CHEYENNE — Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow described the 2020-21 state assessment results as “overwhelmingly normal” Tuesday, despite a school year that was anything but.
Students statewide experienced a slight drop in proficient and advanced scores, but school officials said it’s well within the margins of normal testing fluctuations – with a difference of less than 5 percentage points in each subject since the 2017-18 school year.
In grades 3-10 combined, 53.9 percent of students tested proficient or advanced in English language arts and 48 percent passed in mathematics. For the selected grades that test in science – grades 4, 8 and 10 – that percentage was 47.4 percent.
This comes after a difficult year and a half for students, parents, teachers and administrators, as they struggled to continue their education curriculum throughout the pandemic. State tests were not given during the 2019-20 school year.
Balow said she would urge administrators and officials to resist the habit of comparing this year’s scores and assessment data to 2017-18, because not only was it taken under unusual circumstances, there are no scores from last year to gather a trend.
“Given the challenges of this year,” she said, “we will take normal and unremarkable as the best context for looking at these.”
She did bring attention to the fact that even during the pandemic, nearly 97 percent of students in the state participated in the testing this past spring. It was successfully administered in an in-person environment to grades 3 through 10.
The test also matched the format of the 2017-18 state assessment, and no changes were made to question content.
Unlike other years, though, Wyoming received a waiver from federal accountability requirements and the State Board of Education to ensure these test scores will not be used for accountability purposes. Balow stated this was not an opportunity to judge educators.
Kari Eakins, Wyoming Department of Education chief policy officer, said that performance expectations are still relevant to Wyoming students, but that is only to inform the state about how students continue to test over the upcoming years.
In terms of breaking down how students are doing this year, there are no stark differences from testing scores in previous years, as Balow previously stated. But the average remains close to 50 percent or below in the number of children passing English language arts, math and science standardized testing.
The standard was set in 2017-18, Eakins said, with a baseline passing average for proficient and advanced students in English at 53.1 percent and 49.2 percent in mathematics, which is tested through all grades up to and including grade 10. The baseline average for science, which is only given to students during grades 4, 8 and 10, was 48.5 percent.
In 2018-19, there was a slight increase in passing percentage averages for the state. Since then, it has dropped below the baseline in all subjects except English.
Johnson County Superintendent Charles Auzqui said after the result announcement Tuesday that these scores are definitely a checkpoint for the state, but only a snapshot in time.
“Now, it’s time to put that data together and start our professional development plan for the next year to support teachers,” he said.