Arizona launches review of high school AIMS test - East Valley Tribune: News

Arizona launches review of high school AIMS test

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Posted: Monday, September 22, 2008 3:52 pm

State education officials are launching a review of the AIMS test and whether it should be expanded or replaced, or lose its current high-stakes status for high school students.

One proposal to be considered is replacing the high school AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) with a national college exam.

Another newly broached idea is to continue to use AIMS as a high school graduation test, but add a high-level version to gauge high school graduates' college and career readiness.

Also on the table is whether to keep requiring Arizona high school students to pass the math, reading and writing exam to get a diploma.

A seven-member task force appointed Monday by the state Board of Education will conduct the review, which is required under a law passed by the Legislature last spring. Gov. Janet Napolitano backed the plan.

The panel includes a number of East Valley educators, some with ties to the Mesa Unified School District.

The group's chairman is Jim Zaharis, vice president for education of Greater Phoenix Leadership and a retired Mesa superintendent.

Other members and their affiliations: Joe O'Reilly, Mesa district; Chuck Essigs, Association of School Business Officials and former longtime business superintendent for the Mesa district; Charles Santa Cruz, Gilbert Unified School District; Deborah Gonzalez, Phoenix Union High School District; Melinda Jensen, Vail Unified School District; and Alan Storm, Pima County Joint Technological Education District.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne cautioned fellow board members that they shouldn't draw any policy conclusions from the Legislature's mandate for a review.

The legislative action came in a surprise move that the chief proponent kept secret from Horne, a defender of the AIMS test as an accountability measure for students, teachers and schools.

Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa and a Mesa district school board member, had slipped the little-known provision into the budget and acknowledged to Capitol Media Services this summer that he kept Horne in the dark so he couldn't derail the change.

However, some state board members said they welcome the review, especially the opportunity to consider whether Arizona does enough to determine students' readiness to move on to higher education or the work force.

The high school AIMS now is essentially a test for 10th-graders, and the state must ensure that students know "where they stand in terms of being college-ready," said Cochise College President Karen Nicodemus, a state board member.

However it came about, "it's an important review," she said, referring to the task force's charge from the Legislature.

The task force is supposed to report its findings and recommendations to Napolitano, the Legislature and the state board by June 30.

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