Merit of AzMERIT

The results from the first AzMERIT test are in, and many Arizona students did not pass the new standardized exam. Now the Arizona State Board of Education is left to decide whether or not to continue to implement the test.

Jake Matise, Columnist

Last spring, the AzMERIT, the standardized test that replaced AIMS, was distributed statewide and taken by students from third through 11th grade. However, the test results were staggering. According to AZCentral, an average of 40 percent of students in all grades were “minimally proficient” in both reading and math. About 25 percent of students in all grades were only partially proficient in reading and math. This means that only about 35 percent of students were proficient and highly proficient, so only about 35 percent of students passed the test, which is extremely alarming. Now the Arizona Board of Education must decide what should be done about the extremely low test scores.

The low test scores are a poor reflection on our educational system, as well as the test in general. But there are reasons for the sharp increase in failed exams. For starters, the test is much tougher than the AIMS test was previously and was designed intentionally to be so, which definitely contributes to the lower test scores. Also, AzMERIT is a new test, which will take some getting used to. A drop in scores was actually expected, according to Arizona State Board of Education president Greg Miller. “Just changing the test itself would account for a 10 to 15 percent drop in scores,” stated Miller.Even though the drop in scores was a lot more than 10 to 15 percent, the Arizona State Board of Education believes that the higher standards the AzMERIT assessment possesses will lead to academic improvement in the state.

Personally, I don’t think it is right to implement a statewide exam that is probably too difficult and will generate low test scores. While the Arizona State Board of Education has the right mindset when they say that they want to see academic improvement, I don’t think that making a difficult standardized test that the majority of kids will not pass is a step in the right direction. Honestly, the only positives that can be taken away from the first time kids took the test was that 40 percent of kids took the test online, saving paper, and that AzMERIT testing was shorter than the AIMS test of previous years.

AzMERIT is a good concept, but it needs many more tweaks before students take it again this spring if the state wants to see an increase in test scores. I preferred AIMS to AzMERIT, but it is nice that failing the AzMERIT test can’t impede your graduation, like the AIMS test could during its time. The Arizona State Board of Education already said that they have no plans to adjust the scores of the students who did not pass the test. They really need to take another look at the test if they are not going to revise the scoring criteria or adjust scores accordingly. In conclusion, the AzMERIT exam definitely has potential, but it needs a lot of work if students are to get anything out of it.