At some high schools around the state, including two in the North Valley, students took the AzMERIT test for the final time at the end of last school year.
The Arizona Department of Education now allows public and charter high schools the option to replace the statewide assessment for students in grades 9-12 with their choice of the following state-approved tests: ACT, SAT, or early college credit examinations in specific subjects, including AP, CIE and IB, and IGCSE exams in individual subjects.
Who’s Opting Out
Anthem Preparatory Academy and Jefferson Preparatory, two charter schools in the North Valley, recently announced they will no longer administer AzMERIT testing to high schoolers, and instead will offer nationally recognized college entrance exams.
Eleventh graders at Anthem Prep, along with all other Great Hearts academies in Arizona, will take the SAT during a regular school day.
“This is great news for our high school students and their teachers because it will significantly reduce the amount of time that they will have to devote to standardized testing,” said Grant Goodrich, the school’s headmaster, in a letter to parents. Goodrich added that the opportunity allows for the use of an assessment “students can use for college admissions.”
Ninth-grade students will still take the science portion of the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards AIMS test, required by state law.
At Jefferson Preparatory, students will take the ACT exam. Principal Tawnya Mecham said tenth graders will take the science portion of the AIMS test, and that the ACT will be administered to both tenth and eleventh graders.
“The ACT test is a nationally normed test that we feel will better assess our students strengths and give them the added benefit of helping prepare them for college entrance applications,” Mecham told In&Out.
Who’s Sticking with AzMERIT
Deer Valley Unified School District high schools, including Barry Goldwater, Boulder Creek and Sandra Day O’Connor, will still take the AzMERIT tests this year, along with the AIMS science test for biology students.
AzMERIT is being retained for several reasons, including consistency in the test, test platform, and online format, said Gayle Galligan, DVUSD deputy superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. “We also receive data from the AzMERIT assessment that provides us with both proficiency and growth data for trends,” Galligan said.
Anthem-based Caurus Academy, which opened its high school this fall to initially serve grades 9 and 10, will continue to offer AzMERIT testing this year, said Principal Dameon Blair.
Across the state, 55 high schools so far chose to opt out. Of those,16 were charters.
Why the Change
Critics argued that unlike the AIMS test, students were not required to pass the AzMERIT test in order to graduate, offering little incentive for students to take it seriously. Only 41 percent of Arizona students passed the math and reading portions of the test during the last school year, according to the latest results.
Other arguments against AzMERIT include the amount of classroom instruction time spent preparing students for the test.
The change to allow alternative testing beginning this school year was included in House Bill 2544, signed into law in March 2016.
Schools that select an approved alternate assessment must stick with the choice for three consecutive academic years, according to the Arizona Department of Education. Also under the statute, for the 2019-2020 academic year, schools will be given the option of selecting an alternative state-approved test for students in grades 3-8 in lieu of AzMERIT.