Originally written on 2015 July 23

RE: Nevada Department of Education press release, “First Statewide ACT Administration Sets Baseline for Nevada”

Nearly 30,000 Nevada 11th graders (95% of the Class of 2016) took the ACT exam, which is now a graduation requirement.  … Updated preliminary results of the statewide ACT show that 2,955 (10%) of Nevada’s 11th graders met all four of the college and career readiness benchmarks. Nearly 10,500 test takers met the benchmark score in English, 6,911 met the benchmark in math, 6,797 met the reading benchmark, and 4,729 met the benchmark in science. The average composite score for Nevada 11th graders was 17.4.  … The results show that the vast majority of our students are not well prepared for education beyond high school.  … Nevada is one of 10 states that require all 11th graders to take the ACT.  … By giving the ACT in 11th grade, we are providing our students a clear, objective picture of their academic strengths and weaknesses.

Missing from this report are answers to some crucial questions, based on the assumption that the ACT, like the SAT, is still basically a college admission test, like it used to be when my generation had to take it.

What the heck does the title of the press release mean, “sets the baseline”?

If the next round comes back with only 89% failing, that will be considered “success”? Statistically it would be a 10% improvement from 90% failing…

Exactly what are the “benchmarks”? What constitutes a passing grade?

Previous reports cite the pitiful fact that high school seniors / college freshmen have a reading proficiency at the seventh grade level. Is that the passing grade for this round of the ACT?

Since this kind of testing replaces the old high school proficiency test, and passing it is now a graduation requirement, do these results mean that 90% of our high school students will NOT graduate?

Who makes that decision, and based on what? Social promotion? Public pressure?

Do all Nevada high school juniors even WANT to go to college?

Is it fair to test for college readiness those students who do NOT want to go to college?

Are ALL Nevada high school students even academically and temperamentally suitable for college-level academic work?

If not, why test them all for college readiness? How does that make any sense?

How do the test results break out if restricted to only those students who DO want to go to college?

Does the test result identify students who don’t want to go to college but would be suitable to do so and should be encouraged to do so?

What is the reason why Nevada high school students do so poorly on a college admission test?

Asked a different way, what is the ethnic and cultural breakdown of the test results? White-hispanic-black, urban-suburban-rural, etc.?

Are our test results pulled down by the large numbers (majority?) of students from cultures that do NOT place a high value on education and academics?

Since our schools are obviously doing such a poor job with high school juniors, what hope do they have to make up the deficiencies IN JUST ONE YEAR (the senior year)?

Is it even fair to the students to use the senior year as a remedial year, instead of CONTINUING their education in the more ADVANCED subjects that used to be taught in the senior year?

How are colleges adjusting to such a dismal report? Are they accepting the job of remedial education that is thrust upon them by the public schools? Is college education, too, being dummied down to accommodate the poorly prepared applicants?

Since our high schools are obviously doing such a poor job, do all students HAVE to go to college (local community college) just to finish getting a halfway decent general education?

If so, isn’t that just a dastardly scheme to make taxpayers, parents and student pay TWICE for the same service? Once for the public schools, once for the tuition in college? Oh, plus a third time for a TAX-supported college…!!!