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AIMS Dumping: Are schools weeding out the worst students?

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

AIMS Dumping: Are schools weeding out the worst students?

CREATED Jan 17, 2013

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - In some educational circles  -- it's called AIMS dumping. It's a practice that some Southern Arizona principals say has being going on for years. But if  Governor Jan Brewer's  proposal to base school budgets on performance gets the nod, some principals say they and their students will pay too high a price if the practice continues.

"It happens now and it's going to happen in the future." says Skyview principal Marianne Goodwin.
Schools shuffling kids off to other schools because they're not making the grade is not new -- it's just easier in Arizona because of school choice.

"Sometimes the school isn't right for the student. I think that my school is a very good school because it's smaller," said Goodwin.  But she's concerned when there's another reason -- a hidden one -- that sometimes happens before aims testing.

"Before the aims I look and see and i know who's probably going to do well and who isn't. So i target those kids who are probably not going to do well to get tutoring, to be in remedial classes. and I'll continue to do that," she said.

As well as Alta Vista principal Alicia Alvarez, "students shouldn't be leaving schools without making sure we as a system as a school have done everything for that child."

But both principals and the State Superintendent John Huppenthal suspect some schools don't.  Huppenthal told KGUN9 that he's aware of tactics used by schools when budgets are tied to performance. "One of the pitfalls as you mentioned. You can see people gaming the system," he said.

They say some school administrators "game" the system by waiting to drop students -- after they've been in school 100 days -- the mark that ensures schools will receive money for those students. Then parents hear from school administrators who tell them the school might not be a good fit.

Cavazos asked Goodwin if she thinks parents are aware of what's really going on? She answered, "Some parents don't realize. I can sort of sense that sometimes."

Alvarez said, "We definitely need a system to make sure this doesn't happen to kids." She said schools shouldn't be penalized if they don't have enough time to remediate those incoming students.

And with a tougher standardized test just a few years away, Superintendent Huppenthal told KGUN9 that he's got that covered. "What we have to do is put in control for that type of gaming so that if a school is paid for a student in those first 100 days -regardless of whether that student takes the test at that school or some other school those test results will come back and be a part of that school's record too," he said.

Alvarez said, "I'm very interested in knowing what that system is -- what he checks and balances will be for that."

Cavazos asked, "Because you may be on the receiving end?"
She answered, "We may be on the receiving end."

And that could mean less funding coming into her school for all the students.