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AzMERIT Test to Replace AIMS

by : Tiffany Tunnell
posted on : 12/29/2014 4:15:41 PM

This Spring, Arizona will be making a dramatic shift which will impact every public school student and their families.  Starting in March 2015, all schools receiving state funding will be replacing the AIMS test with a new “online” testing system called AzMERIT or Arizona Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching.

The AzMERIT will replace AIMS in the subject areas of Mathematics, Language Arts, and Writing for grades 3 to 8. The test is designed to inform educational stakeholders which students are on track for college and career paths by meeting or exceeding the higher expectations for their grade level.

AzMERIT is largely based on the Common Core standards adopted by Arizona in 2010. The test is designed to mimic complex problem solving. As a result of the adoption of Common Core, students are expected to model higher levels of thinking using complex techniques that don’t follow traditional math processes.   Additionally, students are expected to solve an increased number of word problems and provide detailed explanations for many of their answers.  

The rollout of this new “core standard” of education has become quite a controversy over the past few years as concerned parents continue to struggle with these new methods of teaching, most of which use additional required steps which often lead to mathematical errors in many students, especially unfocused students or those diagnosed with ADHD or autism.  

Many parents find it extremely frustrating that their children can’t figure out the new techniques and feel helpless since they were taught more traditional methods growing up..  To compound the problem, this “new math” often comes with lots of poorly written questions which can be very confusing, and not straightforward like the traditional math used in the past.

AzCentral recently posted an article about student performance and AIMS testing for the 2013 school year stating that, “more than 100,000 Arizona students failed the math portion of AIMS — more than five times as many as those who failed reading.” This Spring, the AzMERIT tests, which are designed to raise students’ expectations in math and reading, are projecting a substantial decline in the number of students passing in the Spring of 2015.  It remains to be seen whether this decline will actually happen as anticipated, or if the problem will worsen.

So what does this mean for Mathematics testing (highest number of failing students by subject) and your child? Here are some useful examples of test questions and the higher expectations set for student achievement.



• Students are expected to master foundational skills in math and additionally apply those skills to more complex mathematics problems. In this 3rd grade example students not only have master division they also need to understand it is the opposite of multiplication to solve.

- For struggling students who are lacking foundational math knowledge, these complex math problems may lead to an inability to solve problems independently.

- To aid struggling students, first increase foundational knowledge and then move to application using a variation of traditional math techniques paired with exploration.



• Students now have more reading during the math test including reading lengthy directions and word problems. In this 3rd grade example students not only have to read and understand the information in part A, they also have to read the directions on what to do with the numbers and symbols within the page.
 
- For students who have not mastered on or above grade level reading, they will find the reading of the test frustrating. Therefore, they may just guess their answers do to lack of confidence and frustration.

- To aid the struggling student, increase reading foundational decoding knowledge/comprehension and pair with academic vocabulary and reading strategies. (Finding key information, restating information, creating a plan, solving)



• Students need to be able to express their thoughts on how they solved using written expression. In this 4th grade example students not only have answer 2 separate questions mathematically, they also need to enter work and a reasoning to the answer.

- For students who have trouble verbalizing or writing complex thoughts on how to solve problems, they will struggle with explaining their steps to their answers in a way that makes sense and can be transcribed.

- To aid the struggling student, increase their math and reading basic knowledge. Then, have students explain the problem both verbally and in written expression. Encourage pictures, symbols and math vocabulary in explanation.

Here are some additional questions to ask in order to be more informed and help your child adapt to the change:
  • How are my child’s foundational math and reading skills?
    • When is the last time I was updated on my child’s ability level?
    • Are there tests, data, information about my child that can help me identify their weaknesses?
  • Is my child tested independently on solving complex problems at school?
  • Can my child read grade level problems? (On their own)
  • What math vocabulary is important for mastering homework/classwork/test?
  • How will the test be administered to my child? (Paper Test or Online Test)
    • Paper Test Window: April 13 - April 24
    • Online Test Window: March 30 - April 24
  • If my child is taking the computer test, can I opt for the paper version?
  • Can they use scratch paper? (For either test)
  • Is my child taking any practice tests? *If so, are they the same version (paper or online)
  • When are the specific testing dates?
  • How can I help my child master these complex problems?
With the addition of yet another academic change, it is important to be stay informed. This will allows you to help your child by providing useful tools that will help them achieve success. For more information on the AzMERIT assessments, curriculum and practice materials, visit http://www.azed.gov/assessment/azmerit/

For additional support, it is always a good idea to use outside resources like those offered by MathRise Learning Centers.  MathRise offers assessment tests and One-on-one learning in  the areas of Mathematics and Language Arts which are targeted to students’ individual learning needs.

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