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Flagstaff Unified School District showed improvement over previous year AzMERIT scores in some grade levels and some losses in others, but pass rates for FUSD are still below the state average in most grades.

The Arizona Department of Education released 2017 AzMERIT scores for schools around the state late Wednesday afternoon.

Due to the late nature of the release, Robert Hagstrom, the FUSD director of research and assessment, was not available for comment. The FUSD Governing Board is expected to discuss the results in a meeting open to the public on Sept. 26.

The biggest differences between the state and FUSD pass rates was in sixth grade with 42 percent of Arizona students and 23 percent of FUSD students passing math and 42 percent of Arizona students and 30 percent of FUSD students passing English.

FUSD and the state both saw gains in third grade math and English, and fourth-, sixth-, seventh- and 10th-grade English.

FUSD’s greatest improvements came in eighth grade math, with an increase from 11 percent passing in 2016 to 30 percent passing in 2017, and in seventh grade English, with 37 percent passing in 2017 compared to 31 percent passing in 2016.

The state of Arizona saw improvement in nearly all of the grade levels except for eighth-grade English, 10th-grade geometry and 11th-grade English.

The greatest improvements for state passage rates came in eighth-grade math, where the percentage passing increased from 26 percent to 36 percent, and fifth-grade English, where passage rates increased from 37 percent to 44 percent.

In eighth grade English the percentage of students in the state passing stayed the same at 34 percent. In 10th grade geometry the percentage of students passing dropped by one percent from 34 to 33 percent and in 11th grade English state students dropped from 29 percent passing to 25 percent.

At FUSD the percentage of students passing dropped in fourth grade math, fifth grade math, sixth grade math, geometry, and algebra II. The passage rate in fourth grade math dropped from 39 percent to 33 percent. In fight grade math, the passage rate dropped from 41 percent to 36 percent. The geometry passage rate dropped from 32 to 28 percent and algebra II dropped from 30 to 25 percent.

FUSD passage rates for seventh grade math went from 27 percent to 26 percent and the passage rate for algebra I stayed the same at 30 percent.

In a press release from her office, Arizona Superintendent of Education Diane Douglas said she was “pleased that the scores of students are modestly moving in the right direction” but that “the weight given to AzMERIT has gone beyond its intended use.”

She recommended giving parents the option to opt their students out of the AzMERIT test and pointed out that the test only assesses a student’s math and English skills. She also hinted at possible problems with the letter grades that schools are supposed to be given this year.

”Although accountability is of the utmost importance in education, we cannot put so much emphasis on one test. In order to be truly accountable, we need to be more transparent in how a school’s letter grade is determined, which is no longer the case under this accountability model,” she said. “Any Arizona parent should be able to easily understand what an accountability measure means and how it could impact their child’s education.”

The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.

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Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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