Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

It is springtime, and along with baseball and allergies, it is time for students in Maricopa to take the AzMERIT. The results of this testing are used to determine the grade for each school, and for each school district. Teacher evaluations are partially based on these test scores. Do AzMERIT results have any merit?

Consider an analogy. Once a year, all the people who are patients at a medical practice are tested – blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function and body mass are all measured. Then the results of the testing are used to evaluate the medical practice and its staff. Payments from Medicare and private insurance companies would be based on the results of these tests. Medical professionals would be up in arms. A patient who is told to change his diet, stop smoking, increase his amount of exercise and take his prescribed medications follows none of these recommendations, yet the doctors are penalized for the patient’s poor test results.

Any rational person would object to this process as unfair.

Yet students who are abused at home, subject to malnutrition, do not get sufficient sleep, do not have parental supervision of homework or do not see a pediatrician regularly have their AzMERIT test results used to evaluate the school and the teachers. This is just as unfair as the medical testing narrative. And we as citizens do not object.

There is more to consider about this testing. The state has indicated it wants more data about each school’s performance than a single test score. The State Board of Education recommended in 2014, “Schools must not be penalized for low scores if significant gains are made over the course of the academic year.” Despite this recommendation approved by a vote of the Board, the latest methods of evaluating schools, especially elementary schools, disregard that guidance. Mark Joraanstad, executive director of the Arizona School Administrators, has said it is troubling that “over-reliance on a single test score is the dominating feature in the system.”

Why does the state Legislature pay no attention to this continuation of an unfair system of evaluation? Residents of Maricopa who desire quality schools and who know that home values are somewhat based on the ratings of neighborhood schools should contact their state representatives and demand this unfairness be addressed immediately.

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