Bill could help students who flunk AIMS test
Arizona Republic
March 6, 2008

Betty Reid
A House bill moving through the Legislature may help more students receive their high school diplomas in May without passing the AIMS test.

House Bill 2008 proposes to permanently reinstate an alternative graduation requirement that takes into consideration a student's existing grades, the number of times the student took the AIMS test or sought tutoring. The measure, if approved, would be retroactive to December 2007.

Rep. David Schapiro, D-Tempe, said his bill impacts between 5,000 to 10,000 students who might graduate in Arizona.
Many are good students who earn good grades but are unable to pass AIMS, he said. A number of students are 25 points shy of passing the test, Schapiro said. He wants students who have good grades to be able to gain points to graduate.

A bill that carried a similar measure expired in December.

"I used to be a high school teacher," Schapiro said. "Some students and teachers asked me to renew it."

He believes the full House will hear the proposed bill soon. It would still have to go through the Senate.

Tom Horne, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, said he is against the bill.

Grades are subjective, he said, and this bill could put pressure on some teacher to inflate grades and grade inflation is already a problem.

"Students should demonstrate on an objective test that they have the skills that we expect of a high school graduate," Horne said.

John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, the state's teachers union, could not be reached for a comment late Thursday. Educators at Phoenix Union High School District said numerous seniors would benefit from the bill, if approved. The Phoenix district graduates more than 3,000 seniors per year.

Some seniors have not passed the AIMS test are not expected to graduate in May, said Phoenix Union Spokesman Craig Pletenik.

High school students have up to five chances to pass the test.

Some Phoenix Union educators say that it's unfair to tell a student who has done all that's asked of him, has done the work, earned their 20 plus high school credits, that he can't graduate because he didn't pass AIMS.

Some students find out two weeks before May graduation ceremonies if they passed the AIMS test, Pletenik said. Students take AIMS math in April and the results are not available until May.

David Lujan, president of the Phoenix Union governing school board, said this is a bill the district is watching.

"Especially when you talk about a bill that has not properly funded English Language Learner programs, it doesn't make sense to require ELL students to master the AIMS test when we are not providing them with the resources to learn what is on the AIMS test," Lujan said. "The AIMS augmentation will assist students who are close but need a little bit more to graduate."