CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - State representatives voted Thursday to provide an alternate path
to graduation for students who cannot pass the AIMS test.
The preliminary approval came over the objections of some legislators who feared
that providing any alternative might encourage some teens not to bother to do
well on the standardized tests. But Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said that
without some options an unacceptably high percentage of youngsters in the class
of 2006 won't get a diploma.
Thursday's action will put new pressure on Senate President Ken Bennett, who a
week earlier blocked his chamber from considering anything to eliminate or
weaken the requirement to pass the test, known as Arizona's Instrument to
Bennett said after the House vote that he remains opposed to even this
alternative. Instead, he wants to put the legislation, Senate Bill 1038, into a
conference committee to come up with language he finds more acceptable.
So far, though, the compromises Bennett has offered involve allowing students to
skip - or fail - the AIMS test only if they pass some other competency
examination, such as an Advanced Placement test for college credit. That,
however, is not acceptable to Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, who is working
with Biggs on the alternative.
But Bennett sidestepped the question of what he will do if a majority of the 30
senators still prefer the version approved by the House. "I'm not going to
speculate on a worst-case scenario," he said.
The version being pushed by Biggs would say that a student need not get a
passing score in the math, reading and writing sections of the AIMS test if he
or she gets passing grades in those same courses in high school.
But the student still would be required to take the test each of the five times
it is offered in the junior and senior years. And any student unable to pass
would have to enroll in remedial courses offered by the school to help boost his
or her score.
Biggs said about 38,000 of the approximately 105,000 students in the class of
2006 have so far failed at least one of the three sections of the test.