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What New Education Test Scores Really Mean

By Bob Conrad
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Image: Washoe County School District.

Image: Washoe County School District.

The Washoe County School District was notified recently by the state Department of Education that its students are under-prepared for college. That’s true, but its not the whole story behind recent ACT test scores for local students.

School district staff said they were surprised by the results, which show that only 14 percent of 11th graders in the county are meeting college readiness benchmarks. That’s compared to just 10-percent of 11th graders statewide.

Ben Hayes, chief accountability officer for the district, said it’s unclear how the district should interpret those numbers.

“We just don’t have the context to make real good use of them yet,” he said. “At this point the school district doesn’t know exactly what these data are saying. They’re saying something about college readiness for 11th graders, but it’s a one-time test when typically a lot of kids will take it two or three times, and they’ll take it through the fall of their senior year if not a little bit later.”

The ACT is a college admissions test, and the Nevada Legislature mandated two years ago that schools require all high school students to take a standardized test.

The thing is, the district already tests 10th grade students using the preliminary SAT, or PSAT, to gauge college readiness and start preparing them for higher education.

Hayes said that he’s planning to meet with the state and the ACT test makers to figure out how to best interpret the results for the future.

One reason for the low scores may be the state’s new requirement that all students participate.

According to Greg Bortolin a Nevada Department of Education spokesman, despite the legislative change, he said it’s clear that students coming out of high school must be better prepared for what’s next.

“So what happens as a result of that … is that you now have a lot of unmotivated students taking the test who have no intention of going beyond high school,” he said. “Before this requirement, Nevada’s results literally landed about in the middle of the pack.”

 

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