Nevada at bottom, again; but what exactly is the ACT testing?

testing industrial complex
"The Condition of College and Career Readiness," 2018, ACT, Inc.
testing industrial complex
“The Condition of College and Career Readiness,” 2018, ACT, Inc.

Of the 20 or so states where all or nearly all high school graduates take the ACT, Nevada high school grads had the lowest average score in 2018.

ACT Inc. released its annual score report Wednesday. Nationally, “college readiness” in math among 2018 graduates fell to its lowest mark since 2004. “Readiness” in English has also been trending down nationally in recent years.

In Nevada, the percentage of grads meeting “benchmarks” in English, Reading, Math and Science were lower than in all other states where most or all students took the test — with the exception of math, where Nevada’s percentage was tied for the lowest with Mississippi.

In states, unlike Nevada, where taking the test is optional, substantially less students take the test, and average scores are invariably higher.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), which has been critical of the testing industry and promotes “valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools,” reacted to the ACT report by noting that a growing number of colleges and universities no longer require either the ACT or the SAT for admission.

A FairTest analysis of the ACT report also found that average ACT scores within racial groups either dropped or stagnated over the past five years. “This provides additional evidence that K-12 test-and-punish policies pursued by the federal government and many states have not improved readiness for higher education, at least as measured by this exam,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer.

The ACT and SAT both are often criticized for reflecting the impact of household incomes and socioeconomic factors more than gauging college readiness.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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