Statewide scores indicate that in the second year of the AzMERIT test, the majority of Arizona students are still failing the standardized test, despite small gains in most areas and grade levels.
The test ranks students into four categories. The lowest two, minimally proficient and partially proficient, are not considered passing scores. The top levels, proficient and highly proficient, are used as indications the student is prepared for the next grade level’s workload.
The largest increases in the passing rates on the math test came at the fifth and sixth grade level. Both grades increased their passage by six percentage points. All other grades either improved their scores or stayed the same, with the exception of eighth grade, which decreased its percentage passing by eight percentage points.
The tests succeeded the AIMS exams and are oriented toward critical thinking and problem-solving. They test the new Common Core curriculum, which has been implemented in a majority of states. Most of those state have also experienced drops in passing rates in the initial years of the curriculum.
In math, eighth grade was the only grade to increase the percentage of students receiving a score of “minimally proficient,” the lowest possible score. The number of students receiving “minimally proficient” increased by 10 percentage points among eighth graders.
With the exceptions of seventh and eighth grade, however, the percentage of students receiving “highly proficient,” the highest possible score in math, increased or stayed the same among grade levels.
“Highly proficient” percentages decreased by three points and five points in seventh and eighth grades, respectively, for math.
On the English test, the largest increase in passage was also at the fifth grade level, where the percentage passing jumped 13 percentage points from last year. Ninth grade made the second highest increase, improving seven percentage points from the previous year.
Three grades saw passing percentage decreases on the English test. Eighth grade and the tenth and eleventh grade classes saw decreases in their passing percentage. The test is still not a graduation requirement, though Arizona Department of Education officials said eventually the test will be required to graduate.
Despite gains overall in passing rates in English, both third and sixth grades saw in increase in the percentage of students receiving “minimally proficient,” the lowest score possible on the test.
Most grades also saw an increase in their “highly proficient” percentages in English. Seventh grade, tenth grade and eleventh grade saw decreases in the “highly proficient” percentage. In seventh grade, only three percent of students statewide received the top score.
Third and fourth grades had the highest percentage of “highly proficient” students, with both grades recording 12 percent of students receiving that score.
“I am pleased to see that our students are improving in both English language arts and mathematics at several grade levels,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said in a statement. “However, these results also underscore that as a state we still have much work to do. I will continue working with our parents, teachers and community members to find the best possible ways to support our students and help them achieve their dreams.”
Results at the district and school levela will not be available publicly until August.
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“These results also underscore that as a state we still have much work to do."
--Diane Douglas, state superintendent of public instruction