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Sat, April 20

Students go to trenches in battle to pass AIMS

PRESCOTT – Some had heard that the state may postpone Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test as a graduation requirement, but most Prescott High School students Monday were digging in and determined to do their best.

"I don't mind it," said Trina Cowin, a 16-year-old junior. "I passed the writing and reading last spring, but not the math part. I think they should make that easier. I heard that even math teachers couldn't pass some of the questions."

Cowin, who wants to be a neo-natal nurse, plans to study hard before the next AIMS math test, which officials reformulated, next spring. Also, she believes AIMS-type tests are a good idea.

"Kids should know certain things to be able to graduate, and they should test on that," Cowin said.

Sara McClintock, 16, has passed the reading portion.

"The writing test was pretty long, and by the end, you were sick of it and didn't want to write any more," she said.

"Math was really hard, and I pretty much failed that."

McClintock, who wants to be an elementary school teacher, has since retaken the writing test. She hasn't gotten her score back yet, but believes she did a lot better on that one. The math test is still a challenge.

Two freshmen who want to be engineers one day said they aced the eighth-grade AIMS practice tests and believe they can pass AIMS, if they must, in order to graduate.

The first, Alan Horton, 14, maintained that requiring AIMS for graduation is unfair.

"Graduation should be based on how you do all senior year and not just one test," he said. " Some people are bad test takers."

The second, Hunter Hammond, 15, worries about what he termed "loopholes."

"You have three people reviewing the essay you write, and if they can't read it all, they throw it out," he said. "Also, they could be biased; if somebody doesn't agree with your point of view, it could affect how they grade you."

Eric Pommerening, a senior who celebrated his 18th birthday Monday in the school cafeteria by sharing cheesecake a friend baked, passed all parts of the practice test but believes AIMS scores shouldn't be on student transcripts.

"Colleges would still look at low scores as a failure, even though you didn't need to pass to get a diploma," said Pommerening, who plans to study computer technology after graduation.

Senior Eric Woodsmall, 17, also passed all portions of the practice test. He wants to continue his studies at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and doesn't believe that much he learned in preparation for AIMS will help him become a chef.

"Well, there is math involved, and I guess (AIMS) is good for field-testing, but to require it for graduation isn't fair," he said. "And if you pass it as a sophomore, why do you have to keep going to school? You've already met the academic standards."

He and Pommerening believe that student dropout rates will go up once the state enforces AIMS as a graduation requirement, even though students get five chances at it.

"If you have to take extra classes just to pass it, why bother?" Woodsmall said.

Sophomore Blake Miller, 16, maintained AIMS has so many flaws that state officials will give up on it.

"Lisa Graham Keegan (the state superintendent of public instruction) is backing off the idea," he said. "It sounds to me like it's going to damage her career more than it's worth, so AIMS as a graduation requirement will never happen."

Miller called final exams during senior year "good enough to say who can graduate or not."

Right now, juniors are the first who must pass AIMS in order to get a diploma. However, too many students are failing it, so state education officials are asking Arizona school districts and communities to recommend a realistic graduation requirement timeline.


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