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Test prep: Groups educate parents on AzMERIT results

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  • Lisa Irish/Arizona Education News Service

Mesa Public Schools Students Practicing For AzMERIT. Photo Courtesy Mesa Public Schools

Parents are asking what new statewide assessment scores will mean for their child after learning that unofficial AzMERIT results show most Arizona students will need more help to meet or exceed grade-level expectations.

Test prep: Groups educate parents on AzMERIT results NewAZMeritParentsStoryHighlightsBoxTo quell concerns, school districts and education organizations across the state are rolling out resources to help parents understand why they may see a change in their child’s proficiency level when student reports are sent home in late October or early November, and how to use AzMERIT results to support students’ academic growth.

Expect More Arizona, a statewide education advocacy organization, released a short, humorous video last week targeted to parents that compares AzMERIT to  a child’s regular checkup with a doctor.

“We specifically created the video to help communicate the importance of getting accurate and meaningful information through AzMERIT,” said Christie Silverstein, vice president of public engagement for Expect More Arizona.

Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

In addition, Expect More Arizona hosted a 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, Aug. 25 and Thursday, Aug. 27 where parents could learn more about AzMERIT’s impact on students and how to read the score reports they will receive this fall. To view the webinar, click here.

Students took AzMERIT, the new statewide achievement test which replaced AIMS, for the first time last spring. The test was the first effort to measure students’ mastery of the English/language arts and math standards the Arizona State Board of Education approved in 2010 to better prepare students for college and career.

Last week, the State Board of Education adopted performance levels that indicate how well students understand grade-level material and how likely they are to be ready for the next grade. The performance levels were recommended by a team of Arizona Department of Education staff members and 80 educators who focused on what students should know at each grade level.

Comparing results

The increased rigor of the standards and the new testing format mean that parents whose students received solid results on AIMS could be in for a surprise.

Test prep: Groups educate parents on AzMERIT results AzMERITMesaPublicSchoolsStudentsHP

Mesa Public Schools students practicing for AzMERIT. Photo courtesy Mesa Public Schools

AzMERIT performance levels “give us a goal for where our students should be and establish a new baseline for us to measure progress” instead of “being set to where students are performing today,” said Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona.

For the past three years, the State Board of Education and other education leaders have said that students would initially score lower on AzMERIT than they did on AIMS, because AzMERIT is intentionally harder than AIMS, which measured the state’s previous standards.

Unofficial statewide results released earlier this month showed that a majority of Arizona third- through eleventh-grade students were partially or minimally proficient in both English/language arts and math.

While Arizona’s students and teachers have made solid progress over the past five years to meet the higher standards, “there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure more students are proficient in every grade, but we are confident that higher standards and the AzMERIT assessment will result in improved outcomes for students at every level,” Esau said.

Parent resources

Test prep: Groups educate parents on AzMERIT results Sidebar-ProficiencyExpect More Arizona created a parent resource center on its website to help parents understand the standards and provide resources and tools they can use to help their children succeed.

“Parents have had a lot of questions about AzMERIT, so we compiled all the answers into a one-page resource that our partners and schools could use to help share the information,” Silverstein said.

To help parents better understand their children’s homework based on the new standards, Stand for Children Arizona created Do your Homework Arizona, a free online tool.

What’s next?

At its Aug. 24 meeting, the State Board of Education will consider the reading cutoff score that will be used to determine if a third-grade student must be held back. The two areas of the English/language arts assessment that will factor into the Move on When Reading decision are reading for information and reading for literature

In 2010, the Arizona Legislature approved the Move On When Reading law  which requires third-grade students who score Falls Far Below in reading on AIMS or a successor test to not be promoted to fourth grade.Schools provide intensive support to students who fall under the law’s provisions to help improve their reading skills.

The board will examine if it has the legal authority to determine a cut score or a reading proficiency level, what options are available if two scores – reading and language arts – are required and ways to make that clear in the reports parents will receive.