Tennessee ACT composite 19.6 for Class of 2018; math scores nationwide called 'red flag'

Rick Wagner • Oct 17, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Among six surrounding states that require the vast majority of high school graduates to take the ACT, Tennessee ranked second behind Kentucky in composite ACT scores based on the most recent testing.

However, Tennessee and those six states still ranked below the national composite average of 20.8 on the college entrance exam, according to an ACT report.

Nationally, the data showed a national average ACT composite of 20.8, down from 21 for 2017, although math continues “trending downward” and reached the lowest mark in 14 years. Other components of the composite score are English, reading and science.


“The percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class, fell to its lowest level since 2004; 40 percent of 2018 graduates met the math benchmark, down from a high of 46 percent in 2012,” an ACT press release said. The average ACT math score dropped to 20.5, its lowest level in more than 20 years.

Math was on an upswing from the early 2000s to 2012 but has gradually declined since then, a trend that ACT CEO Marten Roorda in a news release called a “red flag for our country.”

Tennessee had 28 percent math readiness. English readiness also dropped nationally, based on the results of 1.9 million 2018 graduates, or 55 percent of the national graduating class from this spring. 

Tennessee got a composite score of 19.6, compared to 20.2 for Kentucky. Other states listed at 100 percent participation and their scores are Arkansas 19.4, Alabama and North Carolina tied at 19.1, Mississippi at 18.6 and South Carolina at 18.3.


Virginia, an SAT-centric state listed at 24 percent ACT participation, had a composite of 23.9, while Georgia at 53 percent participation got a 21.4 percent composite.

The data and information released includes a nationwide report, the “Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018,” and national profile data.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski pointed out that although Tennessee is listed as 100 percent participation, school systems will not be penalized in the Tennessee Report Card to be released the week of Oct. 29 unless they fail to reach at least 95 percent participation, which she said the county system has in recent years.

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