Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/news/7405.php
State will shorten, combine kids' tests
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
By Barrett Marson and Sarah Garrecht Gassen
Second proposal would ease 8th-grade AIMS math exam
PHOENIX - Elementary and middle school students will lose a
week of testing next year, as the state Board of Education voted Monday to
combine and shorten two standardized tests.
And the board will decide in February whether to make it easier for
eighth-graders to pass the math portion of the AIMS test.
The Stanford 9, given every year to measure Arizona students against their
counterparts across the country, and the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards
will take just one week rather than the two it takes now. The tests are given in
Eliminating classroom time to prepare and take the Stanford 9 will allow
students to do better without school officials' losing the ability to gauge
their knowledge, supporters of the move said.
Children in lower grades do not need to pass AIMS, but schools are rated on the
test results. By 2006, all high school students will have to pass the AIMS tests
to graduate. AIMS tests cover reading, writing and math.
Phasing in the testing reductions or creating a pilot program were brushed aside
by the board. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said it would cost
$600,000 to $700,000 to conduct a pilot study. None of the other 18 states
planning similar moves will conduct pilot studies, according to the Department
Flowing Wells Superintendent John Pedicone, a member of the state board, said
reducing the time for the tests should increase the amount of learning in the
"It's not just a week of testing, but one or two weeks of preparation," Pedicone
said after the meeting. "It makes all the sense in the world to put that time
Pedicone, who had been skeptical of the move, said he now approves because a
department analysis of previous tests showed virtually the same scores based on
"A smaller number of questions should yield the same results," he said.
Consolidating the AIMS and Stanford 9 tests in one shorter test will give
students more time to learn, local school officials agree.
"Less time on testing means you can go more in-depth, do more enrichment and
have a good additional five days, at the minimum, where you're able to focus on
instruction instead of test preparation," said Anna Rivera, the Tucson Unified
School District's senior academic officer for leadership.
Students were confused by taking two tests, Rivera said. They'd take the first
round, and then by the time the second test came a few weeks later, they'd be
asking, "Didn't we just take this test?"
"This will help alleviate stress on students," Rivera said.
Kids will have more time to learn with only one test, said Aundrea Esplin,
mother of four students from first grade through high school.
"I feel it's good, so they don't spend so much time studying for a test and more
time learning what they're supposed to be learning in school," Esplin said.
"Sometimes they do so much testing, they spend more time teaching for the test
than learning in the classroom."
The biggest benefit would come if the state pushed back the testing date to
later in the spring, said Wendy Conger, principal at Apollo Middle School in the
Sunnyside Unified School District.
"If the extra class time comes after the students take the test, then it's kind
of after the fact," Conger said. "I think the kids get tired with two tests -
it's better that they've changed it."
Also Monday, a new scoring system for the eighth-grade AIMS math test was
proposed because state Education Department officials believe the test scores do
not accurately reflect student achievement.
Under the proposal, which will be discussed in February, eighth-graders would
have to earn at least a 72 rather than a 78 - or tally three fewer correct
questions - to pass the AIMS math test.
"It's not to make it easier; it's just to correct a mistake," Horne said.
According to the Education Department, lowering the passing score to 72 percent
would boost the number of passing students to 32 percent, up 11 points.
The score of 78 needed to pass math was the highest; third-graders need to score
75 in order to pass.
Apollo Principal Conger supports the proposed change in the eighth-grade test.
"They took the data and I think they want to make it more successful for more
students," she said. "It's not lowering the standard or watering it down - it's
probably being more realistic.
"We don't want to disenfranchise kids," she said.
* Contact Barrett Marson at 1-602-271-0623 or at