The first year of the AzMERIT testing brought new opportunities and a few challenges for students and educators across the state. At Expect More Arizona, we received a wide variety of feedback from both schools and parents. We recently spoke with several charter school principals and wanted to share their thoughts with you.

Overall, the principals are optimistic about where testing is going and how AzMERIT will measure students’ understanding of academic concepts. They were pleased that test logistics ran smoothly. In fact, they noted that administering the exam wasn’t too different from AIMS, which meant most educators had experience and were able to streamline the process.

That said, some students and teachers felt the content didn’t always closely mirror what students had studied throughout the year. Additionally, several schools felt they didn’t have enough time to fully prepare students with the specific types of problems they would be expected to solve. AzMERIT was certainly more rigorous than previous assessments, with new fill-in-the-blank portions and multi-step problems. This puts new responsibility on students to show what they know – it doesn’t allow them to guess or bubble in patterns.

Some students felt that AzMERIT was tougher than AIMS, and that was reflected in the length of time many of them needed to complete the assessment. To help alleviate anxiety, the team at Liberty Traditional School in Douglas organized a pep rally before students began the exam. It gave students a fun opportunity to get excited and build confidence.

And at La Paloma Academy South in Tucson, teachers follow a structured pacing guide to ensure instruction stays on track and students are taught all of the necessary academic concepts.

Principals and other school leaders expressed confidence that after having seen the test, they’ll be better able to prepare students for the coming year’s exam. Principal Parker from Liberty Traditional School in Phoenix noted that they’ll increase the time students have to work on computers, so that students are comfortable with the technology when the school transitions to computer-based testing.

Most educators agree that testing is headed in the right direction and they’re planning to help parents understand the new scores they’ll see this fall. While an individual student’s score may appear lower than in previous years, it doesn’t actually mean that the child is faring worse. Because AzMERIT is a different test, it’s going to appear different than previous test results, but will show parents a more accurate view of where their child stands academically.

To learn more about AzMERIT, visit ArizonaAimsHigher.org/AzMERIT.