Arizona students will still take the AIMS next year, but at least in Mesa, students will not have to take districtwide tests because the current assessments do not follow new education standards that will be taught in all classrooms.
The Mesa district – like all across Arizona – will be teaching with the new Common Core Standards that have been adopted by most U.S. states.
Along with the AIMS, the Mesa Unified School District has used internally created “end of course” assessments for years to be sure students in one school are learning the same material as students in another school. In some cases, teachers also use those assessments as final exams, Joe O’Reilly, the district’s director of research and evaluation told the governing board Tuesday.
But those tests were designed around the former state standards.
“This next year will be interesting,” Superintendent Mike Cowan said. “We’ve got a brand new curriculum we’re requiring of all our teachers and they’re all prepared to take that on. We’ve got an old assessment system in MPS (Mesa Public Schools) that doesn’t align with new curriculum. We have a state assessment system that doesn’t align with new curriculum and there’s a problem there. Then you’re supposed to take that data from the assessment system that doesn’t align with what we’re teaching and use that in teacher assessment and in (state-given) ABC grades” for schools.
So with those changes, the district told the board it would like to put the district tests on “hiatus” for a year or two. It could change the assessments, but without knowing what the new Common Core test will look, it could be misleading, O’Reilly said.
A new exam is being created for the Common Core Standards, but it will not be available next year.
“My fear is if we were to even create an internal assessment, we could send wrong message to teachers and student about what that assessment will look for,” said assistant superintendent Suzie DePrez.
High school students will continue the district’s writing assessment. The district has also designed new assessments for grades kindergarten through three.
Students will still take tests in the classroom, but they will be designed by teachers. Teachers have always had the option in the past to design their own final exams as well, or just use the district exam, said O’Reilly.
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