summer, the ACT Success Tactics Workshops and Mastery Classes were available for free via Zoom to all Tennessee high school teachers and students, designed for rising 11th and 12th graders, to gain knowledge and skills to prepare for and be successful on the ACT. The workshops and classes are being held through the fall and are available to register for here.

District leaders and higher education partners commented on the importance of providing these ACT retake opportunities to ensure our students are prepared for college and postsecondary success. 

“Thank you to the department for providing these free opportunities to high schoolers across the state to boost ACT scores as they prepare for graduation later this year,” said Clint Baker, Director of Schools, Meigs County Schools. “We know the ACT is an essential benchmark for understanding a student’s postsecondary readiness and we will continue to encourage our students to take every opportunity to boost scores and become prepared for college and career.” 

“The ACT remains an important factor in a student’s ability to pursue a post-secondary education and attend their college or university of choice,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools. “As we continue to focus on preparing all of our students for college and career, it is more important than ever that we maximize a student’s chance of success by offering these ACT re-take opportunities.” 

“We are thankful to have partners like the Tennessee Department of Education that are dedicated to preparing Tennessee students for postsecondary and career success,” said, Dr. Keith Carver, UT Martin chancellor.  “From allowing every senior the chance to retake the ACT at no cost, to providing free ACT prep statewide, to increasing dual enrollment opportunities, they are always willing to go the extra mile for our students to be college-ready.”

“In Benton County Schools, we recognize the importance of ensuring our students are prepared for postsecondary success and able to select the university or college of their choice upon leaving our doors,” said Mark Florence, Director of Schools, Benton County Schools. “These free ACT retake opportunities are essential as they ensure our students have every opportunity to boost their scores, and we will encourage all our high school seniors to partake.” 

"We encourage our students to take rigorous coursework throughout their high school career that will prepare them for the ACT and lead to post-secondary success,” said Director of Schools Bill Spurlock. “Thank you to the department for offering these opportunities for free to ensure our students have ample amounts of opportunities to become college and career ready.” 

“The ACT is a critical step in a student’s academic journey to pursue postsecondary opportunities,” said Eddie Pruett, Director of Schools, Gibson County Special School District. “We thank the department for providing this opportunity to our high schools seniors in Gibson County and across the state for free as they prepare to leave our classrooms and enter into their next chapters." 

To learn more about the state’s college readiness testing program, including the ACT and SAT, visit the College Readiness Testing webpage.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, email edu.mediainquiries@tn.gov.

About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing and Entertainment Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 18-month-old Ezra.