Originally Published: August 19, 2016 6:01 a.m.
When Lake Valley Elementary School Principal Aimee Fleming sees a student have that lightbulb moment, finally getting something they’ve worked so hard to understand, it’s indescribable, she said. Similarly, looking at how much the students have grown though the year and seeing that they’re ready to take an assessment test with the solid background that they’ve gained throughout the year, it’s great seeing them finish, she said.
“You see that sense of accomplishment in them … you want to celebrate that because you don’t want them to have that negative feeling because yes, standardized assessments aren’t always their cup of tea,” Fleming said, noting that the goal is to try and make them feel a sense of self success. “That way when they get scores and when they look at their growth they know how far they’ve come.”
Recently, Humboldt Unified School District received preliminary scores for the 2015 Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching (AZMERIT) Test, which replaced the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) Test in 2014 following the adoption of new standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics by the
Arizona State Board of Education in 2010.
For HUSD, the 2015 test went pretty well as the K-6 schools are at or above the state average across the board in every tested area, Superintendent Dan Streeter said.
“We went up in every area in our K-6 schools, with the exception of third grade (English Language Arts), but everything else we saw improvements in,” Streeter said. “Our AP Academy kids at the high school knocked it out of the park again.”
The district has always been a high performing district with schools receiving A and B letter grades, Streeter said. However, AZMerit scores are just one of several measures used to measure a student’s academic progress with other measures including report card grades and classroom performance feedback from teachers, he said. The district’s strength has always been rooted in achievement and demonstrated growth for students and while there is pride in the AZMerit scores, it’s just one proficiency number at the moment and until demonstrated growth is seen, it doesn’t represent the complete picture of student achievement data, Streeter said.
The AZMerit scores paints one piece of a picture and there are a lot of things that need to be worked out with the test, Streeter said. As an example, he brought up how eighth grade math scores are really down and stated that a majority of the district’s eighth graders don’t take eighth grade math and are instead taking Algebra One. To say that those scores are low would be an inaccurate portrayal of what is happening in the schools, Streeter said.
Once the district receives the demonstrated growth, AZMerit will become a much better assessment, Streeter said.
“It’s one piece to the puzzle. If the state doesn’t give us growth, then it’s really giving us an incomplete one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I think once growth comes in, that’s going to start helping districts out a lot and that’s what the purpose of any assessment should be, is to get a picture of where you’re at and where you want to go. Right now, we’re just getting a quick snapshot that’s missing some critical elements.”
Currently, the biggest piece of the puzzle to determine growth are district assessments, Streeter said. District assessments allow measurements of student growth, which is what drives instructional decisions in the classroom, such as where the students are at, where there are deficiencies and how to go back and address those in the classroom, he said.
Humboldt Unified School District is focused on providing educational experiences in order to allow students to be successful in the 21st century and AZMerit test scores will always be a byproduct of those experiences, Streeter said. Remaining focused as a district is where curricular changes take place along with discussions about moving into 21st century learning, he said.
Knowing that AZMerit scores are just one data point of a gamut the district has for assessing students is helpful when collecting and showing student growth, Fleming said.
“As long as we take that for what it’s worth, that’s what helps us develop that well rounded student,” she said.