How to help parents understand AzMERIT
As students and parents receive AzMERIT results in late October, they may come to you with questions and concerns.
We've provided resources for parents to help parents understand their child's AzMERIT results. A video and brochure have both been produced in English and Spanish, and they will be shared with all parents whose children took AzMERIT in spring 2015.
To help you be better prepared to answer additional questions, please take advantage of the resources on this page.
Understanding AzMERIT for staff
Learn more about AzMERIT and how to support student achievement. Check out the videos and other learning materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do the test scores mean?
With this test you receive three types of information for each student - a proficiency level, a scale score and a mastery level for each sub-skill scoring category.
The proficiency levels represent the overall performance on the test. The levels are Highly Proficient, Proficient, Partially Proficient and Minimally Proficient.
The scale score has no inherent meaning, it just reflects where the student is on the scale. The ELA scale is in the 2000s and the math scale is in the 3000s. Those scale ranges were chosen because they have not been used for other state tests and would not be confused with SAT, AIMS or other scale scores.
The mastery level reflects how students did in each scoring category. The ratings are below mastery, at/near mastery and above mastery. Note that there are no scores or percent correct for scoring categories. Instead, ADE provides a description of how a student performs at that mastery level.
Why is the percent proficient so much lower than passing on AIMS?
The AzMERIT results were expected to have lower levels of proficiency for several reasons. First, the expectations for student performance have increased greatly. As you know, the standards demand more of students. The test reflects that, with more questions involving critical thinking, problem solving, and analysis where students have to create the answer instead of just choosing a multiple choice option.
Second, teachers and students had not seen the test before and only saw sample items only a few months before the test, so they were not necessarily familiar with the format of all the test items. Now that we have seen the test we can make sure that students are familiar with the format for the 2016 testing.
Finally, many students took a state test online for the first time last spring. Unfamiliarity with the manner in which the test was delivered may have slightly depressed the scores.
What if a parent asks why the AIMS and AzMERIT results are so different?
AIMS and AzMERIT are very different tests, so comparing their results is like comparing apples to oranges. AIMS measured the old academic standards, and AzMERIT measures the new, more rigorous standards. AIMS consisted of multiple-choice items with four possible choices. AzMERIT had those as well as multiple-choice items with multiple correct answers (e.g., choose all of the eight choices that are correct), fill in the blank, short answer, and other items that made students create answers and show their reasoning. AzMERIT questions are much more cognitively demanding than AIMS, and what is needed to be Proficient on AzMERIT is much higher than Meets the Standard on AIMS. This is why we tell parents that AzMERIT is the new baseline.
Who set the proficiency levels?
This summer 81 educators with experience teaching the grade level they worked on came together to determine the point at which a student is partially proficient, proficient and highly proficient. Mesa had six educators on these committees, and they tell us the levels were based on the teachers' consensus about what students should know and can do. The levels were not predetermined by ADE or the testing contractor.
Why are the scores arriving so late?
This was the first year that the test was given. When setting the proficiency levels, ADE thought it was important that the teachers setting the levels and the State Board know the impact of their decisions, so they had to wait until after the tests were processed to do the standard setting. The State Board officially set the levels in late August and the scoring process took about six weeks. In future years we should expect the results by the fourth week in May.
How will the scores be used?
The 2015 scores are considered the new baseline. They will not be used for teacher evaluation, retaining last year's third-graders or other purposes by the district. ADE will use them for identifying the lowest and highest performing Title I schools for federal school accountability requirements.
Will our incentive goals be based on AzMERIT?
The 2015/16 incentive plan is based on teacher evaluations, participating in professional development and an improvement goal determined by each school and approved by the Area Assistant Superintendent.
What types of questions were on the test?
AzMERIT includes a number of different types of questions, including performance tasks that are multi-step assignments that ask students to apply their knowledge and skills to address real-world problems. In English, students have to apply their research and writing skills, and in math they solve complex problems and then describe and defend their reasoning. The test also includes traditional multiple-choice questions, multiple-choice questions with multiple answers (e.g., pick the two correct answers from the following eight) as well as interactive questions requiring students to drag and drop their answers into a box, create equations and fill in the answer.
Where did the AzMERIT questions come from?
The test items came from the State of Utah's SAGE item bank. But the specific questions were chosen to fit the Arizona test blueprint that listed what should be tested at what cognitive level for each grade and subject. The test was unique to Arizona, but some of the items were likely used in Utah and other states. All of the test items are reviewed and approved by Arizona educators. That review includes confirming the answer key for items and any scoring rubrics.
How was AzMERIT scored?
All tests were scanned and the multiple choice and most short answer questions were machine scored. Items that require hand scoring were scored by trained scorers using the appropriate scoring rubric.
Did students in other states have low levels of proficiency also?
Generally, yes. The states in the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortium also gave new tests like AzMERIT this year. Many states found that the percent proficient dropped dramatically. For example, Massachusetts, which is one of the highest scoring states on NAEP and other tests, only had proficiency rates between 45 and 57 percent.
Where can I find support resources and materials to teach in ways that will prepare students for AzMERIT this year?
Please refer to the MPS Curriculum and Instruction web pages dedicated to mathematics, reading and ELA. The MPS Intranet pages have links to a variety of adopted and supplemental resources as well as the Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) for each subject area.
How can I help my student with writing?
AzMERIT student results include each student's scores on the three sections of the AzMERIT Writing Rubric (Purpose, Focus and Organization; Evidence and Elaboration; and Conventions). The ADE has provided Writing Guides for students that align to these three sections. These Writing Guides will be provided for students to use as part of the Writing portion of AzMERIT and can be used throughout the school year as a resource for writing assignments in class and at home. The AzMERIT score report will indicate the sectio(s) of the rubric where your student scored lower. Help them work on those aspects of their writing by referring to the descriptors in that section of the Writing Guides for both informative/explanatory writing and opinion/argument writing.
What resources are available to help parents help their child?
Arizona Aims Higher: information about Arizona's College & Career Ready Standards and AzMERIT, along with tips and resources to help students succeed in school.
Math Power Book: created by The Rodel Foundation of Arizona, this book was designed for parents and families who want to help their children make sense of math and covers concepts introduced in first grade all the way through sixth grade. MPS provides this resource to the families of all fourth-grade students beginning in 2015-16.
Do Your Homework Arizona: a free tool created by Stand for Children Arizona to help parents better understand homework related to Arizona's new academic standards in math and English in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Who can answer parent questions if I can't?
Questions about why we are required to test or the testing contractor should be directed to the Arizona Department of Education (602-542-5031) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Within the district, Joe O'Reilly can address these general concerns (480-472-0241).
Curriculum specialists in English Language Arts and math can address questions about the curriculum and support materials (480-472-0300). You should address questions specific to what their child knows and can do or what is taught in your class.