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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Joy of AIMS

Vox has a great post following up on yet another attempt to weaken the AIMS test. At the end of the piece she states what in my view every kid needs to learn:

"Success only has value if failure is an option"

In the comments section, ExUrban Jon writes:

We were both perplexed that any parents would attempt to dumb-down the test instead of pushing their kids to do better. I want the AIMS test to be challenging so that my kids will learn how to study and work hard.

For from my experience in education, parents like ExUrban Jon are few and far between and I believe his perplexity comes from his uniqueness. I'm willing to bet that while most parents are willing to talk a good game in terms of demanding that their children receive an excellent and demanding education, those same parents would not be willing for their children to risk poor grades in the course of that education. Better a watered down curriculum and an "A" than a rigorous curriculum and get a "B" or worse.

Back when Lisa Graham Keegan was developing the AIMS testing program, the great moment of decision would be what would happen if large numbers of students did not pass and were therefore in danger of not graduating from high school? Would the State of Arizona stick to its guns, stating that the standards were developed in good faith, or would it crumble and water down either the standards or the testing requirement?

We know the answer.

The problem with AIMS was that while it dealt with education, it was part of public education which made it inherently political. In the political arena, small motivated groups can wield tremendous power within a focused area . There was no way with the political tools available that parents and the public school system were going to allow large numbers of students to fail the AIMS test. However the twist is that instead of a solution that perhaps ExUrban Jon would be proud of where the curriculum was made rigorous enough to prevent such wide-scale failure, the preferred option is to eliminate the chance for failure within the test.