PHOENIX -- Thousands of high school juniors and seniors who haven't yet passed the AIMS tests may be able to blow them off entirely.

Without dissent, members of the Senate Education Committee voted Thursday to permanently eliminate the requirement to pass all three sections of the test to get a high school diploma.

But don't stop studying yet. SB 1191 still needs approval of the full Senate and concurrence of the House.

And even if it gets that far, it won't become effective until signed by Gov. Doug Ducey. And that might not happen for months.

The move comes as Arizona already is moving to phase out the tests, formally known as Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. The class of 2016 is the last required to get passing grades to graduate.

It will be replaced by another acronym, AzMERIT, short for Arizona's Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching. That, however, is not linked to a diploma.

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said there's no reason to continue the AIMS mandate because the state has been operating for years under the Common Core standards. The AzMERIT tests are linked to that standard.

AIMS is normally administered in the sophomore year. But those who did not pass last school year -- and failed one or more sections again when given a retest this past fall -- still have multiple opportunities to pass.

The Department of Education figures that about 33,000 students who took the test this pass fall failed the math portion of the test. Some 20,000 have not yet passed the writing portion, with 9,000 failing the reading portion.

State education officials say those numbers are not cumulative as some students failed multiple sections.

Most of these are believed to be juniors -- there are about 76,500 of them -- though there may be some seniors in that list.

Ward's legislation does not eliminate all graduation requirements forever: The current crop of sophomores will have to get a passing grade on a new civics test to get their diplomas.

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