AzMerit results: Most Yavapai County students failed English, math exams

Interactive graphic for AzMerit scores

PRESCOTT - Most students in Yavapai County failed the state's new math and English tests.

Parents of K-12 students across the state received individual results a few weeks ago. On Monday, Nov. 30, the state released aggregate information showing how schools fared.

Two charter schools in Prescott showed the county's strongest results on the AzMerit exam, while Prescott Unified School District wound up in the middle of the pack, just ahead of the state averages.

Statewide, 34 percent of students passed the English language arts test, while 35 percent passed the math exam. The new Common Core-based exams were administered last spring to third through 11th grades.

"You can't compare this to last year's AIMS," PUSD assistant superintendent Mardi Read said.

She said the old Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards measured different skills and was overall a different test than AzMerit.

"It's not that the learning is lower," she said. "It's that the expectations are higher."

Read said any time the state changes tests, schools expect a transition dip until teachers and students figure out what's expected.

State Department of Education spokesman Charles Tack told the Associated Press the results were expected, but that the state still needs to do a lot to increase students' performance. The department is especially concerned about low-income and minority students, who fared particularly poorly, he said.

The low test scores among economically disadvantaged student held true in Yavapai County, with a few notable exceptions. In Ash Fork, 66 percent of economically disadvantaged elementary school students passed the math test, with similar passing rates in English. Congress Elementary School posted similar results.

Otherwise, poorer students scored generally lower on both tests. Across PUSD, for instance, the passing rate was 36 percent for the English test and 37 percent for math. For economically disadvantaged students, the passing rates fell to 25 percent for both exams.

The same was true in Humboldt and Chino Valley school districts, where scores were 4 to 6 percentage points lower compared to the district as a whole.

Within PUSD, Prescott High School showed the lowest percentage of students proficient on either test - 26 percent of all high school students passed the English portion and 30 percent passed math.

High school results weren't any better in nearby districts. Chino Valley High School's passing rates were 21 percent in English and 13 percent in math. Bradshaw Mountain High School had a 27 percent pass rate for English and 19 percent for math.

Most of those students transitioned from curriculum tied to the old assessments and standards to the newer Common Core-based curriculum and standards within the last five years.

Younger students performed better as a group. More than half the students at PUSD's Abia Judd passed the math and English exams, as did HUSD's Granville Elementary on the English test.

Results at Prescott area charter schools outpaced those at traditional public schools. Tri-City College Prep had a 72 percent pass rate in English and 73 percent in math. At BASIS Prescott, 70 percent of students passed the English exam and 74 percent passed math.

Becky Ratliff, head of school at BASIS Prescott, said she attributed students' performance on the exam to the school's advanced curriculum.

"It prepares them for these standardized tests," she said. "We pride ourselves on being among the best in not just the state, but the nation. I was really pleased - really proud - of our students."

However, that trend doesn't hold up for all charter schools, as most charter schools' passing rates were closer to the state averages.