May 12, 2005
High school students who finished AIMS testing last month will pass at a much higher rate than any previous year if the state adopts performance level standards that testing experts recommended Wednesday.
Teachers, parents and school board members who worked with the testing experts to calculate passing scores on the 2005 version of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards insist the improvement would not be a result of watering down the high-stakes graduation test or manipulating the lines between pass and fail.
They say the higher passing rate would be a result of aligning the new AIMS test more closely to classroom instruction and aligning classroom instruction more closely to state standards.
"I came in here as a skeptic, and I am leaving very confident in the process," said Fran Prather, an English teacher at Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School who helped prepare the AIMS recommendations presented Wednesday to the state Board of Education.
Under the proposed passing levels, about two-thirds of high school sophomores would pass the math portion of AIMS administered in April. Last year, nearly two-thirds of sophomores in the class of 2006 failed the math portion of AIMS on their first try.
Students in the class of 2006 are the first who must pass AIMS to receive diplomas. They retook the old version of AIMS in October and then took the new version this spring.
Cumulatively, about 74 percent of students in the class of 2006 would have passed the math portion of AIMS on one of those three tries under the recommendations made Wednesday.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne expressed concern during the meeting that the sudden spike in AIMS results might spur AIMS critics to accuse the state of softening the test. He proposed the adoption of more rigorous performance level standards that would still produce improved passing rates over 2004.
"You don’t want to be perceived as reducing your standards to such an extent that you lose faith from the public," he said.
The state board will reconvene 1:30 p.m. today to continue its AIMS discussion and possibly vote on performance level standards.
What: State Board of Education will continue its AIMS discussion
When: 1:30 p.m. today
Where: Arizona Department of Education building, 1535 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix