Students Take Test That Counts


Shay Scott, a sophomore at Payson High School, wonders if the AIMS test will prevent her from graduating in 2002.

"Only 20 percent of the students here passed the AIMS test last year," she said. "That means that one in five of us will graduate."

Shay can do the math for that problem, but she's not so sure she did well enough on the math portion of the AIMS test last week to pass it.

"I'll probably take it next year -- at least the math part," she said after finishing four days of AIMS testing, which holds students to state standards set in reading, writing, and math.

Lane Stratton, one of six math teachers at the high school, said his students seemed to do all right on the test.

"I was happy with the kids' remarks," he said. "They felt comfortable on how they did with the math."

But Stratton had talked to his algebra II and geometry students.

Students who were sophomores last year and juniors this year took the test a second time, even though their diplomas didn't hinge on their AIMS test results.

"Almost all the juniors took the test," Stratton said. "They put more effort into it. It's on their transcripts, but it doesn't count toward graduation for this year's juniors."

It does count for the sophomores, however, and that's what Shay and her classmates are worried about.

Jerry Baker, another sophomore, said he thought he did poorly on the math part of the test.

"I'll probably be here an extra year," he said. "I don't want to be here another three years."

Jerry doesn't have plans to go to college and said he thinks the AIMS test is "useless."

Jeremy Conner, a senior who has plans to study engineering at the University of Arizona, passed his AIMS test when he took it last year. He's not worried about graduating, but he doesn't see much value in the test.

"I don't believe it should be required to graduate," Jeremy said. "I think it should be for college placement. Some jobs you can go into right after high school. We were like guinea pigs. We took it last year. I passed, but they didn't give me my results."

Jeremy said he knew as a freshman that he wanted to be an engineer and took as many math classes as he could, ending up with precalculus in his senior year.

"They already have college placement tests," he said. "Either keep the AIMS test and get rid of the college placement tests, the SAT and the ACT, or vice versa."

Added pressure

Shay said she plans to be a physical therapist and go on to college.

"If they're going to give the AIMS test, they ought to start in kindergarten," she said. "I have enough things to worry about -- a job, parents, peers, homework and school work. They're trying to cut down on electives for this test, plus our parents have to pay for extra study classes."

Stratton said his students thought the AIMS test would be more difficult than it was. But, he said, they need to strengthen their critical-thinking skills.

"You have 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds who cannot or will not add simple numbers in their heads. They reach for their calculators. I believe students should learn why something works, how something works, instead of getting the right answer and being satisfied."

By the time a student has taken Algebra II, that student ought to be able to pass the AIMS test, he said.

One student marked all the "Bs" in a column, he said. That same student drew a Confederate flag in place of a math diagram.

"So what do you do with a student like that," Stratton asked. "You're going to have to deal with apathy in some cases."

He said he sees the system failing because some students don't take algebra until they get to high school.

"Not every kid has the skills to take Algebra II," he said. "If we had started in kindergarten, then maybe they'd all have the skills. You don't make this rigorous program and start at the end. I think they went backwards with this AIMS test. I think it's a good idea, and we need higher standards, but you don't start at the end."

Students can retake any portion of the AIMS test that they fail until they pass.

"The real test will be the class of 2002," he said. "That'll be the first time when we'll say you either get a diploma or you don't. We'll just have to see what happens."

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