The decision to give Arizona public schools a menu of assessment options to choose from was made in 2016 by the Arizona legislature with the passage of ARS 15-742. To adhere to the new Arizona law, the Arizona State Board of Education then developed policies, timelines and technical assistance.
Last week, Raising Special Kids released information on an opportunity to provide public comment on the policy change. We are following up with more information on the topic and on providing public comment
- What is a ‘Menu of Assessments’?
A list of Arizona State Board of Education (ASBE)-approved standardized tests that a school can choose give all of its students in place of the AzMERIT. Definition here in #3
- Is the AzMERIT going away?
The contract with AzMERIT is due to expire in November of 2019. See timeline here
- I see there is a Public Comment opportunity about Arizona’s standardized test changes. So what am I commenting on?
Here is where it gets a little (more) confusing.
Federal education funding is determined by, among other things, how well a state is educating all of its students. According to the federal law, states are required to measure student progress using a single statewide standardized test. The law leaves it up to each state to choose their own assessment tool. However, for the assessment tool/standardized test to be approved by USDOE, states must submit evidence demonstrating that the assessment they’ve selected meets the USDOE’s peer review guidance.
ADE is asking for permission from the US Department of Education to waive the requirement for submitting evidence demonstrating the standardized tests on the new menu of assessments meet the requirement of the USDOE’s peer review guidance. Whenever a state asks for a waiver from the federal government, a public comment period is required.
Do you have questions, comments and/or concerns regarding ADE not being required to submit evidence demonstrating all of the tests on our new menu of assessments passed peer review, as was required for AzMERIT and is required for all standardized tests selected by other states?
- What happens if the waiver is not granted? Should I be concerned?
The implications of a state administering multiple statewide assessments that are not fully allowed by the USDOE through a waiver are unknown. Some of the concerns that have been raised are as follows:
- Federal education and federal special education dollars are contingent upon accountability measures linked to a single statewide assessment and those funds may be at risk as we move forward with a new assessment system.
- Multiple assessments measuring student achievement could result in a large, ongoing, investment in resources to create and align data systems at the State level.
- What does this mean for my child who takes the alternate assessment (AIMS-A, MSAA)?
The alternate assessment for students with significant intellectual disabilities will remain unchanged. Although this policy change, the menu of assessments, affects the vast majority of Arizona’s students, only about 7,000 students took an alternate assessment in 2018 in contrast to the 700,000 took the AzMERIT.
- If the waiver is granted, what does that mean for my child who has a disability?
Local School Districts and Charter Schools are directed to provide ‘necessary accommodations and modifications for a student as required by the student’s individualized education program team’ (IEP Team). Policy statement here in #10. That being said, here are some questions that parents may have:
- How will my child access their accommodations? What is the process for claiming accommodations on an assessment like SAT or ACT?
- Will my child have access to specific accommodations that they may be familiar with (ex. text to speech software)?
- Are these new assessments aligned with Arizona educational content standards? Is my child going to be tested on information that they have been taught?
- Can my child take the AzMERIT if his school has chosen select another option?
No. Students will only be allowed to take the tests selected by their schools.
- What if my child’s school changes their mind and wants to go back to using the AzMERIT next year?
The AzMERIT is not currently listed as an option on the menu of assessments. As stated above, the contract with AzMERIT is due to expire this November. Unless the contract is extended, or the AzMERIT is added to the menu of assessments, it appears that AzMERIT will not be an option beyond November 2019.