A slight improvement in AIMS scores was seen this year across the state in all subject matters, according to test results made public Thursday.

The performance of Tucson-area districts was relatively the same as it was in 2011. In fact, most districts had a higher percentage of students passing than the state average.

Each year, Arizona students in grades three through eight and in 10th grade are required to take the high-stakes test to measure their mastery in math, reading, writing and science.

High schoolers are required to pass the test to graduate - a requirement that has resulted in hundreds of students in the Tucson area not being allowed to graduate.

The gains in each subject area were marked by a 1-to-2-percentage-point increase from 2011 statewide.

Sixty percent of students statewide passed the math portion of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test, compared with 59 percent in 2011 and 57 percent in 2010.

Across the state in the area of reading, there was a 4-percentage-point increase from 2010 when 73 percent of students passed. That rose to 76 percent in 2011 and 77 percent this year.

After seeing a significant drop statewide in the percentage of students passing writing from 2010 to 2011 - from 71 percent to 56 percent - a slight increase was noted this year with 57 percent of students passing.

The initial decrease in writing scores was attributed to a revision of the test that reflected higher academic standards.

The increase of 1 percentage point in writing suggests that students are now leveling to the new standard, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

A 2-percentage-point increase was achieved across the state on the science test, with 60 percent of students passing that portion.

"We continue to show increases each year with our AIMS scores across the spectrum," said Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal. "Not only have we made progress this year, but anticipate greater progress in coming years."

All but two of the nine major Tucson-area school districts had the same or a higher percentage of students passing the math, reading, writing and science portions of the test than the state average.

The two that fared worse than the state average are Tucson's two largest districts - TUSD and Sunnyside. That was also the case in 2010 and 2011.

Though the Tucson Unified School District fell below the state average, it made gains this year in math, reading and science. Its performance in writing was the same as last year.

The Sunnyside School District saw gains only in science. Scores in the other three subjects dropped by no more than 2 percentage points from 2011.

"Sunnyside is continuing to make progress in so many ways. We're proud of Gallego Elementary achieving an 'A' and five of our 13 elementary schools receiving a 'B,' said Superintendent Manuel L. Isquierdo, referring to state letter grades for schools that were also made public Thursday.

"Our graduation numbers continue to rise - we've come from 505 in 2007 to 877 in 2012 - and college enrollment for our graduates continues to increase," Isquierdo said.

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone acknowledges that the district's performance is not where he'd like it be but said that has been the case for many years.

"As a large urban school district, it takes time to move the averages of large numbers of students," Pedicone said. "TUSD made progress in math, science and reading, and we anticipate that we will continue to see further progress in all categories.

"We are currently analyzing the results to better understand where we need to focus our efforts."

On StarNet: Search a database of scores for all Arizona schools and districts at azstarnet.com/databases

How the state fared

Passing rates for Arizona students

Math Reading Writing Science

2011 59% 76% 56% 58%

2012 60% 77% 57% 60%

How Tucson-area districts fared

Passing rates for local school districts

Math Reading Writing Science


2011 63% 81% 65% 66%

2012 65% 81% 64% 66%

Catalina Foothills

2011 84% 95% 85% 87%

2012 82% 94% 85% 88%

Flowing Wells

2011 64% 77% 57% 63%

2012 62% 77% 58% 62%


2011 66% 85% 65% 69%

2012 67% 85% 66% 70%


2011 64% 83% 62% 63%

2012 61% 81% 67% 65%


2011 47% 67% 42% 42%

2012 46% 66% 40% 44%

Tanque Verde

2011 81% 93% 83% 83%

2012 84% 92% 84% 89%


2011 46% 68% 47% 49%

2012 48% 69% 47% 52%


2011 84% 92% 76% 84%

2012 83% 92% 78% 84%

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.