School districts analyze AzMERIT test scores to see what changes - Tucson News Now

School districts analyze AzMERIT test scores to see what changes need to be made

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

AzMERIT test scores have school districts throughout Arizona assessing how best to teach students to meet state standards in Reading, Writing and Math.

Results for 2016, the second year of AzMERIT testing, show an increase in overall proficiency levels, compared to 2015 scores. Statewide, 38 percent of students passed the English and math tests.

"We did better, and we assume we will continue to improve," said Dr. Halley Freitas, Tucson Unified School District Director of Assessment and Program Evaluation. 

"The results didn't surprise us. This is a new test and it's very rigorous and so last year's results--we didn't know what to expect and our students struggled on the test as did students across the entire state. And this year we did better. So we're very pleased with the growth that we showed. I think we understand the testing sequencing a little better. We understand what type of questions, what the expectations are, and so we did better and we assume that each year that we take the test, as we know more, we will continue to improve," Freitas said.

TUSD saw some highs and lows and the district says it's working on those lows.

One of the ways the district is addressing overall student achievement is by adopting something called Professional Learning Communities, or PLC. It's a proven concept where teachers in one grade work work in teams to plan and teach. When a student is struggling, the entire team works to help that student achieve.

"That's very affirming to parents to know that teachers are really working very hard to make sure that their students learn what they need to know the first time around and if not, they're willing to support them the second or third time around.They stay with it until the student learns it," said TUSD Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. Karen Kopec.

"Our excelling schools continue to excel. Our struggling schools are being supported by the district and showing some improvement," Freitas said.

As TUSD students learn under the PLC method, it's expected AzMERIT scores also will continue to improve.

The Vail Unified School District, southeast of Tucson, is a highly-performing district. It has used a PLC teaching model for several years.

Vail calls it the Re-teach and Enrich model.  The district consistently scores well in state assessments.

In comparing itself to statewide scores in the two AzMERIT tests so far, the district says it outperformed the state by about 50 percent last year and by over 60 percent this year.

Still, AzMERIT shows there's room for improvement in Vail as there is in all other school districts.

In Vail's teaching model a team of teachers in each grade works to help students at all levels, not only the students who are struggling.

Vail Unified says that model has served it well even through the challenge of learning how to teach and take a brand new state test.    

"As we transitioned into the AZ Merit assessment we're seeing growth from year to year with the student performance with what we've always done--paying close attention to each of those struggling students and paying attention to the student who are really high performing as well and making sure that they're challenged," said Vail Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Debbie Hedgepeth.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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