A bump in Tennessee's average ACT score this year is being linked to a new program that allows students to retake the college entrance exam for free. The state's composite score hit 20.1 for the first time, up from 19.9 in 2016.
Year-over-year gains in the ACT composite are made in tenths of a point. And state education officials say they're on track to reach their goal of 21 by the year 2020. That figure is important because it unlocks automatic college tuition money from the HOPE scholarship.
"These results are incredibly encouraging," education commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. "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 only 18 states that requires graduates to take the ACT. So the results are seen as a broad indication of how prepared students are to go to college.
The 2017 figures represent the first students who were able to take the ACT over for free. Some 26,000 students participated, and nearly 40 percent improved their overall score. Education officials say Tennessee is currently the only state to offer free retakes to all students.
- Highest ACT composite — Germantown Municipal School District (second year in a row) with 25.5, up from 24.9
- Largest year-over-year gain — White County Public Schools, jumping 1.7 points to 20.3
- Highest ACT composite among big four districts — Knox County Schools at 21.1
Sumner County's Merrol Hyde Magnet and Central Magnet in Rutherford County both had ACT composites of 30 or more, having raised their averages by roughly a point.
Metro Schools averaged a 19, which is up from last year. Williamson County scored a composite of 25.2, which improved upon 2016's 24.6.