The 2018/19 AZ Merit scores in Language Arts and Mathematics were recently released.
Arizona Students improved their performance in 13 of the 22 test areas.
That is good news. Students and their instructors are to be commended.
The bad news is about half of the Arizona students (and others in states that have an end of the year testing) failed both the reading and math exams.
Please click here to see how your child’s school performed.
Having tests to measure whether students are mastering education standards is a sound policy that all educators embrace.
However, educators and school leaders need more assistance from both public servant and family stakeholders to take student performance to the next level.
What can be done to build on the incremental progress in performance from last year?
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, speaking on both Sunday Square Off and the Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes radio show, praised the improvement of the students but called for measures to attack the teacher shortage (recruitment and retention) in the state and provide educators added training (professional development) on how to teach the rigorous standards to the students.
What are two other steps that can be taken?
There are two other steps that can be taken to raise student scores on the AZ Merit Exams.
The first step is to fully invest more funds in public education that will attract highly qualified education leaders, instructors, counselors, teacher’s aides, and additional support staff.
Arizona is still below the 2008 pre-recession funding levels. 2020 is a little more than two months away. Schools need to be funded for 2020 levels.
Funding at 2020 levels will help reduce class sizes and provide greater individualized attention for students who need greater assistance in mastering the standards.
The second step is for students to have more incentive to perform well on the test.
Currently, other than random offers of rewards depending on the school, there are no incentives for students to do well on AZ Merit.
In Arizona, thanks to the moves of the current Governor and the Arizona Legislature, students can still graduate from high school even if they do not pass the AZ Merit tests.
Furthermore, state and out of state universities do not look to an applicant’s AZ Merit performance as criteria for deciding whether or not to accept a prospective student for admission.
Finally, passing from one grade level to the next is not primarily determined by performance on the AZ Merit.
This situation puts all the pressure on traditional and charter (the ones that cannot afford to “cherry-pick” their students) public school educators and none on students who have nothing to lose if they do not perform well on the test.
The legislature and Governor should consider mandating some sort of graduation or grade advancement minimum (without dumbing down any of the standards or exams) score for students (while providing exceptions for those with special needs.)
State Universities should consider adding an AZ Merit testing score level elective option for admission in case students do not fully satisfy one of the other selection criteria (graduating grade average, school ranking, or score on the SAT/ACT.)
Otherwise, educators, even with more school funding, will be working with “one hand behind their backs” to get the desired results everyone wants for these assessments.
Having a well-informed and prepared citizenry is essential in having a thriving democracy and republic.
Congratulations to the students and their teachers for making progress last year.
However, a lot more is needed to get to the next higher level of student achievement.
Everyone who cares about children should agree on this.
Featured Image from Arizona Daily Independent.