Robert Robb recently suggested in an editorial on March 9 that allowing schools to substitute a comparable or more rigorous assessment for the AzMERIT state test obscures our picture of how schools are doing.
Quite the contrary. Offering schools the opportunity to focus their students on college level or advanced assessments such as AP, ACT, and SAT versus the AzMERIT test only ratchets up accountability.
Maybe our schools are not offering accelerated levels of achievement because our policies do not make it easy for schools to aim higher. Encouraging schools to leapfrog to higher level coursework is being truly accountable to the public: accountable to the investment that they make; accountable to the students by keeping the promise of choice; and accountable to schools who risk going above and beyond with very little support right now.
Plenty of extremely reputable and high quality tests can be equated to the AzMERIT test for purposes of setting grades and making judgments about teacher quality. They include the College Board's Advanced Placement tests (which Glendale Union School District and BASIS Schools excel in, to name only two) as well as the Cambridge Exams (Yuma Union School District has used Cambridge curriculum to rapidly advance their performance.
Robb’s appropriate concern is to make sure we do not clutter transparency and accountability. However, in an age of technology and data that can be reliably compared, we do not need to force our schools to offer only common denominator tests. Nor should we force schools to slow down, back up and waste time with additional testing when they are clearly demonstrating a will and an ability to excel.
AzMERIT is a very solid test for our students, and one we can have confidence in. But it is only one of a handful of excellent, reputable, and comparable ways to assess whether our students have met or exceeded our state’s academic standards.
We absolutely owe the public clear information about the performance at every school in the state, and schools need to be giving parents great information about their school. What we should not be doing is forcing every school to double test and waste teaching time -just because it would be simpler mathematically.
Arizona is one of the fastest improving states for a reason - well, for hundreds of reasons and they are all teachers. Those teachers who are leading the state in achievement gains ought not be told to slow down just because it is a bit complex to understand how fast they are moving.
The testing companies have already figured out how to equate their results to our AzMERIT assessment and they will have to prove it can be done for accountability. I think when some of the smartest people in any room get excited about how to offer great opportunities to more students, there is only one thing to say: