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Admissions mulls AIMS test merits

By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday November 15, 2002

Administrators are exploring the possibility of using the AIMS test as part of university admissions criteria as a result of one professor's research showing that students who pass the AIMS test have a better chance of succeeding at the UA.

About 78 percent of current UA sophomores passed the writing portion of the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test during their sophomore year of high school, according to data collected by Jerome D'Agostino, an assistant professor of educational psychology.

Of that 78 percent, 87 percent had an average college GPA of C or higher last year.

Eighty-one percent of sophomores who took the AIMS test, some of whom didn't pass, had a C or higher GPA.

Survey results show similar correlations with the reading and math portions of the AIMS test. In general, students who passed the test were more likely to have at least a C average, D'Agostino said.

Of the 43 percent of sophomores who passed the math test, 90 percent had a C average or higher, and of the 95 percent of sophomores who passed the reading test, 82 percent had a C average or higher.

"(D'Agostino) has also shown that the AIMS test works to predict performance as well as the SAT," said President Pete Likins. "It is a legitimate consideration as admissions criteria."

Although Likins said that administrators need another year's worth of data before making any decisions, he said that there are benefits to using the AIMS test for admissions.

A benefit of using AIMS as a component of the admissions process is that it has a writing component, unlike the SAT, Likins said.

The state Department of Education is working with Likins to use AIMS as an indicator in the admissions process at the UA, said Jaime Molera, Arizona superintendent of education, at the last Arizona Board of Regents meeting.

The AIMS test is supposed to measure whether or not students are acquiring the basic knowledge skills they need beyond their K-12 education. After a few years of trials and revisions, the Department of Education instituted it as a graduation requirement for all students, beginning with the graduating class of 2007.

For the past two years, D'Agostino has been working with the state department of education to assess the accuracy of the AIMS test questions.

He checks the validity and reliability of the assessment test, said David Garcia, Arizona associate superintendent for standards and accountability.

"He's another check," Garcia said.

Last year, D'Agostino decided to see whether the AIMS test predicts an individual's success in college by comparing college GPAs and AIMS test scores of 2,150 students in last year's freshman class.

"I wanted to know what it means to pass the test in terms of a student's performance after high school," D'Agostino said.

In the final stages of the research, D'Agostino said he has found that "if you didn't pass one of the AIMS tests, it didn't doom you to less than a C average. However, if you do pass the AIMS test, it really increases the chances that you'll do well in college, getting at least a C average or better your first year."

He said he has also found that AIMS is just as good of an indicator of college performance as the SAT and ACT.

However, he acknowledges that there are limitations to the data he has been analyzing.

"In 1999, there were no high stakes because students didn't have to pass the test," he said. As a result, some students may not have taken the test seriously in order to do their best.

Also, the AIMS test was taken during students' sophomore year of high school, while the SAT and ACT are usually taken during the junior and senior year.

Generally, the later in high school students take aptitude tests, the better the indicator the scores are for how students will perform in college, he said.

Also, statewide in 1999, only 11 percent of high school students passed the math portion. Since then, the state Department of Education has completely rewritten the entire math section.

When it comes to using AIMS for admissions, D'Agostino stressed that AIMS could only be used as a supplemental piece of information, not a replacement to the ACT or SAT.

He pointed to the students who do not have to take the AIMS test, like out-of-state students and students who move to Arizona during their junior or senior years of high school.

D'Agostino has presented his research to the administration twice. He presented it once last fall and again one month ago.

He said there has been a general climate that supports moving away from the SAT and toward a curriculum-based test like AIMS.

However, the AIMS test has its critics.

"I am against the AIMS test as an absolute test for someone's advancement," said Richard Demers, distinguished professor of linguistics. "The test should be used to judge the quality of the school, not the students."

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