State seeks district input over AIMS

School districts across the state are going to have input as to when passage of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test should become a requirement for high school graduation.

The test measures how children in grades 3, 5, and 8 and in high school perform to state standards in reading, writing and math.

At present, the state Board of Education has said passage of the reading and writing sections of AIMS will be mandatory for graduation in 2002.

The more difficult math portion of the test must be passed for graduation in 2004.

But members of the state board want additional input from districts that could change the timeline for implementing it as a graduation requirement.

AIMS was one of the topics discussed Monday during a meeting of the state board.

"There's going to be a questionnaire sent out to all school districts seeking information from administrators, teachers and parents on AIMS," said Mike File of Kingman, a member of the state board.

"The material we get back will be researched for common answers and requests and a list of statements put together for a work session in mid-February by the state board."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan addressed the board during that meeting.

She said that AIMS is not going to go away, and that after receiving data on it for the last two years it may be time to move in a new direction, File said.

Stories saying that Keegan stated the test is flawed are not true, said Patricia Likens, director of public information for the state Department of Education.

"What (Keegan) said after looking at data we have for AIMS and Stanford-9 is that she would talk with school officials and communities to discuss the graduation timeline that is in effect today," Likens said.

"She stressed that she is not backing down.

Her call to the public is not going to be about whether there will be a graduation requirement with AIMS, but when it should be."

Mike Ford, the superintendent of the Mohave Union High School District, said what the state board is now looking at is what it should have examined in the first place, input from school officials, teachers and parents.

"I don't think there is any objections to the standards," Ford said.

"The objections are in holding people accountable for something they have not had a chance to get ready for.

"The math portion of AIMS is what has been focused on but if you look at the number of students who do well on Stanford-9 and not well on this somewhere it is flawed and in need of honest appraisal.

By taking time to look at AIMS it can be improved so it really reflects what we should be teaching."

File said he welcomes input from administrators, teachers and parents as they are the people "in the trenches" every day with the children and have seen the frustration on the faces of the children.

Betty Rowe, director of the Kingman Academy of Learning, said more emphasis should be placed on teaching to the state standards with evaluation and testing of students.

But passage of AIMS should not be a graduation requirement, she said.

"As far as it needing changes, last year the state board wrote us and told us of all the changes they would make to the test," Rowe said.

"They've already revised it twice and we haven't yet seen the results of the second revision, so I really can't comment on what is on the test now."

Betsy Parker, the superintendent of the Kingman Elementary School District, said further changes to the AIMS test are warranted.

"I'm really glad we have Mike File as a member of the state board," Parker said.

"Dr.

Ford and I have let him have an earful of what we think needs changing.

"AIMS is a good thing.

We just need to be careful how we introduce it and have time to get it up and running properly."