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September 09, 2008 1:01 am

PAWS test results positive for Powell schools

Written by Tribune Staff

Powell students continue to do well on Wyoming's statewide tests, according to results released last week by the Wyoming Department of Education.

Elementary and middle school students exceeded statewide averages in all categories but one on the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students administered to public school students in the state last spring.

Overall, the district is “really happy with the results” compared to the statewide performance, said R.J. Kost, curriculum coordinator for Park County School District No. 1. But he added that exceeding the state results is not the goal of the district.

“We're not trying to compare ourselves to the rest of the state,” Kost said. “Our goal is to push ourselves as high as we can.”
The assessment, commonly called PAWS, has been administered to students in grades three through eight and grade 11 since 2006. Each student's performance is rated in one of four levels: below basic, basic, proficient or advanced.

The assessment is used by the state to measure school progress as required by the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. This year, the standards for performance increased, requiring a larger percentage of students to score as proficient or advanced. Despite the increase, Powell schools easily met the new requirements.

“This year, there was a bump in the requirements,” Kost said, “but our teachers have met the challenge. The whole district is proud of them. Overall, we're happy with the results.”

Powell's elementary schools tested particularly well in mathematics, with nearly 90 percent of students in grades three through six testing as proficient or advanced in math. Last year's third grade had the best performance, with more than 97 percent achieving proficiency or better. In grades four and five, more than 87 percent of the students met the math standard.

Statewide, by comparison, 83.4 percent of third graders met the math standard, 76.8 percent of fourth graders and 71 percent of fifth graders tested proficient or above.

More than 75 percent of Powell's elementary students scored proficient or better in reading on the tests, and 87 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or better. Only 73.5 percent of fourth graders statewide met the standard, and fewer than 70 percent of third and fifth graders tested proficient or better.

Both Powell and Wyoming students had less success with the writing portion of the PAWS, but nearly 60 percent of Powell's elementary students were proficient or better. Fewer than half the state's third- and fifth-graders met that standard, and less than 53 percent of the state's fourth graders were proficient.

Middle school students also fared well in math. Eighty-seven percent of the sixth grade and 80.5 percent of the eighth grade met the standards, as did 72.9 percent of seventh graders.

In writing, which has been a problem area statewide on the PAWS test, nearly 60 percent of the eighth grade and 61 percent of the sixth grade met the standard, well above the statewide performance in those grades. The seventh-grade performance was below the state average, with only 42.5 percent meeting the standard.

Kost acknowledged that the district's performance on the writing portion of the test, while still meeting state standards, had dropped. But he added that the writing scores were not a part of the federal requirements under No Child Left Behind.

“We always would like to improve things,” Kost said. “Right now, we want writing to come up.”

Kost added that the district will continue to work on improving reading, and he expects that “as we work on reading in certain areas, writing will come up.”

Results reported for the 11th grade also were above state averages; however, those results did not include juniors who had taken the test as underclassmen and met the standards at that time. Kost said he had not considered those figures yet.

He added, however, that high schools use a body of evidence to determine whether a student has met the standards, rather than relying solely on the PAWS test.

Kost credited the district's faculty and staff for the positive performance of the district.

“We're proud of the efforts our teachers are making,” he said. “Our teachers have met the challenge of preparing the students and the whole district is proud of them.

The full results of the PAWS test, including the performance of individual schools, can be found on the Wyoming State Department of Education Website at www.k12.wy.us. Results from past years may also be found on the site.