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Testing in Arizona: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) is used to track how well students are performing compared to state standards. Students in grades 3 through 8 and 10 take the AIMS in mathematics, reading and writing. Students must pass the grade 10 exam in order to graduate from high school.

The AZ AIMS test is based on the Arizona state standards, which define what students should be learning each year. Arizona uses this test in conjunction with other measures to assign schools a rating under its AZ LEARNS Achievement Profile system.

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final determination.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles is for the 2009-2010 school year.

Tests in Arizona

Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS)

The AIMS, a state standards-based test, is designed specifically to measure students' progress toward achieving Arizona's standards in mathematics, reading and writing. Achievement is measured by how well students learned the skills described in the state standards at each grade level.

Arizona's state academic standards describe what students should know and be able to do in nine different subjects as they progress from kindergarten through high school. Complete standards are detailed on the Arizona Department of Education Web site. Printed copies of the standards can be ordered from the Department of Education by calling (602) 542-3088.

The AIMS is given to students every spring in grades 3 through 8 and 10. Students are tested in reading, math and writing. In 2007-2008, a science assessment was added. Students are tested in grades 4, 8 and high school. High school students in grades 9 and 10 enrolled in a life science course take the assessment.

How are the tests scored?

AIMS results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students receive one of four ratings: falls far below standard, approaches the standard, meets the standard, or exceeds the standard. The goal is for all students to meet or exceed state standards on the test.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject, the combined percentage of all students scoring at meets the standard and exceeds the standard is displayed.

Why do the test results matter?

AIMS test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Students don't need to pass the AIMS to be promoted to the next grade, but passing the grade 10 AIMS test is a graduation requirement. Students who do not pass the test in grade 10 have several opportunities to retake the test. Recent legislation has made it possible for students to use course grades to augment their test scores so they can graduate.

Students who do not pass the AIMS are eligible for free tutoring. The state has a telephone hotline, (602) 542-5031, to answer questions about the test. To obtain tutoring, call (602) 542-7466. You can also find information at the Arizona Department of Education State Tutoring page. Booklets with AIMS test-taking tips and sample questions are available from schools. Sample tests can be found on the Arizona Department of Education Web site.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring and obtaining supplemental services.

AZ LEARNS Achievement Profiles

Arizona uses AZ LEARNS Achievement Profiles to provide an indication of overall student performance at each school. The profiles for elementary and middle schools are based on: the percent of students passing the AIMS test, the improvement or decline of AIMS scores over three years, the percent of students in each grade making year-to-year academic progress (indicated through the Measure of Academic Progress results, or the MAP), and whether or not the school made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). High school profiles are based on AIMS, AYP status and graduation/dropout rates. Using these indicators, the state rates schools as Excelling, Highly Performing, Performing Plus, Performing, Underperforming, Failing to Meet Academic Standards or Pending.

Why do AZ LEARNS profiles matter?

A designation of Underperforming or Failing suggests that the overall student population at the school is not meeting the state's expectations. Schools designated as Underperforming face state mandated consequences; they must, among other things, notify the public of their designation, and develop and implement a school improvement plan.

What if my child attends an underperforming or failing school?

If your child attends an underperforming or failing school, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students and what you can do to help. Because underperforming schools are likely to face consequences under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, your child may be eligible to receive federal and/or state money for tutoring or to transfer to another school.

Why do some schools not have AZ LEARNS profiles?

If a school has a small number of students with valid AIMS scores, the state does not calculate a profile for that school. If your school's profile is not listed on GreatSchools, contact your principal to find out more.

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Comments from readers

"I want to agree with the first comment here (despite the rediculase) because s/he is absolutely right. The tests measure nothing except how well the child takes tests, and yet are driving our schools away from teaching the critical thinking skills that our kids--and our world--need. "
"WOW! rediculase? no comment... "
"In my opinion the AIMS test is a useless peice of garbage for our kids to have to take in order to graduate. The already take enough tests in school SAT's, the Standford Test ect. They need ato take so many test while in school to see where they are and to meet expectations for college than you throw up a new test (AIMS) that they have to pass in order to graduate which is rediculase. Some of these students study so hard and work so hard and pass all their classes through 12th grade but if they dont pass AIMS they don't graduate. Who is the idiot who though of this test? The math even has stuff on it that the students are never taught like discreete math and so on. My son didn't even know about discreete math untill he took it in college, and you idiots are putting that on out kids test that dont even know about it or heard of it. What about kids with an IEP? What happens to them they are just left to suffer. Last year over 1000 students didnt graduate because they didnt pa! ss the AIMS, so now they cant get into college you guys screw up our childrens future by making them take that test. Colleges donm't care wheter they take the AIMS or not they only care if they have a diploma and at least a 2.29 GPA. Some colleges require a hirer GPA but they dont require the AIMS. Get your head out of each other's asses and get rid of the AIMS. Our children have enough tests to take. "