Arizona Grad Test in Place…for Now

K-12 Testing

An Arizona judge declined to block the state's graduation test, the AIMS, for this year's high school seniors. But Judge Kenneth Fields did schedule a hearing in July on the request for an injunction. He could then suspend the test requirement and order that diplomas be issued retroactively. The injunction request is part of a larger suit that seeks to halt the graduation test on the grounds that many Arizona students don't receive the education they need to pass the test.


Earlier, a federal appeals court issued a stay on a district judge's order exempting Arizona English Language Learners (ELL) from having to pass the state AIMS exam to graduate. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins ruled that ELL students would not have to pass the AIMS until the state demonstrates it has improved educational programs. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals responded to a motion by Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne by placing a stay on Collins' ruling that will be in effect at least until a July 24 hearing.


Arizona education officials estimate that 1000 students, about two percent of the senior class, will be denied diplomas because they did not pass AIMS. However, going into the May tests, the final chance to pass AIMS, some 3000 limited English proficient students alone had not passed it.


Students who narrowly miss the cut-off score can obtain test "bonus points" based on course grades in selected classes (see Examiner, Summer 2005). Those points will enable some who did not pass AIMS to obtain a diploma. The state expects about four percent of the senior class to benefit from this provision. The state passed legislation in May to make the bonus points system permanent, expanding the range of courses that can count for those points. The expansion of courses will not benefit this year's seniors.


The AIMS test had been enacted by law, but in 1999 was delayed from the class of 2001 to the class of 2002, due to an abysmal pass rate. The exam was overhauled and in 2001 the state Board of Education pushed it back to the class of 2006. AIMS will be used to deny students diplomas this year, if all the legal actions fail. (For more background, see Examiner, Fall 1999 , Fall 2001 , Winter 2004-05)