The State Board of Education (SBE) recently took an important step towards furthering high expectations in Arizona by adopting cut scores for AzMERIT that will indicate a student’s readiness for college and career. At the August 14th meeting, the SBE listened to feedback from a number of stakeholders including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Osborn School District, Stand for Children, the Arizona Small Business Association, the Arizona Chamber, the Arizona Charter Schools Association and others. It’s great to be a part of an initiative that affirms the importance of high expectations and ensures that parents and teachers have accurate information about students’ progress.
The Greater Phoenix Chamber, along with the business community, thanks the SBE for its leadership on creating and maintaining high academic standards in Arizona. AzMERIT focuses on problem solving and critical thinking. It’s a more accurate benchmark for whether students are on track and ready for each grade, and, upon high school graduation, to be successful in whatever their future holds.
We hear over and over again from employers that current employees need higher levels of learning and deeper knowledge in order to be effective and efficient workers. And the AzMERIT assessment is a key step on the path to achievement for all students.
Patience is critical as we establish a “new baseline.” What we as teachers, students, parents and community members must understand is that AzMERIT scores might look different than what students previously received from the AIMS. A lower score on AzMERIT does not necessarily mean a student is performing below average in school. It also does not mean that teachers are doing a poor job of teaching. It is the result of higher expectations of both academic standards and what constitutes a passing score. As we saw with AIMS, we expect that the scores on AzMERIT will increase over time. And because AzMERIT was developed in alignment with the Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, the scores will be a more accurate reflection of what students have learned in the classroom.
As we move forward in the process of reviewing the standards and implementing the AzMERIT test, we are confident that the steps being taken will ensure that students are proficient at every grade level and will be provided with the skills necessary to successfully enter the workforce or to continue on to higher learning opportunities.
Higher academic standards and an aligned assessment will help to ensure that we’ll have a better-qualified workforce, which will help ensure businesses stay in Arizona and continue to create jobs, which in turn will attract new companies into our state. Higher academic standards and assessments also prepare students to be future leaders and provide the critical thinking skills required in our ever-changing business environment.
We all want educated leaders, a strong workforce, a stable economy and greater economic development. It’s important that education continues to evolve in line with our dynamic economy, business environment and communities. A strong education system in Arizona benefits all of us.
To learn how Arizona schools are getting better information on your child’s performance, visit www.ArizonaAimsHigher.org.