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8th graders fail AIMS math
Fewer than 1 in 5 TUSD students pass the math portion of the test. Among students labeled 'English language learners,' the passing rate is 4 in 100.
Tucson Citizen
September 3, 2003


Local students who aren't proficient in English are having more trouble passing the AIMS test than English-speaking classmates - and a bit more trouble than their counterparts statewide, AIMS scores released yesterday show.

Math is a major problem for local eighth-graders regardless of their first language, the scores show.

With 2006 the first year students must pass AIMS to get diplomas, educators are looking for ways to prepare not just English language learners (ELLs), but all students.

Ninety-six percent of Sunnyside Unified School District ELL sophomores last year failed the math portion of the AIMS, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, which was given to all students last spring. Statewide, 93 percent of sophomore ELLs failed the math section. In TUSD 94 percent failed.

Sixty-two percent of last year's English-speaking sophomores across Arizona failed the math test. In Sunnyside it was 82 percent, and at TUSD it was 68 percent.

Only half of TUSD eighth-graders passed reading; and only 5 percent of the ELLs passed.

On eighth-grade math, only 19 percent in TUSD passed; and only 4 percent of ELLs.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the percentage of students who passed the math portion of AIMS increased this year from 1 percent among eighth-graders to 3 percent in third, fifth and 10th grades.

Local educators say having fewer bilingual classes, which were nearly eliminated by Proposition 203, passed by voters in 2000, makes things harder but they deal with it because it's the law.

The loss of bilingual education has "made it more difficult for students and especially teachers who have developed a repertoire and now have to use other techniques while teaching English and the academic content at the same time," said Sunnyside Superintendent Raul Bejarano.

Students who must first learn English show a lag before learning other subjects, said Anna Rivera, TUSD's senior academic officer for leadership.

"Second language learners are faced with a considerable challenge. That's not to say it can't be met, but we have to find ways to make it work," she said.

That includes identifying deficiencies in the first six weeks of school so there's time to help a student more, she said.

Districts need more money in the long term and have to be more resourceful in the short term, she said.

"Schools are out looking for clubs organizations that can help them tutor," she said.

Sunnyside last year had 5,515 English language learners - 35.6 percent of its student population. TUSD had 10,473, or about 17 percent of its students. The percentages are by far the highest of any of the Tucson-area school districts.

Educators found that at both districts, third-grade ELLs were behind their traditional classmates, but not as far behind as eighth- and 10th-graders.

Rivera thinks the majority of third-graders have been positively affected by AIMS, Arizona LEARNS and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Most of those students' schooling have focused on a curriculum aligned with the state and federal standards, she said.

Eighth-graders have had many more years without those mandates.

"This points to how we really have to start when the students are young," she said.

Bejarano thinks third-graders always will do better "because academic language is simpler in third grade. When academic language intensifies at the higher grades, it's more difficult."

Each year ELLs fall further behind, he said.

Sunnyside employs many techniques to help ELL students, such as using lots of examples and lots of pictures and diagrams, he said.

Sunnyside also emphasizes reading at all grade levels.

"If children are not reading well, they're going to have the problems on AIMS," whether they speak English fluently or not, Bejarano said.

Sunnyside teachers look for weak points and assess students and programs, he said.

Bejarano didn't make excuses for students who are new to the district and may come into it without knowing the language or having been to school before.

"That's part of our system. Those are the challenges we have to address in our school system. Some do come with no education background even in their own language," he said.

"Teachers expect the same from them as children who grew up here and have parents who speak English at home."

Rivera is concerned about the percentage of eighth-graders last spring - English learners or not - who didn't pass AIMS.

For last year's eighth-graders and high school freshmen, there is added stress because they have to pass AIMS to get a diplomas.

It's an urgent concern she said TUSD has been responding to in the last few years by trying to quickly identify students who need tutoring or summer school.

"We have to provide more focus on eighth-graders to make sure they get what they need in a compressed period," she said.


10th-grade math - most FAILED

8th-grade math - most FAILED

3rd-grade math - most PASSED

10th-grade reading - most PASSED

8th-grade reading - most PASSED

3rd-grade reading - most PASSED

10th-grade writing - most PASSED

8th-grade writing - most FAILED

3rd-grade writing - most PASSED