By Tammy Gray
Nearly 72 percent of students in kindergarten through sixth grade in Navajo County passed the reading portion of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test, placing the county ninth when compared to results from the 14 other counties in the state.
Statewide, an average of 75 percent of students passed the test in 2013, an improved result from 72 percent in 2009 and 73 percent in 2010, but slightly less than the high of 76 percent reached in 2011. The average for 2012 was also 75 percent.
The state goal is to have 94 percent of third grade students passing reading testing by 2020. At the current rate, that goal will not be met.
A few counties are coming much closer to the goal than the rest. In Greenlee County, 87 percent of students in kindergarten through sixth grade passed the reading portion of the AIMS test. Graham and Yavapai counties followed with 80 percent each, while 79 percent passed in Mohave County and 77 percent in Maricopa County. Students in Pima County were right at the state average with 75 percent passing, followed by Santa Cruz County with 74 percent; Cochise County, 73 percent; Navajo County, 72 percent; Pinal County, 71 percent; Coconino County, 69 percent; Yuma County, 68 percent; La Paz County, 65 percent; Gila County, 60 percent; and Apache County, 55 percent.
Reading test results do not appear to correlate directly to poverty levels in each county, except in the case of Apache County. The average percentage of individuals living below the poverty level in Arizona is 17.2 percent, while nationwide it is 14.9 percent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Apache County has the highest poverty rate in Arizona at 34 percent, and also had the lowest percentage of students who passed the test.
Navajo County has the second highest number of individuals living below the poverty level among all the state’s counties at 27.9 percent, but ranked ninth rather than at the bottom of the list. Greenlee County, which had the highest number of students passing the reading testing, ranked 11th in regard to poverty levels, with 17.5 percent of individuals living below the poverty level, while Pinal County had the lowest poverty level ranking at 15.2 percent and ranked 10th in passing test scores.
Arizona has similar goals for math testing, with an objective of reaching a 94 percent passing rate by 2020, but results for recent years are not simple to compare against previous years since significant changes were made to the testing process. Statewide, 68 percent of students in kindergarten through sixth grade passed the math portion of the AIMS test. The average for Navajo County was 62 percent, which was up from 59 percent in 2012.