Senate chief  won't allow a vote on AIMS test ban

By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - Senate President Ken Bennett will not allow lawmakers to vote on a bipartisan bill to ban the use of the AIMS test as a graduation requirement.

 Bennett said Wednesday he will use his power as the chamber's leader to prevent the measure from even being debated. He said it is irrelevant that the legislation was approved last month by the Senate Committee on K-12 Education.

 The move angered Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, sponsor of the measure, Senate Bill 1069.  

He noted that current law will prevent anyone who now is a junior from graduating next year unless he or she gets a passing grade on the reading, writing and math sections of the test, called Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. Verschoor said a high percentage of students who have taken those tests so far have failed at least one section.  

Verschoor said the state is facing a "train wreck" when a large percentage of the class of 2006 doesn't get a diploma.  

His legislation would make it illegal to use a competency test as a graduation requirement.

 Verschoor said he would be willing to live with a watered-down version that would entitle students who failed AIMS to get a diploma if they got a C in all their required courses, went to class 90 percent of the time and took remediation courses designed to help them pass.

 Bennett, who at one time was president of the state Board of Education, found neither option acceptable.

 "I will work with a bill that deals with some of the problems in a constructive manner," he said. "But I will not support a bill that just comes in and wipes the test away and abandons competency for 'seat time.' "

 He said one option might be having alternatives to AIMS. For example, he said, a student who passed an advanced placement math test might be excused from having to take the math section of AIMS.