By Pearl Chang Esau,
President and CEO, Expect More Arizona
Did you know that last school year was the final year for AIMS in reading, writing and math? This spring, AIMS will be replaced with AzMERIT, which stands for Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching.
The new assessment will better reflect what students are learning and teachers are teaching in our classrooms today – no changes to our current standards or curricula are needed. The test will be unique to Arizona, and Arizona educators and education experts will be involved in developing questions.
Why a New Test?
While testing is typically not fun, assessments are important tools that give teachers and parents valuable information to support student learning. With the new assessment, parents will receive more meaningful information to know if their children are on track to succeed academically. Teachers will be able to use the new assessment, which is more strongly aligned to what they are teaching in the classroom, as a tool to measure student progress. Assessments can tell both teachers and parents if a student is mastering a subject or if they need to spend additional time learning that topic.
The AIMS tests in reading, writing and math were not able to do these things. The old tests encouraged too much teaching to the test and did not give an accurate measure of what students are learning in the classroom today.
Since we have new standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics – Arizona’s College & Career Ready Standards have been in classrooms for four years now – we needed to replace the AIMS test. The standards and the assessment should align so that we can have a more accurate view of how our students are actually doing.
What You Need to Know About the New Test
• The test will be given this spring during a similar testing window as last year (March 30-May 8). Your child’s school will determine the exact timeframe for each grade level.
• At the high school level, assessments will be given at the end of English and math courses, similar to a final exam.
• Passing the end-of-course tests will not be a high school graduation requirement.
• School districts and charter schools can choose to administer the assessment via pencil/paper or on a computer.
• Personal student data has never been, and never will be, shared with the federal government. Student test data is protected by a number of state and federal laws.
• The new test replaces AIMS in reading, writing and math, but the AIMS science test will still be given to students in grades 4, 8 and high school.
New Test, Different Scores
The new tests will also help Arizona set a more realistic benchmark for student performance. Because we have a completely new test, scores will look different and may be lower than before; however, this doesn’t mean that your child is doing worse. Instead, the scores will provide a more accurate view of how your child is performing. Both students and teachers will need time to adjust to the new assessment. With time and our support, we know Arizona students will rise to the challenge.
Tips to Help You Child
• Set shared goals with your child’s teacher for what your child needs to know and be able to do during this school year.
• Check in regularly on your child’s progress to see where your child might need help.
• Talk with your child about the new assessment. Your conversations can help minimize any fear or anxiety your child may feel when taking the test this spring.
• If test scores look lower than you are used to, talk with your child’s teacher and work together to determine a plan to help your child improve.
• Sample test questions can be found on the Arizona Department of Education’s webpage (azed.gov/AzMERIT) and practice tests will be available in February 2015.
There are still a number of details that need to be determined about how the test will be administered at your child’s school and how the test scores will be used for students, teachers and schools. As these details are discussed, you will have opportunities to be engaged in the conversation and to have your voice heard.
To learn more and to download resources to help your child succeed, visit ArizonaAimsHigher.org.