Instead of two standardized tests every year in Arizona, students soon will have only one.
The Arizona Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to eliminate the Stanford 9 test as early as the 2004-05 school year and rely solely on a more versatile version of AIMS.
“This is a victory for Arizona’s public school students,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said. “When this new test takes effect, there will be more time devoted to classroom instruction.”
Under the plan adopted Monday, the state will embed elements of the Stanford 9 into Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards — creating one test that serves the functions of both.
The Stanford 9 is a national exam that shows how students, schools and states rank in reading, language arts and math compared with their peers nationwide.
AIMS does not currently allow such comparisons. Instead, it measures whether or not students met expectations based on state standards in reading, writing and math. Federal and state laws mandate the use of both types of tests.
“I see nothing but benefits from this,” said Thomas Haladyna, a testing expert at Arizona State University West in Phoenix.
Haladyna, who helped develop a one-test system in Oregon, told the board that Arizona’s consolidated test will be reliable and will conserve classroom time now spent administering the Stanford 9.
“You’ll get good information from the AIMS test and good information from the embedded Stanford 9 questions with a very, very small loss in precision,” he said.
Representatives from the Arizona Education Association and school districts in Tucson and Glendale attended the meeting Monday and welcomed the relief from two weeks of standardized testing every spring.
Joe O’Reilly, testing director in the Mesa Unified School District, did not attend Monday’s meeting but has followed the Stanford 9 issue closely. He agreed that interrupting two weeks of instruction for testing can be too much — especially in the spring, when students are preparing for final exams. “After a while, the students were getting a little test-weary,” he said.
But O’Reilly said most students will see a reduction of only two or three hours in standardized testing — even if it means only one week instead of two will be interrupted.
He also said AIMS, which is now administered only in third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades, will have to be administered every year from second through ninth grades — like the Stanford 9 — to fill the gap left by the Stanford 9.
Considering that AIMS is a longer test than the Stanford 9 and will get longer when new questions are embedded, O’Reilly said some students will actually see an increase in standardized testing.
Although the Board of Education agreed with Horne’s proposal to combine the two tests into one, many expressed concern with his recommendation to proceed in 2004-05.
“Dropping all the Stanford 9 data one year, and being totally dependent on the AIMS data the next year, gives me cause for concern,” board member Matthew Diethelm said.
Diethelm urged the board to conduct field tests of the consolidated AIMS exam in 2004-05 and hang onto the Stanford 9 until 2005-06.
Board member John J. Pedicone also voiced support for delaying the new AIMS test until 2005-06 to allow more time to address any kinks.
“I don’t want to be part of decisions that are made on such a short-term basis,” he said. “I want a decision based on a long-term vision.”
After debating the how and when of the proposal for about an hour, the board voted 7-1 to finalize the timeline as early as its January meeting. The dissenting vote came from Diethelm.
The Department of Education now will ask testing companies to write an AIMS exam that can either be implemented in 2004-05 or be partially field tested that year with full implementation in 2005-06 — depending on which timeline the board agrees on.