Students Get Golden Chance On Aims

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Help has arrived for Payson High School juniors and seniors who haven't passed the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test.

The only problem is that not many students are taking advantage of the assistance during the Oct. 3-14 fall break.

At a first-day AIMS tutoring session Oct. 3, only a handful of PHS students had picked up their free state-provided study guides and were participating.

PHS principal Roy Sandoval was baffled by the students' apathy, especially since juniors and seniors must pass reading, writing and math tests before they graduate.

"It (the tutoring) is not mandatory, but it's in their best interest," he said.

PHS counselor Don Heizer also expressed concern that students are not taking advantage of tutoring, especially since school research shows those who participate, succeed on the test.

"We know when students take advantage of what's being offered them they pass (AIMS)," he said.

Some students, however, have expressed their displeasure at being forced to take the AIMS.

Last spring, in a letter to the editor of the Payson Roundup, Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Dakoda Wholly wrote, "I do not think passing the AIMS test should be the determining factor of whether a student graduates from high school or not.

"I feel that whether or not a student graduates from high school should really depend on if they did well in school by achieving passing grades."

There are those in the state political arena who also question the way AIMS tests have been mandated.

"AIMS has been a controversial thing for 10, 12 years," Arizona Sen. Jake Flake recently told a Payson audience. "(AIMS) was probably the biggest mess the state of Arizona has ever got into. But it was the right intent. It was to increase the quality of education."

As controversial as AIMS is, the hard fact is, the students still must pass it to graduate.

Tutoring

For those who wish to practice for the upcoming AIMS test -- which will be administered Oct. 25 to 27 -- tutoring will continue Oct. 10 to 14.

David Medinger is tutoring students in AIMS math and Brian Young is assisting with the reading and writing portions.

Interested students can enroll in the principal's office with school secretary Grace Popelier.

For PHS juniors, the upcoming test will be the second opportunity they've had to pass it. For the class of 2006, it will be the fourth chance they've had.

AIMS will be given again in the spring, and that will be the final chance seniors have to pass the test.

State records show more than 50,000 juniors and seniors statewide have not yet passed AIMS.

The guides

Inside each personalized study guide, made available to every student who has not passed AIMS, is a graph that shows how the student fared on the last reading, writing and math test he or she took.

To pass, students must attain "Exceed the Standards" or "Meet the Standards" rankings. Those who only earn ratings of "Approach the Standards" or "Fall Far Below the Standards" are considered to have failed the test.

The student guides provide sample AIMS test questions and clues on helping students correctly understand the questions and answer them correctly.

"The guides are huge helps for the kids," Sandoval said.

After students finish the practice questions in the guides, they are referred to an Internet site for more practice and test tips. The site is www.ade.az.gov/standards/aims.

Students who fail after the upcoming fall test will be able to print new individual student guides from the Internet.

For Sandoval and other district administrators, one of the most attractive facets of the tutoring and guides are that they don't cost the district a penny.

"The state pays for everything," Sandoval said.

After thousands of students failed the test two years ago, the Arizona State Board of Education allocated $10 million for academic support and tutoring.

In the plan, Payson was among the high schools to apply for and receive $270 in tutoring funds for each junior who had not passed AIMS. The money paid for nine hours of tutoring for each student who took advantage of the opportunity.

After the state board paid for tutoring, it voted to spend $2.1 million of what was left over on the study guides.

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