Results from this year's PAWS tests haven't been thrown out yet, but Wyoming cleared the first hurdle in getting approval to be excluded from consequences and corrective action under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The state requested to be "held harmless" for federal and state actions regarding school and district scores on PAWS, or the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students. The classification would mean schools' and districts' statuses for meeting the adequate yearly progress mark would stay the same, said Jim McBride, state superintendent for public instruction.
"It gives struggling districts a little more time to get their act together," McBride said. "It's almost as if this year didn’t happen -- although that’s certainly not the case."
This year's PAWS plagued schools and districts with a slew of technological problems. Students had difficulty logging into the online test system. Students who hit the tab key during a writing test were shut out of tests.
The testing software developed by NCS Pearson was unreliable, inaccurate and unusable, McBride wrote in a letter to the company's general manager. The Wyoming Department of Education requested $9.5 million in damages plus overtime pay for employees from Pearson, citing a "complete default of the contract."
Pearson agreed to pay for a third-party analysis by the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment Inc. The analysis will determine whether the results are valid and how they should be used.
The department will apply for the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education by next week, said Tim Lockwood, department spokesman.
Even if the results don't count for adequate yearly progress, they can still be useful to teachers in the classroom, McBride said. He expects results by August before school begins. Student data will be matched to teachers so a teacher can see how a specific student scored.
Results should have been available already, McBride said, but are being held until the analysis is complete. The late reporting is the latest in a string of broken promises from Pearson.
"We have very specific deliverables and milestones and they have not met any of them," McBride said.
Next year's PAWS test will be administered on paper to avoid technological problems. The department contracted Pearson to administer the test for $40 million over four years, ending with the 2012 test.
Pearson has also run into problems in Florida this year -- computer glitches, student database problems and failing to deliver some materials to districts. The company is several weeks late in reporting scores, which are used to determine school goals and grade placement in some cases.
Pearson has agreed to reimburse districts for costs associated with the delay in Florida.