Making the ACT (retake) an Event

By Adriana Harrington, Office of Student Readiness and the Department of Education

ACT Retake Save the DatePolk County High School (PCHS) has begun a strategic campaign to support and motivate students taking the ACT, especially those testing on a national test date. All public school seniors who took the ACT as juniors have the opportunity to retake the test on Oct. 22, 2016 at a national testing site. (Click here to learn more) This opportunity gives students a chance to increase the scores opening doors to increased scholarships, decreased need for remediation, and increased awareness of their postsecondary and career readiness.

Because most Tennessee students take the ACT for the first time at their own high school testing on a Saturday for a national test date in an unfamiliar or distant location can be an obstacle. A challenge PCHS is ready to tackle and overcome. PCHS is leveraging all opportunities to showcase the importance of ACT and the value of retaking through (1) strong messaging around the ACT, (2) motivating students, and (3) supporting students on the test day.

ACT Messaging 

“We’ve taken great steps at PCHS to improve our turnout for ACT testing on Saturdays. These steps are a crucial component to student success since students who test on Saturday must test at an offsite location. Student motivation in general is encouraged by school counselors Rachael Lowe and Hannah Bramlett, and this first step of encouragement lays the foundation in increasing student turnout.”

–       Principal Ron German

PCHS’s multi-layered approach prioritizes awareness about the structure and importance of the ACT, and then reinforces with the growth mindset of the value of re-taking the test. On average Tennessee students who retake the ACT score 1-3 points higher. PCHS leverages the school counselors as the main disseminators of information. As two people, however, the counselors rely on teachers to support their efforts. Equipping all teachers with information on the ACT and knowledge on how to have critical conversations with students can happen in an hour long professional development but can amplify the messaging to students a hundred fold. Sample handouts to provide teachers and students can be found here and here.

21+ Club University of Tennessee, Knoxville Tour

21+ Club University of Tennessee, Knoxville Tour

ACT Motivating

In addition to ensuring students have the information they need to be successful on the ACT, PCHS has put in place the ACT 21+ club to motivate and reward students who score a 21 or higher on the ACT. Students in the 21+ club receive certain benefits during the school year such as lunch parties, reward trips, passes to school sporting events, and college campus tours. This club is sponsored by PCHS teacher Debbie Silvers and has helped make ACT much more than another required test for juniors each year. The photo above shows the PCHS 21+ club on the campus tour of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The “club membership” can be adapted for each school setting to fit your needs and ACT goals. For example: there could be a 21+ club, two point growth club, and/or 30+ club. Prominently celebrating ACT successes on the walls in the school building helps to invest and intrigue earlier grades, and make ACT a natural part of the conversation at school. Check out Marshall County High School’s wall of fame here.

PCHS students on an ACT national test day

PCHS students on an ACT national test day

Test Day Supports

PCHS has worked to remove many of the external stressors so students can focus their energy on the test, as the ACT can be a nerve wrecking experience. PCHS coordinates a bus for students to remove the transportation barrier. A PCHS teacher goes with the students on the bus to provide encouragement, motivation, and support on test day. Students feel reassured knowing that as they walk into the test and as they exit they see a friendly face. Additionally, high school students may not always have the best eating habits, so PCHS provides snacks to fuel students before the exam and replenish them after.

How can you adopt/adapt these ideas to support your students (retaking) the ACT?

Now is the time, registration deadline for the retake is September 16, 2016! For support on how to plan and implement your own ACT strategy please reach out to your CORE office. Information on the CORE offices can be found here.