MUSD prepares for new AzMerit testing


In the spring, Arizona students will take a new test to assess their academic achievement. Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching (AzMerit) will begin in April.

For Maricopa Unified School District and all other public schools in the state, a new test is not a new thing. And the old test, Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS), will still be in place in some aspects.

MUSD Curriculum Director Krista Roden said the process was run by the State Board with “a committee of educators and a community member” rather than the Arizona Department of Education.

AzMerit is just the latest change in assessments and standards for Arizona students.

The AIMS test was aligned to the Arizona Academic Content Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test was aligned to Common Core, which was adopted in 2010, renamed Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards and implemented in 2013.

In November, the State Board of Education approved AzMerit as the new assessment with American Institutes for Research (AIR) administering it.

Unlike PARCC, AzMerit accommodates both online and paper tests. The state window for computer-based testing is March 30-May 8 and for paper-based testing April 13-24.

Two things still being discussed by the State Board are whether third graders will get an exemption for the first year in the Move on When Reading requirement and how the AZ LEARNS letter grade will be measured.

If there is a “safe harbor” in the Move on When Reading requirement, Roden suggested MUSD administer the tests online “and see what happens.”

In previous tests, the results of the assessment led to a school rating, or A-F Letter Grade, from AZ LEARNS. (MUSD earned a B last year.) The board is determining how those grades will be calculated with AzMerit.

Surveys of teachers and technology determine if MUSD schools are “AzMerit-ready,” Roden said.

Roden presented the basics of AzMerit to the governing board at its December meeting. She said it is important that the district communicate with parents and community not only information about the test but about “the importance of raising expectations.”

“We have to reach out to the Hispanic community,” board member Patti Coutre said. Board President Torri Anderson added it might be good idea for parents to take a practice test.

The Arizona Department of Education, specifically Jennifer Johnson, deputy superintendent of Programs and Policy, sent out letters about AzMerit to parents, teachers and administrators.

She reminded parents, “High school students graduating after Dec. 31, 2016, will no longer be required to pass the AIMS test to graduate high school. Students will not be required to pass the End-of-Course tests for graduation, but they must still earn the minimum number of English and mathematics credits in order to graduate.”

Students graduating before Dec. 31, 2016, still have to pass AIMS writing, reading and mathematics.

According to Johnson, grades 3 through high school will take AzMERIT in English language arts and mathematics. Students in grades 4, 8, and high school will still take the AIMS Science test. Students in grades 3 through 8 will take AzMERIT in English language arts and mathematics at their grade level.

“Arizona will control the decision-making for all aspects of the exams including test design, test and item content, scoring, and reporting. Arizona educators will have extensive involvement,” Johnson stated.

Testing will be during seven hours over several days in April.

***ADVERTISEMENT***Because it is the first year of the test, Roden said MUSD should be prepared to see lower scores. She said the results of the first AzMerit assessments will probably be released in September.

Sample exams will be online soon.

A secure browser for the testing platform are available for download.