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Wed, Oct. 16

Local district AIMS scores are in

Coming Saturday: Local charter schools' AIMS results.Students in the Prescott, Humboldt and Chino Valley school districts scored either near to, even with or better than other students throughout Yavapai County or the state on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests.The Arizona Department of Education recently released the results of the 2009 AIMS tests that students took during the 2009 spring semester.Administrators from all three districts were pleased with their student test scores.Humboldt School District Assistant Superintendent Dean Slaga said the district is down to just two tests below the state average - sixth-grade and seventh-grade math."Generally, these are the best test scores we have had collectively," Slaga said. With the exception of sixth-grade math, all of the Humboldt elementary school students taking the AIMS test met or exceeded county and state scores in reading, writing and math.Slaga said district officials hope to see the middle school math scores improved as the elementary school students move up to middle school.Prescott School District Curriculum and Testing Coordinator Heidi Atkinson said, "Overall, our students beat the state and county scores at every grade, every subject and every school. All our scores were above state and county scores, including science."Although fourth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students took an AIMS science test, the state has not adopted an official AIMS science test. At this point, the science scores are more informational than official.Atkinson said PUSD students have demonstrated "a lot of growth, specifically in fourth-grade math."Atkinson said the district is also "gearing up for math standard changes next year."Cindy Daniels, Chino Valley School District's coordinator of student achievement, said, "I'm extremely pleased in the directions (AIMS scores) are headed. This is the first time Chino Valley's scores have been at or above everyone else (in the county and state)."Daniels said the Chino Valley High School scores are the best they have been since 2004-05. She attributes this to two things: a writing-across-the-curriculum program and a reading-in-content- area program.Daniel said, "Last year the CVHS administrators looked at what they could do for the greatest buck and it's paying off."Although all of the district officials are pleased with the AIMS results, they also see room for improvement.Slaga said the Humboldt middle and high schools' major focus is on reading and math."Also, we are expanding what we did at the elementary schools - more mentoring and coaching for teachers," Slaga said. "We are focusing our professional development money of additional support in those areas."Slaga said, "Our goal is to be an 80-percent-plus district. Could we be there across the board next spring? We think so."For the past three years, HUSD has used the Reading First program in all elementary schools. Slaga said the district is seeing the results of the program in improved test scores, and student skills should carry over into middle and high school.HUSD also adopted a new math program two years ago, and Slaga said the district is starting to see results.At PUSD, Atkinson accredits improved AIMS scores to curriculum mapping."We've seen a drastic improvement in writing scores, and I credit curricular mapping," she said,As to whether teachers are "teaching to the tests," Atkinson said teachers are "teaching to standards. The test is an evaluation of teaching to standards."Atkinson predicts a statewide drop in math scores next year because of the standards change. The key, she said, is "keeping ahead of the game."Atkinson said PUSD could improve in a few areas. She said the district would work to improve discrete math scores - application-based problem-solving. Atkinson said there is room for improvement in reading for content in literary text.The district would work on improving writing skills through cross-curriculum writing programs.Atkinson said teachers are receiving training in Reading Street, which includes six writing traits.Atkinson said the focus of the district is to "move more students from the 'meets standards' category to the 'exceeds standards' category in all three areas."Daniels said officials know they have work to do in sixth-grade math. "We weren't disappointed because we know they can do better. We're looking to see if this group had a hard time transitioning to middle school to see if we can improve the process," she said.Daniels said that the Heritage Middle School results show the district's emphasis on writing "is paying off. We even had one class where 98 percent of the students met or exceeded the standards."Districts administer the AIMS DPA, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards Dual Purpose Assessment, to third- through eighth-grade students. This exam combines AIMS with TerraNova Achievement Test items in reading and mathematics. AIMS officials assess the writing test using the Six-Trait Scoring Guide.High school students must meet the standards on AIMS exams in reading, writing, and mathematics in order to graduate. They begin taking AIMS in their 10th-grade year.Jerry Herrmann contributed to this report.
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