PHOENIX - Calling it "an important part of improving education," Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Thursday to eliminate the AIMS test - including the graduation requirement - paving the way for something else to measure the new Common Core Standards already being implemented in Arizona schools.
The move means the current crop of students currently in the ninth grade, scheduled to graduate in 2016, will be the last class required to pass the AIMS test to get a diploma. That is because AIMS is first offered in 10th grade, with multiple opportunities to for those who fail one or more sections to retake the test.
There plans are to come up with a new, nationally norm-referenced test in time for students now in the eighth grade.
But it remains to be decided whether that test will be a requirement to graduate.
Separately, Brewer signed legislation altering laws on unemployment benefits, shifting the burden to prove eligibility to those seeking compensation when a company claims the person quit or is otherwise ineligible. Until now, the burden has been on the employer to prove someone should be denied a weekly check.
Brewer gave no reason for her decision.
The measure was approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate on a party-line vote.
The move to scrap AIMS comes as Arizona schools already have started teaching according to the Common Core curriculum developed by officials and educators across the country. It lays out the particular skills students are supposed to acquire at set points during their education.
All through the process, the idea is to assess students through tests, administered online, that are aligned with the new curriculum. Since all participating states should be teaching the same thing at the same time, it will allow for direct comparisons.
"With this legislation, we will ensure that Arizona students are measured against the most rigorous standards, holding schools accountable and providing parents a better yardstick for how their children stack up against competing students nationally and around the world," Brewer said in a prepared statement.
AIMS has been a graduation requirement since 2006. Brewer said any new test approved by the Board of Education will involve "a more rigorous online assessment that measures critical thinking and problem-solving ability rather than simply rote memorization."
She also noted Common Core implementation is already under way. Brewer said that makes the battery of AIMS tests of math, reading and writing inappropriate since what they measure is not aligned with what is now being taught.
Some Republican lawmakers opposed the change, contending the whole move to the national Common Core curriculum amounts to surrendering local control of education.
But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said Arizona has been "directly involved" in creation of the new Common Core Standards.
"And Arizona's going to make the decision about what the new test is that our students are going to be taking," he said. "So this is going to remain a local effort."
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