Arizona's Alternative Tests To AzMERIT Place Federal Funds In Jeopardy

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, April 8, 2019 - 3:07pm
Updated: Monday, April 8, 2019 - 3:08pm

A decision by the Arizona Legislature in 2015 that allowed school districts to implement their own standardized testing instead of Arizona's Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching (AzMERIT) tests has potentially placed $340 million in federal aid in jeopardy.

To receive those funds, states must follow requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Key in that act is the requirement that states must use the same standardized test at all public schools to allow a fair comparison of results statewide.

This month, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to state education leaders stating that the use of SAT and ACT college tests does not comply and rejected the use of alternatives to AzMERIT.

Stephen Swiat with the Department of Education admitted the state had not received federal approval before several districts began using alternative testing for the first time this year.

When asked why not, Swiat replied, "In an earnest attempt to follow the directive of the Legislature, we just tried to implement this into practice."

Tucson, Chandler, Flowing Wells, Flagstaff, Kingman and Yuma school districts offer alternative testing this spring.

They will return to AzMERIT testing next year, unless the state Board of Education can convince federal officials to change their minds.

The board is set to meet later this month to decide what to do next.

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