12,000 more pass AIMS, but thousands may drop out
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 24, 2005
Pat Kossan

An additional 12,000 members of Arizona's Class of 2006 passed the high school AIMS test on their third try this spring and after state officials lowered the passing score.

The number of Arizona's seniors who have passed the exit exam jumped to 39,700, state officials reported Thursday, or 63 percent of Arizona's first class that must pass the reading, writing and math test to get a diploma on graduation day.

There are still about 23,300 kids who haven't passed the exit exam, and they have two more tries before Graduation Day.

But state schools chief Tom Horne is celebrating anyway, because he figures most of the kids who haven't passed are likely to drop out anyway.

"I've always said 90 percent of the students who would normally graduate would pass AIMS," Horne said. "I've reached my goal earlier than I expected."

Only about 70 to 72 percent of Arizona's high school students typically graduate. Horne said that means by Graduation Day, with or without an AIMS test, only 45,720 members of the Class of 2006 will pick up diplomas. So, by his calculations, a whopping 86.8 percent of those likely graduates already have passed AIMS.

Phoenix Union High School District's Class of 2006 made great gains this spring, and now more than half of its seniors have passed AIMS. But Phoenix Union administrator Joan Mason is counting the kids on the losing side of that equation, and knows of about 1,100 kids who still have no reason to celebrate. She doesn't understand a state policy that doesn't work to increase the number of Arizona students graduating from high school.

"I guess the goal is not to increase student achievement across the board and keep students in school, but the effect is to keep pushing the same kids out," said Mason, director of English-language learning. "I think the goal should be 90 percent of all students, not 90 percent of those who graduate anyways. It doesn't make sense to me."

Mesa's Westwood High School senior Luiz Avalos is still waiting to find out if he passed the AIMS math section after a third try. He laughed at the idea that he or his classmates who haven't passed AIMS are likely to drop out.

"I think that's hilarious," Avalos said. "I been going to school since kindergarten. I have no intentions of dropping out."

This session, Arizona legislators gave graduating seniors a chance to increase their AIMS scores if they passed core high school courses.

Even with the break, Horne said it's not realistic to expect all kids left in the Class of 2006 to pass an exit exam or to graduate.

"We're not going to get kids who would otherwise drop out," Horne said.