Anxious schools set goals, help parents grasp AIMS
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 24, 2006

Betty Reid

Enrique Vásquez, a parent in the Isaac School District, said he was confused about the sample AIMS reading test.

For one thing, Vásquez speaks only Spanish and the sample test was in English.

"It's the directions in English that slow me down," Vásquez said as he attempted to take a simulated test as a way of learning how to help his children with the real exam in April at Morris K. Udall School.

Vásquez was among 30 parents who took the sample test recently after schools like Isaac decided to reach out to parents so they can help prepare students for the standardized test.

The results of the 2006 Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test mean different things for three urban school districts.

• Another year of poor test scores in the Roosevelt Elementary School District could change the district because it faces a state takeover.

• The Cartwright School District's goal is to clinch an "excelling" label on Arizona Learns. That's Isaac's goal, too. Good marks on AIMS and the number  of students who take it during test week would show a healthy score under  Arizona Learns for individual schools.

"It will mean everything to us," said Norma Muñoz, a Roosevelt governing  board member. "The goal right now is to show some improvement and not slide  back. A slide back would be detrimental."

Isaac Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said his district has intensified its  focus on teaching and learning since 2002. Seven of 12 campuses received  above-average rankings from the Arizona Department of Education in 2005.

"We believe the persistent efforts of teachers and students will lead to  Isaac School District receiving highly performing and excelling labels from  the state," Scribner said.

To improve its standing, each campus must have 95 percent of its students take the AIMS test in April. To encourage students to be in classes during test week, Isaac, Cartwright and Roosevelt will have pizza giveaways, parties, field trips or pep rallies for each grade, with events such as  sports to ice cream socials for perfect attendance.

At Udall, parents took a 10-minute AIMS test similar to the one students  will take next month. The gathering at Udall also gave parents tips about  how they can help their children.

Vásquez, father of two children at Udall, said the directions written on the  sample AIMS test in English took him 10 minutes to read.

Math was easier if he ignored reading the directions in English, Vásquez  said.

"For me, it's hard," Vásquez said in Spanish. "It takes me a long, long time  to read, and I didn't study. I don't find the directions easy."

His daughter Marlene, 13, watched her father read and begin to mark in  bubbles on the AIMS test. She was prevented from helping him with the test.

The eighth-grader said she knew her father was stressed because his eyes  grew large and his face twitched.

"It was cool. It made him understand that's how we stress out," she said.  "He struggled with the language like I do."

AIMS test week at Isaac is April 3-7; at Cartwright and Roosevelt, it's  April 10-13.