By Linda Kor
State education officials have announced their selection for the new set of standardized tests that students will be required to take beginning this spring.
The AzMERIT (Arizona Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching) assessment will be replacing the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards tests for reading, writing and math beginning in the spring of 2015, with the AIMS science assessment to still be administered to sophomores.
The tests that will be used to assess the knowledge of students in third grade through high school is being developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) at a cost of $19 million.
AIR develops tests for states throughout the country, but this test will be unique to Arizona, with state educators determining what questions will be on the assessment and what questions to incorporate from other tests statewide for comparative statistics.
Jennifer Johnson, deputy superintendent of Programs and Policy with the Arizona Department of Education, stated that the new assessment will be computer based, or on paper where Internet is not available, and will better measure students’ mastery of the standards, including problem solving and critical thinking skills.
According to Johnson, the new assessment is considered so different from AIMS that the state Board of Education is already proposing a “hold harmless” period so that schools and students won’t be judged if their grades suddenly drop sharply in the first year.
The tests are important tools for schools and parents that provide valuable information regarding student learning, but passing the tests will not be a high school graduation requirement as it was with the AIMS. Even so, current juniors and seniors, who started taking AIMS in their sophomore year, still have to pass all three areas to get that diploma.