Group terms AIMS testing a violation of human rights
By Daniel Scarpinato
The state's high-stakes AIMS test has been criticized for many reasons - its format, its execution, its grading scale.
But a trio of prominent locals is arguing the test's real problem is a violation of human rights, a notion state education officials aren't taking seriously.
The Tucsonans say AIMS breaks a rule in the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."
In a letter to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne last month, the group requested he issue an official statement saying the state Department of Education will work within the framework of human and civil rights.
The letter suggests parents have the right to decide if their children take the AIMS test. It is signed by Herbert Heaton, retired head of the Rockefeller Foundation; Charles Tatum, dean of the University of Arizona's College of Humanities; and June Webb-Vignery, chair of the Arizona State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Still, it didn't sway Horne, a strong advocate of the test.
"I think you'd have to be an inhabitant of an insane asylum to see a connection between the Declaration of Human Rights and requiring students to meet standards to graduate from high school," he said.
"This illustrates why some of the out-of-control portions of universities in this country have been pulling our society into the sinkhole of mediocrity," Horne said. "The idea that a student is entitled to a diploma at age 18 without demonstrating that the student has learned anything is in such contradiction to the very idea of higher education."
But Webb-Vignery, a former teacher and professor, said the argument is simple: She opposes education moving from local to federal control. It's that shift, she said, that has resulted in the human rights violation.
Heaton said he is arguing in "fundamentals" rather than against issues with the test itself.
"The idea jelled when I was talking to someone who was an expert on the AIMS test, who said, 'How can this help students to learn when there is no feedback?' " Heaton said.
"I walked out and realized there was no use arguing within the framework of what they are doing, no use arguing about the tests. I'd already heard Horne describe how he took one problem with the test after another and fixed them."
AIMS, which tests students in math, language and writing, is a graduation requirement for the Class of 2006. Schools are scrambling to prepare students to pass because many did not meet the requirements on one or more portions of the exam last year.
● Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 573-4195 or at