Our Views: AZMerit a good gauge, but it’s still just one measurement tool

August 18, 2018 GMT

A headline in this newspaper Aug. 14 announced that “Students perform poorly on AZMerit testing.”

Lake Havasu City students in grades 3 through 11 were tested on reading and math on the heels of spring break. The results: 43 percent passed the reading and 48 percent passed the math. Our kids performed a few points above the state average of 41 percent.

While it’s not the best news on the face of it, it helps to know the story behind the story.

The AZMerit test measures how students are performing in English language arts and math. The test has been used in Arizona schools for four years.

Pupils don’t need No. 2 pencils to take the test. And not all questions have multiple-choice answers. Rather, the test is taken on a computer, so it is immensely helpful to know one’s way around a keyboard. Some answers are fill-in-the-blank.

When a student is asked to choose from multiple-choice answers, they may be required to choose two answers. If they choose one right answer but not the second correct answer per the instructions, they miss the question. Other questions may ask students to highlight a string of words in a paragraph. If they miss one word or add one word too many, they miss the question. A student’s ability to follow explicit instructions is critical.

The point is, there’s a lot of room for error. Still, the scores are the scores.

Administrators like AZMerit testing because it provides more data on specific ways to help a student improve than previous tests provided. AZMerit also measures a student’s year-to-year growth. In that respect, Havasu’s growth score was high because our kids show consistent improvement. There were significant gains in middle school math results.

That’s good to know because efforts to improve staff retention and curriculum in Havasu schools may provide future success from a $49 million bond received by the school district in 2017. The district can provide a more stable platform for achievement on the AZMerit test.

In all this, it is good to remember that Lake Havasu High School has a graduation rate of 89 percent, the average SAT score is 1180 and the ACT score average is 25. LHHS was ranked by niche.com as 185 of 361 high schools in Arizona.

Of course there’s room for improvement, and that starts at home. AZMerit testing requires a student to do far more reading than tests in the past. Start now. Encourage students to read more at home and ask questions to test their comprehension.

Details on the most recent AZMerit testing will be discussed at the Sept. 18 school board meeting. Plan to attend or watch the presentation online.

— Today’s News-Herald