Wyoming lawmakers questioned the future of the state assessment and content standards Wednesday during the third meeting of the committee investigating a statewide education accountability system.

A new state law ordered creation of a system to examine myriad indicators of student, teacher and school achievement, one being the state assessment based on state content standards.

Lawmakers on the panel took issue with the state Board of Education’s June 2010 decision to adopt national Common Core State Standards as part of new Wyoming standards because they were not vetted by legislative committees. The new Wyoming standards will undergo a second public review period this fall and are expected to be adopted by the board in November.

State law defines the board’s duty as to “implement and enforce the uniform standards for educational programs.” The Joint Education Committee, along with the Management Committee, will decide whether to challenge the state board’s process.

“If we’re getting rid of Wyoming standards, it’s a big policy issue,” said Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, the committee’s co-chairman.

The Common Core standards are an effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. All but six states have adopted standards in language arts and math.

Two groups are designing a national assessment based on the standards, which, if adopted, would replace the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS. Wyoming joined the SMARTER Balanced consortia as an “advisory state” last year.

Many Wyoming school districts have begun incorporating the new standards into curriculum for this school year. The Wyoming Department of Education told districts to slow down implementing standards not yet adopted, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, suggested the state lengthen its contract with testing company NCS Pearson, which ends in 2012, until a national test emerges.

Hill said the current contract with Pearson is “not protecting our interests,” and a request for proposals for a modified PAWS test allows the state to change vendors. The request, released in July, requires the next PAWS vendor to base the test on the new standards slated for approval.

“The Common Core standards are going to be assessed,” Hill said. “If we go with national assessments, we would want our kids with our standards in order for them to be prepared for that test.”

But the assessment outlined in the Education Department’s request does not align with the intent of the law signed this session, said Rep. Mary Throne, D-Laramie. The law removed the writing portion of PAWS and created a separate state writing test to be administered during a different time. However, current plans by the Department of Education include PAWS writing prompts in addition to a pilot writing test.

Rep. Teeters said lawmakers would sort out the differences at a future meeting.

An advisory committee of educators meets from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Casper. The legislative committee meets again Sept. 15 in Casper.

Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at 307-266-0593 or at jackie.borchardt@trib.com. Read her education blog at trib.com/reportcard and follow her on Twitter @JMBorchardt.

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