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Arizona superintendent disturbs students taking AzMERIT test

KINGMAN, Ariz. — According to witnesses, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas interrupted a room of students who were recently taking Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching test, also commonly referred to as AzMERIT.

Per state law, any disturbances by uninvited guests, fire alarms or electrical outages can invalidate a student’s test. Those administering the test are required by law to report to state education officials any disruption that takes place during the course of the test, no matter how insignificant.

Manzanita Elementary School was Douglas’ first stop during her 14-city “We Are Listening” tour, which aims to bring Douglas face-to-face with residents who have concerns regarding the K-12 system in the state.

What is unclear is whether Douglas opened the door to the testing room first, or if the school’s principal leading the tour, Joyce Pietri, or an accompanying student committed the infraction.

“As we walked to Manzanita Elementary, I asked if the elementary school was participating in the AzMERIT testing, and if so, was it possible to observe the testing,” said Douglas.

“Superintendent (Roger) Jacks and Mrs. (Jeri) Wolsey discussed that if we entered the testing room, an incident report would need to be sent to ‘the state.’ We quipped that I am from ‘the state’ and speculated – would they have to report me to me?”

According to Douglas, she did not recall any signs inside the school notifying non-test takers that a test was in progress.

“We were upset because she knew not to bother the students being tested but did it anyway,” said Sarka White, assessment and professional development director for the Kingman Unified School. “And we’re upset that her account is not what really happened. She said the principal opened the door for her. That’s not what the KUSD staff that was there said, and I’m going to bank on them.”

White sent an “emotional” email to Mary Pat Wood, coordinator of state test administration for ADE, documenting the incident. The state will determine from there what, if any, action will be taken against Douglas or anyone else involved in the interruption.

“Our stance is to deal with the situation and then move on,” said White. “Let’s make sure our students are given every opportunity with this test, with no distractions. Everyone was delighted to have Diane Douglas here and we hope she comes back. I respect her position, but we had to do what we needed to do.”