Of course seniors who flunk
the AIMS test should be able to take it until
they pass. Such a simple concept should not have
required a full state school board vote this
The vote, though, should have
been targeted at legislators rather than
students. That's because legislators hold the
purse strings that will determine the success of
AIMS and school reform in Arizona.
Without money to pay for the
tools needed to pass AIMS, the test is
meaningless. Those tools would include such
basics as teacher training, all-day
kindergarten, smaller class sizes and a
comprehensive tutoring programs.
AIMS - which stands for Arizona
Instrument to Measure Success - requires testing
in elementary, middle and high school. To
graduate from high school, today's juniors must
pass the reading, writing and math portions of
So far, the outlook is grim for
broad graduation rates come 2006. Widespread
failures were recorded on each of the three
portions of the test when the sophomores took
the test last spring. The math portion proved
the toughest, with more than 60 percent of the
state's sophomores flunking.
When that many students fail,
there is something wrong with the test or there
is something wrong with the teaching.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, no fan of
AIMS as a high-stakes test, said last summer
that the failures should be a "clarion call" to
the state's educators. "Something is not
happening in our schools that needs to be
happening," she said.
She's right. There are a lot of
things not happening in the schools - including
acceptance of AIMS from the educational
But a plan from the state's
school administrators to create a "general
diploma" alternative to the AIMS diploma is not
The general diploma, according to
Tucson Unified School District interim
Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer, would require
successful completion of all course work, taking
the AIMS test and remedial course work every
time they are offered and recording an
attendance rate of at least 90 percent.
This proposal would undermine
AIMS and the intent of the test. One has to ask
what would be accomplished with the creation of
a new diploma if there is no corresponding
change in curriculum.
Further, school administrators
from around the state were misguided when they
suggested an incentive for students to take the
AIMS test if they are given the option:
exempting those who pass AIMS from taking a
college entrance exam to enroll in an Arizona
university. The two tests measure vastly
different things. AIMS tests for skills. The ACT
and SAT are used to help build a student body.
This automatic entry into the
state's higher-education system would also
complicate efforts now under way to tighten, not
loosen, entrance requirements.
We do agree with the governor
that something is wrong with our system when,
after years of testing, a majority of the
state's students can't pass the math test.
It may be time to review what we
A second diploma, though,
circumventing the intent of school reform, is an
option that should be taken off the table.