Aims Scores Fall, Still Outpace State

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Payson schools’ standardized test scores fell from the year before, but still bested state averages, according to recently released Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards results.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien said he was pleased with the reading scores, but that the district needed to work on raising math scores.

The state adopted new, more difficult math standards for this year’s test, and state education officials earlier predicted that math scores would decline.

“When you adopt more rigorous standards, you know in advance that will have some negative impact on state test scores,” said State School Superintendent Tom Horne in a news release.

“But these were important changes to make to be sure that Arizona students would be competitive internationally.”

The changes come as the state moves toward adopting common core standards — a state-led effort to develop national performance benchmarks. Although still under review, Arizona could adopt the standards in the coming months.

O’Brien said the new focus is on increasing literacy. And although more difficult, the number of standards will decrease for greater clarity.

“There will be a lot of changes,” O’Brien said.

Meanwhile at the federal level, the Department of Education is

revamping No Child Left Behind, which still requires an increasing number of students to pass standardized tests.

And, O’Brien said the new state schools superintendent who takes office in January could completely change Arizona’s educational landscape. All the flux means that AIMS will see more changes — maybe even a new name.

Nevertheless, this year’s lower math scores also impacted the AZ Learns labels schools receive, and which range from “failing” to “excelling.”

At the elementary level, an average of 73 percent of students passed the math test, with Payson Elementary students faring the worst with 67 percent passing and Frontier Elementary students scoring the best, with 78 percent passing. Local students out-scored the state average of 62 percent passing.

At the middle school, however, an average of 55 percent of students passed the math test.

O’Brien said the district is investigating programs to help middle school students better understand the math. Overall, middle school students in Payson scored slightly lower than their peers across the state, except for sixth-graders, who scored slightly above.

High school students also scored low on the math portion, with just 58 percent of sophomores passing the test, same as the statewide average, and 32 percent in Payson scored “falling far behind.”

On reading, 83 percent of elementary school students passed the test, compared to 72 percent statewide.

At the middle school, an average of 85 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders passed, better than the state average of 77 percent. Just 70 percent of local eighth-graders passed the test, compared to 73 percent statewide.

At the high school, 87 percent of students passed reading, compared to 77 percent statewide. Sophomores who pass the test don’t have to repeat it.

In writing, local students also generally tested better than others statewide.

The AIMS science test is relatively new, and students statewide have struggled to pass it.

Of the elementary schools, Frontier Elementary students turned in the most solid performance, with 84 percent of students passing.

Julia Randall students ranked in the middle locally with 75 percent passing, and just 64 percent of Payson Elementary School students passed science.

O’Brien said science scores aren’t used to determine the AZ Learns labels, or which schools pass the federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.

At the middle school, 65 percent of students passed the science portion, and just 31 percent of all high school students.

O’Brien said the high school test is biology-based, which many students haven’t taken before the AIMS.

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