Bilingual education bill would repeal AIMS diploma rule

PHOENIX—Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez apparently is not afraid to stir up some dust.

Already the author of a multi-faceted bill to revamp Arizona’s bilingual education – a controversial subject by itself – Lopez has added another hot-button topic in the legislation: the AIMS test.

The Phoenix Democrat’s bill proposes eliminating the state’s requirement that students pass the AIMS test to receive a high school diploma.

The AIMS requirement adopted by the state Board of Education should be overturned because some people question whether Arizona’s bilingual education programs are effective, Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez said Monday.

“It just doesn’t make much sense” to require that high school seniors pass AIMS in order to graduate if a school’s curriculum is not aligned with the state standards that AIMS measures, Lopez said.

The test is to measure students’ grasp of reading, writing and math knowledge required under state curriculum standards.

Lopez included the provision on AIMS in a multi-faceted bill that he pre-filed Monday for the regular session that starts in January. The bill is the product of months of meetings with school officials and bilingual education supporters.

The Lopez bill also would not allow certain types of bilingual instruction, would require specified information be provided to parents of bilingual education students and would require a student to be withdrawn from a bilingual program within five days if the student’s parents request a withdrawal.

The legislation also would provide money to train teachers as certified bilingual education instructors and would require the state Department of Education to develop state standards for determining whether a student is proficient in English.

Lopez said his bill contained several provisions that he expects will prove controversial in the Legislature. “Certainly the AIMS requirement is one of them, but those things can be amended out of the bill without sacrificing the principle elements of the program,” he said.

His bill is expected to be one of several dealing with bilingual education considered during the 1999 session. Another, a retread from this year’s session, once again will propose limiting how long a student can stay in bilingual education.

The Board of Education has decided that current high school freshmen, the graduating class of 2002, will be the first who must pass AIMS to get a diploma. They will have at least five times to take it, starting in the spring of their sophomore year.

The board has decided that all AIMS tests for high school students will be in English, but a board-approved policy allows case-by-case “accommodations” on test-taking practices, such as use of a translation dictionary or individual testing, for students in both high school and lower grades.

Students in lower grades taking the test may do so in Spanish but only once.

The board has barred local school districts from exempting students with limited English proficiency from taking AIMS.

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