Moved by the pleas of a Scottsdale high school senior, a Senate panel voted Wednesday to give all future high school students a chance to use their grades to bolster their AIMS scores.
The 4-2 vote came after Maria Camri, a student at Saguaro High School, explained how she has passed the reading and writing portions of the test but is still unable to get a passing grade in math despite taking the test four times and getting tutoring.
Camri, who said she is just two points short, said she should be allowed to use her grades - she has a 3.2 GPA - to boost her math score and let her graduate this spring with her classmates.
With the House already having approved HB2008, the measure now just needs full Senate approval - and Gov. Janet Napolitano's consent - to become law.
The state has administered the test, better known as Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, for years. But it only was with the class of 2006 that passing all three parts became a condition for receiving a high school diploma.
Lawmakers did agree to allow students who have at least a C grade in all their courses to use grades to supplement their AIMS scores by up to 25 percent. Those bonus points do make a difference: State schools superintendent Tom Horne said about 3,000 seniors would not have passed AIMS - nor graduated - in each of the last two years without the bump.
But the temporary reprieve expired in December, leaving Camri and others in the class of 2008 and beyond relying solely on passing AIMS to graduate.
Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, questioned the advisability of bonus points. She noted that Camri said she wanted to be a lawyer. Gray got the senior to admit she shouldn't be able to practice law unless she gets a passing score on the state bar exam.
Camri, however, said her situation is different, as demonstrated at least in part by her 3.2 GPA. "I have worked my, excuse my language, my butt off to get where I am right now today,'' she told Gray.
Camri also said she has taken the math test every time it has been administered, as well as tutoring, both of which would be required in order to receive bonus points.
"And, by the way, the state did not provide tutoring," she said, after the Department of Education ran out of cash. "So I had to pay out of my own pocket."
Sen. Victor Soltero, D-Tucson, said he understands her problem. "Some people just have a hard time taking tests," he said. "Some people have a hard time with the subject of math. In the future, they move on to do great things."
Sen. Tom O'Halleran, R-Sedona, said students should not be penalized for what he believes is an underfunded education system.
Gray, however, remained unconvinced. "Throughout life you have to pass tests," she said, noting that people can't become beauticians or certified mechanics without getting a passing score. Gray said students have had 12 years to prepare for the test.
Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, said providing a permanent bonus point system "essentially guts AIMS." He said the academic standards that form the basis of the test "are not incredibly difficult."