Wrapping Up the First Year of AZMerit ~ Justin Dye


Justin Dye is an Arizona native who began his career with La Paloma Academy in Tucson as a second-grade teacher. From there, he moved into administration as a Title I coordinator, after-school director, vice principal, and principal. Mr. Dye’s goal is to educate every student in his school while stressing the importance of teaching character values on a daily basis.
Our teachers have worked incredibly hard implementing new, more rigorous standards, with student progress toward these higher standards measured by the AzMERIT assessment. Parents may be concerned after hearing that, a few weeks ago, the State Board of Education voted to sever ties with the Common Core. Fortunately, this does not impact the credibility of this test or change what teachers will teach and how students will learn in the immediate future.

As parents review the score report, it’s important to remember the following:

Teachers have multiple ways to measure student learning. AzMERIT is just one of those tools. Throughout the school year, there are many ways teachers assess how student are doing in their classroom, including classwork, homework, quizzes, projects, and teacher and counselor observations about your child’s growth.

The results from AzMERIT should be used along with all of this information to ensure grade-level success. At Heritage Elementary, we are not only utilizing the data from AzMERIT to drive instruction, but teachers are also implementing weekly benchmark testing. Schoolwide Galileo testing is done four times a year to monitor and help improve students understanding of specific reading and math standards. Teachers continue to provide daily re-teach and intervention within their classrooms and our school provides before and after school tutoring classes for students who are falling behind.

This is a transition year for Arizona schools. AzMERIT looks different from previous tests because it is a new test and is setting a higher bar for what students need to know and be able to do. Teachers, students, and parents are all making adjustments and getting used to the modified way teachers are teaching and students are learning. This year’s test results may seem lower than what you are used have come to expect from your child. There is no need to be alarmed, because the scores are not lower; the bar has been raised higher. Remember, your child’s teachers are your best resources of information if you have any questions or concerns.

Arizona is working hard to get the scoring right on these new tests; that’s why parents received last year’s results well after the start of this school year. We know it is frustrating for parents and teachers to receive the scores now, but in subsequent years, the goal is to have scores available by the end of the same school year, so teachers and parents have a clear understanding of each student’s strengths and areas for improvement. Mesa School District has put together an informative video explaining the scoring – watch it here.

We are on the right track! Arizona is asking more from our students so they can achieve their full potential. The AzMERIT goes beyond the previous bubble test by measuring a wide range of real-world skills, like critical thinking, problem solving and analysis.

For example: Mr. Hermosillo’s fifth grade classroom has been working on volume. In order for the students to learn how to solve the basic algorithm and have a deeper understanding of this concept his class has taken it a step further, students were required to design a space for an imaginary pet. Students utilized length, width, and height to create an area that would fit their pets comfortably. “Applying visual models, and everyday life experiences to teaching has proven to be more effective in engaging students and preparing them for the upcoming AzMERIT test,” Mr. Hermosillio said.

At Heritage, we want to encourage our parents to become more involved by talking with their children about their education. It is important to ask children open-ended questions about what they have learned each day. Read with your child, check nightly homework, communicate with your child’s teacher on a regular basis, and attend school events.

Together, we will work through these changes.