The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

Posted by Arizona Freedom Alliance on February 1, 2015

[Editor: This is from an exclusive interview with a teacher with long term experience in public and charter school environments and is currently a charter school owner. This is an assessment based on what is known, not necessarily an unbiased opinion.]

The K-6 testing of AzMerit will be in April with the sample tests being posted on the department of education’s website in mid-February. You can access 10 sample questions for grades 1-8 on the website.

Go to the Arizona Department of Education website, Select the tab Parent/Students and click on it. Then go to Arizona’s Sample Assessment Items and click on that. Select your child’s grade in English Language Arts and Mathematics (there are about 10 questions each). For writing rubrics and guides, go to Assessments. From there, select AZ Achievement Assessments and AZ Merit. Then from there, go to Resources for Teachers and Students and select your child’s appropriate grade 3-5 and 6-11 for writing rubrics and writing guides.

The rubrics for AIMS writing and the AzMerit test are the same, however, whereas AIMS gave the student a prompt for the topic of the story or essay to be written, AzMerit will present several paragraphs, from which the student is to extrapolate a topic and write on that. 3rd and 4th graders are to write an opinion on the inferred topic while 5th and 6th graders are to write and argument (I assume a pro or con persuasive essay on the inferred topic.

I have a problem with this for two reasons: Arizona has not been giving their 3rd and 4th grade students writing tests for a very long time. 5th and 6th graders have been tested in writing but were given prompts. The second reason I have a problem with this approach is that it is developmentally inappropriate. Young children before the age of 11 or 12 (5th/6th grade) have real problems with inference, in fact, developmentally, they can’t do it. They do well with concrete comprehension like: What was the color of the hat the farmer’s wife was wearing or was the little girl happy or sad after she got her dog back.

If asked about the meaning of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, they invariably answer with a description of the plot – what happened first, second, third. They NEVER say it is about SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER or anything like that! That concept is beyond young children (below the ages of 11 or 12). If you point OUT the meaning, they might get it but they tend not to arrive at inferences on their own unless they have a very high IQ (maybe 135 or so).

I can’t help but believe that failure on the writing tests will be massive in Arizona unless, of course, the geniuses teaching Common Core have been able to rebuild the psyches of children.

I invite you to answer the ELA (English Language Arts) and math sample questions. Some of the ELA questions have several plausible answers (that is, for intelligent people) but the test is looking for only one in the multiple choice questions. Math problems are mostly concerned with arrays and graphs and how many of us use those everyday in balancing our checkbook, bargain shopping and price comparison, mortgage interest rates, or any other adult use of everyday math applications? There is very little call for computational skills on this test (there wasn’t on AIMS either). I assure you that what most elementary aged children desire in math competency is to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, fractions, and decimals accurately and QUICKLY. They want to be able to comprehend word problems and understand how and when to use mathematical operations. They want to understand counting, calendrics, time, money, measurement, and basic geometry.

Some of the AzMerit problems appear to do this but most don’t. AzMerit is not a standardized test so it doesn’t even have the advantage of comparing Arizona’s children academically with children of other states. The NAEP (National Academic Education Progress) test would have been a better choice for Arizona (if it is not Common Core aligned). My top choice would be intensive local testing in reading, writing, and math with promotion being contingent upon the student’s scores in these areas. Other subject areas such as science and social studies should also be tested. I doubt whether there is much science or social studies even being taught at the elementary level in Arizona.

I hope this is helpful. I can’t speak much to the high school test. Keep in mind that probably half or a little more than half the schools in Arizona will be administering the AzMerit test on computer. [Others] have to give the pencil test version.

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