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Assessing Your Child’s School Performance: What You Need to Know

By Scott Evans, Community Investment Corporation

Recent research shows that the vast majority of K-12 parents believe their child is performing at grade level, when (in actuality) they are not.

In a national study from , Almost 9 in 10 parents think their children are performing at (or above) grade level.*  Yet, the reality is that only half of students start the year on grade level.** *B-flation: How Good Grades Can Sideline Parents, Gallup 2023  **School Pulse Panel 2022-2023, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

All schools should have a variety of ways to help parents understand how their child is doing academically. Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand how this is measured nor do they ask the school for clarification.  In order to avoid what is being called the “Parent Perception Gap” parents should parents should frequently ask their teach for feedback and progress updates. 

To determine if your child is performing at grade level academically in Arizona K-12 public/charter schools, you should look for the following information from your child’s school and teachers:

Monitoring Student Progress

  • All Arizona public schools (district and charter) are required to administer the Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA) This test measures proficiency in reading, writing, math, and science.

  • Arizona public schools are required to give benchmark assessments during the school year to monitor student progress and inform instruction.

  • Review report cards and ask what the different grades/scores mean in terms of meeting grade-level standards.

Questions to ask:
  • What are the specific grade-level standards and expectations in core subjects like reading, writing, and math that my child should meet (or should have met) this year?

  • How do you measure my child’s progress towards mastering grade-level skills beyond just standardized test scores?

Understanding Standardized Test Scores

  • All Arizona public schools (district and charter) are required to administer the Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA) This test measures proficiency in reading, writing, math, and science.

  • The scores will show if your child is “proficient” or “partially proficient” compared to grade-level expectations. Proficient means they are performing at or above grade level.

  • Student’s scores are reported using percentile rank, which shows how they performed compared to other students in the same grade. A percentile rank of 50 means they scored better than 50% of students.

Questions to ask:
  • Inquire about how your child is performing on the standardized tests and  quarterly benchmarks. Find out if they are “on grade level”, “one grade below”, etc.

  • What support will the school give in helping you understand your child’s scores and performance levels on recent state assessments like AASA or AZELLA? 

Understanding Quarterly Benchmark Assessments

  • Benchmark assessments are typically given quarterly (every 9 weeks) to measure student mastery of grade-level standards in core subjects like reading, writing, and math.

  • Benchmarks provide immediate feedback to teachers on student performance

Questions to ask:
  • How frequently will I receive updates on my child’s academic performance relative to grade-level expectations? 

  • How will you be informed of progress or struggles identified by the benchmark testing?

  • How will you use assessment data to provide additional support for my child?

English Learner Progress

  • If your child is an English learner, ask for their scores on the AZELLA test and what their current English proficiency level is. This shows their progress in learning English.

Questions to ask:
  • Ask the school what support services the school is providing based on your child’s English proficiency level.

  • How is your English Language Learner’s coursework and curriculum different based on their current English proficiency level?.

  • What resources or strategies can you recommend for me to support my child’s learning at home and ensure they stay on track?


The key is having an open dialogue with your child’s teachers and school to understand how they are monitoring your child’s performance relative to grade-level expectations.  By asking focused questions in these areas, parents can gain a clear understanding of whether their child is performing at, above, or below the expected grade-level expectations. 


Don’t hesitate to ask for explanations and help interpreting test scores or progress – it can be difficult and the school should provide support and assistance.