PHOENIX - Arizona schools
are free to exempt their
special-education students from having
to pass the AIMS test to graduate,
Attorney General Terry Goddard said
Goddard, in a formal
legal opinion, said Arizona law and the
rules of the state Board of Education
give local school boards wide latitude
to decide the course study and
graduation requirements of students in
The move is a victory for
parents of the estimated 7,000 high
school juniors who qualify as
special-education students. Fewer than
one out of 20 of these students who took
the test last year got passing grades on
all three sections.
Passing AIMS is a
graduation requirement for the more than
63,000 students in the Class of 2006.
About 7,000 of these youngsters are
classified as special-education
Goddard said federal law
entitles students with disabilities to a
"free, appropriate public education."
That includes special programs to meet
each student's "unique needs."
To meet those needs, the
law requires "individual education
programs" for each disabled student.
Goddard said while
federal law generally requires all
students to take state assessment tests,
it does not require that
special-education students actually pass
the test to graduate.
"Part of providing an
individualized education includes
adopting an appropriate exit strategy
for each student," Goddard wrote.
"Whether a student's exit strategy
involves passing the state's exit exam
is a decision for that student's IEP
Superintendent Tom Horne said he does
not see Goddard's decision as a free
pass for any student in a
"There are a lot of
special-education kids who can pass
AIMS," he said, such as youngsters with
Goddard's opinion appears
to leave some leeway to help
special-education students. He pointed
out that federal regulations require
schools to provide necessary
accommodations for students taking tests
to allow for their disabilities.