Wyoming standardized test performance declines in every grade, subject

2013-08-08T06:00:00Z 2015-03-12T17:45:05Z Wyoming standardized test performance declines in every grade, subjectBy LEAH TODD Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Standardized test performances for Wyoming elementary and middle school students declined in every subject and every grade level from 2012 numbers, according to data released Wednesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

The slump in scoring on the Performance Assessment for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, is likely a result of the state's ongoing transition from one set of learning standards to another, Wyoming Director of Assessment Deb Lindsey said.

"Knowing that every district is in a state of transition and, simultaneously, our assessments are in transition, it's not surprising to me to see some declines," Lindsey said.

Wyoming asked its teachers to begin teaching to a national set of new learning goals called the Common Core State Standards in 2012. The 2013 PAWS test was the first standardized exam to incorporate test questions about the new standards.

"We know that implementation of new standards changes the practice of classroom teachers," Lindsey said. "It takes time."

The Natrona County School District’s scores declined more than the statewide results did in most grades and subject levels. The district saw especially large declines in year-over-year performance in science – which is only tested in grades four and eight – and in fourth- and fifth-grade reading.

“As the tests are adjusted, that’s going to change student achievement rates,” said Mark Mathern, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Natrona County School District.

Likely at the root of the slump in scores is misalignment between what's being taught and what's being tested, Mathern said. Because the state’s PAWS test is not yet fully in line with Common Core, students this year were tested on things that were not taught, he said. The Wyoming Department of Education expects the state’s standardized assessment to fully reflect what’s taught in Common Core by 2015.

The percentage of Natrona County eighth-graders at or above proficient in science dropped 10 percent from last year’s figures, data showed. The drop was 8 percent for fourth-graders – the other grade level at which the PAWS science section is tested.

“That data set continues to show low performance,” Mathern said of the eighth-grade test results.

Former Arizona state Sen. Richard Crandall, who started as Wyoming Department of Education director on Monday, said the across-the-board decrease in proficiency rates indicates there's more work to be done to transition to the new Common Core standards, which administrators say are more challenging than Wyoming's former content standards.

“I would caution that they not be interpreted as an indictment of the ongoing work to improve educational outcomes,” Crandall said in a department release. “The higher expectations that come with more rigorous standards will ultimately benefit all Wyoming students.”

PAWS is Wyoming’s state assessment for grades 3-8. It measures progress toward Wyoming content standards, and the data it produces is used to determine Wyoming's accountability to state and federal education standards. Students in grades 3 through 8 are tested in math and reading and students in fourth and eighth grades are also tested in science. The ACT replaced PAWS as the standardized test for grade 11 in 2013.

Reach county reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Noneyabiz
    Report Abuse
    Noneyabiz - August 09, 2013 8:55 am
    "Former Arizona state Sen. Richard Crandall, who started as Wyoming Department of Education director on Monday, said the across-the-board decrease in proficiency rates indicates there's more work to be done to transition to the new Common Core standards, which administrators say are more challenging than Wyoming's former content standards."

    That is not what I heard from Jon Lever the NCSD Assessment Data Coordinator on the news this morning in which he said, "Data Analysis and Probability this spring was tested in the 4th grade, because that's where it had, in previous standards been taught. However in the Common Core standards it's not taught until the 7th or 8th grade"

    So we are essentially degrading our educational standards by 3-4 years, and the tests haven't regressed to the new standards. I am upset with Matt Mead, for signing on to this Federal curriculum takeover, in exchange for some federal funding. Then how he wanted to usurp the Wyoming Constitution by trying to toss Hill out of office because she didn't want to sign off on Common Core. I am especially pissed after seeing my daughters test scores take a nose dive for the first time (after being in the fully integrated Common Core Math class).

    I believe in the States Constitutional power to handle their education the way they want. I disagree with loosing our educational sovereignty to the Federal Government, especially at the cost of our children and their future. And to all of the Liberals out there that opposed the No Child Left Behind Program instituted by Bush. Where are you now??? Because this Common Core think is much, much, worse. And look into the Data Mining that comes along with the Common Core on the teachers, parents, and students (which includes religion, voting history, and a host of other personal data points).
  2. Report Abuse
    - August 08, 2013 12:13 pm
    Looks to me like instead of starting school so early in the fall....or late summer and going until the middle of June, schools should cut the length of the school day and school year. Try that, and you might be amazed at how well it works. Certainly what they are doing isn't working.
  3. felixsjo
    Report Abuse
    felixsjo - August 08, 2013 9:47 am
    I, as a mother in Wyoming, donot.want my children to be involved in common core educaion. I agree that everyone should know how .to speak properly, do math that pertains to their chosen field, how to get their point across in a dignified manner in writing. However, children in my town do not need the same skills as those from new York or Seattle or Casper for goodness sakes. Why have identical education when there are a gamut of directions a person can go with their lives? Why not teach each child instead of the whole? I know that a teacher can only do so much with pupil numbers increasing and funding decreasing. That's where parents come in. Parents are first when it comes to education and teachers should be the reiteration, the peer to peer social skills and the opportunity to learn things from a different point of view. Not everyone is the same nor should they be educated as such.
  4. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - August 08, 2013 7:53 am
    Well..well... look at what our tax money gets us...the dumbing down of America is an outstanding success.I bet they know how to use those cell phones and tablets though.
  5. Uinta
    Report Abuse
    Uinta - August 07, 2013 4:30 pm
    We won't know how students are doing until Wyoming decides to use a single, consistent performance test for several years in a row. The state's failure to do so reflects either incompetence or politics. Math and reading are basic skills. We should be able to define and test those skills on a consistent basis.
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