Education officials point out difference between 'most recent' Tenn. ACT results and 'best of' scores coming late this month

Rick Wagner • Oct 19, 2018 at 4:07 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — When the ACT released composite college readiness scores Wednesday, a Tennessee Department of Education official and a Northeast Tennessee superintendent made a point to emphasize the difference between the “most recent” composite scores released then and the “best of” scores the state Department of Education plans to release the week of Oct. 29.

In other words, the statewide ACT composite score released later this month likely won’t be the same as the state composite released by ACT Wednesday.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski and TDOE spokeswoman Sara Gast emphasized that the data released by ACT is based on the most recent scores, while the state data to be released in late October is based on the best composite ACT scores of students. The four categories on which a composite are measured are English, reading, math and science.

Tennessee got a 2018 “most recent” scores composite of 19.6, compared to a national average of 20.8. Six of eight states surrounding Tennessee are listed as 100 percent participation (although the minimum standard in Tennessee is 95 percent of a district’s graduating seniors must take it to avoid an automatic “needs improvement” rank on the state Report Card to be released the week of Oct. 29). Among Tennessee and those six, only Kentucky had a higher ACT composite.

“The data (from) ACT ... is based on the scores from students’ most recent ACT exam, which is not necessarily their best ACT score if they took the ACT more than one time,” said Sara Gast, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education. “At the department, we use students’ highest score in our accountability system and public reporting because that is the number that is used when a student is being considered for postsecondary admission, course placement or scholarship qualification, and we want to recognize their best attempt.”

Gast said it’s important to remember that Tennessee is the only state in the country that pays for students to take the ACT twice — once in the spring as a junior and a retake opportunity in the fall of their senior year.

“We are working with our districts and finalizing ACT data now, and we expect to release the official 2018 Tennessee public school ACT results the week of Oct. 29,” Gast said.

“The department will not release ACT data nor any additional context until we finalize the ‘best of’ ACT results. Additionally, any data school districts have about their ‘best of’ scores is embargoed until the state release. Again, the ‘best of’ results will be the scores we share publicly, include on the state report card, and use in our accountability systems. That number will be different than” the ACT release, Gast said.

In addition, Rafalowski said that some colleges “super score” the ACT numbers for incoming freshmen. For instance, a student might do well on one or two subjects on the second try but do better on others on the third try. In those cases, the school does a composite based on the best English, reading, math and science across multiple tests.

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