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Slide in Riverton PAWS scores reflects statewide trend; causes under study

Aug 14, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The annual PAWS test measures student progress in grades three through eight in reading, math and science.

Results from the 2012-13 school year show Riverton students scored lower overall on Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students.

"It's a trend across the state," said Joanne Flanagan, curriculum director for Fremont County School District 25 in Riverton.

She said school officials in Wyoming speculate that changes to the test could have had a negative impact on student performance. Questions on the 2013 PAWS were more closely aligned with new Common Core State Standards, and Flanagan said the assessment offered all multiple choice questions this year.

"It's not always just about content -- sometimes for kids it's about context too," she said of the new multiple choice format. "When they're not familiar with the context, or the way they're being asked to give their knowledge ... that can really throw them off."

She added that it's too early to say definitively what caused scores to go down overall in Riverton.

"We have to take a much closer look and do a much deeper level of analysis," Flanagan said.

The annual PAWS test measures student progress in grades three through eight in reading, math and science. Data from the testing is used to determine whether students are progressing toward federal and state educational goals as outlined through Adequate Yearly Progress and the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

PAWS results

This year at Rendezvous Elementary School, 75 percent of third-graders who took the PAWS test were proficient and advanced in math, with 48 percent were proficient and advanced in reading.

Third-graders tested better overall during the 2011-12 school year, when they also attended Ashgrove, Aspen Park and Jackson elementary schools. PAWS results that year showed 84 percent of third-graders at Ashgrove were proficient and advanced in math, while 59 percent were proficient and advanced in reading. At Aspen Park last year, third-graders tested 73 percent proficient and advanced in math and 50 percent proficient and advanced in reading, and third-graders at Jackson Elementary were 93 percent proficient and advanced in math and 78 percent proficient and advanced in reading.

The numbers for the fourth-grade also were down this year, when PAWS testing showed 68 percent of those students were proficient and advanced in math, 72 percent were proficient and advanced in reading and 49 percent were proficient and advanced in science. In 2011-12, fourth-graders tested 75 percent proficient and advanced in math, 74 percent proficient and advanced in reading and 50 percent proficient and advanced in science.

A similar decline was seen in the fifth-grade. Results from 2012-13 show fifth-graders in Riverton were 73 percent proficient and advanced in math and 61 percent proficient and advanced in reading, down from 2011-12 when the students tested 77 percent proficient and advanced in math and 80 percent proficient and advanced in reading.

Results were mixed in the sixth grade this year, when almost 82 percent of students tested proficient and advanced in math and almost 75 percent were advanced or proficient in reading. Last year, 79 percent of sixth-graders were proficient and advanced in math and 81 percent were proficient and advanced in reading.

Seventh-grade scores declined this year: About 76 percent of those students were deemed proficient and advanced in math, while 67 percent were proficient and advanced in reading. Seventh-graders last year were 78 percent proficient and advanced in math and 76 percent proficient and advanced in reading.

At the eighth-grade level, almost 77 percent of students were proficient and advanced in math this year, 74 percent were proficient and advanced in reading and 47 percent were proficient and advanced in science. Last year was better with 83 percent of eighth-graders proficient and advanced in math, 76 percent proficient and advanced in reading and 54 percent proficient and advanced in science.

Cohorts

Since students are tested at a different grade level each year, administrators often track cohorts in order to compare each group's score as the students age.

For example, the fourth-graders who were 75 percent proficient and advanced in math in 2011-12 became the fifth-graders who were 73 percent proficient and advanced in math in 2012-13. The same group was 74 percent proficient and advanced in reading in fourth grade compared to 61 percent proficient and advanced in reading at the fifth-grade level.

The fifth-graders from 2011-12 were 77 percent proficient and advanced in math compared to their higher score of 82 percent proficient and advanced in math in sixth grade this year. Fifth-graders last year were 80 percent proficient and advanced in reading, down to 75 percent proficient and advanced in reading this year.

Sixth-graders last year were 79 percent proficient and advanced in math. This year their scores on the seventh-grade math test fell, with 76 percent proficient and advanced in that subject. The same group was 81 percent proficient and advanced in reading in 2011-12 compared to the lower 67 percent proficient and advanced in reading in 2012-13.

Seventh-graders last year were 78 percent proficient and advanced in math, while eighth graders this year were 77 percent proficient and advanced in that subject. The same group tested 76 percent proficient and advanced in reading last year compared to 74 percent proficient and advanced in reading this year.

Statewide, PAWS proficiency rates across each grade level and content area reportedly declined this year compared to 2012, according to the Wyoming Department of Education.

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