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Governor wants better teaching to boost lousy AIMS science scores

PHOENIX – A 62 percent failure rate among high school students on the science portion of the AIMS test shows the need for Arizona schools to improve their teaching of the subject, Gov. Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

“I think the scores validate what we’ve been saying, which is our kids need more science. And now it’s our responsibility to help them get it,” Napolitano said during her weekly media availability.

Last spring was the first time that science was a part of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards. High school students must pass the reading, writing and math portions of AIMS to graduate, but the science portion isn’t required for graduation.

Napolitano said Arizona students must have a strong understanding of science to succeed.

“That is what they are going to need; that’s why we need more science teachers,” Napolitano said.

The governor pointed to a new state-level education center that focuses on helping students get the science, technology, engineering and math skills they need to compete in the global economy.

The science portion of AIMS includes questions on life sciences and the nature of science. The results from all sections of the test are used by the federal government to measure if schools are meeting the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tom Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, said he agrees with the governor that there needs to be more focus on science education and on attracting science teachers.

Horne said he expects scores to improve as younger students are taught the standards of the science portion of AIMS, which is administered in grades four, eight and 10.

“You can’t have instant results,” he said.

“The teachers know they are supposed to teach the standards and what students are supposed to rise up to,” Horne said.

On another matter, Napolitano said a study earlier this year that ranked Arizona last in per-person federal earmarks illustrates that the state doesn’t get a fair share back for the tax dollars it sends to Washington. She said not everything commonly referred to as an earmark represents pork-barrel spending.

“We have not gotten out of Washington what a young, growing state needs,” Napolitano said.

“There is a real difference between a bridge to nowhere and a bridge over the highway for kids so they can get to a school,” Napolitano said. “There is a real difference between a bridge to nowhere and more roads in Maricopa County. There is a real difference between a bridge to nowhere and funding health services for children in Arizona.”

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