'Too hard'AIMS math takes its toll
PRESCOTT – "The first part wasn't that bad, but the second part was over-educated, asking you too-hard questions for what you've been taught," said 17-year-old Tyler Champlin as he exited the second leg of the high-stakes Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) math test Wednesday at Prescott High School.
Champlin is in this year's sophomore class, the first that must pass AIMS exams in reading, math and writing to graduate. They get several tries, but most students The Daily Courier interviewed reported stumbling – a little or a lot – on the dreaded second day of math.
"I guessed more than I knew the answers to on the second part," he said of the section that he described as "Algebra 3-4, calculus, the type of stuff that I had no idea what to do with."
However, Adam Paul, 16, claimed the test was a lot easier than he expected. He believes he passed Monday's reading portion as well as both math tests. If not, he's confident that next year he'll pass any test he missed.
"It seems like such a big deal that I was getting all worked up and thought it would be difficult," he said. "I think it was easier for me because I'm in geometry this year, and I know that stuff."
Paul believes his teachers are giving out the right information.
"They're trying to prepare you for this somewhat," he said. "We studied last week for the English portion, and it was easy."
Also, Paul expects to do well on Thursday's writing test, the last in the four-day AIMS series for this year.
Some students reported answering Wednesday's tougher questions randomly. A few who wished to remain anonymous wrote messages like "This is too hard!" on their test sheets in hopes that state officials would get the message and lighten up.
Bethany Nordstrom, 16, said the first math test "was pretty easy – basic math, but the second day was geometry, and I'm in Algebra 3-4 and didn't remember it as well because I took that last year."
Nordstrom hopes she passed, "but if I didn't, I'll know what to expect next time."
Chase Mayer found some of AIMS fairly easy. However, he wasn't sure he passed Math II.
"I haven't taken pre-calc, so it's kind of stupid to take the test when you haven't taken the class," he said. "Reading was fairly easy, but I'm sure the writing test tomorrow will be a lot harder."
Laura O'Steen is taking Algebra 3-4 now and maintained that she could have done better if she were in a lower-level math class.
"I forgot how to do some of the stuff on there," she said. "If I had taken it last year, I probably would have done better."
O'Steen thinks AIMS is unfair.
"In the past, if you got your credits and classes, you graduated," she said. "Some people don't take standardized tests well, and even if one person doesn't get their diploma because of this test, it's ridiculous and not fair to them and to us, all their friends in the graduation."
Student Elliot Patrick maintained that the school should have started teaching AIMS subjects in a lower grade before making it a graduation requirement.
"I don't think it's fair for them to load it all on us in a year," he said. "I'm not a reader, so the English portion was somewhat difficult for me, and I definitely didn't pass the math. Most of that stuff I hadn't even seen before."
Stephanie Nissen wasn't positive but believed she had passed the three AIMS portions she had taken.
"The reading was pretty easy, basic comprehension, and the first day of math was pretty basic and I did pretty good," she said. "The second day of math was basically all geometry; I didn't remember everything, but I think I passed it."
This year, students took AIMS tests in 44 classrooms rather than a central location, which teachers deemed not workable.
According to Linda Ryan, district curriculum and testing coordinator, the result is that this year's testing is going better than last spring's pilot AIMS.
"Students seem to like the smaller setting better and are taking it more seriously," she said, complimenting PHS Dean of Students Barbara Harber and teachers who conducted the tests in their classrooms.
As for the math portion, Ryan said it's unchanged and "still very challenging."
AIMS is not a requirement for the Class of 2001, the juniors who took the pilot test as sophomores last year, and it showed. Ryan said about 75 percent who failed part of AIMS didn't show up this week to better their scores, even though the State Board of Education directs every high school in the state to put those scores on student transcripts.
According to Ryan, each child's parent/guardian will receive an AIMS report in August showing that student's performance level. The scores will appear as "Meets the Standards," "Exceeds the Standards," "Approaches the Stan-dards" or "Falls Below the Standards" for each subject.
Twenty-five percent of Prescott High School sophomores passed the pilot AIMS math test last spring, while 40 percent passed writing and 76 percent passed reading.
Statewide, only 12 percent of sophomores passed the math portion, 30 percent the writing portion and 61 percent the reading segment.
The low scores in math raised concern that the test is too difficult.