Editorial: AZMerit poses countless issues
March 11, 2019
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Supposedly, the only inevitable things in this world are death and taxes. High school students, though, probably beg to differ and would claim that standardized testing should top the list of life’s certainties. No school year can pass without the all-important AZMerit which is the bane of many students and teachers.
The problems with AZMerit vary: there are complaints regarding the new policy that allows students to bump their grades up, objections to the fact that teachers are graded based on this test, and issues with the very test itself.
This year, the Deer Valley Unified School District decided that any student who gets a “Highly Proficient” score on the AZMerit would have their letter grade bumped up. For example, a student who earned a B grade would then be pushed up to a A. Now there are many issues with this. First, not a single student was consulted about these changes, despite the fact that they are largely affected by this, and it seemed to take ages for the student body to learn all the details. This seems to be a running problem of communication between the district and students; for instance, the misunderstandings about half-days next year that resulted from a lack of communication.
Additionally, this change is unfair to upperclassmen and dedicated students. Upperclassmen never got this opportunity to improve their grades and if they had perhaps just been born a year later, they too could enjoy the luxuries of lower grades. By implementing this system of raising grades based off one test students have an edge over the years of students that earned their grades the old fashioned way, through hard work. But instead, this change occurs at a arbitrary time and thus affects so many students. Now, students may not care as much about their semester grades and would be content with a B or C if they are confident that they will excel on the AZMerit test. Meanwhile, more dedicated students will be consistently giving their best, but in the end, they will be seen on the same level as a less committed student.
However, because of this incentive, students may be more likely to actually try on the usually meaningless AZMerit. The policy will also give students who legitimately try on the test a reward, while students who do not perform as well are not punished in any way. Additionally, teachers may benefit from this change because their students will most likely receive higher scores, and so teachers will be graded higher by the district.
But the fact that teachers are graded on their students’ scores on a test that many students still will not care about is an entirely other problem. Teachers should not be defined by a test that students will likely never fully try on. Teachers cannot force their students in any way to truly care about the test, yet it seems that is precisely what they are graded on. Additionally, teachers are graded based on their students’ improvement, not their actual scores. This means that teachers are tasked with improving students’ scores from last year, when those students were taught by a different teacher. It can be difficult for teachers to show improvement when they are working with students who have been taught different techniques by different teachers and focused on different standards. And teachers who have smarter students who have previously had better AZMerit scores may actually be at a disadvantage because there is less room for improvement.
Yet one of the largest issues with the test, is the test itself. The test is not a valid measure of what students have learned during the school year. Multiple parts of the test seem to not even be related to what we learn in the classroom. Instead, the finals that are taken at the end of every semester do a better way of reflecting a student’s success than standardized testing does, because finals really test students on everything they have learned. A test across the entire state may be helpful for gathering statistics, but every school, classroom, and student are different and one test cannot measure a teacher or school’s success rate.
Overall, the AZMerit is not a viable option to measure the intelligence of students nor the quality of teachers. AZMerit is not a good test in any way. It is not reflective of the material students have learned and the new grade policy will just increase laziness in regards to school work, though it may also result in an uptick in interest in the AZMerit. However, with other standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, and AP tests, students simply will never care about the comparatively useless AZMerit leading to teachers being graded unfairly. So much has to be done to fix the AZMerit and it’s up to our state’s and our district’s leaders to take some action.