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Panel says keep AIMS, add other tests for high school students

PHOENIX – Arizona should keep the AIMS test as a high school graduation requirement but add other tests to measure students’ readiness for college and careers, a state task force recommended Wednesday.

The task force created as a result of 2008 legislation submitted its report to Gov. Jan Brewer, top legislative leaders and the state Board of Education.

The seven-member task force, consisting mostly of educators, said the high school AIMS test is an important measure of students’ proficiency of 10th-grade standards. But it said the reading, writing and math exam doesn’t do enough.

The task force recommended steps that include requiring 11th-graders to take a college and career readiness test but giving parents the option of exempting their children.

Also, a current test for ninth-graders should be replaced with one measuring career and college potential, the task force said.

AIMS measures student achievement and provides accountability measurements for teachers and schools but it can’t meet the need for a “credible, robust test of college and career readiness,” the report said.

“Our goal is to provide opportunities for students that open rather than close doors,” it stated. “For example, tests that provide information to students and parents as they choose their college or career pathway are an incentive that opens doors for further success.”

All of the testing should have “feedback loops” so that students can assess their progress and make timely corrections to meet their academic objectives, it said.

The 2008 bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Rich Crandall of Mesa, said he hadn’t read the report and could not immediately comment on it. He said last year the state should revamp its testing program.

AIMS, short for Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, is designed to measure students’ knowledge of math, reading and writing.

The State Board of Education and the Arizona Department of Education developed the AIMS test under a mandate in state law. High school testing began in 1999 and testing of grades 3, 5 and 8 began in 2000. Testing in other grades has been added since.

Starting in 2006, high school students have had to pass the AIMS test to get a diploma. Students begin taking the high school graduation test as sophomores and have multiple opportunities to take it.

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