PINEDALE – The Wyoming Department of Education launched a new standardized test this year called WY-TOPP to replace PAWS.
Students in Sublette County School District No. 1 completed the tests earlier this year and the results were released by the Wyoming Department of Education last week.
SCSD No. 1 performed well on the new standardized tests. WY-TOPP tests student proficiency in math, science and English language arts. Students in specific grades at Pinedale’s elementary school, middle school and high school took the tests and scored above the state average on every test administered to all grade levels.
“This is the third year in a row that SCSD No. 1 scores are above the state average in standardized tests,” said Dr. Steve Miller, the district’s curriculum and data assessment coordinator. “Consistently, students in elementary school through high school are having great success achievement-wise on the new WY-TOPP test. These results show that our principals and teachers are working very hard.”
SCSD No. 1 Superintendent Jay Harnack is also happy with the results.
“Overall, I’m pleased with our test scores,” Harnack said, “The WY-TOPP was a new test with a lot of unknowns and new things. Our staff and students did a great job.”
The WY-TOPP test is an “adaptive test,” Miller said, meaning that each test caters to the academic standing of the individual student taking it. The tests are administered online. A student receives one of four scores on the three subjects covered by the test: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. A majority of students at Pinedale’s three public schools scored at “proficient” or above on all math, science and English language arts tests.
Miller’s job is to take all of the data from the test results and process it in a way that will help district administrators identify where each school is succeeding and highlight areas where schools need to improve.
“We don’t want to necessarily teach to the test,” Miller said, “But we do use the results to ensure that our curriculum covers state standards and is rigorous enough to ensure our students have a fair shot.”
The Wyoming Department of Education mandates when the tests are taken, but offers a window to make sure each school district in the state has a fair opportunity to schedule their tests, Miller said. Denise Hastings is the WY-TOPP coordinator for SCSD No. 1, and Miller gives her the credit for working out all of the test logistics.
Miller added that “interim tests” and “modules” are offered to help students and teachers navigate the system and prepare for the upcoming tests.
Overall, based on data provided by Miller, all three public schools in SCSD No. 1 ranked highly on the WY-TOPP tests when compared to other school districts in Wyoming where 30 or more students took each test. Using the 30-student threshold is important to fairly compare Sublette County to schools with similar student bodies, Miller said. Schools with smaller student bodies can have skewed results, Miller added, because a particularly high or low score can have a strong influence on the average.
Pinedale Elementary ranked ninth out of 81 elementary schools in Wyoming on overall WY-TOPP scores. Pinedale Middle School ranked fourth out of 33 Wyoming middle schools on their WY-TOPP scores. Pinedale High School ranked eighth out of 41 Wyoming high schools on overall WY-TOPP scores.
Standardized tests are increasingly relied on to measure student success.
“We have more of a data-driven culture in our district,” Miller said. He added that the results provide an opportunity for districts to “have subjective conversations” about curriculum and “fine tune” certain subject areas for improvement. But at the end of the day, Miller stressed that each student was a person, not just a number or statistic.
“There is a life to each student,” he said. “They all have their own hopes, fears and dreams.” n