Monday, June 2, 2008

Goldwater Institute: AIMS as Graduation Requirement is a Farce

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

AIMS has suffered what ought to be its final indignity. The legislature passed "AIMS Augmentation" in order to allow 6,000 high school seniors to graduate despite an inability to pass what at most amounts to a test of basic skills.

f you can't pass a tenth grade level test, the original thinking went, you don't deserve to graduate from high school. A diploma should mean something, and students need an incentive to work hard. After delaying the graduation requirement several times, the legislature has effectively killed it through easily obtained bonus points.

Using AIMS as an exit exam was never the best idea. Florida uses their testing regime to identify students who aren't reading by the third grade. Students who don't learn reading in the early grades typically drop out before getting close to graduation. So, if improved student learning is the ultimate goal, focusing on earlier grades makes more sense.

Florida has required tens of thousands of students behind in third grade reading to repeat the third grade. Apparently, it's working: Florida's low-income students now outscore the average of all Arizona students in fourth grade reading. In short, Florida sets kids up to succeed, rather than to fail--and they have improved statewide test scores to show for it.

State policymakers should rethink our entire system of testing. Parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers all require a credible and transparent system of student testing. The AIMS/TerraNova exam is not delivering.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is the Vice President of Research at the Goldwater Institute.

No comments: