FIGURE 22 . STUDENTS MEETING COLLEGE READY BENCHMARKS BY ACT SUBJECT AREA ( 2016 )
64 % 54 %
42 % 46 %
38 % 35 %
28 % 27 % 27 %
All Four Science Math Reading English
Source : ACT , 2016
ACT results in 2016 showed signs of student progress . Mirroring a national increase in the number of test-takers , 3,000 more Tennessee students took the ACT in 2016 than in 2015 . Although the national average score declined as a result of this broadened participation , Tennessee ’ s average score held steady . In addition , compared to 2015 , nearly 1,300 more students scored 21 or above , qualifying them for HOPE scholarship aid . The HOPE scholarship provides college students with financial support every semester to help meet the costs of tuition and housing associated with postsecondary enrollment . In total , 42 percent of Tennessee ACT test-takers in the high school class of 2016 scored 21 or higher . 14
Although too few students now meet college-ready benchmarks , ACT data indicate the potential for continued gains in the coming years . Thousands of Tennessee students in the high school class of 2016 scored within two points of meeting subject area college-ready benchmarks this year ( Figure 23 ). As a result of legislation passed by the
General Assembly in 2016 , Tennessee is the first state to provide students an opportunity to re-take the ACT at no cost . In the past , students who have taken the ACT an additional time have increased their scores by an average of 1 to 3 points . 15 This opportunity will give more students the chance to surpass college-ready benchmarks , potentially qualifying them for financial aid programs that enhance the affordability of postsecondary options .
Student achievement gaps in early grades , as seen earlier in this report , result in stark gaps in college readiness across racial and ethnic populations . Tennessee cannot meet the Drive to 55 goal if gains in achievement are not made by all students — particularly underserved students . Less than 10 percent of African American students met at least three college-ready ACT benchmarks in 2016 , just as in the years prior . That rate compares to 20 percent of those students ’ peers who identify as Hispanic or Latino , 38 percent who identify as white , and 52 percent who identify as Asian American ( Figure 24 ).
FIGURE 23 . TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES BY COLLEGE READY BENCHMARK ( 2016 )