KOLD Investigates: Is your child’s school making the grade?

Preliminary AZM2 test results show a drop in scores across the board
KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 2:07 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 8:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The AzMerit scores are coming in across Arizona.

Did pandemic learning cause standardized test scores to drop?

Results of the AZM2 test, formally known as AZMerit, from the Sunnyside district provide more confirmation that the pandemic threw education a major curve.

The ADE hasn’t released the official statewide scores to the public yet, but the districts are getting a sneak peak.

They reveal test scores dropped across the board in our state.

It’s sobering data for the Sunnyside district, but not a surprise.

“Our AZMerit scores as predicted were not good at all,” said Superintendent Steve Holmes.

The test scores proved what Holmes suspected all along: Classroom disruption from the pandemic caused severe learning gaps.

“We saw significant drops across all grade levels and performance,” he said.

And it’s no different from the preliminary statewide numbers.

The district provided us with this 6 year comparison for Grades 3 to 8. The high school scores are not included because the test changed in 2021.

Less students passed the AZM2 test in 2021
Less students passed the AZM2 test in 2021(KOLD)

Arizona numbers show in English the percentage passing dropped from 45 to 39.

In Math, 43% to 31%.

What do the numbers show in Sunnyside?

Only 15% passed English, and 9% in Math.

It’s heartbreaking, Holmes said, after seeing gains over the past six testing years.

“I think our teachers did their best to try to capture students’ attention throughout the time. I think there was fatigue for students trying to stay online all day,” said Holmes.

Despite the unexpected challenges in learning, the content and expectations of the test didn’t change.

Gov. Doug Ducey called for the results to be used to combat learning loss since it’s the assessments help gauge how well students are doing.

The preliminary data shows it could be a tougher climb back.

The percentages of at-risk students, those who are minimally proficient, in 3rd grade through high school are 69% in English and 75% in Math

Holmes said the pandemic affected students not only academically, but emotional trauma and economic hardships impacted many Sunnyside students.

He stresses it could take years to recover, despite the district’s efforts to “make the best,” of the pandemic not playing out academically.

“I think there’s a motivational factor that comes into play. So if a student all year has been struggling, but more importantly has been challenged to stay engaged, I’m not sure they took that test seriously,” he said.

The results are preliminary, but the district and other education sources say that changes are usually not drastic.

The stats are important, generally speaking, because they could be useful in driving recovery efforts and guide some of the spending of federal funds.

Sunnyside received about 80 million dollars to tighten the learning gap.

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