AIMS unfair to learning-disabled
Arizona Daily Star
Mar. 18, 2005

Arizona high-school students recently finished taking the reading and writing portion of the AIMS test. The high-stakes standardized test is theoretically going to measure how well, or at least how much, a student has learned. It will be a requirement to graduate for the class of 2006, whose members are now high school juniors.

It seems as if most legislators assume students who will fail the test will be those who wouldn't graduate anyway.
Thank goodness I finished high school five years ago, because I'm not so sure I would have passed it.
But there are a lot of students just like me. I have a learning disability. I was in special-education classes starting in first or second grade until my junior year of high school.
My junior and senior years, I was in all "mainstream" classes but still worked closely with the special education department at Sabino High School.
Today, I am just a few months away from graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism.
Often people say, "I didn't know you had a learning disability." That is because learning-disabled students don't have any look. They just have to work harder to pass classes. My rule of thumb is that I have to study as hard to get a C as the average student has to study to get an A.
The oh-so-brilliant idea of AIMS testing will just hurt those hardworking students. In February, however, state Attorney General Terry Goddard made the right decision when he wrote an opinion saying local school boards could decide whether special-education students must pass the AIMS test to graduate. Fewer than one in 20 special-education students passed the reading, writing and math sections of the test last year, according to newspaper reports.
It's not that special-education students should be exempt from any requirements to graduate, it's that the test itself is flawed when considering the needs of all students. If the average student has to put many hours of time and effort into passing AIMS, what is the special-education student to do?
In high school and in college classes, all students, including special education students, benefit from the fact that one test is not the entire grade. When it comes to AIMS, the state has forced students to put all their eggs in one basket. If those eggs are tests, special-education students can be in trouble.
If special-education students are to be an important part of our community, we should teach them how to live with their disability, just as we would with some with a physical disability. We have to make reasonable accommodations to help them meet their goals.
Contact Nathaniel Ratey through