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Talking Education 2014

It may be a while before parents find out how their students did on PAWS, the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students.

Results for the state’s standardized test have been released before the start of school for the last few years. But this year the results will go to districts about Sept. 5, said state Department of Education spokesman Travis Hoff.

Public release of the data will be two or three weeks after that, he said

Results of Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal measure of school performance under No Child Left Behind, also would be delayed because they are based on PAWS, he said.

Those results likely will be available in October.

The delay is being caused by changes to the test, he said.

“There’s a large enough shift in the content that the scales are broken, so new cut scores need to be set,” he said. “There is a pretty decent shift in the content of the PAWS and SAWS (writing) tests, so it’s harder to compare the results to earlier tests.”

The exams given this year can’t be graded using cut scores from previous tests, he said.

Cut scores determine how students are graded on their performance on the test – advanced, proficient, basic or below basic.

The biggest change from releasing the results later will be that some of the reports generated with AYP won’t be out before school starts, Hoff said.

These include notifications to parents that a school has not met AYP for enough years to open it up to school choice and let students move to another school, he said.

“Those need to be out before the start of school, but we can’t put out that until AYP,” Hoff said. “That’s the biggest potential hiccup caused by the delay.”

The education agency is seeking a waiver to let qualifying schools send out notices later, he said.

Marc LaHiff is the director of instruction Laramie County School District 1. He said the challenge is that the data won’t be a part of the district’s self-assessment.

“The biggest problem for us is we really do use PAWS for accountability purposes like the ‘State of the District (report),’” he said. “We write school improvement plans in September and October. Not having data until after that means we can’t have that be part of the process.”

The district still will do that work, he said, just with data it has at the time.

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“We’ll have to look at MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) and ACT,” he said.

The delay also could be frustrating for parents, LaHiff said.

“It’s more of a program issue,” he said. “But the impact is we’ll have some frustrated parents and rightfully so: They want to know how their students did.”

Also, there is some concern that the scores are expected to be lower than in previous years. But the district won’t know if schools need to offer school choice until late in the semester, LaHiff said.

“They’re telling us that the scores are going to drop significantly because they’re setting new cut scores,” he said. “If they do drop, then we’ll have more schools offer school choice. But we won’t know those schools until we get AYP results.”

It isn’t ideal to move students out of a school in November, LaHiff said. But he said he does understand why the scores will be late this year.

“The difficult part is the assessment seems to have changed every year for the last four or five years. That makes it hard to use for school improvement,” he added.

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Contact Assistant Managing Editor David Mayberry at 307-266-0633 or david.mayberry@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter@David_Mayberry.

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