HELP WANTED: Administrator capable of handing out, collecting and scoring 450,000 standardized tests annually for the Mesa Unified School District at a time when the stakes have never been higher.
"It’s an awesome responsibility, trying to coordinate, in a volume necessary for a district this large," said Rob Abel, the district’s current director of assessment. "And there’s no room for any error."
State legislation requiring students to take the AIMS test is now reinforced by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and just about everyone who has anything to do with public education is looking at the test scores, Abel said.
"Any government program, any grant, you name it," he said. "If they’re in existence and they’re providing assistance to public education, they are looking at test scores as one piece of evidence as to how the programs are working. Some of them, it’s just about the only data they collect."
Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards is just the tip of the iceberg; there’s the Stanford 9, as well as districtwide reading tests, and most junior high and high school final exams come from the district.
After one year as the district’s testing czar, Abel is going back to his old job as a psychologist at Mesa Junior High School by choice.
"I have a 12-year-old, and I’d like to be able to see him sometimes," he said.
Last year, Abel took over the job after the man who held it for 14 years, Joe O’Reilly, was promoted to executive director of student achievement support.
O’Reilly will now conduct interviews for a job that pays roughly $64,000 a year.
The ultimate candidate will be responsible for reams of research that won’t necessarily tell principals, presidents and anyone in between everything they need to know, O’Reilly said.
"We always say tests don’t give answers, they raise more questions."