Scores Show Modest Gains, Decreases In Phoenix School District

By Paola Garcia

PHOENIX —  AzMERIT test results for the 2016-2017 school year show students still struggle to pass the standardized tests, with Phoenix Union High School District showing success in some areas but decreases in others, district officials said.

“Results showed modest gains in some areas but dropped in 9th grade algebra and 11th grade English Language Arts,” spokesman Craig Pletenik said in a statement to the district.

The district saw a one percentage point increase in English for 9th and 10th grades, and ten schools improved in 11th grade algebra, the district said.

“The problem right now is that some of the kids don’t take the test seriously because they don’t have a repercussion,” Pletenik told Cronkite News. Previous standardized tests required students to pass in order to graduate.

Geoff Esposito of Expect More Arizona, an education advocacy group, said the state’s students have shown some progress in passing the challenging AzMERIT tests.

“We’ve seen some growth, especially in this year’s test scores,” said Esposito, director of policy and programs. “We’re seeing some incremental growth year after year which is good because it’s showing the hard work that our teachers and students are putting in.”


Students at Central High School work on an assignment. (Photo by Paola Garcia/Cronkite News)

But Esposito and a Phoenix Union high school teacher questioned whether the mandatory tests can really show how well students are learning.

“Testing is one indicator, and we really can’t focus too much on what one test says,” Esposito said. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to know whether the parent is choosing the right school for their children or if what’s happening in the classroom is really helping that individual in the way they need.”

Central High School math teacher Dawn Davis works with special education students and students learning English. Some of her students were not able to attend school in their home country and some don’t know how to read English or how to use a computer.

Still, even though they face challenging circumstances, they’re required to take the AZMERIT test, known as Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching.

“Here at Central High School we have a very diverse population,” Davis said. “We have students who are international with the exchange program. We have students from Congo, Syria and refugee camps.”

Davis said she’d rather measure her students’ progress in other ways. She said AzMERIT scores might lead people to believe her students are not learning as much as other Arizona students. In reality, her students have improved more than what the test shows, she said.

“You need to look at growth versus one test measures all,” Davis said.

“Last year my AzMERIT data looked a little bit low, but I was so proud because I had 14 special education students that were included in my data and they did not perform so badly. They did their very best,” Davis said.

“I was happy with what our school’s results were,” Davis said, remembering that two years ago her students disliked taking the AzMERIT on computers. Now, the students are improving because they are more familiar with the test.

1 Comment on "Scores Show Modest Gains, Decreases In Phoenix School District"

  1. Listen to a Mom | September 12, 2017 at 3:14 pm |

    As I always note, Common Core hasn’t and can’t live up to its lofty promises to make kids “college and career ready.” All the crayons in the box can’t paint a pretty picture.

    Who really believes the Expect More AZ lobbyist when he thinks the “not proficient” kids are just not buying into the motivation to take the test seriously…he’s basically saying only about 40% of the kids who scored well took the test seriously while the other approximately 60% mucked about.

    Good grief, has he not spoken to any child or teacher in grades 3-12? A great deal of time (Weeks) are spent on preparing kids for the testing, the teachers are even coached on how to give the test they will never get to lay eyes on. AZMERIT has a 50 pg administrator’s manual. Schools put a lot of effort into practicing, preparing, and taking these tests which by itself signals to everyone that these tests are are “highly valued.” Schools throw pep rallies, invite mascots to jump around, marching bands pump up the kids, teachers and parents write encouraging notes to the kids. Principals sent special emails encouraging parents to prepare a healthy breakfast for the kids, make sure they get a great night’s sleep etc. The PTO’s (parent teacher organization) spring for healthy snacks to give the kids on test days. Some schools have bribed kids with gift cards to take the test seriously and show up on time. Other schools throw a special party if a kid takes the test. If a parent Opts their kid out of the test…No party for your kid and administrators throw AG opinions at parents who dare say no thanks to the testing hoping they can scare parents into compliance. Parents are threatened with truancy. Yes…kids, teachers, and parents hear for weeks how “important the big test” is. You can feel the stress in some of the schools and schedules are turned upside down with school libraries closed for testing. Forget using the computer lab for up to 6 weeks in many schools.

    If AZ again makes these bubble in tests a graduation requirement as they did with AIMS, the dots will paint themselves. Kids will be pulled out of electives and other “non standardized tested” subjects just so they can keep taking the test over and over again.

    AZMERIT stands for: Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching. This and other tests like it aspire to do the impossible. No teacher can view the test or she will be fired. No teacher sees the answers a child gave. Moreover, scores aren’t even given to parents by the end of the school year in which the test is taken. A number is eventually given to parents months later in the next school year which means n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

    Students who took AZMERIT in March/April 2017 only got their scores this week! How is this informative, useful, or timely?

    The AZ appointed State Board of Ed has decided that for elementary schools, that AZMERIT and the English Language Learner’s Test will account for 90% of a school’s letter grade BUT here’s the rub….AZ SBE first has to decide how to weight the scores to decide what an A school vs a B school is.

    I invite readers to go on YouTube to see the slick math being used the AZ State Board of Ed to decide which schools will be A’s, B’s, C’s etc. One meeting was on Aug 28, 2017 AND they still haven’t decided what a passing score will be for school letter grades.

    Why do they have to do all this statistical math massaging….look again at the dismal pie charts of kids passing the Common Core tests.

    New York didn’t like their results so on one of their tests a score of 37% is proficient. That’s some massaging right there.

    AZ massaged rates when it too many Seniors weren’t passing the AIMS test…the passing rate simply got easier when the results look politically dismal. But parents were not told this happened. AZ let parents assume their kid just got smarter.

    7 years in and with a fresh Common Core rebrand, there are no wide spread successes. There will always be populations of kids who score well. But Common Core’s biggest promise was that every kid would be a success.

    There are better education standards AZ could have for free and the Educrats know it but no one has the backbone to make things right for our K-12 students. You and I will continue to pay for the Common Core nonsense while the statisticians spin the outcome.

    Will AZ Dept of Ed and State Board of Ed tell the public the truth about how “passing/proficiency” is decided.

    Looks like No they won’t say. They’ve been asked, but so far they have not answered.

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