Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 11, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

AIMS Task Force Recommendations

  • Passing the AIMS test should continue to be a high school graduation requirement according to newly released recommendations by the AIMS Task Force. The Chairman of the task force talks about the recommendations which include a new exam for eleventh graders that measures college and career readiness. AIMS Task Force final recommendations
  • Dr. Jim Zaharis - Chairman, AIMS Task Force
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
A state taskforce says passing the aims test should continue to be a high school graduation requirement. But the aims taskforce, created by lawmakers last year, says 11th graders should take another exam to measure college and career readiness. Earlier I spoke with the chairman of the aims taskforce, Dr. Jim Zaharis. He's a vice president of greater Phoenix leadership and a former superintendent of Mesa public schools. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Jim Zaharis:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
What was the taskforce looking at and what did you find?

Jim Zaharis:
The taskforce was charged with examining whether or not the AIMS test should remain as a high-stakes test. Whether or not we should put in place a college career readiness test and examine other states and nations as to what readiness tests were in place. And that’s what we did, seven members, October to May, and we’ve come forth with our recommendations.

Ted Simons:
And keeping the reading, math and writing requirements for high school graduation, how come?

Jim Zaharis:
That was one of the questions and the findings of our group said it should remain. It should remain for these reasons: these are critical and essential skills that are important to all of our students. We put it in place in Arizona and historically in Arizona, we changed this many times and it's very important to keep a system in place that we've worked for. So that is one path along the way to demonstrating competence. We felt that high stakes should remain at this level, but that no additional contests should be added to this battery that require high stakes, that are required for graduation. I'll just go on and say to you that we did recommend a college career replacement test be put in at 11th grade and additional content areas can be placed there and its purpose it to give feedback to the student and the parent, if the young person, if the student is ready for college or career at the next level.

Ted Simons:
You mention college or career. What separates college readiness from career readiness?

Jim Zaharis:
The findings today, are basically coming up with that college and career at the high school level are pretty much the same in terms of academic content required for success. Either at a freshman level or technical course reading sophisticated technical manuals, and doing those kind of programs. the critical core of knowledge is the same. At the high school level, we’re finding that college and career ready is very, very similar and mastery of those skills.

Ted Simons:
Also a replacement here for the 9th test, terra nova, what’s that all about?

Jim Zaharis:
The whole idea here is to help the young person and their family to look ahead and on to post-secondary work and begin at the 9th grade to benchmark. What are their interests and their skills as they plan their high school course sequence toward graduation? Then the 10th grade, AIMS test, benchmarks, what is required for high school graduation the grade recommendation says are you or are you not ready and if you're not, use that senior year to remediate so you don't have to take courses at the college level and remediate, or to technical schools. That's the key; to give information to the student and family along the way so they can course correct to stay on path toward their goals.

Ted Simons:
Did the state's fiscal situation play into the recommendations at all?

Jim Zaharis:
Yes, they're noted in here. We know it’s a tough time, the task force considered it. They did three things. They said we feel we need to make a recommendation not just for the moment we're in but the long term as to what’s best. And this might be phased in. Second, recommended things are current testing that can be taken out or brought back a little bit in cost and made specific recommendations and third, we said if you have students who are graduates who are college and career ready and do not have to remediate courses at the next level, that saves the state a significant amount of money for having to pay for those courses again at the next level.

Ted Simons:
Were their other states, countries, models you looked at where you said, I like that?

Jim Zaharis:
We absolutely did. We looked around the country and we as Arizona are part of Achieve, which is looking at this across over 30 states and looked at other countries, in Europe, from Singapore, the Cambridge system in England. The IB, the advanced placement tests are board tests that measure a certain set of standards and content and whether they should be put in place. And we feel, as we recommend this college career readiness, there's things we can choose as a state. We left it open to further refinement.

Ted Simons:
AIMS testing, testing in general, as it is now in Arizona and as you see it, what changes, improves?

Jim Zaharis:
AIMS testing will remain the same. We're recommending early warning systems much younger in the grade, so that the student can pass on the first attempts at 10th grade. Since if you don’t pass in 10th grade you have to pass for graduation. The curriculum are focused for you to pass reading, math and writing, and if you have to take those courses, the more expansive curriculum is not as open to you, in the 11th and 12th grades. Aims remains the requirement for the graduation.

Ted Simons:
Alright, very good. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Jim Zaharis:
Thank you.

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