CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A joint Wyoming House-Senate conference committee reached a compromise on the Education Accountability Act.
The six conference committee members for Senate File 70 voted to adopt the Senate version of the first phase of the statewide education accountability system, rather than the quick-start version adopted by the House.
The Senate then agreed to use the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students, or PAWS test, in reading.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the conference committee’s compromise Wednesday.
A vote also is expected on the compromise for Senate File 146, the Teacher Accountability Act.
While the education accountability conference committee found some common ground, another joint conference committee wasn’t as successful. The committee members assigned to House Bill 13, which proposed changes in the Hathaway Scholarship Program success curriculum, could not agree and the bill will die this session, said Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
The Senate version of HB13 created a more rigorous curriculum for the top two scholarship categories, including two years of foreign language, fine or performing arts, or career vocational/education.
The bill’s failure leaves the curriculum as it stands now, with only two years of foreign language required.
The House version of SF70, the Education Accountability Act, used the PAWS test for student assessments and divided schools into three sections for the first phase, with the focus on the 20 percent of schools that are underperforming.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill attended the conference committee meeting and said she met recently with principals from all over the state.
Hill said it would be best to look at the top proficiency for all schools rather than separate the schools into three performance categories.
The principals, she said, don’t want the schools to compete with one another.
Hill said the state’s contract for the PAWS test doesn’t expire until 2012.
The state Department of Education, she said, will hold meetings all over the state to get suggestions on a replacement test. The department then will present a number of options to the Legislature.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, the author of the House’s PAWS test amendment, said the advantage of the test is that it allows comparison between schools.
Coe said the Senate is sold on its Phase I approach, which sets a base year of student performance assessments.
But Harshman said he wanted to push to get the new program going fast by starting this year.
“We’re just trying to get started. We’re plowing new ground,” Coe said.
The bill creates a new select legislative committee on education accountability and an advisory council.
It also authorizes the committee to study teacher merit pay and training for school board members.