Panel seeks new exam plus AIMS for students
Capitol Media Services
May 7, 2009

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By Howard Fischer

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/291398

PHOENIX The AIMS test should remain a high school graduation requirement, a special task force recommended Wednesday, but students should be taking another exam, too.

The panel, created by the Legislature, concluded that AIMS formally known as Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards plays a valid role in determining if high schoolers have mastered some academic skills.

But Jim Zaharis, who chairs the panel, said the test's sections in reading, writing and math can go only so far in measuring achievement.

"What it does not do is measure college- and career-readiness," Zaharis said. What's needed, he said, is a benchmark to determine if students are ready to go on with their education after high school or if they still need to learn more.

This new test would be administered in the 11th grade. But, unlike AIMS, passage wouldn't be required for graduation. And students could opt out with a request from a parent or guardian.

The panel is recommending yet another test, this one to be administered in the ninth grade. And this one, like the new 11th-grade exam, would be focused on college- or career-readiness.

But Zaharis, a vice president of Greater Phoenix Leadership, made up of business leaders, insisted that this test wouldn't become a new screening device to counsel some students that they're not college material.

The decision to maintain the AIMS test is a defeat of sorts for Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa.

Crandall pushed legislation last year to create the task force, and had hoped it would recommend scrapping AIMS in favor of some test of college-readiness, perhaps the ACT or SAT tests used by many colleges in the admissions process.

Committee members acknowledged that AIMS measures only 10th-grade achievement, but that proving even that level of proficiency is important.

Beyond that, the panel called AIMS an "essential component" of school accountability.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a strong proponent of both AIMS and its link to a diploma, praised the new report.