Lawsuit challenges AIMS as a graduation requirement
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 18, 2006
Test is arbitrary, advocacy groups contend
Pat Kossan and Anne Ryman


Two legal advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit today that seeks to overturn the statewide AIMS test as a high graduation requirement.

The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court Tuesday, would allow high school seniors to earn a diploma if they completed their required course work but couldn't pass the statewide AIMS test. It would include students in the Class of 2006 and beyond.

The suit calls the state's educational funding system "arbitrary and not based on educational need." This inadequate funding system results in a high dropout rate and teacher/student ratios and class sizes above the national average, the suit claims. Without proper funding, many Arizona students don't receive the services and programs they need to reach the state's academic goals and pass the AIMS test, the suit states.

The William E. Morris Institute for Justice and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed the suit, called Espinoza vs. State of Arizona. The Center for Law in the Public Interest successfully sued the state over its funding of English-language learner programs, with a judge ruling the state must provide more funds.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne criticized the lawsuit, saying if the AIMS test were eliminated, it would harm rather than help struggling students.

Lawmakers established the test because Arizona voters believe high school graduates lack basic skills and the test has required student to study harder and learn the skills they need to survive," he said.

"As usual, the so-called 'Center for Law in the Public Interest' wants to get the judiciary to contradict the will of the people through their representatives," Horne said in a written statement. "This time, it wants to reinstitute social promotion."

"We will use every ounce of effort to beat back this attempt to reverse our hard-won gains in student learning."

The two named plaintiffs in the case are students. Perla Espinoza, an 18-year-old senior at Nogales High School, met all the requirements to graduate, or will meet those requirements this semester, but has not passed any part of the AIMS test. Hannah Gonzales, a 19-year-old senior at Coronado High School in Scottsdale,faces a similar situation and hasn't passed the reading and math parts of AIMS.

Ellen Katz, litigation director for the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, said in a news release that students denied a diploma would suffer from lifelong negative social and economic impacts, including being resigned to low-paying jobs and public assistance programs.

"In addition, students who do not graduate from high school cannot attend universities and do not qualify for financial aid," Katz said.