Manual PAWS recount finished

WDE assures everything is in place

By David Louis

RAWLINS — After a week of addressing concerns from school districts around the state, trying to get a handle on a fluid situation and attempting to turn around public opinion, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) believes it has corrected all deficiencies involving “missing” PAWS testing materials.

The WDE announced Monday that a manual statewide recount of both scorable and non-scorable PAWS (Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students) testing material had been finished and site specific information would be provided to school districts who have materials yet to be returned.

At issue, creating panic among several Wyoming school districts, was a May 3 email sent by New Jersey-based testing vendor Educational Testing Service (ETS) to more than 120 districts and/or individual schools that contained vague language demanding the return of “missing” overage and non-scorable materials such as testing booklets.

While non-scorable materials are not incorporated into PAWS test results, they are required to be sent back to the vendor and accounted for.

“An email will be going out, basically a confirmation to the schools, that we received the original correspondence that ETS has received all of the scorable materials and also providing principals a way to review non-scorable materials,” said Kari Eakins, WDE communications director.

“Hopefully this will jack up everyone’s confidence.”

Dicky Shanor, WDE chief of staff, acknowledges that mistakes had been made by ETS, but a plan has been established to prevent other similar occurrences from happening.

“We spent a good amount of time on the phone with ETS leadership and their team working on this,” Shanor said. “We have a plan going forward to where we will be able to drill down on the minutia. WDE, working with ETS, will use the files and make phone calls individually with the remaining sites to get everything figured out.”

Little Snake River Valley School Principal Joel Thomas is looking forward to getting everything cleared up.

“Initially, I thought the state wasn’t giving us the whole story, but I talked with (WDE) Superintendent (Jillian) Balow directly last week and I’m confident the department is doing everything they can in telling us what they are getting from ETS,” Thomas said.

“Since then, the state has been good at keeping us updated daily on what is going on, but I’m still not convinced they are only missing non-scorable materials.”

And Little Snake River Valley School (LSRV) has good reason to question.

According to last week’s email, ETS showed that LSRV had not returned testing materials.

Contained in the email, Thomas said, “Was a test center number, an order number, an item number and two missing serial numbers.”

“It literately was just those two numbers and based on that we know it involves scorable material,” Thomas said. “If the information ETS sent to us is still inaccurate, then it’s an even bigger problem that we think it is. For right now we’re in a holding pattern to see what ETS provides.”

Although WDE staff has worked to remedy a “bad situation,” there are still many school administrators that doubt ETS’ competency, “big time,” Thomas said.

“I don’t think they have any reputation or competency left,” he said. “I don’t think there is any possibility we can re-up (in 2017) with ETS based on what we’ve gone through.”

It’s unfortunate that the weeklong event has taken its toll, Thomas said.

“There’s a ton of pressure on everyone at the ground level,” he said. “We take these tests very seriously, and we do everything that we possibly can to help the kids over that bar just to find out the company we are paying millions of dollars to doesn’t take the time or have the personnel in place to make sure everything is accounted for and is valid.

“It’s a joke and it seems to be getting worse and not better,” he said. “That’s the scary part.”

Repeated telephone calls and emails to ETS during the past week have not been returned.

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