The window for AzM2 testing (version 2 of AzMERIT) starts next month, and many parents may be wondering, “WHY?” It might seem counterintuitive, or even unfair, to spend time on a statewide assessment when many students have spent much of this school year learning — or struggling to learn — digitally. But at this point in the pandemic, it makes complete sense. In fact, it’s more important than ever.
Parents, educators, principals and policymakers need more information about how students are doing and being served, not less. We know anecdotally that students have struggled so far this school year, and some have struggled more than others. Statewide results from AzM2 testing will give education leaders a clearer picture of where students stand academically and how best to move forward with interventions and additional support in the coming school year. It will ensure educators don’t assume what has transpired over the past year, but that they know whether learning loss actually has occurred, and if so, how much.
State assessments also allow decision-makers and district leaders to better understand how events like the pandemic impact children differently. Whether comparing students of varied race, socioeconomic background or geography, exams like AzM2 shed light on those gaps and give educators the chance to address them.
School districts are putting plans in place to administer the tests safely. In addition, the overall testing window has been extended, the assessment has been shortened, and other measures have been taken to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
The tests are administered to all Arizona public school students in grades 3-8 and 10 and measure skills in English language arts and math. Testing is by computer unless your child’s school requests paper administration.
Tips for parents
Since many students have been learning virtually for much of the school year, the transition back to in-person learning can be challenging. As kids head back to the classroom, here are some ways parents can provide support.
- Adjust sleep schedules, starting now. Kids in virtual classrooms might be too comfortable rolling out of bed and turning on the computer, which will become problematic upon a return to waking up early to eat, dress and drive to school. Start a routine as soon as possible to get schedules back on track.
- Set an example of positivity. Children watch everything you do and absorb everything you say. Negative outlooks about testing or school will rub off on them and set them on the wrong foot. Let your child know that all they need to do is answer the questions as best they can, and that there are no repercussions for them.
- Stock up on healthy food. Sugary drinks and desserts cause spikes in blood sugar and leave kids feeling hungry and tired. Balanced meals — especially high protein, high fiber breakfasts —will help children be ready to learn.
- Help your children stay engaged. This has been a challenging year for everyone, and teachers and families are doing their best. Whether your kids are learning online or in-person, stay in touch with their teachers, and keep an eye on your child’s schoolwork. Ask your child’s teacher how they are doing and what they may need to improve upon.
- Familiarize yourself with the test format. If you’re able, check out the AzM2 sample tests available through the Arizona Department of Education (azed.gov/assessment/azm2). They’ll help give you and your child an idea of what to expect.
New education hub opens in Phoenix
Helios Education Foundation recently completed its 65,000-square-foot education campus, bringing together several organizations working for educational excellence in Arizona. The campus, located at 4747 N. 32nd St. in Phoenix, serves as an education hub and houses main office facilities for College Success Arizona, Achieve60AZ, Expect More Arizona and Teach for America – Phoenix. Its Vince Roig Convening Center can host education-related events for up to 200 people.