Payson elementary and middle school students scored well above state averages on the state’s first standardized science test, while high school students scored slightly lower than state averages and dramatically lower than the younger students.
Only 33 percent of Payson High School students met or exceeded standards on the test, compared to 37 percent of high schoolers statewide. The percentage of success lowered to 27 percent at the county level.
“I think the state is going to have to take a real hard look at why this is so low,” said Kathy Kay, Payson’s director of curriculum.
Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne agreed. “We have important work to do to get students to meet these rigorous new science standards,” he said in a press release.
Still, Kay said that the high school’s drop in scores may not be significant. “It could just be a matter of format,” she said.
Since the test is new, state officials will continue compiling statistics to determine exactly what went wrong, Kay said.
Julia Randall Elementary School fourth graders performed the highest in the district, with 81 percent meeting or exceeding standards. At Frontier Elementary School, 73 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded standards, compared to 72 percent at Payson Elementary School.
At Pine Strawberry Elementary, 38 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded standards.
State and countywide, 53 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded standards.
At Rim Country Middle School, 73 percent achieved, compared to 50 percent statewide and 42 percent countywide. Just 45 percent of eighth graders at Pine Strawberry Elementary School met those standards.
With past tests targeting reading, writwith a multiple-choice test.
Kay supports standardized tests, saying they provide a mechanism for accountability and feedback on student progress.
While acknowledging the challenge teachers face in preparing their students for four AIMS subject tests, Kay doesn’t see an ultimate conflict. “It is not a choice of having a fun, interesting lesson or teach to the test. You can do both.”
This year, district officials are examining new science materials for adoption. Kay said she moved the transition forward so it would coincide with the first AIMS science scores. New materials will target shortcomings illuminated by the test, Kay said.