With all Marana, Oro Valley and Tucson schools back in session for the new school year, parents and students are having to take a serious look at the state-administered AIMS test in addition to their daily grind of homework and learning.
High schools will be administering the test at the end of this month.
Students will take the writing portion on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the reading portion on Oct. 26 and the math portion on Oct. 27.
On testing days, educators encourage parents to have their children mentally and physically ready to take the tests.
School officials continue to stress that AIMS, or Arizona’s Instrument for Measuring Standards, must be taken seriously by students and parents because a failing grade on any portion of the tests means no high school diploma.
With the stakes so high, the burden is spread around between the student, the teachers, the district and parents.
Monica Nelson, the chief academic officer for the Amphitheater Public Schools district, said parents should take time to discuss the importance of the AIMS test with their children. Studentc must understand the test is important. Simply checking any answer on the multiple choice tests is not an option.
“AIMS provides one piece of data to let parents know how their children are performing,” said Nelson. “I encourage parents not to make AIMS the single issue. Parents should also keep an eye on all factors.”
Educators say parents should avoid scheduling any doctor’s or dentist’s appointment on testing days.
At home, parents also have other avenues to explore to help their children prepare for AIMS. Besides seeking assistance at the school, parents can log on to the Arizona Department of Education website.
The state’s website provides insights into what will appear on each test, and allow students to take practice tests to become better acquainted with what to expect.
Taking practice exams is encouraged for students who suffer from test anxiety.
In July, the Arizona Department of Education released accumulative scores for school districts. A few weeks later, parents received a letter, showing how their children performed on the tests during the 2010-2011 school year.
“Parents receive their children’s AIMS scores through the mail, and they really have to look at them,” said Allison Murphy, principal of Marana High School. “We encourage you to understand what each score means, talk to your child about it. If your child is falling behind, talk to the schools and see what can be done. Talk about those steps you can take.”
Students are tested in reading, writing, math and science. The science portion was added last year, but does not count against a student who is trying to graduate.
In grading, a student is judged by where they are according to state-set standards. A student will exceed, meet, approach or fall far below the standards.
Nelson said students who are falling far below standards need extra help. Parents can contact the school’s principal to find out about specific programs, and getting summer help.
While primary and middle school students take the test, it doesn’t start counting until 10th grade. At that time, the students have their sophomore, junior and senior years to meet the standard in the reading, writing and math portions.
Last May, a lot of high school seniors stressed over whether they passed. In May, they eagerly waited for the scores to see if they could walk with the rest of their class at graduation.
Todd Garelick, associate principal of Mountain View High School, said AIMS is here, and unfortunately, the standardized test prevented some kids from receiving a diploma last year.
“Parents really need to be taking these scores seriously,” he said. “You have to be involved, and you need to get involved early.”
In the Amphitheater school district, 16 students missed the mark and didn’t graduate in May. In the Marana Unified School District, four students didn’t graduate.
While those numbers seem low when compared to the 1,135 students from Amphitheater schools, and the 871 from Marana schools who did graduate, not graduating was a devastating blow for those 20 students after 12 years of hard work.
School officials continue to encourage parents and students to take action long before their senior year. Passing AIMS in the sophomore and junior years means a less stressful senior year.
A common struggle for Arizona’s high school students is math. While the 2011 scores were up 2 percent from the year before, 41 percent of the students tested failed the math portion.
Reading scores increased by 3 percent from the year before, with 76 percent of the students passing.
“Arizona made a strong commitment to improving our students’ reading (levels) starting in 2002, when we started our AZ Reads program,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. “The Department will continue to provide the necessary support and resources our teachers and schools need to help students be the best readers that they can be.”
In writing, 71 percent of the students tested met standards.
For a detailed list of AIMS results scored by grade, school, district, charter and county, log on to the state’s website at http://www.ade.az.gov/researchpolicy/AIMSResults.
Amphitheater and Marana schools aims testing schedules
Writing (1 session, 2-2.5 hours) Tuesday, Oct. 25
Reading (1session, 2 hours) Wednesday, Oct. 26
Math (2 sessions 1.5 hours each) Thursday, Oct. 27
Writing Tuesday, Feb. 28
Reading Wednesday, Feb. 29
Math Tuesday, April 10
Science Wednesday, April 11
Source: Arizona Department of Education website