More than half of Arizona students fail AZMERIT test

By Katelyn Dyer | Downtown Devil

AzMERIT test scores for the 2018-19 school year were released early October, revealing that more than half of Arizona students failed the English language arts and math on the tests. 

AzMERIT is an annual statewide test that measures how students are performing in English language arts and math, according to Expect More Arizona, an organization that advocates for Arizona students. 

The Metropolitan Arts Institute had 55% of students pass the English language arts portion and 27% pass the math portion of the test. This is higher than most other schools in downtown Phoenix, according to KJZZ. 

Nicole Neri/DD

Garfield Elementary had 15% of students pass the math portion of the test and 19% pass the English language arts portion while Central High School had only 17% pass both the math and English language arts portion, according to KJZZ. 

These two schools had some of the lowest passing percentages in downtown. 

They were both unable to comment at this time. 

Stefan Swiat, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education said he was not surprised scores were so low this year.

“It’s actually not uncommon for students to get low scores on the AzMERIT. Many states that neighbor us don’t have many students passing either,” he said. “If you look at the others, most are below 50% when it comes to proficiency in these areas.”  

He said that schools need to improve in their investment in children’s education.

“We need to invest in more trained and qualified teachers. With better classrooms, you’re going to see better results,” he said. “Many standards have been replaced in the education system. We need to go back to those original standards.”

Assistant professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Dr. Yi Zheng, said the root of the issue comes from schools setting the bar too high in order for students to pass. 

“It should be set with very careful consideration of students,” she said. “Most people think that when test scores are low, and students are not passing it is because of a poor education system.”

Dr. Zheng said that it is not always the teaching that is at fault, and that the AzMERIT test could be placing students at a standard that exceeds their skills. 

“It is all based on what the designers of the test think is proper material for college and career readiness,” she said. 

Phil Council, a resident of Phoenix and father of three, said he is against standardized testing in schools.

“I think it forces teachers to perform within a scope and is incredibly restrictive,” he said. “In my opinion, testing doesn’t do anything for the educator or student. It only allows the state to plan further.”

Council said that he believes the AzMERIT restricts free-thinking and increases stress on students, which is why the percentage of passing students has been so low. 

“I don’t think I would want my kids to have to take this in the future,” he said.

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November 2019