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Sun, Sept. 22

Study: AIMS test may be off target in terms of achievement<BR>

Doctoral students at Arizona State University have released a study that suggests high-stakes tests like Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) may be counterproductive to academic achievement.

"I have no reason to question the validity of the study," said Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association.

"They looked for specific information on whether the use of state-developed tests has an overall impact on improving student achievement and found no correlation.

I'm not surprised at the findings, as we always thought education was more than a test."

Jeri Wolsey, legislative chairman of the Kingman Education Association, said the organization supports AIMS testing.

It has undergone some revision during the past few years and needs further revamping, she said.

"AIMS is such a different test from others that I think it's like comparing apples and oranges (when measured against other tests)," Wolsey said.

"Take one test, and all you can say afterward is that here is where this child stands now.

We should look at overall grades, as tests are simply an indicator of where we need to go."

The 236-page ASU study is on the Internet at www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/epru/documents/epsl-0211-126-epru.pdf.

It examined high-stakes test indicators that include National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) for math and reading in grade four and math in grade eight for students in 28 states where those tests are mandatory.

In addition, it looked at high school graduation exam indicators for American College of Testing (ACT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams in those states.

David Berliner and Audrey Amrein, the two principle writers of the study results, stated in their findings that:

• Alabama and Michigan showed the most improvement in academic achievement of students following implementation of high stakes tests.

New Jersey, Ohio and South Carolina posted moderate gains.

• Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia students showed the greatest declines in academic achievement after implementation of high stakes tests.

Maryland demonstrated a moderate loss in academic achievement.

• States where overall academic achievement showed only marginal improvement or decline included California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

"Analyses of scores and participation rates for the NAEP, ACT, SAT and AP tests suggest there is inadequate evidence to support the proposition that high-stakes tests and high school graduation exams increase student achievement," Berliner and Amrein wrote in their conclusion.

"Scores seemed to go up and down in a random pattern after high-stakes tests are introduced, indicating no consistent state effects as a function of a high stakes testing policy."

Berliner and Amrein could not be contacted Thursday for further comment about the study.

Mike Ford, superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District, said he is a supporter of AIMS standards but not necessarily the test.

"I would support (the test) if we had started it far enough ahead of graduation that all students had prepared 12 years to take it," Ford said.

"But it has been bounced around so many times that our students still don't think it's something they will be held accountable for (as a graduation requirement in 2006).

"High-stakes tests can be used as part of the overall picture.

But when you say high stakes and a kid fails, you infer he or she is a failure, and part of our education system is built on educational styles and bringing students along at a rate they can assimilate material."

Kotterman said the way AIMS is structured makes it a requirement and not a high-stakes test.

"High-stakes, by definition, is where everything hangs on one test," Kotterman said.

"Everyone must pass it, but school districts also can submit (to the state Department of Education) equivalency demonstrations of proficiency.

Districts have not yet begun to develop them, but one example would be where a particular class meets the math standard."

The KUSD will look to develop equivalency demonstrations of proficiency in math, reading and writing in the future, Ford said.

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