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Wyoming's Standardized Test Scores Drop

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Results released Thursday by the Wyoming Department of Education show that students performed worse on this year’s standardized test than they did last year.

The Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students—or PAWS—measures students’ aptitude in math, reading and science.  The test is taken by students in grades 3 through 8.

Last year, 58 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient on reading. This year, less than 52 percent did. Math scores didn’t drop as sharply as reading—and actually rose slightly for some grade levels.

The reading and math portions of PAWS were changed last year, after Wyoming adopted the Common Core State Standards for those subjects. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow says schools and districts are still working to adapt to those new standards.

“In 2014, the assessment was fully aligned to the Wyoming standards, and now districts have had an opportunity to align their work to this new bar,” says Balow. “We will all work from here to improve. PAWS results, we need to remember, are only one measure of student success.”

Since Wyoming has not updated its science standards, that portion of the test has not changed, but science scores still dropped.

Balow’s chief policy officer Brent Young says it's unclear why proficiency rates for science fell. But overall, he says, the 2015 PAWS scores were what WDE had expected. 

“I would have to say no, they were not surprising,” says Young. “And we can feel good about one thing right now in that they’ve stayed consistent for two years—saying that we’ve got an assessment system that’s measuring these high standards and it’s staying somewhat stable.”

Sheridan County School District 2 students earned some of the highest proficiency levels this year. Some smaller school districts in Fremont County saw some of the lowest.

The state is currently weighing whether to adopt a new statewide test in the coming years, through an assessment task force. 

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