Bioscience

Changes on way for AIMS test

April 10, 2007

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Mary Bustamante, Tucson Citizen] — Thousands of local students will find a new subject — science — on the AIMS test they’ll be taking this week and next. But they shouldn’t freak out. The science won’t count — this year. The federal government will require states next school year to include a science section on the tests they use to measure student performance based on state standards, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

High school students will take the AIMS math test Wednesday. Third- through eighth-graders have until April 20 to take all three AIMS content areas – reading, writing and math. School districts decide on the dates. Plus, fourth-graders from 28 elementary schools, eighth-graders from 13 middle schools and sophomores from 17 high schools in Pima County will have biology questions to answer in a field test of the new Arizona science section.

Those local students are among 40,000 students across the state trying out the science test, said Arizona Department of Education spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico. The field test has only abouttwo-thirds the number of questions of next year’s actual test. About 8,000 of the 40,000 field test-takers from across the state will take the science test online, including eighth-grade students at Dodge Traditional Magnet Middle School and Wakefield Middle School in Tucson Unified School District, Chaparral Middle School in Sunnyside Unified, Sahuarita MIddle School in Sahuarita Unified and Baboquivari Middle School in Indian Oasis-Baboquivari Unified.

Rezzonico said schools in the state sample “have the same demographic distribution as the entire state’s public school enrollment at the same grade level.” They also have shown the same performance on the AIMS test as the entire state’s public school enrollment at the same grade level, she added. Horne said the field test is to make sure the science test will be “fair and accurate and valid and reliable” and that it tests for the right knowledge and skills. Results of the paper-and-pencil test also will be compared with the online results to see if online testing is different, Horne said, adding that “Oregon went too quickly to online and had to abandon it because computers were locking the kids out and there were all kinds of problems.”

He doesn’t want that to happen here. “Online is good because you can get results immediately and so teachers can use it to affect students grades…by being able to provide remediation faster.” Passing the high school science portion of AIMS is not a graduation requirement, said Irene Hunting, director of State Test Administration for the Arizona Department of Education Assessment Section.