Payson District Not Affected By Funding Suspension

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Payson School District coffers will not be affected by the state's decision to suspend AIMS tutoring programs for lack of funds.

That's because the $1.5 million the legislature allocated for academic assistance was paid directly to the tutors, rather than being funneled through the district.

"It (the suspension of the program) does not affect our budget," said Bobette Tomerlin Payson School District Associate Superintendent of Business Services.

About eight local tutors had signed up for the program. Much of the remedial work for students, who have not yet passed the state mandated AIMS test, was being done in the regular classroom at PHS.

"There were some students taking tutoring but most were (enrolled) in our AIMS class," PHS principal Roy Sandoval said.

Since that class is funded out of the district's M&O budget, there was no loss of funds when the department of education shut down, late last week, the State Tutoring Program.

The state program paid tutors, approved by individual schools districts, $40 per hour to give free AIMS tutoring to high school juniors and seniors who had previously failed the high stakes test.

Passing AIMS reading, writing and math tests is a requirement for graduation from Arizona high schools.

The decision to suspend tutoring came only days before students around the state, including those at PHS, are to take the reading and writing portions of the test.

They were administered Feb. 26 and 27.

In addition to the reading and writing tests, students will be tested on math in April. They'll also take a first-ever AIMS science test, but do not have to pass it to graduate.

State department of education officials estimate that more than 7,000 of the high school students participated in the tutoring program last spring.

However, when the tutoring was first offered in 2005, less than 700 juniors took advantage of it.

The lack of interest was especially true at Payson High where only a handful of students participated in the before- and after-school tutoring sessions.

At the onset of the program, about $10 million was available to pay tutors.

However, when less than $800,000 of the money was actually used, the funds were returned to the state. That prompted the legislature to reduce program funding to about $1.5 million per year.

Now, that is not enough to adequately fund the program.

In 2005, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne cited tutoring for helping students pass the tests, saying 91 percent of those who participated moved up at least one performance level on at least one of the AIMS exams.

Last year, after two years of tutoring, there was a slight upward trend in statewide scores. The average scores in math rose to 70 percent from the 2006 mark of 68. In reading, averages rose from 68 to 69 percent. Writing showed the biggest gains, going from 72 to 78 percent.

At PHS in the spring of 2007, AIMS scores showed 76 percent of students met or exceeded minimum standards in writing.

AIMS results for mathematics showed 61 percent meet or exceed minimum standards, and, in reading, 72 percent meet or exceed the minimum standards.

State school officials hope the tutoring will return in the spring, but say the legislature could also choose to eliminate the program entirely.

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