May 23, about 240 Mingus Union High School seniors became high school graduates. For some of them, that walk across the stage to grasp a diploma was something of a gift from Arizona lawmakers.
Those seniors had not scored well enough on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate with their class without lawmakers fudging on their own law.
Statewide, about 6,000 seniors were able to graduate without passing all of the AIMS requirements.
About one week before the MUHS graduation ceremony, state lawmakers extended a law that allows seniors to use their grades to supplement their AIMS scores.
State School Superintendent Tom Horne did not like the decision. He said the reason for giving a standardized test is because grades are unreliable. He said that if all teachers were tough graders, there wouldn't be a need for a statewide test.
Mingus Superintendent Scott Dunsmore said the re-enactment of augmentation affected some MUHS students. But he tends to agree with Horne. "I'm not sure that is a step in the right direction," he said. "If we truly believe that all children can learn, then we need to provide the appropriate educational opportunities to ensure they do."
Dunsmore said if AIMS is an appropriate tool, we should use that tool. "When we bring grades into the equation, then we bring in a lot of subjectivity to the process."
Dunsmore said Arizona needs a standardized curriculum for public and charter schools. He said when algebra is taught at Mingus, it should be the same curriculum that is being taught in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff or Camp Verde.
"If we are going to have true accountability, then we all need to be playing on the same level field," Dunsmore said.
AIMS has been given to Arizona students for more than a decade. Beginning in 2006, passing AIMS was supposed to be mandatory to graduate from high school.
But due to a large number of seniors in the state who would not graduate, lawmakers decided to give the kids a break. They decided bonus points for good grades would be fair. That augmentation program was put in place through 2007, and then it was extended in mid-May to help this year's seniors.
The program, which allows students to earn up to a 25 percent bonus for grades, will remain through 2009. Beginning in 2010, the percentage allowed for bonus points will be reduced to 15 percent, and in 2011, to 5 percent.