Organic Matter: State lawmakers off-target with AIMS

Pat Sajak and Vanna White would probably smile at how legislators in Phoenix are playing "Wheel of Fortune" with the controversial Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test.

When to implement the test as a requirement for high school graduation has been a bone of contention as educators give their input to the state Board of Education and the board, in turn, talks to key legislators.

At present, students must pass the reading and writing portions of AIMS to graduate in 2002.

They must pass the more difficult math section to get a diploma in 2004.

Last week, the state Senate passed SB1431 and sent it to the House.

It would delay implementation of all three parts of the AIMS test as a graduation requirement until 2004.

Sen.

Jay Blanchard (D-Gilbert) is the bill's sponsor.

"There is clearly a sense that we've gone astray with AIMS," Blanchard told the Associated Press.

"This body realizes it.

"We need as many people on board as possible.

We need consensus among our citizens."

Lisa Graham Keegan, state superintendent of public instruction, and other supporters of AIMS hope the House will not go along with the Senate bill and allow the Board of Education to decide the issue.

Putting the most educated young people into the working world after high school should be the goal of everyone.

AIMS may not be a perfect test for measuring student achievement, though I feel it's the best thing currently available.

But when to implement it as a requirement has turned into a tennis match between pro-test advocates and those against it.

Smack.

The ball is in your court.

Can you hit it back to me?

On the other hand, perhaps it's not tennis or Wheel of Fortune.

We could be playing Russian roulette with the future of the next generation.

* * *

Unification between the Mohave Union High School District and Kingman Elementary School District is proceeding and will take effect July 1 when the two become a single K-12 entity known as the Kingman Unified School District.

But unification has unraveled, at least for now, between the Cottonwood-Oak Creek Elementary School District and Mingus Union High School District in Yavapai County.

The governing boards of those two districts passed unification resolutions in late July of last year.

Officials from the two districts began making trips to Kingman to see how unification was progressing here and apply useful lessons in their situation.

However, the Mingus Union Governing Board voted 4-0 March 8 to rescind its July unification resolution and remain a separate district.

"There was not enough study done on the financial impact on Mingus and how it would affect the new district," John Christensen, superintendent of the Mingus Union High School District, said.

"The Cottonwood-Oak Creak board has not voted again on the issue but I understand they are still in favor of unification 3-2."

The Clarkdale-Jerome School District, an outlying K-8 feeder district for Mingus, also has threatened to sue to get $1.7 million to $1.8 million in incentive funds from the state for being left out of the new district, Christensen said.

That was another factor in the Mingus Governing Board rescinding its unification vote, he said.

Christensen did not wish to comment on a story appearing March 11 in the Verde Independent that gave a different account of what led to the Mingus Governing Board action.

In that story, board member Tom Mulcaire in January asked Charles Herf, attorney for the school district, to look into the right to vote of other board members.

It had been suggested three members had a conflict of interest regarding unification.

Attorney General Janet Napolitano responded with a written opinion after examining the circumstances explained of board members Leland Wieweck, Tom Parmarter and Harmon Avera and their possible conflicts of interest.

Napolitano said there was no conflict of interest that should preclude the trio from voting on unification.

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.