Arizonans can now check their school's ranking for this year as the state begins to phase out the current assessments for a new achievement test based on tougher standards.
The state released Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) for students who tested this past spring as well as 2013 A-F letter grades for all Arizona schools and districts.
Students in grades three through eight and 10th grade are required to take AIMS math and reading tests each year. The writing test is taken in grades five, six, seven and 10, while the test in science is given for students in grades four, eight and 10.
Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said from 2012 to 2013, the percentage of students passing the math assessment rose by one point to 61 percent.
Huppenthal said more than 78 percent of students passed the reading test, which was also a 1 percent increase.
For science and writing, just over half the students passed with scores of 57 percent and 56 percent, respectively.
"Our writing and science test results are a wake-up call. It is unacceptable that over 40 percent of our students cannot test at a minimum AIMS standard in writing and science," Huppenthal said.
Last year, 60 percent of students passed the science assessment and 57 percent of students passed the writing test.
Huppenthal says to fix these low scores, he's taking a three-prong approach.
"We know the formula," Huppenthal said. "We have way too much turnover in the superintendent seat."
He says the school systems that do well have superintendents and staff who have spent decades teaching in the same system. Eliminating turnover, he says, will help improve test scores.
The second part, Huppenthal says, puts more effort into science and writing.
The third part, he says, is funding.
Huppenthal, a former state senator, voted along with the majority of the state legislature to cut funding to education in 2009. Now, he's asking for that funding to return.
"The stress from finances over the last couple of years are a significant distraction from our educational mission," he said. "The legislature needs to do something about it."
District 8 Republican Rep. John Kavanagh says state spending on education has continually increased since Huppenthal left the Capitol. Next legislative session, Kavanagh says, could see more increases in funding.
"We're coming back," Kavanagh said. "Over the last two years, we've increased funding by $158 million and over the next few years, we will continue to increase and restore the funding as the economy comes back."
Arizona's Democrats echo that need to restore funding.
"We put in new testing standards, now we need to fund the schools and give the students a chance to succeed," District 14 Democratic Representative Chad Campbell said.
Both parties say educational funding will be a major focus of the next legislative session.
During the 2011 to 2012 school year, the state transitioned to the letter grade system. Huppenthal said the A-F letter grades are based on the weighting of student performance on the AIMS tests and student academic growth from year to year, along with additional points awarded for high English Language Learner reclassifications and significant reductions in dropout rates.
In March, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill paving the way for replacement of the AIMS test with a new achievement test based on tougher standards being adopted by Arizona and other states.
The bill will eliminate the current requirement that high school students pass the AIMS test to graduate.
Brewer calls the new Common Core standards an important part of improving education in Arizona.
Friday, August 1 2014 9:20 AM EDT2014-08-01 13:20:08 GMT
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