SHERIDAN — While many in Wyoming’s education circles are eager to bid adieu to the current state assessment system and replace it with a leaner version that generates more widely comparable data, the changes could cause a scramble at the state’s smaller districts.
As the smallest school district in the state, Sheridan County School District 3 lacks the resources to implement such changes as quickly or smoothly as larger districts, Superintendent Charles Auzqui told legislators Tuesday at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce legislative forum.
“Small districts struggle because we don’t have the manpower just to make it happen in six months,” Auzqui said.
Auzqui pressed legislators to speed up the changes so that his district could have as much time as possible to plan for the new testing requirements.
PAWS, or Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, is the test currently used. Recommendations by the Wyoming Assessment Task Force include reducing the total testing time to no more than 1 percent of the calendar year and swapping out the PAWS test for one such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is administered in more than a dozen other states.
The changes are not expected to be in place until 2018.
School officials at Sheridan County School District 2 are eager to see the changes, in part because the PAWS test is only taken in Wyoming so results cannot be compared with student results outside of the state. Also, the computer-based Smarter Balanced test is adaptive, which means answers to the first test question help generate subsequent test questions. Proponents say this does a better job of gauging student understanding.
But for Auzqui and others in SCSD3, the changes could come too soon. There is more work to do than one might think when switching tests, Auzqui said.
For instance, getting computers in place for online testing can be a hassle, even for smaller classes. Teachers also must become familiar with the new test so they can prepare students for the format and ensure they cover the necessary material in the curriculum.
Additionally, the schedule must be adjusted in order to administer the tests, which can have a ripple effect on planning.