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Sun, Aug. 18

AIMS testing goes on ...

PRESCOTT – Timing of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) graduation requirement may change later, but the testing schedule is still on track.

Linda Ryan, Prescott Unified School District curriculum and testing coordinator, said Monday that third-, fifth- and eighth-graders will take tests in reading, writing and mathematics sometime between April 16 and April 27, 2001.

Also, Prescott High School (PHS) teachers will administer the AIMS writing test Feb. 28 to sophomores and juniors who failed this past spring or want to improve their scores.

The school also will give reading and the revamped math tests sometime between April 30 and May 2.

"The important thing is to calm down and for students and teachers to realize that this test has not been completely dumped," said Ryan.

Right now, high school juniors are the first class the state is requiring to pass the test to get a diploma. However, too many students are flunking it, so Arizona education officials are seeking alternatives.

Meeting in Phoenix Monday, the State Board of Education directed Billie Orr, associate state superintendent of public instruction, to write a letter to Arizona school districts and educational organizations. It will ask superintendents, school board members and others what date they recommend for AIMS to be a graduation requirement and why.

A third question asks individual districts about the present achievement level of its students, according to Patricia Likens, Arizona Department of Education director of public information.

"We know scores from the AIMS results," she said, "but what we're looking for is a perspective from the district and the school, where they see their kids are in terms of standards, and where they see them going in the next few years."

Also on Monday, the state board loosened the passing score for the writing portion of the test so that more students will pass.

If students get four out of the six points on the essay portion and are approaching the standard only in multiple choice and short answer portions, they'll meet the new standard, said Likens.

The board also exempted severely handicapped students from the AIMS graduation requirement.

"We've discovered, and testing experts agree, that they don't have a valid instrument by which to test those children," said Likens. "They'll have their own individual education plan and will receive a diploma based on that."

Overachievers also got a break. The board exempted students who normally would graduate in 2002 but who took advanced and extra classes and will graduate before fall 2001. Likens said that's because those students won't get the five chances to pass AIMS that state law provides before graduation.

In the Prescott district, Ryan hopes students take AIMS seriously even though it might turn out not be a graduation requirement. That's because student answers help state officials determine which questions work and which don't.

Ryan said she favors the State Board of Education delaying AIMS as a graduation requirement until districts establish remediation classes to help students with low eighth-grade test scores.

Further, Ryan objected to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan blaming schools and teachers for students' low AIMS scores.

"I know for a fact that teachers in PUSD have worked extremely hard to align their curriculum to Arizona standards and that they teach the standards," she said. "As long as this process continues, our AIMS scores will be high."

PUSD Superintendent Roger Short said his district is supportive of the AIMS standards and the AIMS process, but it needs revisions to make it successful.

He, Board Member Joan Fleming and Board President Vaughn Delp served this past spring on the statewide AIMS test assessment committee that looked at final test drafts and set the cutting scores.

"State officials have indicated they will be extending opportunities for us to be on the (new) committees," said Short on Monday. "We hope PUSD has the same level of involvement in any revisions or setting of new time lines."

The state board of education wants to get comments from schools by February and could decide then whether to postpone the requirement and, if so, for how long.


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