A wave of change has been sweeping through public education as states across the nation adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The state of Arizona adopted the CCSS in 2010, which meant that AZ’s K-12 state standards for public school students got a full overhaul, along with assessments to align with them. Thus were conceived Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards and, to go along with those standards, the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS).
AIMS testing was short-lived, however, as it was superseded by AzMERIT, short for Arizona's Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching. The new suite of assessments that make up the AzMERIT was adopted in 2014, and students in Arizona's public school system have had to adjust to a new testing style and format—as have the state's parents, teachers, and administrators.
Here are five things you might not know about the AzMERIT:
1. This group of tests is unique to Arizona.
Some states choose to utilize standardized assessments developed for multiple states by PARCC (Arizona was originally among them), others choose to use tests developed by Smarter Balanced (SBAC), and some go in a different direction entirely. For the AzMERIT, the Arizona Department of Education chose to partner with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to create a new assessment.
The result is a highly rigorous battery of tests that only public students in Arizona will take. In fact, the phrase "Arizona-centric" has been used in conjunction with these new assessments.
2. Computer-based testing is part of the plan.
As of January 5, around "60% of Arizona schools were capable of administering the computer-based AzMERIT tests and 40% of Arizona schools (with 40% of Arizona’s student population) selected computer-based AzMERIT testing."
The Arizona Department of Education has taken steps to ensure that secure browsers are readily available for all schools participating in computer-based AzMERIT testing. For schools that are not yet ready for computer-based testing, paper-and-pencil versions are still available.
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3. The AIMS test is not entirely phased out.
While it is true that Arizona public school students in grades three through high school will now take the AzMERIT exams, vestiges of the AIMS assessments are still in place.
This is because there were no changes to the Arizona Science Standards. As a result, the AIMS Science tests will still be taken by students in grades 4 and 8, as well as high school students eligible for science testing.
4. Focus on accountability for educators and schools.
It has been established that AzMERIT assessment scores will indeed be used as part of teacher and principal evaluation.
However, these evaluations also must include "the educational growth that students show over time." In addition, we can expect AzMERIT scores to be a factor in how schools are graded (the "A" through "F" system is used with Arizona public schools).
5. Passing the AzMERIT is not required for high school graduation.
Unlike in previous years, when high schools students were required to pass the AIMS assessments in order to graduate, Arizona does not require that students pass the AzMERIT tests as requirement of graduation.
This change represents an end to a long-standing testing requirement for the state's public high school graduates. More broadly, it signifies a change in the tide regarding Arizona's attitude toward high-stakes testing and how it should impact the state's K-12 students.
We hope this article was informative, and that you learned something you didn't know before. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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About the Author
David Moadel is in his third decade working in education. He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult. David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida. David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.