Failing the test

The Clark County School District has made great strides improving its high school graduation rate. But what good is handing out more diplomas if the students who receive them aren’t prepared for the next level?

In 2012, just 61.6 percent of Clark County students successfully made it through high school. The number jumped to 72.3 percent last year. Sounds like progress — but not so fast.

According to district ACT scores released last week, just 9 percent of Clark County kids have the necessary skills in math, science, English and reading to handle college work. This miserable finding is borne out by the fact that an astonishing 61 percent of local graduates who attend college in Nevada require remedial classes in math or English.

It’s true that Nevada ACT scores have suffered — down 18 percent, on average — since the state made the test mandatory for all students last year. In most districts, only students who plan to go on to college sign up for the test. But the numbers indicate that even Clark County students bringing home good grades and seemingly performing to reasonable standards simply aren’t learning enough to handle a higher education workload in all four subjects.

That’s disturbing.

“There are more folks out of work or displaced kids who aren’t prepared,” said Steve Canavero, the state superintendent of public instruction. “We also know there’s a problem there of alignment with post-secondary success. That’s undeniable [and] an issue in our state.”

Yes it is. And it’s not new. But numerous previous efforts to ensure the state’s high school graduates don’t need remedial work when they enter college have obviously not had the desired results.

Mr. Canavero touts a handful of new initiatives designed to improve student performance. Fine. And certainly the district has a number of high-achieving students capable of excelling at top colleges and universities. But it’s fair to ask whether the diplomas the district is handing out to a great many kids are actually worth the paper on which they’re printed.

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