Horne touts latest AIMS scores
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 21, 2004
Half of high school juniors have passed math portion

Pat Kossan

Half the members of the Class of 2006 have passed the AIMS math test, the toughest of three sections juniors must master before they can graduate.

For Tom Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, the results were encouraging.

He pointed out that 22 percent of juniors passed math the second time around. When that's added to students who passed the math section as sophomores, more than 32,000 students, or just about half of the class, have cleared one of the biggest hurdles on the path to graduation. Students have three more chances to take any section of the test.

"That's a very substantial move," Horne said of the math results. The Arizona Department of Education released preliminary results of the fall AIMS retest on Monday. Juniors who had failed any portion of the test in the spring could retake the test.

Horne is confident that parents and the public are on his side in continuing to press for the exit exam. It's an argument he plans to make today when he meets Gov. Janet Napolitano for breakfast.

Napolitano has made it clear she does not support requiring students to pass one test to receive a high school diploma and will not let thousands of Arizona students fail to graduate. Napolitano, however, has not presented an alternative proposal.

Becky Hill, Napolitano's education adviser, said the governor "won't be a lone wolf on this issue."

Hill was not impressed with the AIMS retest results and said Napolitano is waiting for answers from Horne and the Arizona State Board of Education, who share responsibility for creating school policy.

Retired executive Matthew Diethelm takes over as president of the State Board of Education in January and was equally gloomy about the fall retest results.

Diethelm and other state board members commissioned a study, a joint project by the state's three universities, to determine why the AIMS test has stumped so many high school students. The test is designed to measure how well students are learning the state's grade-by-grade reading, writing and math skills, which they should have mastered by their sophomore year.

"We're trying to understand the difference between our expectations and the results," said Diethelm, who hopes to have more answers by April, when the study's results are due.

Before those results are available, the state Legislature will reconvene in January. Some lawmakers are expected to introduce proposals that could change the testing policy or even eliminate using AIMS as a graduation requirement.

Horne doesn't expect those changes to happen. Polls of parents and the public show support for making students pass the AIMS test before getting a diploma. Horne said the opposition in the Legislature is a minority.

"I anticipate there are people who would like to see changes," Horne said. "But the majority will stick to the course."

Still, there's a long way to go.

Members of the Class of 2006 must pass all three sections of the AIMS test to receive a high school diploma.

More than half the class retook a portion of the AIMS test in the fall. Preliminary numbers show that of the 34,000 students who took the math test a second time, 22 percent passed and 78 percent failed again. Of the 24,000 juniors who retook the reading section, 36 percent passed and 63 percent flunke. On the writing portion, 23,000 students retook the test, 46 percent passed and 54 percent failed.

The numbers released Monday do not include scores of high school students just learning English. State officials have not yet calculated how many students have passed all three sections of the test.

Find the results for your school, your county or the state at www.ade.az.gov/profile/publicview/.