Wyoming will have a say in what type of standardized test some of its elementary and high school students may take two years from now.
The Wyoming Department of Education announced Tuesday its new status as a voting member within the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a federally funded group of states working on a new test to go along with Common Core, a set of national standards.
“Wyoming has a seat at the table where all the big decisions are ultimately made,” Deb Lindsey, the department’s director of assessment, said Tuesday. Lindsey will participate in phone calls about the test and state education department Director Richard Crandall will ultimately cast Wyoming’s lone vote in the 23-member group, Lindsey said.
Exactly what the test will look like is not yet determined, officials said.
The new test will likely be taken entirely online, unlike Wyoming’s current Performance Assessment for Wyoming Students, which is administered on paper. Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 would take the test. Lindsey said its scoring will be adaptive: The testing system will generate harder questions for students performing well, easier questions for students struggling, and will score according to both difficulty and performance. Wyoming teachers will help draft questions that could end up in the final test.
And if the Wyoming Department of Education is successful in convincing the state Legislature to change its statute limiting Wyoming’s standardized tests to multiple-choice questions, the test will be comprised of all types of long- and short-answer items.
“Multiple-choice tests are quicker to take, generally,” Lindsey said. “And less expensive.”
But critical thinking skills are difficult to assess through a multiple-choice exam, she said.
“Kids are going to deal with more complexity,” Scott James, president of the Wyoming Curriculum Director’s Association and director of instruction and assessment for Platte County School District 1, said of the test the consortium is developing. “Instead of solving this math problem and show your work, the student may be given a real world scenario.”
Wyoming is not paying to participate in the discussions about the new national test, according to a Wyoming Department of Education release, and the state can opt out at any time.
“At the end of the day, you can do whatever you want to do,” said Eddie Arnold, director of communications for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. “There’s no real binding situation there.”
The test developed by the Smarted Balanced Assessment Consortium could first be administered as early as spring 2015, Lindsey said. Wyoming students will test a pilot exam in spring 2014.
Wyoming’s contract with Princeton, N.J.-based education assessment company Educational Testing Services — awarded in 2012 after a flop from testing company NCS Pearson left the state’s test results invalid in 2010 — calls for the company to administer the state’s PAWS test through 2014.
Lindsey said her department is working with Educational Testing Services in case they need to administer another test in 2015, should Wyoming choose not to administer the test that results from the federal consortium.