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NCLB Outrages

Schools get Wyoming test results late

So we begin a new round of test mishaps. Same old same old. Except for these kids in Wyoming, it's new distress. I get tired of posting the same old stories, and them I remind myself that for these kids, this is new outrage.

By The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Wyoming elementary and high school students who stumbled in the first round of state proficiency testing in January will have fewer days to prepare for the retake later this month because scores from the first test were tardy by about 10 days.

State education officials blame the shortened time frame on Harcourt Assessment Inc., the San Antonio, Texas-based contractor hired to administer the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS.

Harcourt was supposed to deliver scores from the January test on March 2. Schools across the state finally received the results on Monday, and some educators were still missing portions of the scores Tuesday night.

Timely PAWS scores are considered critical because educators use them to target weaknesses in pupils and prepare them for the next round of testing, which is now just seven school days away.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jim McBride issued an apology Tuesday and called the delay of the test scores, which are tied to the federal No Child Left Behind Act,
"We are very disappointed in the performance of our contractor in making these results available," McBride said in a written statement. "The people of Wyoming, our schools, students, teachers and parents have my promise that we will fix these problems."

Messages left for officials at Harcourt Assessment Inc. were not returned Tuesday.

The PAWS test is required by both state and federal law as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. The results help determine if schools are making "adequate yearly progress" toward educational goals.

Wyoming pupils in grades 3-8 and 11 took the test in January, and students who struggled will get a second chance, starting on March 26.

Steve Fenton, principal at Pronghorn Elementary School in Campbell County, said the tardy results will make it difficult to help students who need remedial attention.

As far as trying to intervene with strategic or intensive help, it's not going to happen," said Fenton, whose school still hadn't received scores for the writing portion of the test Tuesday afternoon. "There's just not enough time."

Fenton said the failure to deliver the scores on time will also exacerbate some educators' distaste for the test, which has run into a number of troubles since it was created.

For example, the first round of testing was supposed to take less than nine hours to complete, but it actually consumed around 20 hours in some schools, eating up valuable teaching time. Harcourt's Web-based testing system slowed to a crawl because hundreds of students logged on simultaneously to take the test.

Sam Mirich, principal at Cheyenne East High School, said the latest delays will reduce remediation time for struggling students, but he couldn't predict the overall impact it will have on performance.

His staff worked to minimize the problem by analyzing the test results on Monday and quickly forwarding the information to teachers.

"I guess we won't know until after we get the results from the next phase of testing," Mirich said.

Ed Weber, assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment for Campbell County School District 1, said the PAWS test has a lot of potential as an educational tool, but the recent problems have cost it some credibility among teachers and administrators.

"They've got a lot of PR to recover," he said.

McBride said his department will spend the next several weeks discussing all the problems encountered so far with PAWS and looking for solutions. He said the current system may be "overly ambitious."

The results from January's test will not be released to the public until both rounds of testing are complete, said Tim Lockwood, a state Department of Education spokesman.

— Associated Press
Billings Gazette


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