School test scores not about 'proficiency'

With the exception of one school devoted entirely to college preparation in Las Vegas, most of the math scores that the Nevada Department of Education lists under the category “proficiency” are abysmal, but they haven’t always been.

There was a time when Douglas High School wouldn’t allow students who failed their proficiency tests to participate in graduation, must less receive a diploma.

For more than three decades until 2015, in order to receive a high school diploma you had to pass English and math proficiency tests. It was a rite of passage, and not everyone passed.

All that changed in 2015, when as part of the College and Career Readiness Assessment, every junior would be required to take the ACT college entrance exam.

As a result the percent of test takers statewide who passed all sections fell from 25 percent to 8 percent.

Apparently, that was sufficient for the state to have a baseline for college readiness. In spring 2016, 18 Douglas High seniors became the last not to graduate with their class because they hadn’t passed the proficiency test.

The slide in what the state calls “proficiency” followed apace after the elimination of the mandatory test.

We assert that what those scores actually indicate is closer to how many students plan to go to college.

And if that’s all anyone takes from them, then fine. But it’s not, and the Nevada Board of Education and the Legislature are far more responsible for that than any bored junior taking a college entrance exam with no plans to continue their education.

Anyone looking at the school rankings for any school district in the state can see the drop and question why Nevada students are getting so much dumber over such a short time. The answer is those students are smart enough to know taking a college entrance exam without any intention of going to college is a waste of their time.


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