SHERIDAN — Last month, local school administrators found out that statewide testing results won’t be available until September — after the 2018-19 school year begins — which may hinder school districts’ ability to plan for next year’s tests.
The delay occurred because it is the first year for the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress, a summative assessment in math, science and English for grades 3-10. WY-TOPP replaced the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students test.
The Wyoming Department of Education oversees the test results. Although WY-TOPP is administered to several states around the country, the WDE wanted to make test results Wyoming-specific by looking at results, then establishing cut scores to determine advanced, sufficient, basic and below basic cutoff marks based on the number of questions answered correctly. That process will take longer than initially anticipated, hence the delay.
Once cut scores are set, school districts will be able to compare results in future years to the predetermined cut score.
“It’s not just (if students) know it or they don’t, it actually has to do with how they compare with other students across the state,” Sheridan County School District 1 superintendent Marty Kobza said.
Friday is the last day for WY-TOPP testing, so the process to determine cut scores hasn’t started yet. When it does, all of the raw test result data will be organized first, which takes a few weeks. Then several educator committees and panel groups will review different benchmarks beginning in June.
WDE standards and assessment director Laurie Hernandez said the WDE should have everything finalized in late August to give school districts a final check to make sure students are correctly identified and only counted once before publicizing the results.
Hernandez said the WDE guarantees results in future years by Aug. 1 but hopes to have the results to districts by late June or early July.
“This year alone, we have a later window where we’ll get that report out in early September,” Hernandez said.
“In future years, districts will have that information much sooner.”
Sheridan County School District 3 superintendent Charles Auzqui said the school district does most of its curriculum planning over the summer, so it will be tougher to identify specific areas to address with students with this year’s results.
“We’re not going to be able to use that data to make changes, so there’s a frustration on my part,” Auzqui said. “That feedback from this year’s WY-TOPP is not going to help drive changes that we’re going to start implementing this summer.”
At the May 7 Sheridan County School District 2 board of trustees meeting, administrators said they were disappointed at the delayed time frame. SCSD2 assistant superintendent Mitch Craft said he called the state and asked multiple times for clarification.
Kobza said the time frame results won’t affect SCSD1 much because the district uses standards-referenced grading and doesn’t teach specifically for state tests like WY-TOPP.
“You have to have an assessment system in place that allows you to be somewhat nimble,” Kobza said. “It’s nice to talk about the state assessment scores, but if we’re truly about student learning and doing what’s best for the students, we’re going to be more nimble than waiting for state assessment scores to make some changes.”
The lengthy span between testing and results is not entirely new.
A similar process occurred when reading and math standards changed several years ago for the PAWS test. When that took place, test results weren’t available until October.
WDE communications director Kari Eakins downplayed any frustrations felt by school administrators.
“We’re actually pretty happy that in the first year of this new assessment, we’re able to have students take the assessments almost two months after the testing window was before, and we’ll go through this entire process and have it complete over a month earlier,” Eakins said. “The district administrators have been very understanding because they’ve been around for a while and remember this … They know that it’s important to get this right and so they’ve really been quick to jump in and work hand-in-hand with us.”
While schools make adjustments in other areas, the delayed WY-TOPP results being released in September could affect how students are prepared for future tests.