Downing to co-sponsor anti-AIMS legislation
Jan. 4, 2005
By Sarah Garrecht Gassen
A Tucson Democrat has signed on to co-sponsor legislation that would eliminate passing the state's AIMS test as a graduation requirement, which is currently set to begin with the class of 2006.
Rep. Ted Downing said he will join State Sen. Thayer Verschoor, a Gilbert Republican, in trying to kill AIMS as a high-stakes test when the Arizona Legislature goes into session next week.
Verschoor's plan would keep the test as a diagnostic tool but allow high school students to get a diploma if they couldn't pass all three sections of the test.
Downing said he is hoping to add a proposal he's been working on with Tucson Education Association President Paul Karlowicz, which would keep the AIMS exam but drop it as a graduation requirement and instead print a student's score on his diploma and high school transcript, and let employers and universities use a student's score in hiring or admission decisions if they so desire.
"With the current system, the government makes the decision on every child, whether you're a bad apple or a good apple," Downing said. "My approach is to let the marketplace decide - people can look at the score and make a decision about if it matters. It is not the state's role to destroy people's lives."
Verschoor said the current system takes decision-making power out of local hands.
Arizona's largest teachers union and the Arizona School Boards Association will support Verschoor's bill.
State schools chief Tom Horne and others in the school accountability movement will try to torpedo the measure. "If a student gets all A's and can't pass AIMS, then teachers are promoting mediocrity," Horne said.
Horne said he expects 90 percent of students in the Class of 2006 to pass the reading, writing and math portions of AIMS by the time they are supposed to graduate next spring. Students who don't pass by the end of their senior year can continue to take the test.
Many teachers, parents and school board members say that AIMS can be a good way to measure student progress. Tucson Unified Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer said it also adds needed motivation for students and teachers.
After nearly a decade of tinkering, the AIMS test is still being reshaped. It costs about $11 million a year to administer the test.
"That tends to create cynicism and people's unwillingness to put their nose to the grindstone and do what needs to be done," Pfeuffer said. "I agree with having high and reasonable standards and for the most part I think we have some decent standards - the question becomes how do we measure those standards?"
Pfeuffer said he doesn't necessarily agree with ditching the test entirely, but that the AIMS test needs revision and the state must address the thorny questions of how to apply a graduation requirement to some groups of exceptional education students or those who don't know English.
In the past, Pfeuffer has endorsed a two-tiered diploma, where students who didn't pass AIMS but took it every time it was offered, passed all their courses and remedial work when it was offered and had at least 90 percent attendance could receive a general diploma.
● The Associated Press contributed to this story. ● Contact Sarah Garrecht Gassen at 573-4117 or at