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10:44 AM Mon, Nov. 12th

Short: AIMS scores good, but could improve

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Although Humboldt Unified School District's percentage of students passing the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests for spring 2002 is greater than the state's average, the district still has to improve at certain testing levels to catch up with the county.

In all testing grades, "HUSD students exceeded the state level and in eight out of the 12 levels, they either met or exceeded the county average," HUSD Superintendent Roger Short said. "And it is my understanding that Yavapai County tends to be one of the higher scoring counties" in the state.

HUSD third-graders were solidly above the state average in all three testing areas. About 83 percent of them met or exceeded state standards in writing, 75 percent did the same in reading and about 65 percent passed the math test. The county average tied the district average in math, but the state average was six points lower. In reading, the county averaged 79 percent, while the state averaged 69 percent. In writing, the district was slightly above the county and the state average of 82 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

Liberty Traditional School stood out in all three areas, with 90 percent of all students passing reading and writing and 83 percent passing math.

Mountain View Elementary, which has a student population twice the size of Liberty's, scored 76 percent, 73 percent and 88 percent in math, reading and writing, respectively.

About 54 percent of the district's fifth-graders passed the math test. That compares to an average of 51 percent for fifth graders around the county and 43 percent across the state. Among five elementary schools in the district, including Liberty Traditional, Coyote Springs Elementary ranked the highest in math with 66 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards while Lake Valley scored the lowest with 49 percent of students passing the test.

The district's reading and writing scores of 62 and 59 percent for fifth graders were above the state average but lower than the county average of 63 and 62 percent.

Coyote Springs' reading and writing scores were more consistent with the math scores compared to other elementary schools in the district. About 64 percent of students passed the reading test and 65 percent passed the writing test.

Out of 366 eighth-graders who took the math test, only about 19 percent passed. That matches the state average, but is below the county average of 27 percent.

Short said that this is the area that the district needs to improve.

"We did not perform as well as we like in math at the eighth-grade level, and it is the area that needs some more work," he said, adding that the same applies to the high school math scores. "But that is not an indication of poor instruction. We need to work harder with the kids. Our staff will do a good job helping improve those (percentages). Math seemed to be fairly strong at the lower grades."

Twenty-six percent of Bradshaw Mountain Middle School (BMMS) students passed math, which is the highest score among the three schools in the district and above the state average of 19 percent. Only 16 percent of Glassford Hill Middle School students and 8 percent of Liberty Traditional students passed the test.

Compared to other eighth-graders in the tri-city area, Bradshaw Mountain Middle School students are behind Granite Mountain Middle School and Prescott Mile High Middle School, BMMS Principal Brian Buchholtz said. He also said that 71 percent of his students passed the Stanford 9 test.

"When you compare that with the AIMS, the AIMS is much lower," he said.

Short said it's not possible to compare the AIMS and Stanford 9 math tests because they are different in nature.

"It is hard to equate data on AIMS to data on Stanford," he said. "They give you some trends, but we can't use the same approach on the AIMS as we do on Stanford."

About 66 percent of HUSD eighth-graders passed the reading test. That is better than the state average of 53 percent and ties the county average. More than half of 347 eighth-graders in the district did not pass writing. The district's average of 43 percent was 2 percent better than the state average but below the county average of 47 percent. Only 35 percent of Glassford Hill students passed writing.

BMMS reading scores were better than the county and the state average. Of 141 BMMS eighth-graders, 73 percent met or exceeded state standards compared to 66 percent in the county and 53 percent in the state.

"We are very impressed with our reading scores," Buchholtz said.

Although the district's 10th-grade math scores exceed the state average of 28 percent and tie the county average, only 32 percent of HUSD students passed the test.

BMHS Principal Jim Wells said that HUSD has aligned its curriculum with state standards.

"We are starting to see the results of that in the math area," he said. "Our concern is how we would compare with some of the other schools in the state."

Assistant Curriculum Director Dean Slaga, who has taught math at BMHS, said that the state has rewritten the math test too many times. Because of that it is hard to arrive at a trend relating to the students' performance on that test, he said. Even Arizona Superintendent of Schools Jaime Molera has acknowledged a problem with it, he said.

"There is a problem with that test," he said, and because of that the AIMS math test doesn't serve as a sole indicator of student performance. However, "The standards that the state put out have forced everybody to raise the bar. But they have to get this (AIMS math) in balance."

Bradshaw Mountain High School students scored much better in reading and writing, though. According to Wells, compared to last year's scores, reading and writing have slightly improved. About 69 percent passed reading and 62 percent passed the writing test. Those scores are better than the county as well as the state average.

"We see our scores as very competitive with the neighboring districts in the tri-city area," Short said. "That is a credit to the hard work of the students and our staff."

Contact Mirsada Buric-Adam at mburicadam@prescottaz.com.