VERDE VALLEY - Every year, students throughout Arizona in elementary grades 3 through 8 and in high school 10th grade are tested on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. The AIMS math and reading tests are given in all of the required grades. AIMS writing tests are given in grades fifth through seventh and 10th grades. The AIMS science test is given in 4th, 8th and 10th grades.
Statewide, 76 percent of students passed the AIMS reading test, an increase of 3 percent over 2010. Writing scores dropped from 71 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2011. Math scores increased in 2011 with 59 percent passing, a 2 percent increase over 2010.
"This dip in writing scores was expected," stated Roberta Alley, Arizona Department of Education's associate superintendent of accountability, review and analysis. "Teachers very carefully evaluated the past writing assessment and saw a need to raise the cut scores in grades 5,6 and 7 on the tests in order to get students ready for high school."
For eighth-grade students, Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School scored significantly higher in math, reading and science than other Verde Valley elementary schools. Clarkdale-Jerome eighth-graders scored 74 percent passing on math, 85 percent passing on reading and 86 percent passing on science.
Clarkdale-Jerome Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor said her school has an advantage because it is small. "We spent quite a bit of time emphasizing math this year," she said.
She explained that each year the teachers and administration go through all the tests. First, they analyze the school as a whole, then each grade level and finally each test. Fleenor said the staff even breaks down the tests by subject.
Fleenor said the grade-level teachers look at the kids not passing. "Then we look at each child," she said. Those students who did not pass a particular test are then targeted for after-school tutoring.
"We design a program that will meet that child's needs," Fleenor said.
"We are a small school district," she said. "It's much easier for us to do that."
American Heritage Academy had the only grade level in the Verde Valley with 100 percent of students passing any of the test categories. In AIMS reading, AHA had 100 percent of sixth graders pass.
Beaver Creek Superintendent Karin Ward said her district also looks at every child individually to analyze test results and strategies for improvement. "I did a three year comparison in June of each grade level," she said.
"I'm seeing great improvement," Ward said. "I'm very pleased with the growth we're seeing."
Ward explained that her district, during the three-year comparison period, showed from 5 percent to 10 percent growth for each grade level.
At press time, administrators at American Heritage Academy, Camp Verde Unified District and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District could not be reached for comment.
Mingus Principal Tamara Addis in a report on the AIMS results stated that the results are consistent with the concerns of the school administration.
"The students, who are tested in their second year at Mingus, had results which were better than their test results during their eighth-grade year," Addis stated. "However, the results are not as high as the Mingus leadership would like."
Addis said the math results for the Class of 2013 were above the state average. "This particular grade moved up the equivalent of three grade levels in math since eighth grade," Addis explained.
She also pointed out that the same class scored above the state average on the AIMS reading test. She stated that the sophomore's showed a 12 percent increase in their reading scores from when the same class was in eighth grade at Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.
The Class of 2013 was down 8 percent from last year in the AIMS writing test, which is also down 5 percent from the state average.
"Mingus scored above the state average in two out of three accountability measures and shows positive movement from lower quartiles of data," Addis stated.
At press time, administrators from American Heritage and Camp Verde Unified District could not be reached for comment.