For many of the 180 Payson High School sophomores who last week took AIMS, Arizona's first standardized graduation test, it was like a shot in the arm -- it wasn't as bad as they expected.
"It was a lot easier than I thought it would be," sophomore Carrie Garrett said. "I expected it to be really hard with a lot harder questions. When they say you have to pass it before you graduate, you expect it to be really hard."
The sophomores who took the four-day test last week don't have to pass AIMS, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, to graduate. That burden will fall on students scheduled to graduate in the year 2002 -- this year's freshmen -- and each graduating class thereafter.
Sophomores around the state, who were required to take the test this year to help the state establish score standards for next year, acted primarily as guinea pigs. Their scores will only appear on their high school transcripts.
"No one knows how colleges will use those transcript scores," PHS Dean of Students Dave Bradley said, "but we needed to give the kids a reason to try to do well on the test."
AIMS, which was designed to make sure that students who graduate in Arizona meet state reading, writing and mathematics standards, has caused parents a lot of anxiety, Bradley said.
Starting next year, students will begin taking the test in their sophomore years and they must pass each of the three components -- reading, writing and mathematics -- by their senior year, to graduate.
Once students pass a component, they don't have to take it again, Bradley said. They only have to retest on the components they fail.
"I think all of our kids will do well if their parents will take the time to go over the booklets with their kids and help them do their best," he said. "I think everything will work itself out. Parents just need to relax and realize the kids will get there and everything will be fine."
The state issues student guides to all students who have to take the AIMS test, and parents will be allowed to review this year's test at Payson High School until Friday.
Parents have to agree to a list of terms and sign an agreement before they can review the test, Bradley said. They will be chaperoned by a school official while they review the test and they will not be allowed to take notes or photographs.
Test results and score standards will not be announced until late summer or early fall, Bradley said, so the district will not be able to evaluate student performance until next year.
Advice for freshman
The five sophomores who were interviewed for this article, who all classified themselves as A-B students, said the writing and reading tests were easier than they expected, but the mathematics portion was tough.
"The hardest part was the math section, because I haven't learned some of the math stuff yet," April Cronin said.
All five students said they had enough time to complete the tests, that it was easier than they expected and the math section was the hardest component.
After taking the test, they offered this advice to the freshman class:
- "Take Algebra I in your freshman year, or think about doubling up on Algebra I and Geometry in your sophomore year." -- Tyson McKee
- "Pay attention in your math and English classes because it will all come up on the test." -- Craig Connolly
- "Do as well as you can and don't put it off. Take it really seriously." -- April Cronin
- "Look over that book that they give you. Read through the questions and understand them before you put down your answer." -- Carrie Garrett
- "Don't stress about it -- relax and get it done." -- Heather Schneider