About half of Pima County's high school juniors - the first class that must
pass AIMS to graduate - have passed the math portion of the test, according
to state education officials.
The results from the students' second try at the test, released this week by
the Arizona Department of Education, show that Pima County students are
making progress toward passing the reading, writing and math portions of the
Students' performance on the math test, however, remains lower than on the
reading and writing portions.
The juniors who failed again this time will have another three opportunities
to take the test before they are supposed to graduate in spring 2006.
Education officials are making plans statewide and locally to help students
who still haven't passed all or part of AIMS before their chances run out.
For example, only 36 percent of Pima County students passed the AIMS math
test when they took it the first time as sophomores last spring. About 5,500
of those students, now high school juniors, retook the math test last fall
and now a total of 46 percent have passed the math exam.
About 70 percent of Pima County juniors have now passed the reading exam and
75 percent have passed the writing test, according to the results.
Pima County scores are a few percentage points lower than the statewide
figures in all three test categories.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said he is encouraged
by the results.
"In math we've made substantial progress," he said. "I think students are
taking it more seriously and teachers are teaching the academic standards."
The Arizona Department of Education does not yet have the number of juniors
who have passed all three parts of the test, but Horne said using the number
of students who've passed the math portion - about 46 percent in Pima County
- is a good approximation for gauging how many now have AIMS under their
The Flowing Wells Unified School District has about 100 juniors who still
have to pass the math test and 70 students must retake the reading or
writing tests, although those figures could include one student who has to
retake two or three tests, said Superintendent Nic Clement.
The district will present a plan to its governing board in January outlining
what help Flowing Wells will offer those students, Clement said.
The plan will include "highly recommending" that those students attend
Saturday classes or summer school courses, but school districts don't have
the power to require students to put in extra time beyond the regular class
schedule. Flowing Wells could also offer an AIMS-related class for seniors
next year, Clement said.
"We're going to do everything we can, but there's going to be some
responsibility on the student and the parent to take advantage of the
remediation," he said.
Students will take a different AIMS test this spring, one entirely written
by Arizona teachers who have based the questions on the academic standards
all students are supposed to be learning in class. Horne said he thinks the
new test will be more in line with what students review in school and
therefore more students will pass.
More students are passing partly because they've had more coursework and are
better prepared to take the tests, said Holly Himebaugh, a sophomore at Palo
Verde High School who will take AIMS for the first time this spring.
"I have a few friends who did have to retake it. They've actually been doing
better and they did pass and have an easier time taking it this time," she
said. "The second time, you're more familiar with the test, but also having
the help you need helps."
For example, Palo Verde offers an "AIMS math" course and Himebaugh said some
teachers remind students which skills they'll need for AIMS. "It lets me
know what I need to work on," she said.
Officials with Tucson Unified and Sunnyside school districts could not be
reached for comment Tuesday.