TDOE Releases 2020-21 ACT State Results and Participation Rate Data

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (December 15, 2021) – Today, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) released the ACT state results and participation rate for the 2021 graduating class and Collierville Schools ranks among the top three districts in the state for highest percentage of students meeting the overall ACT composite benchmark.

Williamson County had the highest percent of students meeting the overall benchmark score of 21 at 77%, followed by Germantown (71%) and Collierville (66%).

“We’re very proud of our students, families, and teachers for having two-thirds of our students score a 21 or above on the ACT,” said Dr. Gary Lilly, Director of Schools. “It has been a challenging couple of years, but our students have proven resilient. This milestone continues to demonstrate the commitment of our community, which values the importance of educational opportunities for our students.  We are excited by the level of achievement our students have attained and look forward to celebrating their future successes.” 

The ACT provides an important opportunity for our state to understand students’ college and career readiness and how we are preparing the next generation to transition to post-secondary opportunities. Each fall, TDOE releases statewide ACT results for the most recent graduating class representing each student’s highest ACT score.  


The 2021 graduating class was most impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic with regards to the ACT testing. T.C.A. § 49-6-6001 requires all Tennessee public school students to take a postsecondary readiness exam, such as the ACT or SAT, in their junior year of high school. The opportunity allows students to maximize their potential to demonstrate postsecondary readiness, qualify for academic scholarships, and avoid remediation. Due to pandemic related school closures in Spring 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Public Chapter 652 in the 2020 legislative session to waive the ACT testing requirement for 11th grade students in the 2019-20 school year. 


TDOE remained focused on ensuring college and career readiness for all students, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic by providing several additional opportunities for students to take the ACT and for schools and districts to maximize participation: 

  • Offered districts the ability to register students to take the ACT on national test dates at no cost to the student for all students to participate in the ACT on national test dates during the summer and fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 
  • Collaborated with ACT to expand testing sites on national test dates during the fall of 2020 
  • Offered the opportunity during the in-school testing dates in spring 2021 (normally reserved for juniors) to test seniors who missed the previous ACT testing opportunities 


These efforts significantly improved the participation rate for the 2021 graduating class and brought the ACT participation rate to 96%, one percentage point shy from the prior year’s participation rate. Across the state, 17 districts had a participation rate of 100%, and only five districts had a participation rate lower than 90%.  


Access the 2020-21 ACT participation rates and composite scores data here, under the Additional Data heading.  


The department uses students' best ACT score, meaning that if a student took the ACT multiple times, the score included in the finalized data reflect the student’s highest score. During the 2020-21 school year, 64 districts submitted a total of 2,929 appeals, which was 2.6 times more than the number of appeals submitted in 2019-20.  


ACT results serve as a nationally-normed measure to indicate college and career readiness. Under Tennessee’s accountability model, earning a 21 on the ACT is one of the four ways that students can indicate that they are prepared for life after high school and a seamless entry into postsecondary education, the workplace, and the military.  


In partnership with the University of Tennessee, Martin, the department continues to offer free ACT prep workshops for students and educators. Learn how to take advantage of these free resources here. To learn more about college readiness testing in Tennessee, click here.