8th graders fail AIMS math
Fewer than 1 in 5 TUSD students pass the math portion of the test. Among
students labeled 'English language learners,' the passing rate is 4 in 100.
September 3, 2003
Local students who aren't proficient in English are having more trouble passing
the AIMS test than English-speaking classmates - and a bit more trouble than
their counterparts statewide, AIMS scores released yesterday show.
Math is a major problem for local eighth-graders regardless of their first
language, the scores show.
With 2006 the first year students must pass AIMS to get diplomas, educators are
looking for ways to prepare not just English language learners (ELLs), but all
Ninety-six percent of Sunnyside Unified School District ELL sophomores last year
failed the math portion of the AIMS, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards,
which was given to all students last spring. Statewide, 93 percent of sophomore
ELLs failed the math section. In TUSD 94 percent failed.
Sixty-two percent of last year's English-speaking sophomores across Arizona
failed the math test. In Sunnyside it was 82 percent, and at TUSD it was 68
Only half of TUSD eighth-graders passed reading; and only 5 percent of the ELLs
On eighth-grade math, only 19 percent in TUSD passed; and only 4 percent of ELLs.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the percentage of
students who passed the math portion of AIMS increased this year from 1 percent
among eighth-graders to 3 percent in third, fifth and 10th grades.
Local educators say having fewer bilingual classes, which were nearly eliminated
by Proposition 203, passed by voters in 2000, makes things harder but they deal
with it because it's the law.
The loss of bilingual education has "made it more difficult for students and
especially teachers who have developed a repertoire and now have to use other
techniques while teaching English and the academic content at the same time,"
said Sunnyside Superintendent Raul Bejarano.
Students who must first learn English show a lag before learning other subjects,
said Anna Rivera, TUSD's senior academic officer for leadership.
"Second language learners are faced with a considerable challenge. That's not to
say it can't be met, but we have to find ways to make it work," she said.
That includes identifying deficiencies in the first six weeks of school so
there's time to help a student more, she said.
Districts need more money in the long term and have to be more resourceful in
the short term, she said.
"Schools are out looking for clubs organizations that can help them tutor," she
Sunnyside last year had 5,515 English language learners - 35.6 percent of its
student population. TUSD had 10,473, or about 17 percent of its students. The
percentages are by far the highest of any of the Tucson-area school districts.
Educators found that at both districts, third-grade ELLs were behind their
traditional classmates, but not as far behind as eighth- and 10th-graders.
Rivera thinks the majority of third-graders have been positively affected by
AIMS, Arizona LEARNS and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Most of those
students' schooling have focused on a curriculum aligned with the state and
federal standards, she said.
Eighth-graders have had many more years without those mandates.
"This points to how we really have to start when the students are young," she
Bejarano thinks third-graders always will do better "because academic language
is simpler in third grade. When academic language intensifies at the higher
grades, it's more difficult."
Each year ELLs fall further behind, he said.
Sunnyside employs many techniques to help ELL students, such as using lots of
examples and lots of pictures and diagrams, he said.
Sunnyside also emphasizes reading at all grade levels.
"If children are not reading well, they're going to have the problems on AIMS,"
whether they speak English fluently or not, Bejarano said.
Sunnyside teachers look for weak points and assess students and programs, he
Bejarano didn't make excuses for students who are new to the district and may
come into it without knowing the language or having been to school before.
"That's part of our system. Those are the challenges we have to address in our
school system. Some do come with no education background even in their own
language," he said.
"Teachers expect the same from them as children who grew up here and have
parents who speak English at home."
Rivera is concerned about the percentage of eighth-graders last spring - English
learners or not - who didn't pass AIMS.
For last year's eighth-graders and high school freshmen, there is added stress
because they have to pass AIMS to get a diplomas.
It's an urgent concern she said TUSD has been responding to in the last few
years by trying to quickly identify students who need tutoring or summer school.
"We have to provide more focus on eighth-graders to make sure they get what they
need in a compressed period," she said.
STATEWIDE AIMS RESULTS:
10th-grade math - most FAILED
8th-grade math - most FAILED
3rd-grade math - most PASSED
10th-grade reading - most PASSED
8th-grade reading - most PASSED
3rd-grade reading - most PASSED
10th-grade writing - most PASSED
8th-grade writing - most FAILED
3rd-grade writing - most PASSED