PAWS scores suggest district improvement

by nathan oster

Big Horn County School District No. 3 officials won’t know until early August whether the district and its three buildings made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), but the release of the 2012 Proficiency Assessment of Wyoming Students (PAWS) results on Monday at least confirmed that the district is making progress.

“We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we showed growth,” said Barry Bryant, Greybull’s superintendent of schools.

That seems to have been the trend statewide as well.

According to the Wyoming Department of Education, the PAWS outcomes that were released on Monday “continue a two-year upward achievement trend.  According to historical PAWS data, the percentages of students testing proficient or advanced in each of the tested subject areas — math, reading and science — are the best performances recorded by Wyoming students.”

The department highlighted that 90.3 percent of third graders statewide were measured at proficient or above proficient.

“When you see statewide improvement like we are seeing here, you know that it is not just one person or group making results like this happen,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill. “You know students, teachers and parents are working hard—also know that bus drivers, our cafeteria staff, secretaries, support staff, our administrators, are all working together. When you see this kind of improvement you know communities are coming together around education.”

Statewide the overall average for students testing at proficient or above in math increased from 77 to 78 percent on the 2012 PAWS.  Overall reading scores rose from 75 to 76 percent of students testing at least proficient.  In science, general proficiency rates increased from 52 to 55 percent.


Greybull results

While the trend is positive, Bryant said he is concerned that GHS may have missed its AYP target.

“The bar got raised by 11 percent this year,” he said.  “For high school reading, 82 percent had to be at proficient or advanced — at least as far as No Child Left Behind is concerned.  We may have missed it … by one kid.”

GHS saw 80.65 percent of its students achieve scores of proficient or advanced in reading.

Statewide, just 77 percent of high school juniors scored at proficient or advanced in reading.

If GHS did, in fact, fail to make AYP, it would be placed on warning status, Bryant said. “Nothing would happen, other than internally, where we’d have to ask what we need to do to meet this,”

If GHS fails to hit the AYP target in 2013, it would go into the school improvement status.

GHS students also topped the state average for proficiency in mathematics, with 77 testing at proficient or above, and in science, with 58 percent achieving proficiency standards.  Statewide the averages were 66 and 51 percent, respectively.

GHS’s graduation rate was also good enough to make AYP, according to Bryant.

In addition to GHS juniors, the PAWS exam was also administered to students in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.  In the 14 different exams that were given, GHS students topped the state average in the “proficient and above” category in nine.

In the third grade, greater than 95 percent tested proficient or advanced in math, 82 percent in reading.

In the fourth grade, 73 percent were proficient or advanced in math, 70 percent in reading and 61 percent in science.

In the fifth grade, 76 percent were proficient or advanced in math, 80 percent in reading.

In the sixth grade, 88 percent were proficient or advanced in math, 94 percent in reading.

In the seventh grade, 81 percent were proficient or advanced in both math and reading.

In the eighth grade, proficient or advanced scores were posted by 78 percent in math, 76 percent in reading and 51 percent in science.  Bryant said the scores posted by the eighth graders were among the most concerning to him.

“Reading scores, at that level, are not where we want them to be,” he said. “The goal was 90 percent in math, 90 percent in reading.  We didn’t get there.”

But on the plus side, Bryant said his preliminary review of the scores suggests that progress has been made.  While the 78 percent of eighth graders who hit the proficiency standard in math fell short of the goal, it still represented an increase of 17 percent compared to 2011, when as seventh graders just 61 percent of the same group tested at proficient or above.

Bryant said interventions that have been put in place at the elementary school, particularly in the area of reading, are also bearing fruit. The better a student is able to read, the more likely he or she is to succeed on the test, said Bryant. “As you see reading scores improve, you will also see science scores improve,” he said.

Overall, Bryant said the goal in the coming year will be on “improving teacher practices in the classroom,” adding, “I think the systems we have in place are working…we just need to get better at them.  Our teachers have done a very good job.  We are making growth.  We just need to make sure that we continue along that path.”