In 2007, the state of Tennessee adopted not only the ACT as one of its measurements of student readiness, but also the eighth-grade EXPLORE test and the 10th-grade PLAN test.
By funding the entire cost of this battery of tests, Tennessee demonstrated its commitment to preparing every student for post-graduate education or work. 2010 marked the first graduating class that had taken the full core of tests culminating with the ACT administered in their 11th-grade year.
The Tennessee Department of Education did not mandate that all students participate in the ACT testing. Systems were given the option of Saturday testing or an in-school testing date. While some systems remained with the optional Saturday testing in 2010, Bradley County Schools proceeded with full implementation of ACT testing for all 11th-graders, realizing that the number of ACT test takers would increase considerably.
In fact, 184 more Bradley County students took the ACT in 2010 than in 2009 — a 40 percent increase. In 2009, 461 students took the ACT for the first time while in 2010 the number increased to 645. The state of Tennessee reflected only a 28 percent increase in test takers. Individually, the percentage of ACT test takers at Bradley Central High School increased 48 percent and Walker Valley High increased by 33 percent.
“That Bradley County’s scores dropped in the process was not a surprise,” said Johnny McDaniel, Bradley County Schools director.
“Nevertheless, we had decided that all 11th-grade students, even those who had not planned to attend college, should know their level of academic readiness. Counselors will use the information provided on the ACT report to help students make their senior year more challenging and relevant as they focus on college and career readiness. We continue to be committed to addressing the academic needs of our students with greater resolve than ever before,” he said.
Overall, Bradley County School’s composite ACT score dropped 1.6 points to 18.9 from a previous 2009 score of 20.5. By contrast, the state composite was 19.6, down one point from a 2009 composite of 20.6. Walker Valley High School equaled or bettered the state average in every category (English, math, reading and science) and the composite score. WVHS 2010 graduates managed a 19.9 composite score as compared to the state’s 19.6. While Bradley Central’s composite of 17.8 was less than hoped for, it was a somewhat anticipated since nearly 50 percent more of its students took the test than ever before.
“We’ve known that our students need a more rigorous curriculum. Our new standards and graduation requirements will move us in the right direction, and I predict that our ACT scores will increase next year,” said Dan Glasscock, Bradley County Schools supervisor of secondary education.
During August, a professional development in-service day was held where every teacher in the Bradley County Schools System — elementary, middle and high school — attended an ACT presentation. The goal of each session was to help teachers realize that a student’s success on the ACT is every teacher’s responsibility starting at the elementary level. Teachers at all levels contribute to the continuum of education experiences that ultimately affect a students’ performance on ACT.