Hamilton County Schools and UTC team up to help students improve ACT scores
Posted on 10/16/2019
HCS logoHamilton County Schools and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) have teamed to bring ACT prep to students in the district’s high schools. The two started the partnership to address the goal of attaining a district average ACT composite score of 21 in the Future Ready 2023 Action Plan. The program is held at five high schools in the district, but slots are open in the ACT prep program for high school students across the county. The sessions are held after school hours on Saturdays. The programs started at Tyner Academy in the fall of 2018 but have expanded to Brainerd High, The Howard School, Red Bank High, and Central High this year. Hamilton County Schools funds the sessions at Red Bank High and Central High with slots open to students from other high schools in the district.

“When UTC was approached to contribute to ACT test prep in Hamilton County Schools, I knew it was going to be a fantastic opportunity to support the great work already being done across the school system,” said John Freeze, director of the UTC Center for Professional Education. “What I didn’t know was just how rewarding it would be to work alongside a group of dedicated school administrators, teachers, and students. They have been exceptional and have inspired me in ways I never imagined. These remarkable students have shown up for the sessions, committed to putting in the work, and have realized significant gains in their ACT scores.”

The average increase of students from Tyner Academy participating in ACT prep added an average of 2.64 points on their final score. Of those participating, 92 percent of the students saw an increase in their test scores. One participant increased the final score on the test by ten points. Tyner Academy is the only group to have participated in the program that has taken the ACT test and received scores.

After the success at Tyner, UTC looked to make an even bigger impact by adding schools and opportunities. The university used UTC’s Diversity and Inclusion funds to add the additional schools and slots for more students to participate. UTC has a partnership with Educational Testing Consultants (ETC), a national provider of test prep programs. ETC manages the curriculum development and instructional team, and UTC manages the logistics of course delivery for the programs at all five of the participating high school locations. The instructional program uses local instructors as well as some from other areas to broaden the horizons of the students.

“Partnerships with the community like the UTC ACT prep program are vital for our students as we seek to prepare them for success after graduation,” said Blake Freeman, executive director of Early Post-Secondary Opportunities in Hamilton County Schools. “The first students from Tyner to participate in the program have shown significant gains as a result of participation, and we look forward to the results we will see from the additional groups added this year.”

The course is 16 hours of intensive instructor-led ACT prep with students meeting once a week in the weeks before an ACT date. The timing of the course allows students to gain new skills and to practice what they have learned before the testing date. The multi-week format also allows students more interaction time with instructors. The ACT prep course is designed to have students at their peak performance just before testing. The course uses practice tests, with real test questions, to familiarize students with the test format and build their confidence going into the test.

“A district ACT composite is difficult to move significantly in the short term because the test measures skills acquired over time,” said Justin Robertson, chief schools officer, Hamilton County Schools. “One focus over the past year was to increase the number of students taking the assessment. With an increase in test-takers, you usually anticipate there may be an initial slight decline in the composite score. However, the exposure of more students to the opportunity combined with ACT prep courses such as this will help us move district scores forward to meet our goals in Future Ready 2023.”

The ACT prep partnership with UTC addresses Future Ready Students, Action Area 2 in the districts five-year plan Future Ready 2023. The program also will help students meet a Focus Five target in the plan that has a goal of the average ACT composite score reaching 21 for the Class of 2023.

“Everything we do in Hamilton County Schools is targeted to ensuring our graduates are future-ready and prepared for success after graduation,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “This partnership with UTC, additional early post-secondary options for high school students, the addition of full-time college and career counselors in our high schools, and the dedication to academic success from our students and families will mean more graduates will find success in colleges and universities as they prepare for a career.”

Students in Hamilton County Schools have worked with the district to record a video with the student’s advice to their peers on how to improve ACT scores. Click the photo or video link to view the video.