New test proposed for student assessment

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has come up with a plan he hopes will give teachers more time in the classroom with pupils.

An outline of the proposals he will make Oct.

27 to the state Board of Education was announced Thursday.

Instead of children taking the Stanford-9 test and Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test each year, Horne wants children to take a test combining elements of both.

AIMS measures standards developed by Arizona teachers.

Students have been taught the material for which they are tested.

The AIMS test is given in grades three, five and eight and 10-12.

Stanford-9, which is given in grades two through eight, largely measures how Arizona pupils stack up against their peers elsewhere.

"Both tests perform an important function," Horne stated in a press release.

"But giving two tests puts a huge burden on teachers, students, and parents, and takes valuable time away from teaching new information and skills to students.

"Our proposal would be to combine the tests into one test.

Some questions are consistent with Arizona standards and are nationally normed, and can serve both purposes."

"The test would be far more efficient that current practice.

There would be separate reports as though two separate tests were given.

But students would answer approximately one-half as many questions as they answer now when they are given two tests."

Betty Rowe, director of Kingman Academy of Learning, said one of her main concerns with pupils taking two tests annually is financial.

"You can't imagine how expensive buying Stanford-9 tests and answer sheets is if you test anybody outside of the state requirement," Rowe said.

"We tested our students at the beginning and end of last year.

At the end of the year the state buys some of the tests for students, but districts must buy the test at any other time and it has become almost too expensive for us to do."

Stanford-9 testing takes four days.

AIMS tests are administered in reading, writing and math during three days, and while they don't take the whole of each day, the net effect is "to mess up three teaching days," Rowe said.

Rowe said she supports the idea of a more efficient test that decreases testing time and increases learning time.

"But I see some difficulties right now," Rowe said.

"I don't know if (the Department of Education) would have a test developed by Arizona teachers first and ones contrasting standards nationwide at the bottom, or would it be given on two separate days? I'll need to understand the process before I can say it's really going to be good, but anything that gives us more time to teach I would support."

Certain parts of Horne's proposal have merit, said Betsy Parker, assistant superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District.

"But we also have some concerns," Parker said.

"We want to know who's going to put the test together, who will be part of the steering committee or decision makers behind the test, and we want to be sure the test is error free.

Superintendent Horne also hasn't yet said anything about the test correction process, including would it be sent out or graded here."

Parker said the concept of one test is great if it truly would give teachers more time with children in the classroom.

But she wants to ensure that learning actually transfers to the test and the test poses meaningful performance questions.

The state board is scheduled to discuss Horne's proposals Oct.

27 and act on them Nov.

17.

If the board approves, the new proposal will take effect during the 2004-2005 school year.

How will board members react to Horne's proposals?

"I think a lot of it will be based on how familiar they are with assessment tests and testing procedures and I don't know about the educational backgrounds of the people on that board," Parker said.