Some Tucson students to walk without passing AIMS

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- In a couple of days students from the Tucson Unified School District will don their caps and gowns for graduation. But for about 140 of those seniors, it will be only ceremonial because they won't actually receive their diplomas.

"I'm excited they're going to let us walk," said Clarissa Ramirez.

Tucson High School senior Clarissa Ramirez can't wait for graduation. Until Monday, she wasn't sure if she'd make it.

She's one of 140 TUSD students that didn't pass the AIMS test.

"The week before when, I found out I wasn't going to be able to graduate I was worried and I didn't know what was going to happen,"

But in an emergency meeting Monday morning, the TUSD board voted unanimously to allow Clarissa and her classmates to walk in their graduations.

"The most compelling reason for me to make this recommendation is that we need these students to graduate, we simply need these students to get a high school diploma," said TUSD Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone.

Superintendent Pedicone says the main reason for changing the district's policy is because in the past students could increase their test scores by 25% with extra tutoring.  Now it's only 5%.

"Now it places these students in a situation where they basically will not graduate," said Pedicone.

The students still won't receive any type of certificate at the ceremony.

Instead they'll have to take an AIMS course over the summer, and pass the test in late summer or fall to receive their diplomas.

The decision comes just days after the Sunnyside School District also voted to let 55 of its students walk.

Marana will allow 14 of their students to walk.

But not every district agrees.  Amphitheater has about 15 seniors who didn't pass the AIMS test, and the district's not making any exceptions for them.

"Ultimately graduation ceremonies are about celebrating a student's achievement of that ultimate goal, which is graduation, and that's meeting all terms and conditions to get that diploma," said Todd Jaeger from the Amphitheater Unified School District.

Meanwhile, students like Clarissa are just thankful they can walk, even if it means doing whatever it takes to get that diploma.

Pedicone insists allowing students to walk this year is a one time exception. He tells us if students don't pass the AIMS test in the fall, the district will keep pushing them to re-take it.