By Daniel Scarpinato
The state's high-stakes AIMS test has been criticized for
many reasons - its format, its execution, its grading scale.
But a trio of prominent locals is arguing the test's real
problem is a violation of human rights, a notion state education
officials aren't taking seriously.
The Tucsonans say AIMS breaks a rule in the United
Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: "Parents have a prior
right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their
In a letter to state Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Horne last month, the group requested he issue an official statement
saying the state Department of Education will work within the framework
of human and civil rights.
The letter suggests parents have the right to decide if
their children take the AIMS test. It is signed by Herbert Heaton,
retired head of the Rockefeller Foundation; Charles Tatum, dean of the
University of Arizona's College of Humanities; and June Webb-Vignery,
chair of the Arizona State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights
Still, it didn't sway Horne, a strong advocate of the
"I think you'd have to be an inhabitant of an insane
asylum to see a connection between the Declaration of Human Rights and
requiring students to meet standards to graduate from high school," he
"This illustrates why some of the out-of-control portions
of universities in this country have been pulling our society into the
sinkhole of mediocrity," Horne said. "The idea that a student is
entitled to a diploma at age 18 without demonstrating that the student
has learned anything is in such contradiction to the very idea of higher
But Webb-Vignery, a former teacher and professor, said
the argument is simple: She opposes education moving from local to
federal control. It's that shift, she said, that has resulted in the
human rights violation.
Heaton said he is arguing in "fundamentals" rather than
against issues with the test itself.
"The idea jelled when I was talking to someone who was an
expert on the AIMS test, who said, 'How can this help students to learn
when there is no feedback?' " Heaton said.
"I walked out and realized there was no use arguing
within the framework of what they are doing, no use arguing about the
tests. I'd already heard Horne describe how he took one problem with the
test after another and fixed them."
AIMS, which tests students in math, language and writing,
is a graduation requirement for the Class of 2006. Schools are
scrambling to prepare students to pass because many did not meet the
requirements on one or more portions of the exam last year.