Mon, Jan. 20

At first glance AIMS scores alarming<br><i>But Class of 2006 may be on track to graduate</i>

The goal is for 100 percent of students to pass AIMS.

Beginning in 2006, students must pass the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate from high school.

It is a high-stakes test. So it isn't surprising that educators and parents are reacting with alarm to the news that more than 60 percent of the state's sophomores failed the mathematics portion of the spring 2004 AIMS. Approximately 60 percent of sophomores did pass the reading and writing portions of the test.

Some newspapers and broadcast news shows around the state have called the recent test scores a failure, and it has been suggested that AIMS results are a test of the state's teachers. After all, some say, it is the sophomores who were tested last spring that will be the first class required to pass AIMS before graduating.

If only 40 percent of this class can pass the math portion of AIMS, the reasoning goes, how many will actually graduate in two more years?

State Superintendent Tom Horne doesn't view the recently released results with the same sense of alarm as many others have. He said the test given in the spring of 2004 was the first of five chances the class of 2006 has to pass AIMS. He predicts that by 2006, 90 percent of high school seniors will be proficient in all three categories of AIMS.

Christopher Schultz, principal of Mingus Union High School, isn't hitting the alarm button either. His class of 2006 did better than state averages with 52 percent passing the math portion, 68 percent passing the reading and 60 percent passing the writing.

"We need to keep in perspective that this is an exit exam," Schultz said. That means more than half of Mingus' sophomores have enough math to graduate.

"You're comparing sophomores to what they should be able to do before graduation," Schultz said.

He said many of those students haven't yet taken the courses needed to be proficient on AIMS. But since students have four more opportunities to take AIMS, Schultz feels that testing the students early gives schools plenty of time to meet the AIMS standards.

"We have an early enough chance to identify the kids who need extra help," Schultz said.

The 52 percent proficiency in math is up from 39 percent in 2003. Mingus' reading scores rose to 68 percent from 60 percent in 2003, and writing was up to 60 percent from 52 percent.

Scores at Camp Verde High School, on the other hand, have fallen for the past three years.

Only 30 percent of Camp Verde's 10th-graders passed the math portion of AIMS for 2004. Thirty-four percent passed in 2003, and 49 percent in 2002.

Reading scores for the school are better, with 59 percent passing the AIMS' requirements. That is up 1 percent from 58 percent passing in 2003, but it is down from 73 percent passing reading in 2002.

Camp Verde students have had a steady decline in writing scores on AIMS with 47 percent passing in 2004, 57 percent in 2003 and 74 percent in 2002.

Sedona Red Rock High School topped state averages in all three AIMS categories. Forty-eight percent of Sedona's 10th graders passed the math category. Seventy-four percent passed the reading portion, and 68 percent passed writing.

Horne said that an intensive statewide intervention program has been put in place to help those students who did not pass the first round of AIMS. That program includes $4.5 million appropriated by the state legislature to help parents in schools with underperforming labels pay for tutors so their children will pass AIMS.

"With four more chances, and intervention for those students who did not pass the first time, I believe 90 percent will pass," Horne said.

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