From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 4 - 9/23/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Results in from 1st Statewide Assessment of 3R's
Local kids score well compared to rest of state, but there's room for improvement.
by Rob Shaul

Over the course of two weeks last April, 22,000 fourth, eighth, and eleventh graders across Wyoming took the first-ever statewide assessment of reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Last Friday the test results for the eighth and eleventh graders were published, allowing the public, for the first time, to compare their school district's performance to other districts in Wyoming.

Pinedale's 8th and 11th graders performed exceptionally well on the test, scoring at the top or near the top of every category. Big Piney's students scored below Pinedale, but far ahead of most schools in the state.


A statewide assessment of Wyoming's schools was mandated by the State Legislature as a follow-up to the changes in the school finance system in 1997. Statewide education spending was increased by several million dollars, and the Legislature wanted some accountability in return for the increased funding.

"Assessment provides parents and taxpayers with the ability to know whether or not our children are learning what they need to learn," said Governor Geringer last July. "This is a key element to the accountability that must be provided by our education system."

Out of that wish for accountability came the Wyoming Comprehensive Assessment System, or "WyCAS" - the name given to the statewide test.

WyCAS is designed to assess students' mastery of the statewide "content standards" for reading, writing, and mathematics. Committees of educators, business leaders, and parents developed the content standards over the past two years.

The assessment is extensive, with approximately 11 hours of testing divided into fourteen 45-minute periods for each grade level. Schools will be able to spread the testing over two weeks.

All students in the three grades being tested had to take the assessment - even those in special education programs.

WyCAS asked three types of questions, only one of which will resemble the multiple choice, "fill-in-the dot" Iowa test we all took in school. The other two types of questions were writing and reasoning intensive, and assess not only knowledge, but also higher-level thinking skills. Students had to write extensively when answering the math questions. For example, students were not only asked to find the mathematical answer for the problem, but explain how they got the answer in words and diagrams.

After WyCAS is scored, individual student reports will be given to parents and schools. The reports will show each student's scores, percentile ranks, and "performance levels" in reading, writing, and mathematics. There are four performance levels: Advanced, Proficient, Partially-Proficient, and Novice.

County WyCAS Scores

Last Friday, the results for the 8th and 11th graders were released. The results for the 4th graders are scheduled to be released in December.

Pinedale's 8th and 11th graders preformed exceptionally well on the first statewide assessment as compared to 8th graders across the state.

Fifty-three Pinedale 8th graders took the WyCAS last April and 71% scored "Advanced" or "Proficient" on the WyCAS reading test - the highest percentage of any of the 76 schools in Wyoming.

The Pinedale 8th graders scored nearly as well in the writing and math tests. The 8th graders scored 6th best in the state in writing, and 12th best in math.

Pinedale's 11th graders scored in the top ten statewide on all three tests. Forty-nine 11th graders took the WyCAS last April, and based on the percentages of the students which scored "Advanced" and "Proficient" on the tests, Pinedale's juniors tied for 4th statewide in reading and writing, and tied for 10th statewide in math out of 69 total schools.

Students in Big Piney also scored well on the statewide assessment as compared to other schools in Wyoming. Piney's 8th graders placed 28th of 76 Wyoming schools in reading, 40th in writing, and 23rd in math.

Piney's 11th graders fared better statewide. Last year's juniors placed 25th of 69 Wyoming high schools in reading, 9th in writing, and tied for 11th in math.

While Sublette County's students, especially Pinedale's students, performed well on the WyCAS compared to other schools in Wyoming, the results do show there's much room for improvement. For example, 68% of Pinedale's 8th graders scored "Advanced" or "Proficient" on the reading test. While this is the highest percentage in the state, looked at another way, 25%, or thirteen kids, scored "Partially Proficient" and four students scored "Novice" which is defined as demonstrating a "minimal understanding of the text." These results are disturbing.

Worse still are the math scores. Forty-six percent of Big Piney's 43 eleventh graders scored "Advanced" or "Proficient" on the math test. While this percentage was 11th best in the state, 41% or 17 of last year's 11th graders scored just "Partially Proficient" in math. Six of the 11th graders tested out at "Novice." These students are seniors this year, and are set to graduate from high school next spring.

It's important to note that all of the students in each had to take the statewide assessment test - including students with learning disabilities or in special education programs. Obviously, those students could skew the final assessment numbers down.

Local Officials' Comments

"It's very exciting to have results like these," said District No. 1 Superintendent Jerry Wilson of the Pinedale WyCAS results. Dr. Wilson credited the kids for taking the test seriously, and the teachers for implementing the statewide standards and preparing their students for the test. He also credited his principals in the high and middle schools, Dick Kennedy and Mike Vassallo.

Mr. Kennedy also commended the students and staff, and he added a thanks to the community for understanding the importance of the test and encouraging the students to perform well. "I am very excited about these results," he said emphatically.

Mr. Vassallo said Pinedale's performance on the WyCAS pointed to a community-wide effort involving the students, parents, and teachers. "It was an effort of all these groups combined to produce positive results," on the test, he said.

Dr. Wilson said the WyCAS results will be implemented into the overall school improvement plan. The biggest area of concern was the math scores. The district recently purchased new math textbooks for the middle and high schools. The three officials felt the extended-response math questions were unfamiliar to the students and were a chief factor in the lower scores on the math portion of the test.

In Big Piney, District No. 9 Superintendent Weldon Shelly said for the first time through, he was "real satisfied" with the Big Piney students' performance on the assessment. He added that District No. 9 will be looking at its curriculum to ensure it aligns with the statewide standards.

WyCAS scores for individual students will be distributed to parents sometime in the near future. Next year's statewide assessment will take place in March.


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Copyright © 1999 The Sublette County Journal
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul