Howard's End

To the Editor,

So Doug Biggers has left the building. Certainly it's a passage for The Weekly and maybe even the end of an era. My years working there were defined by Doug Biggers' generosity: trusting my editorial judgment on writers like Tom Danehy, Charlotte Lowe, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Grady, Leo Banks and others, and on causes such as saving the Temple of Music and Art. Doug let me take our Weekly into a level of arts and culture coverage that eventually shamed the two dailies into increasing their anemic coverage. Our relationship had its downside too: when I lost my theatre-film writing position at the paper after I stepped aside as editor to pursue a degree in play writing and screen writing. But I choose to remember more Doug's bravery during his partnership divorce in the middle of my tenure, bravery matched only by Sid Brinkerhoff's amazing ability to put money behind our shared conviction that Tucson needed an independent and irreverent publication. I hope Wick Communications keeps that kind of independence and, particularly, that they never cave in to the perceived "needs" of advertisers, the way many Tucson publications do. Not that I don't hope for some changes at The Weekly: more responsible journalism in news stories; more features on fascinating people; less copy devoted to stale, local, political gossip; and more arts coverage by writers who bring more than egotism to the discussion.

-- Howard Allen

Test Study

To the Editor,

No wonder there is such a stink about the AIMS test, if those three questions ("Test Your AIMS I.Q.") included in Margaret Regan's "Examining the Exam" (April 27) are representative. I inferred from the first question that there was supposed to be some sort of text from which the examinee would be expected to divine the meaning of the word "cyberspace." I guessed "A" to the question, since the word "realm" is just as vague as "cyberspace." The second question is a pushover for anyone who has had algebra. The third question, however, is a devil. It requires careful reading and then some careful reasoning. Any one of the four answers will make the two triangles congruent, and a careless reading of the question will cause a student thinking merely about congruency to be satisfied with any one of them. Since the question is asking for congruency by two angles and one side, either "C" or "D" will do. If "included side" is meant by ASA, then the answer must be "C." Any student who missed this question could still know a great deal about geometry, but the computer would say he didn't, and that would be that. That doesn't seem fair.

-- Bill Winkelman

To the Editor,

While I appreciated Margaret Regan's comprehensive overview of the issues surrounding AIMS ("Examining The Exam," April 27), some clarifications are in order.

First, the spring 1999 administration of AIMS was not a "practice test." It was a "live" version of the test that we plan to use again in the future. The test was an attempt to assess how much our students are learning and how well we are teaching them -- important questions for educators, regardless of whether the test is a graduation requirement.

Second, contrary to Dr. Fred Stevenson's assertion, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan has not "dug in her heels" about changes to the math portion of AIMS. She has said all along that the state Board of Education would review the math test following this week's administration of the test, and revisions will be made where necessary. When she met with Dr. Stevenson earlier this year, she was quite clear about this timetable. She also asked Dr. Stevenson and a UA colleague, Dr. David Gay, to serve on the committee that will critique the math test. We look forward to working with them to improve AIMS, while maintaining the rigor of Arizona's Academic Standards, on which the test is based.

-- Laura Penny
Chief of Policy and Communications
Arizona Department of Education

To the Editor,

Margaret Regan's recent article on AIMS ("Examining The Exam," April 27) was insightful and accurate. The "widespread test craziness" that Regan referred to has ensued. Thanks to Lisa Graham Keegan's master plan, schools around the state are bracing themselves for this important exam. The bell schedules have been modified, instructional time has been cut short, and announcements have been made.

If this is any reflection of things to come, public schools will undoubtedly become factories that will produce, as described in the article, "a generation of docile citizens." This will, of course, be no coincidence. In our democratic society, a nation of non-thinkers will be Keegan's only hope of remaining in public office.

Way to go, Lisa!

-- Eve Rifkin
English Teacher
Catalina Foothills High School

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