What parents should know about the next AzMERIT test

AzMERIT test
Sara Keast and Melanie Ruvalcaba, 11-year-old fifth-graders at Heritage Elementary School, a K-8 public charter school in Glendale, with their principal, Justin Dye. The girls are ready to take the next round of the AzMERIT test. Photos courtesy of Heritage Elementary School.

Sara Keast, a fifth-grader at Heritage Elementary School in Glendale, is a little bit nervous about taking the upcoming AzMERIT test—Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching. “Last year the questions were harder than AIMS—harder than I expected,” she says. But she also feels more prepared for her second attempt and is confident she’ll do better.

That’s the goal for Arizona students in grades three to 11 when the second round of AzMERIT testing begins on Monday, March 28. Results from the first AzMERIT test showed nearly two-thirds of students in grades three to 11 failed both the English and math exams.

Heidi Vega, director of communications with the Arizona School Boards Association, cautions against alarm.

“The results we are receiving are the new baseline. It is a completely different test than AIMS [Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards], so comparing the results to AIMS is not appropriate,” says Vega. “Teachers had not seen this test before and students only had access to some practice items a few weeks before the test.”

Vega says the test scores will now give students a real comparison to their counterparts in other parts of the country. “The good thing about AzMERIT is that we can now say that the A grade the third-grader received here [in Arizona] would be the same grade [a student] would earn in other parts of the country.”

AzMERIT test
Principal Dye stands with fifth-grade students Melanie (left) and Sara.

For Heritage principal Justin Dye, the new benchmark has meant a lot of hard work.

“We really have raised the bar,” he says. “We’ve held students accountable, we’ve held teachers accountable, we’ve held individual departments accountable, we’ve adjusted the times—and added a bunch of technology to our classrooms to help get ready for this test.”

With practice and her teachers’ help, Melanie Ruvalcaba, also a fifth-grader at Heritage, says she’s feeling more confident for the second round of testing. “Now that I know what it’s like, I’ll have a picture in my head how it’s going to be next time.”

Sara agrees and says her teachers are helping her prepare: “They give us harder problems so that when we take the AzMERIT, it won’t seem so hard.” 

“AZMerit questions are geared toward higher comprehension,” says Dye. “The students need to know how they arrived at their answer and be able to explain the process.”

“New, more rigorous tests were introduced—not only in Arizona, but in most states around the country,” says Vega. “Other states saw a large drop in scores similar to what we saw in Arizona.”

Dye recommends that parents learn the scoring terms—highly proficient, proficient, partially proficient and minimally proficient—which may have been confusing in the first round of testing. Scores are based on what students at each grade level should know, not on the percentage of questions students answer correctly.

While Dye admits that AzMERIT testing is a challenge to teachers and administrators, he says the students ultimately benefit. “Our goal is to get [Arizona] students on par nationally,” says Dye.

Expect More Arizona offers parents additional tips, including setting goals with your child’s teacher, knowing what your child should be learning each year and regularly checking on your child’s progress. Supplement school studies with fun activities at home that foster learning and talk to your child about the new assessment to address any anxiety he or she may be feeling.

Results from the March testing will be available in October or November of this year. Learn more about AzMERIT.