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House panel OKs bill to link AIMS, passing 3rd grade

A bill that would link passage of third grade to a student’s performance on the AIMS test has been approved by the House Education Committee.

The measure, sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Mesa Republican Rep. Rich Crandall, would prohibit schools from sending a student to fourth grade if he or she scores less than 41 percent on the reading portion of the state’s AIMS test. All Arizona third graders attending public schools take the AIMS test.

Crandall, a Republican from Mesa, pointed to statistics compiled by the Department of Education that show nearly 11,000 Arizona third graders failed the reading portion of the AIMS test last year, but only 200 were held back.

“We are the kings of social promotion in the United States,” he said.

The notion of using a child’s reading ability after the third grade as a determining factor in his or her promotion to fourth grade has its roots in Florida, which enacted such a requirement as part of sweeping educational reforms beginning in 1999.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who spearheaded that state’s effort to overhaul its education system, spoke to House and Senate Education committees in October about Florida’s policy changes and the resulting increase in student scores on standardized tests.

Crandall said his bill, H2732, would affect fewer than 5,000 students. Of the 11,000 who did not pass the AIMS test last year, more than 6,000 had scores greater than 41 percent, so they would not be included in this bill.

The bill would require school districts to adopt “intervention strategies” that would be developed by a new task force and approved by the State Board of Education. Each district would be required to offer three of the intervention programs, and parents would select which one the student would use.

The intervention strategies would be required to include several components, such as summer school reading instruction and intensive reading instruction before or after the school day.

Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Don Covey said studies have shown that students who can’t read by the time they are in the third grade have a higher risk of ending up in prison. Indiana, he said, for years used its second-grade literacy rate to determine how many prisons it would need in the future.

“It’s where young people learn the tools for learning,” he said.

Dr. Matthew Ladner, the vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute, said Florida’s results should encourage other states to go down the same path.

“The proof is in the pudding. Florida’s dropout rate has been declining…and graduation rates are increasing,” he said.

However, several education advocacy groups and school districts voiced concerns about the cost to school districts of implementing three intervention strategies, especially considering the possibility of further cuts to education spending.

“We’ve got to be cost-conscious about what we can and can’t do,” said Michael Smith, a lobbyist for the Arizona School Administrators.

5 comments

  1. Once again pass a bill without funding the requirements.
    Could we use the reading test as a requirement to be a member of the state legislature?
    Blk nite

  2. Here is yet another example of sneaky right wing tactics to make money off of young people to build prisons! It is all about intervention and reading labs boys and girls! This is a pathetic idea and insulting to our intelligence!

  3. I think 3rd grade is not a smart choice to hold a student back sorry they are just still to young its going to make them feel they are not as smart as their other peers

  4. I think holding a child back in 3rd grade is a very bad choice. It should not be up to the school or state to make that choice. That is a choice the parents should be able to make for their child. They know their child more than anybody from the state or school. Being a child held back in 3rd grade I can tell you it was a horrible experience. It made feel like I was so dumb and I had horrible self esteem the rest of my school years. I have a 3rd grader now and it makes me so nervous. He is a very smart boy and can read and do math just fine. But not all kids test well. He does great on everything but test are harder for him. I think it is like that for a lot of kids. I just don’t think it is fair for a child to have so much pressure and how one test can change there life for ever. I think the state needs to back off and let that choice be the parents choice. I can tell you this if my child does not pass I will pull him out and home school him before I have him be held back.

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