The Lincoln County School District board met on Thursday, Oct. 13. Marty Soderborg gave a detailed ACT report, where he compared Nevada’s ACT approach to Colorado’s.
Before Nevada made juniors take the ACT, about 9,000 students took it yearly. Now that it is mandatory, about 32,000 students take it
When Nevada started requiring juniors to take the ACT for a graduation requirement, the state’s scores plummeted. Nevada has the worst ACT scores out of all the states that mandate it. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Nevada student composite score is 17.7. The national average score is 20.8. An ACT spokesman told the RJ, “the decline in the average score is completely predictable. We’ve seen it in every state that has moved from voluntary testing to mandatory testing on the ACT. You’re including students who might not normally have taken the ACT and students who possibly didn’t consider going to college.” He added, “They tend to be lower-achieving students in general.”
The ACT has four subjects, English composition, algebra, social science and Biology. Each of the four subjects have benchmark scores. For English it’s 18, algebra and science, 22, and biology, 23. Students that make or exceed these scores are considered college-ready. In the United States, only 26 percent of students are considered college-ready. Nevada is much lower with only 11 percent.
According to the ACT, students who earn a college-ready score have a 75 percent chance of getting a C or higher in college.
Soderberg said, “I don’t think the ACT shows college-readiness.”
Nevada puts a lot of time in preparing students for the end of course exams, so they don’t have any time preparing for the ACT, which is maybe one of the reasons why our scores are so low.
Colorado’s ACT scores are relatively high at 20.4. Soderborg believes that they have such good scores because they don’t have to take as many tests to graduate; actually they don’t have to take any test if they don’t want to. Colorado calls it a “menu of options.”
According to www.cde.state.co.us, Colorado has 12 different graduation options. Some are student assessment tests like the ACT, SAT and the ACCUPLACER. Others are more individualized like the district capstone and the industry certificate. This means students that are not a good test takers can do an industry certificate certificate, which is basically a portfolio of all the accomplishments that they have done through their school career.
This is leaving many Nevada educators to wonder if the state should rethink its approach to testing and graduation.