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Leader touts state 2016 education highlights

Xavier Smith • Updated Dec 31, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen took to social media Friday to highlight the state’s 2016 education gains and achievements. 

The state’s education leader highlighted the state’s gains in science, funding and on exams such as the ACT. 

“Our students again made [Tennessee] the fastest improving state – this time in science. [Tennessee] is now in top half of states in fourth- and eighth-grade science,” McQueen said.

In 2016, Wilson County became home to two Fuji Automatic Numerical Control robots, which are used in more manufacturing and industrial facilities than any other brand in the world. Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the robots boost the schools – Watertown and Mt. Juliet high schools – into lead positions for science, technology, engineering and math education and robotics in the state.

McQueen also highlighted the state’s graduation rate, which bubbled to 88.5 percent this year. In Wilson County, that graduation rate rose to 95.1 percent this year, making it one of the highest rates in the state. 

“One thousand three hundred more [Tennessee] public school students earned a 21-plus on the ACT, with 3,000 more students taking the exam,” McQueen said. 

Wilson County student’s average opposite ACT score was 20.6, more than half a point higher than the previous year, and about 48 percent of graduating seniors scored a 21 or higher.

High school seniors also had the option to retake the ACT for free for the first time this year. McQueen said nearly 24,000 seniors signed up to take the exam. 

McQueen also highlighted the 20 Read to be Ready summer programs that served almost 600 students and provided families with close to 12,000 books. 

The Read to be Ready initiative strives to have 75 percent of students reading on grade level by third grade in 2025. McQueen said the state also launched the Read to be Ready coaching network with more than 90 districts, 200 coaches and 3,000 elementary teachers, which impacts 77,000 students. 

McQueen also highlighted Tennessee high school student college-going rate, which improved 5 percent, more than the previous six years combined. 

Cumberland University reported a record enrollment this year with around 1,960 students enrolled to start the school’s 175th academic year. 

Cumberland is one of a few private universities in the state to participate in Tennessee Promise and the only one to offer an associate’s degree tuition-free. In its second year of participation, Cumberland University is No. 2 in the state for retention of Tennessee Promise students.

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