Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Letter to TUSD Regarding Seniors not Walking Due to AIMS Math

Sent today to John Pedicone, TUSD superintendent and our governing board.

Hello— I am a teacher at Tucson High, a parent of students in TUSD, and a voting citizen in TUSD.  I am writing to make you aware of the high school seniors who have just found out this week that they will not be graduating due to having failed the newer, more difficult AIMS math, many of them by a VERY narrow margin.  I talked to two students this morning, who are shocked and devastated, and I will tell you one of their stories to show you how unjust and harmful the current situation is for a certain population of students.

This student is in my English 11 class.  She has been carrying a load of two English classes this year because she was behind on credits.  She is perhaps not the most academically motivated student, but she has been working consistently this year in my class and is currently earning a strong B in my class.  She also has all of her other classes poised for passing.  She has been making plans for her future throughout the school year, visiting Pima college, taking her placement exams, and setting herself up with student volunteer opportunities in the field she hopes to study.  She knew this spring that she had to pass the new, more difficult AIMS test.  Although she refused to drop steel drums to take an additional math class when the opportunity was given to her only a few weeks before the AIMS test, she did take advantage of all the after-school tutoring sessions to try to prepare for the exam.  She has paid for her cap and gown and other graduation expenses.  She was told on Monday that she failed the AIMS test by five points and will not be able to walk or receive any kind of recognition that she has completed her coursework for graduation—10 days before graduation, five days before her last day of classes.

The implications?  She will not be able to return as a repeating senior next year to improve her math scores because she has earned her credits and will no longer be an enrolled student.  She will not be able to attend Pima to improve her math score because she was counting on financial aid to help her go there, and cannot receive federal aid without a diploma.  She cannot begin the volunteer job she had lined up because she will not be a student in that program.  She is left to do what?  Perhaps find a minimum wage job until she can take AIMS in October and get the scores... when?  The current unemployment rate for teens is 25%.  She is truly stuck in the cracks of this system.  There are others in this very situation.

TUSD can’t change state policy, but the district can decide to let students who have earned their credits at least walk with their classmates, and work out the rest later.  I was told there might be about 50 students affected by this at Tucson High alone.  2000 statewide is what John Huppenthal’s office estimates.  Anything you can do to support the best interests of our students will be hugely appreciated by them and their families.  This kind of situation is also very demoralizing to the juniors who might be struggling with AIMS math— if they see these seniors tossed to the winds, they are that much closer to giving up.

We need to hold standards high, but we also need to recognize the efforts that many of these students have made to create a future for themselves.

Thanks for reading.

Amethyst Hinton Sainz

1 comment:

  1. We have twenty who are in the same boat... breaks my heart!


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