Judge Orders Disclosure of AZ Test

K-12 Testing

A state judge has ordered the Arizona Education Department to release items from the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test, finding that the public’s interest in open government is not outweighed by the cost of creating new exam questions.


In his ruling, Judge John Foreman of Maricopa County Superior Court said disclosing AIMS will allow people “to independently determine whether the test is too hard or too easy, whether it tests the correct subjects, whether it contains any bias and whether it is worth the money spent on it.” He ordered two-thirds of the items released on May 10, leaving the remaining third to be used on future tests.


While the state appeals Judge Foreman’s ruling, the Board of Education decided not to allow anyone to look at the test. Previously, parents and others could review the examination under secure conditions if they agreed not to discuss the test.


The “freedom of information” lawsuit, filed by the Arizona Republic newspaper, sought disclosure of the test after 78% of students failed the first round of the AIMS math exam. Growing public concern over the poor results led to several requests for item release, all of which were denied. FairTest filed a memorandum in support of the Republic's position.


Shortly before the court decision, the state Board of Education denied the Republic’s request to review a single math item, claiming it was private. That request came after teachers discovered that National Computer Systems used the wrong answer key when scoring the item, mis-classifying 142 students as failing. The correction raised the passing rate from 11 to 12 percent of students statewide.


Students who failed last year will retake the test. They do not have to pass to graduate this year, but their highest scores will appear on their transcripts.