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Tenn. gives free ACT retake Oct. 22 for seniors who took it as juniors

Rick Wagner • Aug 8, 2016 at 12:00 PM

NASHVILLE — Free ACT retakes worth almost $40 are available for every Tennessee public high school senior who took the test as a junior, thanks to a law passed by the General Assembly.

The move will save each test taker $39.50 for the test, not including the writing assessment that would bring the total to $56.50. However, students have only until Sept. 16 to register for the free retake, and the voucher they will receive is good only for the Oct. 22 testing date.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to not only have an additional chance to demonstrate their knowledge, but also to open doors to future success,” said Andy True, Kingsport City Schools assistant superintendent.

The Tennessee Department of Education announced Wednesday the launch of the statewide ACT Senior Retake Opportunity. The ACT is a college readiness exam the state requires each student to take.

“Sometimes there’s a big difference in one or two points,” said Bo Shadden, supervisor of secondary education and career technical education director for Sullivan County  schools. For instance, he said, a move from a composite of 22 to 24 could mean more scholarship offerings. He said it also fits in with the state’s goal of having a statewide composite average of 21 by 2020 and a push to get 95 percent of all graduates taking the ACT. 

Tennessee’s historical ACT data indicate that students who retake the ACT typically increase their composite score by one to three points, a news release said. This improvement could translate into thousands more students meeting the composite score requirement of a 21 for the HOPE or lottery scholarship and avoiding remedial courses once they enter a postsecondary institution. Increasing the percentage of students who graduate high school with improved ACT composite and benchmark scores will allow for more students to start their next phase in life on the pathways necessary for success, according to a news release from the state department of education.

“Allowing students an additional opportunity to show what they know by retaking the ACT can expand the possibilities for our students’ futures,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in the release. “Our strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, lays out a firm goal ­­­­— that the average ACT score in Tennessee will be a 21 by 2020, indicating that our students are graduating high school ready for college and career.”

All eligible students will have the option of retaking the ACT on the national test date of Oct. 22. The registration deadline for this national test date is Friday, Sept. 16. If a student registers after Sept. 16, the student will be responsible for paying any late registration fees. The retake voucher, given to students at their high school, will expire on Sept. 30, which is the late registration deadline for the test, and cannot be used for any other national test date.

The recommendation to allow for a retake of the ACT or SAT for all students came as a result of the first convening of the Assessment Task Force in 2015. The panel developed a set of principles and recommendations, housed in a task force report, to guide the work of the state, districts, and schools.

This then led to the Tennessee Student Assessment Transparency Act of 2016, sponsored by state Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, in which the General Assembly approved for each student who took a postsecondary readiness assessment— like the ACT — as a high school junior the opportunity to retake it as a senior free of cost.

Shadden said that all Sullivan County school system students who took the pre-ACT or practice ACT test as sophomores will have access to online resources as they prepare for the Oct. 22 retake. He said the hope is there will be enough funding available to make the senior retakes an annual offer. 

To get more information about the ACT Senior Retake Opportunity, including a school implementation guide and answers to frequently asked questions, go to the ACT/SAT testing page on the department of education’s website, http://tn.gov/education/topic/act-sat.

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