AIMS score cause local concerns

When results from the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests were released recently, Williams Unified School District’s numbers were not where Brad Madison, high school principal, wanted them to be.

“I know our scores from last year are low — lower than we’d like them,” he said.

Williams' 10th-graders, this year’s juniors, had 52 percent meet or exceed the reading requirement. Just 12 percent met the writing requirement and only 2 percent made the grade in math.

To address this issue, Madison said studies in math, reading and writing will be intensified.

“We should see some dramatic improvement (next year),” he said. “We’re hoping to see better scores.”

Williams’ scores in math exceeded the state of Arizona averages with 12 percent of students meeting the standards. The state average was 11 percent.

In reading, Williams averaged 65 percent that met or passed the test. The state average was 61 percent.

In writing, Williams was a bit behind the state average with 21 percent meeting or beating the standard. The state average was slightly higher at 30 percent.

“We’re working with the English department to get those scores up,” Madison said.

Last spring more than 46,000 sophomores, eighth-, fifth- and third-graders took the tests. The math portion gave most students problems. The scores show that nine out of 10 students in the state failed to the meet the AIMS requirements in math, for the second year in a row.

Williams’ numbers are very close to the state stats with only 12 percent of the students meeting the math requirements.

Third-graders fared well with 77 percent meeting or passing the reading portion and 71 percent passing the writing. However, only 30 percent of the students met or exceeded the math portion of AIMS.

Williams' fifth-graders did well on the reading portion with 82 percent passing the reading section and 59 percent fairing well on the writing portion. They, too, had problem with math, with only 23 percent passing the requirements.

“The third grade has seen the full three years of the program and have a much better hand on what we’re testing for,” said Brad Ellico, Williams Elementary/Middle School principal.

Ellico said the third grade is being used as the benchmark for the educational process.

“We’re working to improve both the SAT 9 and AIMS numbers,” he said.

The eighth-graders had 34 percent pass the reading portion, 17 percent pass the writing portion and only 7 percent pass the math section.

He said the school district has only had a couple of years to work with the higher grades and comparing points now is futile. He said the true test is if the current third graders pass the test with flying colors when they are seniors.

Lisa Graham Keegan, state superintendent of public instruction, said she is concerned about the decrease in achievement from fifth- to eighth-grade, especially in math.

“We need to explore what is happening in our middle schools,” Keegan said in a press release. “We need serious study of our curriculum from the fourth- to eighth-grades.

“I suggest that we are asking teachers to cover too much material instead of focusing instruction on core standards.”

The class of 2001 is expected to meet the standards, but passing the standards will not be a graduation requirement until the class of 2002.

Of the 10 seniors (last year’s juniors) who retook the reading test, 40 percent passed. In writing 27 student retook the test and 26 percent passed. In math, 24 students took the retest and 9 percent met the standards.

Requiring students to pass the math portion of AIMS to graduate has been put off until 2004 for the state to reformat the test because of complaints about the math portion being too hard.

The class of 2001 will have five chances to meet the standards. However, students who didn’t master parts of the AIMS test will have to retake the test in those areas.

People who want background information on AIMS, technical information on the test and the standards setting process can check out the Arizona Department of Education’s website at www.ade.state.az.us.

For those without access to a Website, try calling 602-542-4361 or write 1535 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

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