When you go to a doctor for your annual physical, the doctor will run a series of routine tests to measure your health. If there is a problem, special tests may be ordered, and there may be a series of follow-up tests to see that your health is improving.
Similarly, Mesa’s professional teachers use test results to measure a student’s academic standing and sometimes give additional tests to see if students are improving. Teachers use their extensive observations and professional expertise, along with test results, to gain a full picture of a student and to best serve their learning needs.
Even before the school year starts, teachers are reviewing their students’ performance on the prior year’s AIMS and district tests to identify strengths and areas that need improvement. During the first few weeks of school students may take tests to measure their skills so the teacher knows what the student needs to work on. For example, young elementary students take a phonics reading skills test and use it as a baseline measure to see growth over the school year.
As the school year progresses in the fall, most of the tests are made by teachers or developed for teachers to measure mastery of the academic standards being taught. High school juniors and seniors will be retaking the AIMS test in the fall if they have not yet passed because they must pass before they can graduate.
Eighth graders take the EXPLORE test, tenth graders take the PLAN test and some juniors take the PSAT test in October. These tests give students feedback on their readiness for high school classes and their readiness for college or career training. The EXPLORE and PLAN tests include an interest inventory so students can see if their academic preparedness matches the types of jobs in which they are interested. We know that engaged students with goals will do better in school, and these tests help students think about their goals after high school.
In December, and again in May, students in many classes in grades 7 through twelve will take end-of-course tests. These are final exams used throughout the district to measure students’ mastery of the course content. Teachers determine how that test will be used in the student’s final grade. In addition, principals and district staff examine how well students are learning what is expected in the class.
In February tenth graders will take the first AIMS tests in reading and writing. Students in elementary and junior high take a test that will parallel the AIMS test. These results are used to address any areas in which the student is not showing mastery of the grade’s state academic standards.
April is the height of testing season, as the state required AIMS and Stanford 10 are given to students in grades two through 12. AIMS, measures a student’s mastery of the state academic standards in reading, math, writing and science. It is used by the state to calculate a letter grade for every school and, under a new state requirement, could count for 30 percent to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. The Stanford 10 test measures how each child performed compared to students nationally.
High school students will also be taking the ACT or SAT college entrance tests. These tests will determine if students will get into the college of their choice and whether or not they will get college credit for their high school work.
Of course the ultimate goal of all testing is to ensure our students are prepared for college and career and we are grateful to play a role in that learning process.
Paul Boyer is the supervisor of district communications for Mesa Public Schools.