<b>Poll shows how Arizonana gauge AIMS requirements</b>

Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) continues to be in the news.

Last week, the State Board of Education unanimously voted to consider changing the timeline for Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) while reaffirming its support for AIMS as a graduation requirement.

At the same time, the board also accepted a report by WestEd, an independent research laboratory. WestEd analyzed an Arizona Department of Education survey and last month’s community meetings held around the state. One of these AIMS meetings was held in Flagstaff.

The report recommended that the graduation requirement be implemented with the graduating class of 2005 in reading, writing and mathematics with a modified passing standard for math. The math test would be shifted to its current passing standard with the class of 2007.

“It’s important to note the study found that the issue for Arizonans is not whether to have AIMS, but rather when the test should be required for graduation,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, state superintendent of public instruction. “The Arizona Academic Standards, strong accountability measures and AIMS are here to stay.”

How do people around the state feel about AIMS?

Arizonans support requiring public school students to pass the statewide AIMS test before graduating high school, according to a recent Grand Canyon State Poll survey. The public believes a mandatory performance-based examination such as AIMS will encourage students to pay more attention in school and to study harder.

The Social Research Laboratory of Northern Arizona University, under direction of Fred Solop, conducted a telephone survey of 505 Arizona adults between Feb. 23 and March 9. Survey results have a margin of error of + or 4.5 percent.

Most people in Arizona have read or heard something about the AIMS test. Just about half of adults in Arizona (49 percent) say they have heard a lot about AIMS and another 28 percent have read or heard some information about the test.

When asked if public school students should be required to pass the AIMS test before graduating high school, two of every three people surveyed (65 percent) say they should. Thirty percent of Arizonans disagree with the requirement, saying public school students should not be required to pass the AIMS test to graduate. Parents of children in grades K12 are less likely to support using AIMS as a graduation requirement than people who are not parents of schoolage children. Fiftyeight percent of parents with schoolage children agree that AIMS should be a graduation requirement compared to 66 percent of other respondents.

Most people (73 percent) agree that students will pay more attention to school and will study harder if they are required to pass a test to graduate. Only one quarter of the public disagrees that students will work harder.

People are more doubtful that AIMS requirements will help improve the quality of public schools. More than half the public (54 percent) says teachers teach to the AIMS test and, as a consequence, real learning is often neglected. The public is divided over whether posting AIMS scores will help improve the quality of education in Arizona. Fifty-one percent believe posting scores will improve education and 44 percent think posting scores will not improve education.

Arizonans tend to be critical of public school education in the state. When asked to rate the job public schools are doing, less than one in three people (30 percent) say the schools are doing an excellent or good job. Almost twice as many people (57 percent) rate school performance as fair or poor.

Despite support for the AIMS test, Arizonans do not believe all public schools are doing an equal job preparing students for the exam. Only 11 percent of people say schools are providing the same level of preparation for all students in Arizona. Fifty-nine percent of people say the public schools are not equally preparing students for the exam and another 30 percent are not sure.

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