Arizona students get lower standardized test results during the pandemic

Sep 2, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 11:32 am
(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)...
(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

PHOENIX — Results from statewide testing done in the spring provide a first look at how the pandemic has impacted students across Arizona.

Data released by the Arizona Department of Education shows 38% of students passed the English language portion of the AzM2 test, previously known as AzMerit, and 31% passed the math portion. That’s down from 42% for both subjects in 2019, the last year the test was conducted.

“The AzM2 scores are a reflection of how challenging the past 18 months or so have been for educators and for students across the state,” said Erin Hart, senior vice president for Education Forward Arizona.

Hart added the lower test scores are a result of the learning disruptions students have experienced during the pandemic. At the same time, she cautioned it doesn’t show the full picture of how students were impacted by the pandemic.

The Arizona Department of Education echoed that in a note it released with the AzM2 test results.

“When considering the results of students who did take the test, it is important to remember the learning disruptions from COVID-19 that may have impacted student learning in unforeseen ways,” the department wrote.

The Education Department also noted “a significant number of our students did not take the test.”

The AzM2 was given out to students in grades 3-8 and in grade 10. Of those who took the test, 84% of completed the English portion and 86% completed the math portion. Historically, participation rates have been at or above 95% to meet federal requirements, which were paused last school year.

The AzM2 test results are typically used to issue A-F letter grades for schools. Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill suspending that due to the pandemic but ordered schools to still issue the standardized test to “identify the extent of learning loss that has occurred.”

Latino, African American and Native American students scored below the state average in the latest AzM2 test. Hart said it’s disheartening but not surprising given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on these students and their families.

“We know that COVID-19 has impacted our students in low-income and communities of color the strongest, so our fear is that the achievement gaps will continue to grow,” she said.

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Arizona students get lower standardized test results during the pandemic