AzMERIT Results only tell part of the story

Tucson Unified Explains AzMERIT
Tucson Unified Explains AzMERIT

AzMERIT Results Only Tell Part of the Story
This past spring, the Arizona State Board of Education replaced the state-wide assessment tool from the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) to Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching (AzMERIT).

bubbletest
AzMERIT was taken on computers rather than the bubble sheets used in the previous test.

The Arizona State Board of Education’s reasoning for changing from AIMS to AzMERIT was that the new assessment is a better tool to assess how students are learning under the Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards (ACCRS) – Arizona’s version of the controversial Common Core Standards.  In addition to the change in the state-mandated test, which would be, by all reports, harder than AIMS, the new AzMERIT test could be taken on-line as opposed to the traditional bubble answer sheet.

While parents and school districts will not receive scores on individual students and schools until October, unofficial results shared with the media have resulted in stories stating that Arizona’s students did not do well or are failing.  News headlines scream Two-thirds fall short on AzMERIT test” (Arizona Daily Star) and “AzMERIT: Most Arizona students not ‘proficient’ in reading, math” (The Arizona Republic). The headlines and articles are sensationalist and alarmist in nature and are working parents up into an unnecessary frenzy.

“Tell me again what a great job the public school systems are doing.” Gil Fidler (comment from August 8 Arizona Republic article)

The articles only tell a part of the story.  It is true that in comparing AzMERIT scores against AIMS results, students did not score as well.  What is not being covered is how the differences in what was tested by the AzMERIT assessment differed from AIMS and how those differences negatively impacted student scores.

Cronkite news reported that the number of 3rd graders who scored as minimally proficient on spring 2014 AIMS language arts comprehension test versus the 2015 AzMERIT test doubled from 14% to 44%.  According to Cronkite News reporter, Angie Schuster, “It’s not that kids have gotten worse, it’s just that Arizona has adopted a more rigorous set of standards.

azmeritexperience
The Arizona Education Association (AEA) shares information on their ‘Share You AzMERIT Experience’ Facebook page.

On its “Share Your AzMERIT Experience” Facebook page, the Arizona Education Association states, “It’s important to keep in mind that AZ has been raising standards and expectations without increasing support, so these test results should not be surprising. If test scores are important to AZ policymakers, then they should invest in public education.”

Despite some news reports, the lower test scores do not reflect a failure in Arizona’s public schools, teachers or children.  The test scores reflect the higher standards to which teachers are teaching and students are learning as expected from the Arizona College and Career Readiness, aka Common Core.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Arizona Department of Education – Assessment (http://www.azed.gov/assessment/)

Creno, C. (August 8, 2015). AzMERIT: Most Arizona students not ‘proficient’ in reading, math. In The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/08/08/azmerit-students-proficient-reading-math/31312755/.

Creno, C. (February 23, 2015). What Arizona parents need to know about AzMERIT test. In The Arizona Republic. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/02/23/parents-need-know-azmerit/23879463/.

Fischer, H. (2015, Feb 06). Legislature works to terminate AIMS early. Arizona Daily Star Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1651741519?accountid=3783

Gilbert School District Information on AzMERIT (http://www.gilbertschools.net/cms/lib3/AZ01001722/Centricity/Domain/799/What%20is%20AzMERIT.pdf)

Huicochea, A. (2015, Aug 11). Early report:Two-thirds fall short on AzMERIT. Arizona Daily Star Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1702854979?accountid=3783

Resnick, B. (August 10, 2015). Arizona students’ results plunge on Common Core test. In 12 News. Retrieved September 9, 2015, from http://www.12news.com/story/news/2015/08/10/arizona-student-scores-plunge–new-common-core-test/31425653/.

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS
As the creator of this article, I have a responsibility to explain the background history of the issue on which I am writing.  Despite writing the article from my point of view, I still have a responsibility to be fair.  I have chosen sources that are both examples of what I see at the issue – the reporting of low test scores – and those explaining why this year’s low text scores should not overly concern parents.  I have also provided links to news videos and articles which my readers can go to should they desire further information.

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