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January 04, 2011 1:36 pm

EDITORIAL: Fresh eyes examine flawed test

Written by Tessa Schweigert

For much of 2010, criticism and questions surrounded PAWS — the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students.

Going into a new year, state leaders must decide what the future is for the beleaguered standardized test. Following an audit report that showed the PAWS test is expensive and not fully utilized, we’re glad Wyoming officials are taking a serious look at the exam, its flaws and whether it guides student instruction as it should.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill told the Associated Press she planned to spend her entire first day in office today (Tuesday) reviewing PAWS and its problems.

Last spring, the PAWS test was troubled by technical problems when it was administered to students, delaying results and prompting the state to ask for some scores to be thrown out. Ultimately, the scores could not be used to judge whether Wyoming is meeting federal goals under the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

Locally, Powell schools had fewer problems with PAWS than others in the state. However, the decision to not use the test results was the same for all districts.

“Unfortunately, in the state, we’re all in the same basket. Either we all count the test or all don’t count it,” R.J. Kost, curriculum coordinator for Park County School District No. 1, said about last year’s PAWS situation.

Wyoming policy makers and leaders have completely lost confidence in NCS Pearson, the audit report said.

Indeed — many residents and educators feel the same way, which is disconcerting in a state that takes pride in its education system and continually funds the state’s schools at a high level.

Unfortunately, the flawed test and the misgivings it created in Wyoming have come at a high price.

The recently released audit report says the PAWS test is more expensive than other states’ tests. Currently, Wyoming is in a four-year, $40 million contract with NCS Pearson Inc., the company that developed the test in cooperation with the state education department.

Compare that to South Dakota, where NCS Pearson receives about $4.6 million per year for administration and development of that state’s standardized test.

Wyoming’s newly-elected officials must decide whether to sign a proposed settlement with NCS Pearson, which would provide $5.8 million in compensation to the Cowboy State for the problems with last year’s PAWS test.

We encourage those officials who took office this week, including Gov. Matt Mead and Superintendent Hill, to seriously consider the future of PAWS in Wyoming — and whether it’s time to sever ties with NCS Pearson.


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