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ACT scores: Kingsport tops state, national averages while Sullivan bests state

August 24th, 2012 3:10 am by Rick Wagner

KINGSPORT — Kingsport City Schools' 2012 average ACT score bettered the Tennessee and national averages, while Sullivan County was higher than the state average.

However, Tennessee public high school graduates as a group only slightly improved their performance on the ACT test in 2012 compared to 2011's class.

They earned an average score of 19.7 out of 36, up from 19.5 the year before, according to state-by-state results released by ACT Wednesday. The national average composite was 21.1, but Tennessee is one of only nine states that require ACT tests.

This year's scores also highlight the necessity for Tennessee to increase college readiness among certain racial minorities.

Only 3 percent of black students and 9 percent of Hispanic students met college benchmarks in all four core subjects (English, math, reading and science), compared to 18 percent of white students and 31 percent of Asian students.

Kingsport's average composite score was 21.9, up 0.1 from 2011, while the county's remained unchanged from last year at 19.9.

In another local Tennessee system, Hawkins County's composite score grew from 18.1 in 2011 to 18.5 in 2012. Nine percent of test takers scored at the college readiness level in all four subject areas compared to the statewide average of 16 percent. Hawkins County has three high schools -- Volunteer, Cherokee and Clinch, the last a K-12 facility.

Thirty-one percent of Kingsport City Schools test takers scored at the college readiness level in all four subject areas. According to a KCS news release, improving college readiness measures is one of the system's top goals for the Race to the Top initiative.

To that end, the system has implemented a systemwide science coordinator, a secondary curriculum coordinator and a Project Lead the Way teacher at the middle school level.

"The current results make a clear argument for the need to continue on our mission of college and career readiness for all students," Dobyns-Bennett High School Principal Chris Hampton said in a news release. "The percentage of Dobyns-Bennett students who were college and career ready in all four areas nearly doubled that of Tennessee. This speaks highly to the focus of our staff and students. While these results are a direct reflection on Dobyns-Bennett, they too are a reflection of the hard work and effort of Kingsport City Schools and our community as a whole. Our work in this area is not complete, and we will continue our journey toward preparing all of our students for post-secondary readiness."

Compared to 31 percent meeting all four benchmarks in the city, in Sullivan County 14 percent met the four benchmarks.

David Timbs, assistant director for teaching and learning, said the Sullivan County system is looking this year to revamp the way instruction is given at its four high schools. He said Sullivan South, North, Central and East, along with the middle schools, are working to help eighth-graders on the EXPLORE test and 10th-graders on the PLAN test, both pretests for the ACT.

"All four high schools are concentrating heavily on ACT readiness," Timbs said Wednesday.

Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), said the ACT test results for Tennessee show more improvement is needed.

"While the results released today do show small improvements, far too many Tennessee students are graduating high school unprepared for the future," Woodson said. "In Tennessee, only 16 percent of students are prepared for post-secondary across all four ACT benchmarks. This reality underscores the importance of Tennessee's work to raise academic standards -- we must bridge the gap between the 85.5 percent of students who graduate high school in Tennessee and the 16 percent who are actually post-secondary and work force ready. By raising expectations through efforts like the Common Core state standards, we can better prepare students for success."

In Tennessee public schools, 56 percent of graduates met ACT benchmarks in English, 26 percent in math, 39 percent in reading and 18 percent in science.

Kate Shellnutt, deputy director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education, said that when non-public school scores are added to the mix, the numbers are 59 percent in English, 29 percent in math, 43 percent in reading, and 21 percent in science for an average of 16 percent meeting all four benchmarks.

Kingsport's results were 72 percent meeting the English benchmark, 48 percent math, 59 percent reading, and 36 percent science for 31 percent meeting all four benchmarks.

In neighboring Virginia, where the ACT test is not mandatory, the Scott County school system had a composite of 21.2 compared to a statewide average of 22.4 or 22.1 percent in English, 22.3 in math, 23.3 in reading and 22.6 in science. Twenty-five percent of students take the test in Virginia.

Beginning with the 2009-10 school year, all 11th-grade students in Tennessee were "required" to complete the ACT, although there is no penalty for not doing so.

To be considered college ready, students are to score composites of 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in reading and 24 in science.

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