Arizona Education Association

Fall 2015

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Page 28 of 39

AEA Advocate | Fall 2015 29 EducATION NEWS EducATION NEWS EducATION NEWS EducATION NEWS Low AzMERIT Test Scores Refl ect State's Inadequate Support This past spring, public school students across Arizona took the statewide standardized test, AzMERIT, for the fi rst time. This assessment is the fi rst test aligned to the Arizona College and Career Ready standards, which were implemented without additional state support in 2010. Preliminary test scores by grade level were released in August and individual scores will come out in October. On August 14, 2015, the Arizona state Board of education voted to approve AzMERIT cut scores, which assess student profi ciency levels and will be used to determine several accountability measures, including third-grade retention, A-F school labels, and teacher performance evaluations. AEA Vice President Joe Thomas spoke at the meeting about providing teachers with manageable class sizes and the resources to help our students reach the state's higher expectations. "scores tell a story about our schools that we cannot miss. Even with limited support and diminishing resources, our teachers knew these higher standards were important and they backed them. And it's our turn to back those teachers and the schools they work in today. setting the standards high and telling the story the way it needs to be told. These fi rst year scores are just that. They're a baseline; they're where students are right now. They are going to improve and they are going to reach the baseline scores set today. The scores tell a story of the state of schools in Arizona. They refl ect the hard work. They refl ect the high standards. And they refl ect the courageous implementation. But they also refl ect the lack of funding, the high class sizes, and the stress to the system. Remember that as we move forward. Let's tell the right story about these scores." While sBE approved benchmarks that would retain more than half of the state's third-graders (this year's fourth-grade class) based on the state's Move on When Reading law, none of the students will be held back this year or next due to a moratorium on accountability measures tied to the test scores. This time out will allow the state to establish a baseline for AzMERIT scores and is the result of a bill AEA lobbied for with other education groups this past legislative session. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and sBE have several committees reviewing teacher evaluations, A-F school labels, and Move on When Reading. AEA will advocate for using multiple measures to determine student academic achievement in this committee meetings. AEA President Andrew F. Morrill sits on the teacher evaluations task force and believes AzMERIT should be used as a tool for assessing student needs and areas for improvement, not as an instrument of punishment for students and teachers. "The feeling really across the country and evidence is that high stakes standardized tests really don't move the needle academically. Arizona lawmakers took one good step in deciding to no longer require students to pass a standardized test to graduate. Educators in Arizona have not only embraced higher academic standards for students, but we're going to be using a better assessment of their learning." Passing the new AzMerit test isn't a graduation requirement, but starting in 2017 high school seniors will have to pass a civics test. n

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