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.
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. 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 precursor to graduation.
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 not be able to collect weekly checks.
Brewer gave no reason for her decision. But her signature is no surprise as 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. This lays out the particular skills that 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. Most significant, 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.
Brewer defended the decision to scrap AIMS which was not only administered at lower grades but also has been a graduation requirement since 2006. She 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 that Common Core implementation is already underway. 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 that 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.'
And Brewer said she remains "committed to local control and parental choice' and there is always the opportunity "to revise, adjust or adopt new standards according to what is best for Arizona students.'