Principals can waive AIMS
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 10, 2006

Appeal can be made in extreme circumstances

Colleen Sparks

In the Tempe Union high schools, at least 446 seniors have not passed the AIMS test, according to district numbers released this week.

But with action taken Wednesday night by the School Board, seniors will have a second and even a third chance to get a diploma. Ultimately, the board decided, it could be left up to high school principals to decide whether a senior can graduate.

The 446 seniors on the district's list include students learning English and special-education students who might not have to pass AIMS to graduate, said Maja Aleksic, district director of assessment and accountability.

In Ahwatukee Foothills, Mountain Pointe High School officials said that it may be as few as 25 who need to pass if special-education students and English-language learners are not counted. At Desert Vista only 21 seniors still need to pass, school officials said.

In Tempe high schools, there are at least 86 seniors on the list from Marcos de Niza, 81 from McClintock, 73 from Tempe High School and 41 from Corona del Sol. That includes special-education and ELL students who might not have to pass.

Because of board action Wednesday, Tempe Union seniors who don't pass the AIMS test can appeal to principals to try to finish high school on time.

The Tempe Union High School District governing board unanimously agreed that principals would be the ones to decide whether seniors can graduate if they have exhausted all other options.

High school seniors across the state will be the first class required to pass the reading, writing and math sections of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards exam in order to graduate this year. Arizona students who don't pass AIMS can earn extra points to boost their scores by getting C's or higher in certain classes and if they take remedial classes to prepare for the test.

Even if Tempe Union students don't meet those requirements, they can appeal to their principals.

If a family member died, a student was out sick for a long time or another unforeseen circumstance occurred, a principal could decide to let them graduate, said Cecilia Johnson, the district's director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

"The principals are in full support of this," Johnson said.

Johnson said she expects no more than 20 seniors per high school will appeal to their principals this spring because they didn't pass AIMS or meet the alternative option.

She said she believes even fewer students will appeal next year.

"Our senior class thought this was going to go away," Johnson said about the AIMS requirement. "Our juniors now know. They are getting very concerned."

Parents must turn in paperwork by May 19 if their child wants to appeal and they may meet with the principals May 22-24 when the administrators decide whether to grant the appeals, she said.

Across the district, 367 seniors have not passed the reading section of AIMS, 341 haven't passed writing and 446 haven't passed math.

Of the 25 or more seniors at Mountain Pointe High School who have not passed AIMS, Principal Brenda Mayberry estimates that only about seven haven't passed more than one subject.

Mayberry expects no more than five students will appeal to her this year because they didn't pass the test or meet the guidelines in the state alternative.

"There could be zero," she said. "I think they have been taking it very seriously."

The high schools are offering tutoring and reading, writing and math classes to help students prepare for AIMS.