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Sat, Aug. 24

Miner Editorial | There is no reason to hesitate when it comes to federal funding

(Daily Miner file photo)

(Daily Miner file photo)

The two Kingman Unified School District high schools were listed among several schools who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal funding. All because state lawmakers wanted to offer an alternative to the AzMERIT standardized test.

In a letter to state education officials, Frank Brogan, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, said the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states administer standardized tests that meet certain requirements.

This federal law requires that there be a standardized test that meets the federal requirements in at least one year of high school. AzMERIT meets that mandate. That means state schools can’t use either the SAT or ACT college entrance tests as an alternative for high school students.

Within Kingman Unified School District, both Kingman High School and Lee Williams High School currently allow these alternative tests.

Thankfully, this decision by the U.S. Department of Education won’t take immediate effect, meaning KUSD can offer these alternatives this spring testing season.

However, this breath of relief also came with the caveat that the school has to return to the AzMERIT test next year. Brogan has threatened to place Arizona’s Title 1 grants into “high risk” status. This status change is what endangers the $340 million the state gets in Title 1 federal aid this year.

Money that, frankly, Arizona schools can’t afford to lose.

Money that KUSD will also be missing out on.

At a state level there are two options: the first is to comply by federal standards, and listen to the suggestion made by the State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman. Hoffman’s plan is to require all schools to administer the AzMERIT test to students in Grades 3 through 8 and again in 9th grade. This meets federal requirements and still allows schools to keep offering alternatives to AzMERIT in Grades 10 and 11.

This option is also one that is easily administered at a local level and reduces our high schools’ risk of losing funding.

The second option is for the state Board of Education to try to convince federal officials to change their minds. Something that is just as likely as the sky falling.

It isn’t really a brain teaser to see which of these options is better.

The most sensible course of action to take is just have 9th graders take the AzMERIT standardized test. It meets the minimum federal requirements, is easy to implement by the time the next school year starts, and, chiefly, doesn’t put any federal funding for already underfunded schools at risk.

The state Board of Education is set to meet later this month to decide what to do next.

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