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Mon, Oct. 21

School prinicipal stability puts Chino Valley's AIMS test scores above average

The Chino Valley School District has a lot to brag about when it comes to the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test, as the district scored above the average state score in almost every area.

District Superintendent Linda Nelson said she is impressed with the way the students performed. One reason why the district performs so well on the AIMS test, Nelson said, is because all of the district's school principals have been at their jobs for at least three years. She said in order for necessary reforms to take place, the schools must have stability.

One area that gives Arizona high school students the most difficulty is math, and Chino Valley High School students also had their lowest scores in this area. Nelson noted that the state is bringing in an expert to review the math section.

"It does look like there is a discrepancy between the math scores on AIMS and the Stanford 9 test, so it should be looked at," she said. "I know that our 10th graders do better on other math tests, such as Stanford 9."

Nelson said there are several areas where the school district can improve. It can do so by tailoring the K-12 curriculum to make sure students are prepared for AIMS. She said about 70 percent of the curriculum will be tailored toward AIMS in order to give teachers flexibility on what they want to teach the other 30 percent of the time.

"It's nice to have a curriculum that is reasonable and has educationally sound standards," she said.

Nelson added that it needs to be clear what needs to be taught at each grade level.

"Some adjustments will take place, but we can't punish the kids for that," she said in reference to making AIMS a high school graduation requirement. The Arizona Department of Education apparently agrees with her, as they voted to postpone the graduation requirement until the year 2006.

Nelson said AIMS is a good idea but that most states that implemented a statewide test experienced problems with trying to do it too soon and had to delay using the test for graduation purposes – and Arizona is no different.

"It's good to set standards, but the question is: How do we carry it out?" Nelson said. "Conceptually, it's a good idea, but we need time to gear up."

Many educators theorize that ESL (English as a Second Language) students experience more problems on the AIMS test than other students do.

"We don't know the answer to this, and that's why the state has experts coming in to see if AIMS is valid and reliable," Nelson said.

Nelson said adequate funding remains a concern, as having the tools to prepare for AIMS costs money.

As the state legislature considers statewide cutbacks because of a lack of sales tax revenue, Nelson said she is glad to hear that Governor Jane Hull has stated that she will not allow educational cutbacks.

Nelson credits State Representatives Henry Camarot (D-Prescott) and Tom O'Halleran (R-Village of Oak Creek), as well as State Senator Ken Bennett (R-Prescott), with listening to the school districts' concerns about education funding.

Nelson said the high scores at Del Rio and Territorial elementary schools show the administrators and staff at both schools are doing a fantastic job.

In third grade English, the state average showed 11 percent scored far below the standard, 18 percent approached the standard, 44 percent met the standard and 27 percent exceeded the standard.

At Del Rio, only 1 percent fell far below, 7 percent approached the standard, 58 percent met the standard and 34 percent exceeded it. Nelson said that having 92 percent of the students meeting or exceeding the standard is phenomenal.

At Territorial, 1 percent fell far below, 19 percent approached the standard, 51 percent met it and 28 percent exceeded it.

Nelson said while she's exceptionally pleased with the third grade reading scores, there is a lot more work ahead regarding the math scores.

In third grade math, the state average showed 14 percent fell far below the standard, 34 percent approached the standard, 35 percent met the standard and 17 percent exceeded the standard.

At Del Rio, only 3 percent fell far below, 27 percent approached the standard, 40 percent met the standard and 30 percent exceeded the standard. The 70 percent passing rate is well above the state's average.

At Territorial, 10 percent fall far below, 45 percent approached the standard, 40 percent meet it and 4 percent exceed it.

Nelson said while Territorial scores were lower than Del Rio, they were still good. She noted that Territorial generally does not score as well as Del Rio because Territorial, demographically, has parents with lower socioeconomics and also a more transient student population – meaning students who regularly transfer from school to school. These two qualities prove to impact student scores statewide in many cases.

In eighth grade reading, the state average for reading found 23 percent fell far below the standard, 20 percent approached the standard, 39 percent met the standard and 17 percent exceeded it.

Heritage Middle School had 24 percent fall far below, 16 percent approach the standard, 48 percent meet the standard and 12 percent exceed it.

Eighth grade is where many students statewide begin to have trouble with the math portion of the AIMS test, and Heritage was no exception. The state average shows 47 percent falling far behind, 39 percent approach the standard, 11 percent meet it and 4 percent exceed it.

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