Wyoming Liberty Group
Wyoming Failure on PAWS, NAEP & ACT
What do PAWS, NAEP & ACT® have in common besides being arcane acronyms? They are all K-12 education testing systems, each testing different age groups by subject, with the object of assessing what kids know and can do. They’ve also become canaries in the coal mine telling us our education systems and theories are dangerously ineffective.
The first ailing canary is Wyoming’s overall state 2017 PAWS (Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students) results wherein 41 percent to nearly 50 percent of our kids failed to reach the level of proficiency required to meet state standards. Specifically, in math the failure rate was 47.7 percent; in reading it was 41.2 percent and in science it was 49.7 percent. These results are ever so slightly better than the results in 2014 when the failure rates were 51.1 percent in math, 42.5 percent in reading and 53.3 percent in science.
But overall, these failure rates are horrendous. Essentially, one-half of our kids in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are being left behind, unable to cope with a world that more and more requires skill in reading and math for a person to thrive. And this is according to our own objective benchmark, set by our own experts, with input from our “stakeholders” and after three years of “teaching to the test.”
The second sick canary is Wyoming’s NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress) scores. Keep in mind that NAEP is considered the “gold standard” for testing in the United States. Wyoming’s NAEP scores average about 250 on a scale of 500 points, not exactly excellent. And by NAEP’s definition of proficiency, that means in 2015 the percentage of kids NOT proficient in math was 65 percent for 8th graders. It was 52 percent for 4th graders. In reading, 64% of Wyoming 8th graders and 59 percent of 4th graders rated NOT proficient.
There was some small improvement in our NAEP failure percentages between 2005 and 2015. In math, our NOT proficient percentages began that period at 71 percent and 57 percent in 8th and 4th grades, respectively. Sadly, reading failure rates began that period between 60 and 65 percent in the two grades.
Now we must talk about ACT® (formerly American College Testing), another gold standard, measuring high-school juniors’ capabilities. In 2016, the percentages of kids NOT reaching ACT®’s standard for proficiency were 60.3 percent, 63.7 percent, and 66.8 percent in math, reading and science, respectively. The failure rates for 2015 were very similar. All Wyoming 11th graders are required to take the exam.
So we see that throughout the Wyoming K-12 system - on three different tests administered by three different testing agencies - the majority of our kids cannot be considered proficient in key subjects at any age. While the definition of what is considered proficient varies from grade to grade, subject to subject and test to test, these tests all describe the same situation: Wyoming’s K-12 system is failing more than half of Wyoming’s kids. This is abhorrent.
Why doesn’t the education system respond to this failure? Has anyone heard the education establishment even admit it exists? No. Rather, we repeatedly hear mush like, “well, we didn’t score quite as well as we wanted to, so we have some work to do, but overall we’re making progress.” Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google fire people when their organizations don’t deliver near-perfection. Schools rarely (except for the most egregious offenses) fire anyone. Instead, school district superintendents and other senior administrators are given raises while most of our kids fail.
K-12 education is also a government monopoly; government monopolies don’t measurably reform, regardless of the damage they do, unless forced to. Therefore, we citizens and our elected representatives must do such forcing.
Wyoming has been spending $1.5+ billion per year just for school operations (over $16,000 per child per year). Our current “experts” have not produced acceptable results for many years. Why don’t we get new systems and experts who can (…and who won’t just change the standards to cover their tracks)?