One of the biggest hurdles to graduation for Payson High School's class of 2006 continues to be passing the math portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards or AIMS test.
Preliminary AIMS test results recently released by the Arizona Department of Education indicated that 78 of the 103 juniors who took the test this fall were below average. Out of that number, 52 students fell far below average, while 27 students approached standards.
Only 20 students met standards and four students exceeded standards.
Those who did not pass will have another opportunity to take the test April 12, 2005. Students who fail that test will have two more chances as seniors. Last spring, 82 out of 227 sophomores passed the AIMS math test; 145 of those students fell below average.
Payson High School's 50 percent passing rate on AIMS math -- the most rigorous of three sections- is about the same as the state average. AIMS math standards included understanding basic algebra, geometry and problem-solving arithmetics.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne announced last week that about 22 percent of the state's juniors passed the math in the fall. When that is added to the students who passed the math section as sophomores, about half of Arizona's students have cleared the AIMS math requirement for graduation.
Last week, Horne met with Gov. Janet Napolitano to discuss the results of the AIMS tests.
The two devised a plan that will redirect $10 million in existing budget dollars to be used as grants to help high school juniors pass AIMS.
Horn said that because growth in individual counties resulted in additional revenues, unspent money is available in this year's Arizona Department of Education budget. Horne and the governor have agreed that the best use of the money would be to assist high school juniors who are struggling with AIMS.
"I refuse to believe that Arizona students are failures," Napolitano said. "I am absolutely committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure students who must pass AIMS are able to do so."
To obtain grant money, schools will be required to submit plans designed to assist individual students. The governor asked that the plans be approved quickly by the state board of education at a meeting next month.
Payson School district officials will decide soon on a course of action to apply for grant money.
Payson High School counselor Don Heizer said he is in the process of analyzing the AIMS fall test results and will be able to identify the content areas students struggle to pass.
He also said he is certain that his study will lead to the conclusion that attendance plays a significant role in how well students perform on the test.