Education A State Capitals Roundup

Arizona Class of 2006 Gets Break on Graduation Exams

By Joetta L. Sack — May 24, 2005 1 min read

It’ll be easier than planned to earn a high school diploma in Arizona next year.

Faced with large percentages of failing students, the state board of education this month lowered the passing scores for the state’s required graduation exams, which first affect the class of 2006. Students may now score as low as 59 percent in reading, down from 72 percent, and 60 percent on mathematics, down from 71 percent.

In addition, the legislature last week approved a “safety valve” that would give students who received grades of A, B, or C in reading, writing, and math their sophomore years extra points on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, as the state testing program is known. The additional points would allow many borderline students to pass, but would be in effect only for the classes of 2006 and 2007. The legislature would allow the state board to write the final details of its plan.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, was reviewing that bill last week, and had until May 25 to decide whether to sign it, according to her office. The governor has previously expressed support for options beyond a single test score to count toward the graduation requirement.

Before the state board voted 9-1 on May 10 to lower the passing scores, only about 43 percent of students in next year’s senior class had passed all three sections of the required AIMS tests. The board’s preliminary estimates show that percentage would rise to just over 60 percent as a result of its change, and possibly higher if the legislature’s changes become law.

Tom Horne, the state superintendent of schools, cast the only dissenting vote on the state board. He said that students are doing better through motivation and extra tutoring, and that those who had still not passed would have two more chances before graduation.