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Changes coming to Ariz. standardized tests

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Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 6:45 am

Big changes are coming to the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test that is administered to elementary school students and high school sophomores, which could affect not only how teachers teach but, in separate legislation, how they are evaluated.

The name could be the first thing to go.

This week elementary school students from Ahwatukee Foothills sat down to take standardized tests in science, language arts, reading, writing, and math. In the past, performance was based on comparable scores between students at the same grade levels and only within the state. That will change beginning in 2014.

Not only will students be compared to other students in the same grade, in multiple states (more than 40 have adopted Common Core), but what and how they test students will be drastically different from what it was even a few years ago.

Lorah Neville, Kyrene School District director of curriculum and learning services, said they gear the test toward cognitive demand, which she explains as, “we’re not so much concerned about the content of standards, it’s the level of what they do with the information … cognitive demand, it’s what kids have to do with what they know. It’s not just recall but appropriate application of the information they have.”

Common Core standards were adopted in 2010 by Arizona. Since then, and including this year, students have been tested on it, but the new system won’t “go live” until 2014.

“We are in the in-between stage of new standards and old,” Neville said. “The students need to be exposed to the new standards now so they will be adequately prepared. These are no longer just Arizona standards.”

The new system of national standardized testing is something that educators have been calling for for some time.

While the learning curve may be steep and the standards could very well grow higher, the district is doing what it can to prepare both students and teachers for the future.

“We have been training teachers for the past year or so on the new standards, so they can compare,” she said. “The biggest thing is that we need to help teachers understand these changes.”

In a few years, how successful they are, their classroom data, will play a role in their evaluations. Currently, no sanctions or rewards are placed on teachers for their classroom data, but that will change at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

Teachers’ evaluations will be based on a 40/60 percent split, 40 percent will be based on data — tests scores, although it has not been finalized as to exactly what data will be looked at — and 60 percent classroom performance, which was 100 percent of the evaluation up until next year, when a new bill was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.

“We are literally in the process of working on the student data side,” Neville said. “We have lots of work to do. We are working on how to equate effectiveness to student achievement.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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