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Wed, Nov. 13

Editorial: ‘Merits’ of testing, ‘Core’ learning up in air

It’s one of those snapshots that, depending on how you look at it, tells a different story.

I am talking about the preliminary tabulation of the AzMerit (Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching) test results.

AzMerit measures the state’s new teaching standards, commonly known as Common Core. (Yes, those standards.)

The test was first administered to public school students grades 3 through high school. The chart, attached, shows increases and declines in proficiency, across the board, in math and English for students taking the tests in 2015-16.

A quick look shows:

• 54 percent of Arizona 10th-graders were graded “minimally proficient” in language arts. That’s worse than last year when 47 percent scored that low.

• For 11th-graders, 53 percent scored minimally proficient, a slight jump from 2015.

The Arizona Department of Education released the preliminary state level results Monday. Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who is an outspoken opponent of Common Core, stated: “I am pleased to see that our students are improving in both English language arts and mathematics at several grade levels. However, these results also underscore that as a state we still have much work to do.”

While the final AzMERIT results for all Arizona public schools, districts and charters will be made available in late August, the preliminary results show a mixed bag.

Until then – looking forward to the data that will include demographic breakdowns and performance by school type (district, charter and alternative) – we must discern if this is the path we must continue on: high-stakes testing.

The results show general trends. They do not show which students had a bad morning that day, or that the teacher is no longer with the district for reasons we’ll never know, or that a declining class is in a low-income area, for example. We’ve heard it all before, yet we assume all students were ready and willing for the testing and that all tests are created equal.

Both often are not always.

Sadly, your reaction to this will depend on your glass half-full or half-empty belief system. I say there’s more to education than one test. For every student you point to whom the system failed, I can find five who are doing great in adult life.

Go figure.

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