The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) released this week the statewide assessment results, Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment or AASA, from school year 2021/2022, showing overall gains. Arizona’s public district and charter schools test students in Grades 3-8, and in Grade 11, students take the ACT. It is important to note that this is the first year the AASA test has been administered, replacing the AZM2 test.
Despite COVID-19’s Delta and Omicron variants’ continued disruption of learning throughout the 2021/22 school year, scores increased. Arizona saw an overall 3-percentage point increase in ELA test scores and a 2-percentage point increase in Mathematics scores for all students tested, compared to 2020/2021 data. Statewide, 41% of students passed the ELA section, and 33% passed the mathematics section.
“This past year the Arizona Department of Education has worked tirelessly to provide tools and resources to educators and students to accelerate learning,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “We know the pandemic sidelined students and teachers for weeks at a time, presenting challenges for all our learners. Even with those obstacles, our students & teachers did something incredible: increased test scores. However, these results show we still have significant work to do, and we must remain laser-focused on providing students and teachers with the tools they need to succeed.”
“Overall, these results highlight that while some progress has been made since last year, students are still catching up post-pandemic, “said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation, a key partner in sharing and using ADE data to help identify strategies for education improvement. “What’s also apparent,” Luna added, “is that while all students and schools were impacted by the pandemic, low-income students were hit the hardest and still have the biggest gaps to getting back on track.”
ADE has allocated millions of federal relief dollars directly to programs designed to accelerate learning. These investments include $9.6 million to ASU Prep Digitals’ Math Momentum, $10 million for Valley of the Sun United Ways’ literacy projects, and $6.5 million to provide no-cost access for teachers and students to Discovery Education’s high-quality, Arizona-standards aligned learning content. The Department also assisted schools as they plan to spend one-time federal aid to secure the academic resources to meet their individual needs.
Despite this year’s increase in test scores, state leaders are again risking massive funding cuts to district schools. In a July letter to Governor Ducey and legislative leaders, Superintendent Hoffman called on them to lift the outdated Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) spending cap.
“If we want to continue increasing scores, defunding our public schools will have the opposite impact,” added Superintendent Hoffman. “The infusion of federal dollars shows that increased funding can increase learning outcomes, not just on test scores but in our student’s abilities to thrive and contribute to our state.”
Schools could potentially face cuts of over a billion dollars if the legislature does not act before the spring deadline. School leaders are already sharing what those cuts would mean for their communities, which would include much higher-class sizes, fewer bus drivers, and far less individual support for students.
“There is too much at stake if our leaders do not act on AEL. There are too many future doctors, engineers, educators, and so much more, sitting in our classrooms right now – we are gambling with their future by not lifting the cap. I call on this legislature and our Governor to act today for our state’s students,” said Superintendent Hoffman.
This year’s test shares many similarities with the former test but is not identical – conclusions should be made with caution when comparing results year to year. Additionally, in the school year 2020/2021, the participation rate was historically low due to pandemic waivers that did not set a minimum threshold for participation. In 2021, 84% of students took the ELA assessment, and 86% took the mathematics section. In the school year 2021/2022, participation was well above 90% in both sections. Final participation rates will be forthcoming. Students participating in the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program are not tested.
Passing Scores by Grade Level 2022:
Grade 3: ELA 41%/Math 40%
Grade 4: ELA 44%/Math 40%
Grade 5: ELA 39%/Math 37%
Grade 6: ELA 39%/Math 31%
Grade 7: ELA 43%/Math 28%
Grade 8: ELA 36%/Math 27%
Passing Scores by Grade Level 2021:
Grade 3: ELA 35%/Math 36%
Grade 4: ELA 45%/Math 35%
Grade 5: ELA 45%/Math 32%
Grade 6: ELA 37%/Math 30%
Grade 7: ELA 37%/Math 30%
Grade 8: ELA 35%/Math 27%
Historical assessment data and complete 2021/2022 scores are available here.