Just. Keep. Calm.

Mike Lee Education, Education Policy

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AZMerit Meme

That’s right AZMerit scores are here. We’ll finally know how Arizona students performed taking a first stab at the measure of the new standards. Kind of.

Districts have now received embargoed reports that can’t yet be shared with the public until the usual errors in reporting have been fixed. But in the coming weeks, individual student scores will be in the hands of parents and…Well, I’m not sure. But I do know a few things:

  • The scores will be significantly lower than we’re used to. Significantly lower.
  • They should be. If kids were able to do such high-level tasks so quickly, why did we need to shift the standards to higher levels of complexity in the first place?
  • Most experts would suggest a minimum of a three year implementation dip.
  • I’m not convinced we have the stomach for that implementation dip.
  • Patience will be in short supply. Although it was not politically smart, I do agree with Secretary Duncan’s famously clunky comment about suburban panic. He just probably shouldn’t have said it with his outside voice.
  • The assessments themselves should be open to heavy scrutiny, and not because the first year’s performance isn’t exemplary, but because we’re famous for hyper-reacting to tests designed by the lowest bidder.
  • The Common Core, errr, Arizona Career and Readiness Standards, errr – let’s just call them The Standards – are not the same as the AZMerit assessments. If there’s something wrong with the assessment, it doesn’t mean that there is inherently something wrong with the standards.
  • Trends in data are far more important than a single snapshot. Irregularities happen in any data set, and it’s critical to resist the urge to overreact. Especially when overreacting usually means throwing whatever money we have at whatever we are reacting to.
  • Few teachers will tell you they’ve been given the tools to be successful. To many, it feels like a rigged game. Increase the challenge. Don’t provide resources to meet the challenge. Commence the blame game and offer alternatives, many of which are not required to even take the assessment, so no comparison is available.

So yes, the scores are coming. And guess what? The school you love, the teacher you adore, or the challenges you might already be facing in regards to your child’s education are the same as they were yesterday. It’s a piece of that measured a fraction of the standards.

Take a deep breath, absorb what you’re reading, put it in perspective, ask questions, and continue to develop a deeper understanding of your child as a learner and the steps he or she needs to take to eventually be “college and career ready.” And, for the record, many of those skills are not measured on that assessment. Don’t believe me? Look up your child’s score on “social skills,” or “collaborative task productivity.”

But whatever you do, don’t panic. Don’t demand a lowering of the bar (standards). Take a deep breath, and let’s do what we so rarely do in education.

Play the long game.  After all, spring always follows winter.


Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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Comments 5

  1. angelia ebner

    I love your long game analogy! That is exactly what we should be doing. No more try something for one year and then bail, let’s stick with the things that will help our students become deep thinkers and problem solvers! Thank you so much!

  2. Alaina Adams

    “So yes, the scores are coming. And guess what? The school you love, the teacher you adore, or the challenges you might already be facing in regards to your child’s education are the same as they were yesterday.” THANK YOU for helping people put AZMerit score release in perspective. This mother of dragons salutes you. ;)

  3. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I agree with your post… just wanted to add a tidbit of my experience looking at scores. Being an ELD teacher for the first time, and moving to a completely different level, I am interested in ways to see what my students are able to do. What I found dismaying about the score information I received is that, unless I just haven’t seen some of the data, all I really know is that all of my students “fall far below” in reading, writing, and (most of them) in math. But I knew this already. They are new to English. The test gives me little to nothing to work with. I am not sure of the details, but I am wondering/hoping that with the new ESEA revisions, maybe states would have the option to not waste my students’ time taking AZ Merit when they are already spending hours taking AZELLA which, while not perfect, gives me much more detailed information that I can use to help them.

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