With historically low ACT scores, what can Nevada do to improve its education system?

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While the state of Nevada has always ranked in the bottom sector of overall education, the Silver State hit a historic level of low with the newly released ACT scores of 2022.

Ranking fiftieth in scores in the nation, which also reached a low that hasn’t been seen in over 30 years, Nevada is severely struggling to turn around its reputation for poor education.

To remedy the state of Nevada’s disappointingly low test scores, Nevada needs to take into consideration how this performance decline occurred and then reevaluate methods of working to improve standardized test scores in post-COVID years.

However, how exactly should the school districts of Nevada go about incentivizing their students to score better on tests?

“We do see lower math scores and students struggling in physics. It’s because of that math deficiency from the COVID year. ” said Kateri Christian, a physics teacher at Palo Verde High School, who has proctored the ACT for at least four years.

Christian further elaborated on how high schools should continue to incentivize students to do better on the ACT. She suggested providing them with the option to take a shortened schedule if they reach a certain benchmark with their scores.

“I don’t think the attendance is down, certainly not. It’s just the level of preparation,” Christian said. “There are students taking it that know it’s a requirement, that it checks the box on that transcript, and so they don’t try.”

According to average ACT scores released by act.org for the graduating class of 2022, Nevada not only ranked last in overall composite score, but also individually in English, math, reading, and science.

Nevada’s 2022 average scores of 16.1 out of 36 in English and 17.1 out of 36 in math show a large disparity in what Nevadan students are scoring versus what they should be scoring. The State of Nevada Department of Education places College and Career Readiness Assessment minimum scores at 18 for English and 22 for math. 

While the absence of students in classrooms throughout the past few years is likely an essential factor to students underperforming on the ACT, another large factor is Nevada being one of only six other states to require high school juniors to take the ACT.

Although Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming, also had 100% of graduates tested, those states scored up to 1.9 points higher on average in comparison to Nevada.

With many universities adopting a test-blind policy where scores are not considered if submitted, such as all University of California schools, the significance of standardized testing in a holistic review of a student’s application continues to decrease.

That considered, it would make more sense to remove the ACT test-taking requirement from the state of Nevada to improve overall student performance and expectations on the ACT.

Additionally, Nevada high schools should continue to promote test-preparation boot camps more so than they have in the past, as those who enroll in them on average see significant improvement in their test scores.

By removing any test-taking requirements, Nevada would close the gap between performance of students who can afford test preparation programs (who would choose to take the ACT either way) and low-income students who would rather spend their time and money elsewhere for their college application.

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