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Lawmaker wants pilot program on college, career readiness

PHOENIX — A Democratic lawmaker wants to establish a pilot program to allow high schools to develop their own profiles of whether students are ready for college or careers.

Rep. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, who also serves on the Phoenix Union High School District’s governing board, said current assessments don’t give a complete picture of whether students are ready for the next step.

“AIMS is great but provides poor data in terms of how ready a student is for college or a job, things we should be asking our students to strive for,” he said.

Lujan authored HB 2456, which would have a public high school district and several charter schools develop alternative school achievement profiles to gauge students’ readiness. The bill has passed two committees and is headed to the House floor.

The bill is a response to a study by David Garcia, an Arizona State University assistant professor of education leadership and policy studies. His research found that nearly 50 percent of graduates from Arizona high schools needed remedial math or English classes at a Maricopa County community college or one of the state’s public universities.

“The problem is that we’re not asking schools to get kids college ready,” said Garcia, who attended a news conference Monday with Lujan. “Just because you graduated from high school doesn’t mean they are ready for college or a career.”

Garcia said he’s found little correlation between AIMS scores and the percentage of students ready for college.

Tom Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, noted that the state Department of Education already has a program, AZ LEARNS, offering a success profile for public high school districts and charter schools. However, he said he’s fine with Lujan’s bill as long as participating schools continue in AZ LEARNS.

“It’s not something I was originally behind it but it’s an experiment and if it works that’s great,” Horne said.

The Phoenix Union High School District is set to participate in the program should Lujan’s bill become law. Deborah Gonzalez, assistant superintendent for instruction and accountability, said the program is part of the district’s efforts to prepare students for college.

“AIMS is great for high school, but it doesn’t help us much beyond that,” Gonzalez said.



Here are key facts about the AZ LEARNS, the state Department of Education’s current program for compiling an annual achievement profile for school districts and charter schools:

— For grades 9 through 12, the profile consists of AIMS test results, dropout rate, graduation rate and English language learners test results.

— Based on this profile, schools are labeled as excelling, highly performing, performing, underperforming or failing.

— Schools must submit data required for the profile to receive money from revenues made possible by Proposition 301, a 2000 referendum to raise the sales taxes to improve schools.

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