On Monday, the Arizona State Board of Education condemned Arizona’s struggling third graders to months of uncertainty when they voted on the implementation this year of Move on When Reading. Of three available options before the Board, the majority voted in favor of the strict interpretation of A.R.S. §15-701.
That option force schools to retain third grade students based on their performance on the AZMerit exam despite the fact that the results of that exam will not be available until after most schools have ended their school year. As a result, some third graders will not likely know if they can move on to fourth grade until weeks before school begins. The timeline prevents struggling students from taking remedial steps that might prepare them to move on.
State Board staff recommended that the SBE adopt one of the following actions for the 2016-2017 school year:
1. Implement retention practices as defined by A.R.S. §15-701 with no adjustments.
a. In this option, all districts and charters, regardless of start date, would be required to retain third grade students who read significantly below grade level for the 2016-2017 school year as determined by scores on the Spring 2016 English Language Arts AzMERIT exam.
b. Schools would additionally be required to notify parents upon receipt of scores.
c. As required in statute, all districts and charters will continue to submit literacy plans by the deadline of October 1, 2016.
2. Allow schools to submit school calendars to be considered for potential exemption from A.R.S. §15-701 retention requirements for only the 2016-2017 school year.
a. Schools must submit to the State Board of Education their local governing board approved school calendars which clearly indicate school start dates within three weeks of the expected receipt of parent reports on July 11, 2016.
b. The State Board of Education would make individual determination regarding eligibility for exemption from statute retention requirements for the 2016-2017 school year.
c. Exempted schools must plan and implement intervention and remedial strategies for the promoted student if third grade assessment data subsequently demonstrates that the pupil reads significantly below grade level as determined by scores on the Spring 2016 English Language Arts AzMERIT exam.
d. Non-exempted schools and districts must, as required by statute, retain third grade students who read significantly below grade level for the 20162017 school year as determined by scores on the Spring 2016 English Language Arts AzMERIT exam.
e. All districts and charters, regardless of exemption status must, as required in statute, submit literacy plans by the deadline of October 1, 2016.
3. Allow all districts and charters with third grade students to be exempt from A.R.S. §15-701 retention requirements for only the 2016-2017 school year.
a. Upon receipt of parent reports, schools must notify parents that their student’s AzMERIT exam score indicates that they read significantly below grade level as determined by scores on the Spring 2016 English Language Arts AzMERIT exam.
b. Districts and charters must plan and implement intervention and remedial strategies for promoted students whose third grade assessment data subsequently demonstrates that they read significantly below grade level as determined by scores on the Spring 2016 English Language Arts AzMERIT exam.
c. As required in statute, districts and charters will continue submit literacy plans by the deadline of October 1, 2016.
The State Board of Education was responsible for the administration of the K-3 Reading Program from its inception until the Board voted to transfer oversight of the program to the Department less than six months ago., according to the Auditor General’s report. As a result, prior to the ADE’s management the implementation “has been inconsistent,” according to the Auditor General.
Coupled with the failure of the former Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, to secure an AZMerit testing contract that would force the test developer to deliver the results in a timely manner, Arizona’s struggling third graders will now pay the price.
“In 2012, the Legislature enacted the Program and has appropriated approximately $40 million annually, beginning in fiscal year 2013, for school districts’ and charter schools’ K-3 reading programs. The Arizona State Board of Education (Board), in collaboration with the Department, was required to establish the Program. In fiscal years 2013 through 2015, the Board administered the Program. In October 2015, the Board directed the Department to administer the Program. The Program is sometimes referred to as the Move On When Reading Program because it is designed to help ensure that third grade students are reading well enough to “move on” to fourth grade,” reads the Auditor General’s report.
As the ADE noted in its response to the Auditor General’s finding, “as of this date the Department still has not received full statutory authority to administer the program.”
The State Board is in constant chaos, focusing more on its political battles that on the performance of its duties. Monday’s decision will likely result in widespread chaos and acrimony. Educators will now be forced to explain to parents that they will not know where their child will be placed until days before the start of school. Because many parents choose to put retained students in new schools to lessen the stigma often attached to retention, the shortened timeline will possibly leave them with few options.
Only Superintendent Diane Douglas and member Jared Taylor argued that the Board should stress to districts that statute provides additional promotion and retention provisions that could be applied in light of the lateness of the test results. The vote was 7-2.