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2:11 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

AIMS testing begins this month at PUSD<BR>

PRESCOTT — The Arizona Instrument for Measuring Standards (AIMS) test will begin this month in the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), and school officials stress that it is imperative that high school students be present for the tests.

The writing portion of the AIMS test at PHS will take place on Feb. 25. According to Linda Ryan, curriculum and testing coordinator, 95 percent of students must take the test in order to meet the criteria of the federal No Child Left Behind program.

PHS has made Feb. 25 a regular school day in order to make it more practical for all students to take the test. All sophomores as well as juniors who have not taken the test or who have not met the standards will test during the first and second hours. Bus and class schedules will remain normal, including early bird classes.

"It is very important this year that students take the test," Ryan said, while noting that PHS could lose its school label of "Improving" if not enough students take the AIMS.

If the school's label ever drops to "Under-performing," the school must write a 50-page report that tells what the school will do to improve.

However, according to Chris Reynolds, assistant superintendent, "we never intend to be there, and we don't anticipate being there."

Ryan said this test helps the district to measure the students' academic achievement, and to see what kinds of skills they need help in.

She added that since the AIMS test is no longer a graduation requirement, it should seem less stressful to students. "It's not a difficult test," she said. "It just shows what you know."

District curriculum is aligned to the AIMS, a study guide has gone out and teachers have been working to prepare students for the tests, according to Ryan.

She said the writing test is so early (the math and reading portions of the test take place in late April) because someone must score each student's response by hand rather than by a machine.

"This is a high-stakes test," Ryan said. "If it's ever used as a graduation requirement, it will be a really high-stakes test. That's why the state is so firm on one day only" for taking it. In other words, there are no make-ups. Missing school on any of the three testing days "is not an option," Ryan said. "It's your only opportunity to take the test."

Sophomores who do not meet the standards can retake the test as juniors and seniors. If a student meets the standards in one area, he or she does not have to take the test in that area again, but may do so to improve his or her score.

The scoring is broken down into four levels: exceeding the standards; meeting the standards; approaching the standards and falling below the standards.

Ryan said that most students meet the standards for reading and writing in their sophomore year, but that it takes many until their junior year to acquire the skills needed to meet the standards in the math portion of the test.

Ultimately, Ryan said, students should have five chances to take the test and meet the standards, "but we haven't seen that yet." The first chance should be in the spring of a student's sophomore year, and the second through fourth would occur in each of the following semesters.

At this point, however, there is only one test per year, which takes place in the spring.

For high school students, the writing portion of the AIMS test will take place on Feb. 25. The math will take place on April 28 and the reading will take place on April 29.

Math and reading will also fall at the end of April for third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, and teachers at those grade levels have until May 9 to administer the writing portion of the test.

Meanwhile, the search process for principals to replace Tim Carter at PHS and Jay Collier at Granite Mountain Middle School (GMMS) are in full swing and on time, according to Reynolds, who chairs both search committees.

He said that students and staff at PHS could know as early as April who their new principal will be and that the deadline for applying closed on Jan. 31, with 21 applicants vying for the position. Of those, two come from within the district, 12 from elsewhere in Arizona, and seven from around the country.

Reynolds said the search committee will do the paper screening on Feb. 18. The committee will use a rubric to score each application, and narrow the 21 applicants down to five or six candidates for the committee to interview on March 3. Reynolds said the committee already has begun to finalize the interview questions.

From those five or six, it will select two or three for Superintendent Kevin Kapp to interview. Kapp will recommend his final decision to the governing board. Reynolds said a vote could take place as early as the April 1 regularly scheduled governing board study session. "We're really pleased," he said. "We have a really good sampling from which to choose the two or three final candidates."

Applications for the GMMS principal position will close Feb. 28, and a committee will follow a process similar to that utilized for the PHS principal, and the GMMS committee currently is in the process of coming up with interview questions.

At this point, there are 10 applicants, but Reynolds said that the final 11 applicants for the PHS position came in during the final week the position was open, so there is a good chance that more people will apply for the position.

Contact Hilary Eller at heller@prescottaz.com or 445-8179, ext. 1139.