Students writing a test Photo courtesy of ccarlstead

The unofficial results from Arizona’s first administration of the AzMERIT standardized test show that most students scored below proficient in English language arts and math. However, these low score results are not evidence that the AzMERIT is ineffective; rather, they demonstrate that the previous assessment, AIMS, set the bar too low.

In 2010, Arizona adopted the Common Core Standards to increase the academic rigour of their K-12 classrooms and improve the quality of students entering college and the workforce. As part of the new standards, the AIMS graduation test was replaced by the AzMERIT, which was first administered in spring 2015. As the new Common Core Standards have only recently been implemented, experts are saying the low AzMERIT scores signify the need to update classroom curriculums to ensure Arizona students are more globally competitive upon graduation.

The Arizona Common Core Standards aim to shift the state’s pedagogy from emphasizing rote-learning and memorization to developing critical thinking and reasoning skills. The new curriculum standards have shown some success; over the past five years, Arizona fourth grade students have increased their proficiency in math by 11% and in reading by 2%. Additionally, a report by the Arizona Board of Regents shows that students are entering college more academically prepared than they were in 2011.

In the following years it is expected that the AzMERIT test will produce positive results that show students are adapting to the higher standards which will better prepare them for both college and the workforce.

In the meantime, despite the discouraging initial results of the AzMERIT test, Arizona’s State Board of Education is on the right track with their more rigorous curriculum and evaluations.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.