State education officials choose new PAWS vendor

2011-12-08T23:45:00Z 2011-12-08T23:45:06Z State education officials choose new PAWS vendorBy JACKIE BORCHARDT Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
December 08, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming education officials have chosen a new vendor to administer state tests.

The State Board of Education approved Education Testing Service (ETS) to administer the spring 2013 and 2014 Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, after a recommendation from the state Department of Education during a teleconference meeting Thursday.

After an hourlong executive session, the board directed the state department and superintendent of public instruction to begin contract negotiations with the company for work through December 2014. ETS scored the highest among vendors on technical experience and in an oral interview, said Paul Williams, interim director of assessment for the department.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill voted with the board to approve the vendor.

“We’re glad we have a vendor, and we can move forward from this moment,” Hill said.

ETS administers the ACT and SAT tests, as well as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Through this year, PAWS tested students in third through eighth and 11th grades in reading, math and writing. Students in fourth, eighth and 11th grades are also tested in science.

The Legislature dropped the writing test from the spring 2012 and future administrations in statute. But students are still likely to take a writing test in the spring.

Lawmakers added a separate state writing test that won’t count for federal accountability purposes. The company chosen for the next PAWS will also administer a pilot writing test in spring 2012.

Williams said the test will not happen during the same time as PAWS in March but probably later because contract negotiations could take some time.

Meanwhile, department officials are calculating the impact of removing the writing test on federal accountability decisions. The percentage of students proficient on reading tests is worth 60 percent of the language arts score and writing is worth 40 percent.

The percentages of students proficient in writing was higher than in reading in five of seven grades, statewide, in 2010-11. The higher percentage varies within each district, school and grade.

PAWS has been administered by NCS Pearson since 2007, and the department signed a four-year, $40 million contract with Pearson in 2009.

Widespread technology problems with the 2010 online administration led to a $5.1 million settlement and scores being scrapped one year later.

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