AIMS 2005: Everyone's Passing, but Is Anyone Learning?

Posted on July 14, 2005
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Yesterday, the Arizona Department of Education released the 2005 AIMS results. Scores went up across the board-way up in some cases, with districts reporting increases of 30 and even 50 points.

But are these gains the result of student learning or lowering the bar? Every year since 1999, the state has lowered AIMS passing scores or made content easier. Despite those efforts, about 60 percent of high school students taking AIMS for the first time failed in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

After those exams, the state completely overhauled AIMS to make it easier to pass. In 2005 the failure rate was almost halved: about 30 percent of high school students taking AIMS for the first time failed. According to Monty Neill, co-director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, "This certainly reeks of manipulating the exam and cutoff scores to come up with the desired results."

Furthering the trend, new legislation adopted this spring lets students use qualifying class grades to raise their AIMS scores, meaning students can pass the test and receive their high school diplomas even if they get half of the questions wrong.

At this rate, everyone will be passing, but will anyone be learning?

Source: Arizona Department of Education
1. Failing percentages represent the combined percentages for the "Falls Far Below" and "Approaches" performance level categories.
2. An average of 47,000 10th graders in district and charter public schools were tested in 2002; 49,000 in 2003; 64,000 in 2004; and 63,000 in 2005. Tenth grade results for 1999, 2000, and 2001 were unavailable
3. These results are for "Category 1" students who are fully English proficient and did not require special accommodations.

Key Links:
-Arizona Department of Education: AIMS Results
- Arizona Republic: "More Kids pass '05 AIMS"
- Arizona Daily Star: "AIMS Scores Improve Significantly Statewide" 
- East Valley Tribune: "Whew! AIMS Test Finally Conquered"

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