ACT Scores: Nevada is the Worst of the Worst

Frances Floresca

Nevada’s American College Test scores are the worst in the nation.

Nevada students not only earned the lowest ACT composite score (17.3) among U.S. states in 2022, a drop of nearly 18 percent since 2015, but also received the worst scores on each subject test: 16.1 for English; 17.1 for Math; 17.8 for Reading; and 17.6 for Science.

Contributing to the decline was difficulty in holding Nevada students accountable during the pandemic, along with policies that failed to penalize students for late or missing work.

There are several steps Nevada can take to improve ACT scores:

  • Encourage Clark County School District to get rid of lenient grading policies implemented in 2021. Under these policies a 50 is the lowest grade possible, teachers cannot penalize students for late work and students are allowed to retake tests. This has made it easier for students to game the system and pass classes. Instead, this should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Grades may have improved, but test scores have fallen.
  • Provide more education options for families. Data proves that parents know better than bureaucracy. For example, public charter schools grew in popularity as an in-person education option when public schools closed during the pandemic. These schools overall showed higher proficiency test rates in English Language Arts and Mathematics compared to school districts in Washoe County and Clark County.
  • Motivate students to retake the ACT. Nevada has the lowest retest rate of 7.9 percent. While the retake rates are different across states, Nevada scores no longer rank at the bottom when students retest. If students improve their ACT scores, they are more likely to be accepted into college and receive more scholarships.

The ACT test serves to measure high school students’ readiness for college, and it provides colleges with a common data point by which to compare all applicants.

Nevada is not alone when it comes to declining ACT scores. National scores have fallen to the lowest level in 30 years with an average composite score of 19.8 out of 36. Forty-two percent of 2022 graduates who took the exam met none of the subject benchmarks.

Participation rates varied across states, which makes comparing results difficult. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming are the only states where 100 percent of students took the ACT.

In addition to learning loss due to the pandemic and a reported lack of accountability, other reasons were cited for low nationwide ACT scores, including a “lack of access to a rigorous high school curriculum,” according to Rose Babington, ACT’s senior director for state partnerships.

Tommy Schultz, CEO of American Federation for Children, took to social media to voice concerns over the low ACT scores, writing “the K-12 system is broken” and that it is “time for fully funded school choice for ALL families.”

Frances Floresca

Frances Floresca

Director of Education Policy Initiatives

Frances Floresca joined Nevada Policy as the Director of Education Policy Initiatives in 2022, and she has considered herself an advocate for education freedom long before getting involved with politics. She and her sister attended different school types growing up, and even then, she realized that different students have different needs.

She previously worked for Independent Women’s Network and Citizens Against Government Waste. She has been invited to the White House and was cited in the 2021 Republican Study Committee’s budget proposal to Congress. Frances’s work has also been recognized in the Washington Examiner, InsideSources, Deseret News, and The Salt Lake Tribune. During college, she wrote for Campus Reform and worked on campaigns.

She also represented Utah in the Cherry Blossom Princess Program in Washington, D.C. in 2021, and she is also an avid classical singer having sung for high-ranking officials from around the world and the national anthem for events around the country. In December 2019, she received her B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Utah. Frances was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and has also lived in Washington, D.C. She now resides with her husband and son in Henderson, Nevada.