CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming K-12 students might not see major changes in annual statewide assessments in the next couple of years, as lawmakers cautiously try to find a test that meets the state's long-term needs and education reform goals.
"I like our being very, very prudent and slow in how we approach all this," Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Wednesday.
Currently, students in certain grades are given what is known as the PAWS test to help determine how proficient they are in math, science and reading.
However, PAWS has several key drawbacks, including the inability to compare how Wyoming students are doing to students in other states and in providing timely results.
An improved assessment test is a key part of Wyoming's education reform efforts to better prepare students for college and careers, and to hold schools, administrators and teachers responsible for the academic performance of students.
At the direction of the state Legislature, the Wyoming Education Department has been looking at options available to the state.
Department officials outlined options available to lawmakers during a meeting Wednesday of the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability.
"We need to listen to where the Legislature wants to go and then that's the direction we'll head," said Richard Crandall, director of the state Education Department.
One alternative is joining a consortium of states developing a test that costs about half the $15 million that Wyoming pays every two years for PAWS and provides faster results.
However, issues with confidentiality of student information and timing to switch from PAWS make it unlikely that any changes will occur before the 2015-16 school year.
"I don't think we want to transition that quick until we know exactly what all is on the table," Coe said.
Some parents fear that personal information about their children might be compromised because of the sharing with other states and possibly the federal Education Department.
An opinion issued Tuesday by state Attorney General Peter Michael said state and federal laws currently protect such information.
But lawmakers noted that state law may have to be amended so that certain generic test data can be shared in order to compare overall Wyoming student performance to students in other states.