We remember, and not fondly, those mid-1990s televised public hearings featuring local parents howling at then-Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan for her suggestion that a state exam — later known as AIMS — be required for high school graduation.
It was quite a sight to see some parents, certainly well aware that they were on
television, stand up, identify themselves and then wail on about how their kid wasn’t smart enough to pass such a test. We imagined several anguished teenage cries of "Thanks, Mom," in front of home TV sets across the Valley.
Not feeling smart enough — or, more likely, prepared enough — to take the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards test is something experienced by a significant percentage of the state’s high schoolers. Just like their predecessors nearly a decade ago who didn’t want to be publicly known as intellectual lightweights, many of today’s teens are shy about openly asking for free AIMS tutoring.
As Capitol Media Services reported in Thursday’s Tribune, the current superintendent, Tom Horne, is trying to do something about getting help to those students who need it. Statistics Horne provided Wednesday show 90 percent of the 6,000 seniors who got the state-funded tutoring have passed or are close to doing so. That’s the good news. The bad news, Horne said, is that 14,000 more students are in need of assistance but haven’t asked for it. Maybe this is because they didn’t want to do so publicly.
Horne’s requests to school districts are reasonable: First, that students be allowed to ask for help in a way that ensures their privacy, rather than via an announcement to a class, "Who wants to be tutored on AIMS?" Second, that tutoring be offered during class hours, which are more convenient for students.
AIMS remains an important means for determining what kind of knowledge Arizona’s young people take from high school. The test has been modified recently to more accurately reflect what students were actually taught. Horne is right that AIMS has been this state’s most significant step toward eliminating "social promotion" of students who hardly learned anything to prepare them for the modern working world.
The state appropriated several million dollars for this free tutoring. Every Arizona high school student who needs it should be able to be offered it in a dignified and convenient way.