State needs better tool than AzMERIT


By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

In a March 1 Your Turn column in the Arizona Republic, Mike McClellan, a retired Mesa high school English teacher, used a football analogy to point out the weaknesses of the AzMERIT test.

A team is facing a big game. The players are apathetic when the coach gives his pre-game pep talk. Their play during the game reflects their lack of concern, and the team is severely beaten by their rival. After the loss, the players have no accountability, but the coach is fired. McClellan furthermore asks about the value of the coach reviewing game film from the loss if the only information provided by the film is the final score?

The point made by Mr. McClellan is students are not accountable for their performance on the AzMERIT, only the school and the teacher are graded. So, why should a student care about preparing for the test? Furthermore, he indicates the school’s letter grade is more about the socio-economic level of the families of the students rather than a proper assessment of the school or its teachers.

A test used to evaluate schools and faculty does not provide meaningful feedback so that school can address the needs of students who underperformed, and a student’s score provides no consequence for that student. There must be a better means of testing.

The Arizona Department of Education and state Legislature should consider using a criterion referenced test (CRT) to replace AzMERIT. A list of specific criteria is provided for each grade and subject tested, allowing schools to ensure their curriculum covers what is being tested. Students take the appropriate grade-level CRT at various points in their elementary and middle grades education.

At some point, generally tenth grade, a CRT is taken, which determines if a student receives a high school diploma. A 10th grader who fails CRT can re-take the test each year through twelfth grade. Once the student passes, the testing is complete. If a student continues to fail the test through 12th grade, that student receives a certificate of attendance, in lieu of a diploma, once he or she has completed twelfth grade.

CRT is aligned with the curriculum, and every teacher knows what must be taught. The students are aware of the consequences of failing the test and schools receive feedback since each CRT tests specific criteria. I believe those who agree this is a much better way to assess educational growth must call their state representatives and urge them to consider the value of using a CRT.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield Elementary School.

This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.