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Cottonwood Elementary School

Christian Smith, 10, listens to his teacher in 2015 at Cottonwood Elementary School in Casper. The National Assessment of Education Progress results will be released Tuesday. 

Results from a national elementary and middle school test will be released Tuesday, providing a key look into how Wyoming’s schools are performing compared to the rest of the U.S.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is a test that typically samples fourth- and eighth-graders on their math and reading abilities every two years. Science is sampled every four years on a national level.

In 2015, fourth- and eighth-graders here beat the national average in reading and math for the third consecutive year.

“While the NAEP is one measure, it’s important because it’s stable from year to year and offers a true state comparison,” State Superintendent Jillian Balow said in a statement. “At the state level, NAEP is an excellent thermometer to help us gauge the health of our education system.”

Balow is one of four national educators who will sit on a panel in D.C. to discuss the NAEP results on Tuesday morning.

The results will compare Wyoming’s fourth- and eighth-graders to students across the country, one of the few tools available to Wyoming officials to gauge schools’ performances.

Over the past year, as legislators debated how to fund education, the NAEP results became increasingly contentious. One group of cut-minded legislators said that while they beat the national average, the scores weren’t high enough to justify the amount Wyoming spends on its students.

On the other side, educators and lawmakers who opposed cuts said that the scores were not nearly as poor as their colleagues suggested. Indeed, they said, they were strong.

Sorting out which side is right is tricky. Take fourth-grade reading, for example. Only three states performed better than Wyoming. But 12 were not “reliably different.” The same goes for eighth-grade reading: bested by five states, but not reliably different than 23 others.

The debate is unlikely to end anytime soon. The new NAEP scores will be available Tuesday morning.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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