Graduation fallout to test AIMS' future
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 3, 2005
Pat Kossan

When it's all over, when the last AIMS test is handed in next spring, here's what Arizona officials now say is likely: About 4,500 seniors who have passed their high school courses will flunk the test and not get a diploma.

An additional 16,000 seniors will drop out, most before taking their last shot at Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. Teachers worry some could bail just to avoid the embarrassment of failing the exam again.

The prospect of several thousand seniors being kept from graduating is accelerating efforts to rescue them from the brink. Among the efforts:

Some legislators plan to look for ways next session to give struggling seniors a helping hand. Last year, lawmakers allowed some students to pump up their scores based on their course grades.

A federal judge is considering whether to exempt nearly 4,000 seniors who are still learning English.

Parents of students who fail AIMS are expected to sue. The state Department of Education said it is prepared to win.

Schools are stepping up efforts to help students who are still stumped by a test the state has made easier each year.

In the end, if 4,500 fail, they will still represent only a small fraction of Arizona's 63,500 seniors. And that could spark a different kind of protest among those who support big changes in education: If all or most students can pass or get around the exit exam, what does it say about the worth of the test? Can you call that reform?

Whatever unfolds, it's a historic year for the decade-old test that could bring plenty of fallout.