By Stella deVargas
Cougar News Blog
Cactus Canyon Junior High students and staff are adjusting to a new testing environment.
Before the 2014-2015 year Arizona students took the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). Last year students began taking AzMERIT instead, which is a more rigorous form of testing that requires the use of computers. They had to learn the online testing tools, how to justify their answers, and how to take the test using the correct format.
Preparations began very differently for the AzMERIT compared to the first year, when teachers didn’t know what to expect and had students take several practice tests so they could learn how the program worked and how to use all the tools.
This year, however, teachers began preparing students from the beginning of the year. Eighth grade language arts teacher John Leal feels that his students could spend less time practicing compared to the previous year; he felt his students were ready.
“Prepping this year was easier because the students were more absorbent of information than the previous year,” said Mr. Leal. “Utilizing the tools all year long has helped students be more familiar with things that they could use to help them.”
“Since this was the second year of AzMERIT testing, preparations and execution went significantly smoother,” said seventh grade language arts teacher Savana Fallon. “Last year, it was a little nerve-wracking since we didn’t know what to expect and we felt unprepared.”
Math teacher Marla Aehlert said she spend a lot of time teaching students to show how they arrived at their answers, rather than just solving a problem. Many teachers included the strategy format daily work, which helped students practice and remember it. The justification of answers is an important part of the Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards.
“I tried to make my students better at justifying their answers,” she said. “We wrote down anything and everything (that had) to do with the problems.”
Most students agreed that the entire testing experience was easier this year.
“I understood the AzMERIT test better this year by using what I learned last year and combining it with the things I learned this year,” said eighth grader Megan Wagner. “Prepping for the test this year was a lot easier because we learned most of the tools and how to do things last year.”
“I think most people had a better feeling about it this year because they saw it last year and knew what to expect,” said eighth grader Jaden Erschen.