Chandler students score high on AzMerit test SanTan Sun News

Chandler students score high on AzMerit test

Chandler students score high on AzMerit test
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Unified School District performed well above the state’s average in math and English assessments, yet individual schools showed little improvement from the previous year.

Fifty-nine percent of all CUSD students passed the state’s AzMERIT English exam and 58 percent passed the math portion. In 2018, CUSD had a passing rate of 56 percent for English and 58 percent for math.

The statewide average in both subjects was 42 percent – meaning less than half of Arizona students in public and charter schools are proficient in English and math for their grade level according to state standards.

AzMerit results are part of the formula the state uses to grade schools to give parents an idea of how well a school is preparing students for college and the workforce.

Chandler Unified, one of the state’s largest districts, had 26 schools receive “A” grades last year.

And schools that perform well earn state bonuses. Last year Chandler Unified schools reaped a total $2.1 million in extra money because of their scores.

All public and charter students in grades 3 through 12 take the tests, although data released last week shows hundreds of students – particularly in high school – manage to avoid taking them.

One education expert said that because students know they don’t need the test to graduate, many simply avoid it or take a different assessment test.

Education Department spokesman Stefan Swiak said the English Language Arts test is a combination of essays and pull-down choices. That test also assesses students’ knowledge of literature they are expected to have read at their grade level.

Results from the 2018-19 AzMerit tests put Chandler Unified near the head of the class among East Valley school districts.

District-wide passing rates for English in the other districts in the region were: Higley Unified, 63 percent; Kyrene, 60; Queen Creek Unified, 56; and Gilbert Public Schools, 53.

District-wide passing rates in math for those districts were: Higley, 63 percent; Queen Creek, 62;  Kyrene, 57; and Gilbert, 52.

Three other East Valley districts recorded district-wide passing rates in both areas below 50 percent.

Mesa Public Schools’ passing rate was 41 percent for English and 43 percent for math; Tempe Union came in at 37 and 35 percent, respectively; and Tempe Elementary registered 38 and 43 percent, respectively.

Test results also were broken down into four levels of proficiency.

On a district-wide basis, that data showed more than half of all Chandler Unified students are proficient or more than proficient in both English and math.

The results showed that in English, 38 percent of Chandler students were proficient and another 20 percent highly proficient. Of the remainder, 23 percent were minimally proficient and 18 percent were partially proficient.

In math, 31 percent of Chandler students demonstrated proficiency and another 27 percent showed they were highly proficient. The remainder were split almost evenly between partially and minimally proficient.

Among individual Chandler schools, Knox Gifted Academy had some of the highest scores for CUSD — registering a 95-percent passing rate in both English and math.

Among CUSD high schools, the leader of the pack was Arizona College Prep – Erie Campus, where students recorded an 87 percent passing rate in English and 89 percent passing rate in math – well above any other high school in the district.

Frye Elementary School had some of the district’s lowest scores with 26 percent of students passing English and 17 percent passing math. Those passing rates fell from than the previous year.

Andersen Elementary, Bogle Junior High, Conley Elementary, San Marcos Elementary and Ann Marie Jacobson Elementary all had slightly smaller passing rates in English and math compared to 2018.

Some schools, like Humphrey Elementary and Sanborn Elementary, had a greater percentage of students passing English, but a small percentage passing math.

By contrast, Willis Junior High had a higher rate of students passing math and a lower rate passing English.

Since the assessments were implemented, CUSD has managed to successfully improve passing rates on a district-wide level and at individual schools.

Haley Elementary recently demonstrated some of the greatest year-over-year improvement, increasing its passage rate in English from 60 to 70 percent.

But other CUSD schools have had their scores fluctuate. Payne Junior High’s passing rates increased in 2018, then dropped back down the following year.

On a district-wide level, passing rates and grade levels went in opposite directions of each other for the state’s English exam.

For example, 65 percent of fourth-graders; 57 percent of sixth-graders passed, 54 percent of seventh-graders passed, and 50 percent of eighth-graders passed.

A smaller percentage of middle school students passed the English this year compared to last. But a greater percentage of elementary students passed the test than in 2018.

Chandler’s individual grade levels still performed well above state averages in math and English. Forty-six percent of all third graders in Arizona passed English – 15 percentage points below Chandler’s third-graders.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, who took office this year, expressed optimism for the progress school districts have made with AzMERIT.

“I am also pleased to announce that our students have improved in 13 of the 22 grade-level and test categories,” Hoffman said in a statement. “While assessment scores can always be increased, I would like to extend my congratulations to all of our educators and students for their improvement.”

AzMERIT scores also are broken down by various demographics based on race, gender, socio-economic status and disabilities.

A greater percentage of female students in CUSD passed English than male students, but a smaller percentage of females passed math.

The performance of racial and ethnic groups in CUSD either remained relatively the same or improved slightly compared to the 2018 scores.

Two percent more of CUSD students identifying as Hispanic passed the English exam. Three percent more of Asian students passed the math test.

Four percent of African American students passed English, but two percent fewer passed math. The passage rate for Native American students dropped in both English and math.

Parents have to contact their children’s school to get their kids’ results but results for individual schools can be found at azed.gov/assessment.

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