Tweak AIMS a bit to ensure its
Arizona Daily Star
Mar. 23, 2005
In 2006, Arizona will join the growing
ranks of states that require students to pass a standardized exam to graduate
from high school. But our students aren't the only ones facing a serious test.
The state as a whole also will be tested,
to ensure that the high-stakes AIMS exam is implemented with the utmost
integrity and fairness. It is a test Arizona cannot afford to fail.
The Arizona Business and Education
Coalition supports AIMS as a graduation requirement, contingent on the
resolution of several key issues, including testing exemptions, accommodations
and student supports.
The coalition is a statewide organization
that seeks consensus on key education issues from leaders of the business and
education communities in Arizona.
Consensus on AIMS was difficult to come
by. Coalition members spent long hours debating the merits, challenges and
necessity of the exam.
In the end, coalition members agreed that
AIMS is an important step in improving education in our state but believe
changes must be made to keep the test firm, fair and accountable.
First, some special-education students may
not be able to pass the AIMS exam, regardless of the tutoring, accommodations,
or testing attempts that are available.
These students should not have to pass the
test to graduate, as long as their Individual Education Plans - specialized
learning plans that are put together with the input of parents and teachers -
reflect that the particular student could not be expected to pass all or part of
Second, students who are learning English
should have every opportunity to pass the test (in English) and should have
available to them certain research-based accommodations that will facilitate
demonstration of mastery. These accommodations include:
● More time to finish the test, where
● Translation of certain technical terms
on math and science questions
● Translation of certain test directions
These accommodations are designed to
ensure that specific skills are tested - math skills on a math test, for
instance. All students would still have to pass an English reading and writing
test to graduate.
In addition, students who move to Arizona
and have passed a similar test in another state should not have to pass a second
exam to graduate. The State Board of Education should be given the latitude to
waive the AIMS requirement in such cases.
Finally, the coalition believes all
students must be given adequate support to enable them to pass the exam. AIMS
tutoring should be expanded to meet the needs of students who are still working
to pass AIMS even into a fifth year. Educators and parents must push students to
take advantage of this tutoring and take every testing opportunity offered.
The success of AIMS and of Arizona's
public-high-school reform will require all of us to engage in the AIMS
discussion without acrimony, in a spirit of doing what is right for the state
and more important, what is in the best interests of students.
If we want our graduates to be prepared
for the work force or postsecondary educational options, they must have learned
the foundations. Maintaining the momentum for education reform will require
making serious, consequential choices and sticking with them, even when the
choices are difficult. AIMS is one of those choices.
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