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Arizona Might Offer Districts a 'Menu' of Standardized Tests

By guest blogger Daarel Burnette II. Cross-posted from State EdWatch

Arizona is close to letting districts decide among a "menu" of standardized tests rather than administering one statewide test, according to the Arizona Republic

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, is expected in the coming days to sign legislation passed by both the House and Senate that would let districts decide whether their high school students and students in grades 3-8 will take the state's AzMERIT exam, or if they will take one of a series of exams pre-approved by the state's board of education. The legislation would go into effect for high school students in the fall of 2017 and for the rest of the state's students in 2018.  

The move is a potential violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which requires that students in grades 3-8 are given one test statewide. The law goes into effect in the fall of 2017. States that violate the law risk losing Title I dollars.  

As my colleagues Catherine Gewertz and Andrew Ujifusa pointed out last week, Florida's legislature is considering a bill that would allow districts the option of administering the ACT Aspire exam instead of the state's standardized exam, the Florida Standards Assessment, in grades 3-8, beginning in the 2016-17 school year. Parents in Florida have the option of notifying that they want their students to instead take the statewide exam.  

The U.S. Department of Education is still in the initial phases of developing regulations for ESSA, a process that could last months. The law doesn't go into full effect until the 2017-18 school year. 

In Arizona, state Rep. Paul Boyer, a Republican, told the Arizona Republic the bill would remove "duplicate testing" for teachers and students and give them more face-to-face time. Teachers in the state say currently they have to prepare students for school-wide, district-wide and the statewide tests. 

"The point is if you're already offering a more rigorous test and you can compare it, then there's no point in offering the additional test," Boyer said. "That gives teachers more face-to-face time with students that we desperately need." 

The state board would have to approve any alternative test. According to the Arizona Republic, two thirds of the state's students failed the inaugural AzMERIT exam. 

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