Local school districts performed above state averages on a first-year test, recent results show.

The Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress assessed students in spring 2018 from grades three through 10. All pupils were examined on math and language arts, in addition to a science portion for fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders.

Sheridan County School District 2 performed above the state averages in all 19 categories for the percentage of students proficient and advanced. Sheridan County School District 1 and Sheridan County School District 3 did better than the Wyoming average in 16 areas.

The WY-TOPP test replaced the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students. The formats and grading are significantly different, however, so school districts can’t compare PAWS results from 2017 to this year’s WY-TOPP scores.

Moreover, while the PAWS tests were all paper and pencil, the WY-TOPP assessments were done completely online, so students had to get used to the different online tools, like a ruler, calculator, dragging and dropping a word or picture and highlighting text.

WY-TOPP results are given to school districts for every student, an ideal way for teachers to address problem areas. WY-TOPP also has subject modulars for teachers to use with students in a specific area.

SCSD2 assistant superintendent Mitch Craft Craft said teachers periodically give students similarly-formatted online tests.

“We want our kids throughout the year to every now and then take assessments in a tech-enhanced environment so that when they get to WY-TOPP, it just looks and feels normal to them,” Craft said.

The WY-TOPP tests also involved more critical thinking and reasoning than PAWS, so Craft said the tests included different types of questions. For example, previous tests asked: “What is the correct answer?” while WY-TOPP asked: “What is the best answer and why?”

SCSD3 superintendent Charles Auzqui said WY-TOPP seemed to be more difficult than other state tests in years past. For example, he said students had to be in the 60th percentile on a different standardized test to be proficient in PAWS, while they had to be in 70th percentile for proficiency on WY-TOPP.

“It requires kids to demonstrate mastery at a higher level,” Auzqui said.

Overall, SCSD2 finished first out of 48 school districts in the state for average golf score, which tallies school district rankings for all 19 subjects and divides by 19. SCSD2 had an average score of 2.9, SCSD3 was at 11.2 for fifth-best in the state and SCSD1 had an average of 17.4, which was 17th-best.

SCSD1 superintendent Pete Kilbride said he appreciated that WY-TOPP offers interim tests in fall and winter before the summative assessment in spring.

“I like the fact that we can kind of benchmark where our kids are at in terms of their growth throughout the year,” Kilbride said. “That’s a huge benefit.”

For SCSD1, if its curriculum is aligned with test material, “the results should take care of themselves,” Kilbride said. “If it’s not, we need to start tweaking it, because if that’s what we’re getting measured on and that’s our state report card, we want to make sure we’re setting kids up for success.”

Similarly, Craft said the quality test scores are not the end goal of education but serve as positive indicators.

“Results like these are not the point of our work,” Craft said. “They are the outcome … If you do the right work, you get great outcomes. We work very purposefully in our district to foster a results-oriented outcome, where people are thinking about results every day.”

SCSD2 superintendent Craig Dougherty said district administration doesn’t set specific percentage goals for principals and teachers to meet. Rather, they have the teachers set goals.

“It’s a systems approach,” Dougherty said. “Within that system we have a ton of creativity and teachers that are performing as good or better as any teachers in the country.”

SCSD1 and SCSD2 administrators consider the test results one of many good guides for the future. Likewise, SCSD3 takes into account these WY-TOPP results, along with Measures of Academic Progress and ACT scores, for its future high school plans.

“It’s a triangulation of data that helps drive the changes,” Auzqui said. “If [WY-TOPP] continues to stay and doesn’t bring a lot of changes, we’ll start having long-term data that allow us to practice the same type of assessment … The end result should be kids should be performing better.”

The WY-TOPP scores won’t have a drastic impact on future curriculum plans, but the results were encouraging for Sheridan County’s three school districts.