The recently released Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards or AIMS practice tests combined with extensive tutoring, are the tools Payson High School teachers are using to ensure every student has the knowledge and ability to pass the mandatory test when it is administered April 11 to 22.
According to PHS math chairwoman Kara Huskey, the school received the sample tests almost immediately after Arizona schools superintendent, Tom Horne, released them.
"All of the math teachers received a copy and will be using the problems on the sample test to familiarize our students with the specific (AIMS) format," Huskey said.
In analyzing the test, Huskey and fellow teachers noted that all AIMS math questions are word problems --here are no computational problems --nd that 60 percent of the questions are from Algebra 1 and geometry.
That prompted the teachers to devise a test strategy for their students.
"We will be spending time training our students how to read the questions, analyze the diagrams, know which formulas to use, and to be sure they are answering the question asked," Huskey said.
In taking AIMS, she added, "students simply cannot choose a reasonable answer. They must work each and every problem to have any measure of success on the test.
"In order to discourage guessing we are trying to train students to avoid looking at the answers to choose from until after they have worked the problem."
That strategy is unique among the students.
"It's exactly the opposite of how the students are trained to take a multiple choice test for any other subject," Huskey said.
Because students have struggled to pass the AIMS math the past two years, teachers have offered special after-school and intersession tutoring, which have proven successful.
"We are making great gains," Huskey said. "The class of 2006, this year juniors, only had 18 percent of the class meet or exceed their eighth-grade standards.
But when they tested as sophomores, on their high school standards, we then had 36 percent meet and exceed.
"When they retested this fall, we now have 53 percent of the class who is meeting or exceeding."
For those students who still haven't passed AIMS math, teachers have scheduled even more tutoring sessions.
The sessions are:
a) 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. March 21-22
b) 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. March 21-22
c) 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. March 24-25
d) 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. March 24-25
e) 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. April 2
f) 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. April 4 and 6
g) 8 a.m. -5:30 p.m. April 9
Students may enroll in a maximum of two sessions or nine hours. The tutoring is free to juniors. Registration may be completed in the guidance office.
For those students who continue to be frustrated by the test, Huskey's advice is to take full advantage of the tutoring.
"It can really make a difference," she said.
Superintendent Horne agrees with Huskey's assessment.
"Practice questions are a key element in effective preparations for tests, and this work should improve the percentage of students passing," he said.