Students in Albany County School District No. 1 mostly performed better on Wyoming’s standardized test, WY-TOPP, in the 2018-2019 school year than the district’s students scored in the test’s inaugural year, 2017-2018.
The Wyoming Department of Education released data for the state’s WY-TOPP scores Wednesday. Like ACSD No. 1, students statewide largely scored better this past year.
The electronic WY-TOPP test replaced the state’s previous standardized test, PAWS, which was conducted with pencil and paper.
WY-TOPP tests students in third through 10th grades on English and mathematics. Students in the fourth, eighth and 10th grades take the science portion of the test.
A student’s score in each subject is grouped into one of four categories: Below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.
Notably, the percentage of ACSD No. 1’s fourth-graders, fifth-graders, freshmen and sophomores who earned at least proficient improved in all subjects. The percentage of fourth-graders, fifth-graders, freshmen and sophomores whose scores were “below basic” also dropped in all subjects from 2017-2018.
Conversely, the scores of the district’s third-graders, sixth-graders and eighth-graders this year were worse than the previous year.
In all three subjects, a smaller percentage of in all three classes earned at least a proficient score than the 2017-2018 class, while more of those students also had a “below basic” score.
This year’s seventh grade performed better on the English test than the previous year’s class, and there was essentially no change in the math scores.
Scores at Laramie High School saw some of the biggest improvements when compared to 2017-2018.
The proficiency rate in English of freshman jumped from 45.8% to 65.4% in one year.
The proficiency rate of sophomores jumped from 41.6% to 50.4% in science, 45.3% to 58.6% in English, and 45.3% to 58.3% in math.
Overall, ACSD No. 1 remains a top performer in the state.
Of the eight grades that took the math test, all ACSD No. 1 grade levels outperformed the statewide average.
The gap between ACSD No. 1 scores and the state average on English is smaller, but six of the ACSD No. 1’s eight grades who take the English test performed better than the state average.
With proficiency scores of 59% and 56.5%, respectively, ACSD No. 1’s sixth- and eighth-graders’ performance on the English test falls below the state average.
The district’s science scores were also more hit-and-miss. While the district’s eighth-graders and sophomores had a proficiency rate similar to the state average, 67.8% of ACSD No. 1’s fourth-graders scored at least proficient on the science test, while that statewide percentage was just 52%.
Laurie Hernandez, director of standards and assessment for the WDE, said Wednesday that, as anticipated, WY-TOPP is costing the state significantly less than PAWS had.
WY-TOPP cost “just a little more than $3 million” this year, she said, while PAWS was typically costing the state $6 million-$8 million a year.
During a Wednesday conference call, two district superintendents whose schools scores rose significantly in the last year said that the schools’ immediate receipt of WY-TOPP scores is very helpful in targeting students who are underperforming.
With PAWS, schools weren’t receiving students test scores until August, which made them “relatively useless for helping individuals,” according to Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1.
Hernandez said that, under WY-TOPP, science and English scores become available within minutes of a student completing a test. Even though the English test has a written portion that needs to be graded, schools receive those scores within two weeks.
Curtis said his district staff “believe that this is the best assessment that we’ve had in decades.”
“We’re appreciative that we are going into year 3 and that there’s no talk of changing the assessment anytime soon,” Curtis said.
Statewide, proficiency rates in English rose by 2.6% this year, in math by 2.1% and in science by 0.9%.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said she expects “to see scores continue to go up” next year.