Success is Trending in Arizona

While the temperatures in Arizona have begun to drop for the winter, there’s one thing that’s still on the rise: k-12 student achievement.

Several years ago, Arizona made a commitment to prepare all of its students for college and a career by raising its academic standards and adopting a new annual assessment aligned to those standards. That assessment—the AZMerit—has helped state, district and school leaders to better understand where students are excelling and where they need additional support.

In the four years since Arizona adopted its AZMerit assessment, the number of students reaching proficiency increased an average of 7.3 percentage points in English Language Arts and an average of 7.1 percentage points in math for students in grades 3-8.

Most importantly, gains have translated across student subgroups, with students of color also showing strong progress. Overall, 37,000 more students have reached proficiency in ELA in grades 3-8 since 2015; while more than 36,000 have in math.

While there’s clearly still much work needed to help all of Arizona’s students reach grade-level proficiency, these trends are encouraging and speak to the dedication of Arizona’s teachers and students, who are rising to the challenge of the state’s higher academic standards.

Arizona teachers and students have also benefitted from:

  • High Standards & Aligned Curriculum

In 2010, Arizona adopted the Common Core State Standards, raising the bar for what students should know and be able to do in each grade. After several years of implementation, Arizona revised the standards based on feedback from more than 200 teachers and input from educator and parent working groups, as well as experts in student services and underrepresented groups.

In order to provide an accurate, comparable measure of student achievement, Arizona also adopted the AZMerit as the annual assessment that all students across the state take. In addition to providing information about whether students have mastered the content they need to be successful in the next grade, the AZMerit allows for comparability so that educators can see how their students perform compared to students across the state. In order to maintain strong accountability measures across the state, it’s critical that Arizona maintain a statewide, annual assessment.

  • Implementation Support

Arizona chose to slowly phased-in its new academic standards by grade level to allow time for districts to provide educators with the support necessary to raise rigor in the classroom. The Arizona Department of Education also analyzed the extent to which their previous curriculum content and instructional materials were aligned to their new standards, identifying discrepancies and conceptual shifts. The Department used this information to inform teacher professional development during the implementation process.

There is much work ahead to support all students, but there is strong evidence in states across the country that high standards are proving effective, and that states can benefit from doubling-down on implementing higher standards with fidelity.