Arizona Standardized Testing Reveals Students Failing In English, Math

By Corinne Murdock

The latest Arizona Department of Education (ADE) statewide assessment results revealed that Arizona students are failing in English and math. ADE published the results Friday, culled from the 2020-2021 versions of AzM2 and MSAA – the two versions of standardized testing administered to grades 3-8 and 10. The average passing rates differed depending on whether a student was from a district public school or charter school; charter schools had resoundingly better outcomes in statewide assessments, with an average of 10 percent more charter students passing the ELA and math sections compared to their district peers.

In district public schools, only 38 percent of students on average passed the English-Language Arts (ELA) section, while even less passed the math section – 31 percent. Approximately 84 percent of students took the ELA section, while 86 percent took the math section. Federal law requires at least 95 percent participation, but that requirement and others were made optional due to the pandemic.

When broken down by race, American Indian/Alaskan Native students had the lowest average passing scores in public schools, even below students who were classified as in the foster care system or homeless: 15 percent for ELA, and 11 percent for math. However, they ranked slightly above migrant students, 13 percent of whom passed the ELA section, and 11 percent passed the migrant section.

The highest passage rates by race came from Asian students: 69 percent for ELA and 68 percent for math. The highest passage rates of any non-racial classification came from military children: 53 percent for ELA, 44 percent for math.

All of the average passing rates in public schools under various classifications remained relatively consistent when broken down by grade level.

As for charter schools, the average percentage of students who passed the ELA and math sections increased by around 10 points or more. This was true for all types of students classified by ADE – students had higher passing rates at charter schools than the district public schools regardless of race, sex, or circumstance.

AZ Free News inquired with ADE what their plans are to address these falling test scores and the overall proficiency of Arizona’s students. They didn’t respond by press time.

In their press release, ADE called the test results “just one part of a student’s academic record.” The department announced that they had already “proactively” begun addressing the results through funding, programs, and initiatives, such as $9.6 million for online math education assistance from Arizona State University (ASU) and $6.5 million for extracurriculars from Discovery Education.

It appears that metrics of student success, like test scores, aren’t as much of a focus for ADE leadership. ADE Superintendent Kathy Hoffman has focused especially on COVID-19 mitigation in K-12 schools, calling for universal masking and criticizing Governor Doug Ducey for his opposition to such measures. It is unclear if Hoffman believes the same should be true for adults such as herself. As AZ Free News reported, the superintendent was caught maskless at a party last weekend. Hoffman still hasn’t addressed this incident.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.