Wyoming Science Assessment Letter

August 25, 2008

The Honorable Jim McBride
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Wyoming Department of Education
2300 Capitol Ave, 2nd Floor
Hathaway Building
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002-0050

Dear Superintendent McBride:

I am writing regarding our review of Wyoming’s science assessments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

As outlined in my letter of February 28, 2008, states had to meet four basic requirements in science for the 2007-08 school year. In particular, each state was required to: (1) have approved content standards in science; (2) administer a regular and alternate science assessment in each of three grade spans; (3) include all students in those assessments; and (4) report the results of the regular and alternate science assessments on state and district report cards. After reviewing the evidence submitted, I am pleased to note that it appears that Wyoming has met these requirements for 2007-08. However, Wyoming must submit final participation data to ensure that all students were included in the assessment system. Please let us know within 10 days of receipt of this letter when Wyoming will have those data available so that we can confirm that Wyoming has, in fact, met the basic requirements for administering science assessments in 2007-08. States that do not provide the outstanding evidence to verify that they have met the four criteria for the 2007-08 school year have not met the basic requirements of the statute and will be subject to consequences, such as withholding of Title I, Part A administrative funds.

In 2008-09, Wyoming must provide evidence for peer review that demonstrates full compliance of its science standards and assessments. In anticipation of that required peer review, Wyoming chose to participate in an optional technical assistance peer review in May 2008. I appreciate the efforts that were required to prepare for the technical assistance peer review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support Wyoming’s efforts to monitor student progress toward meeting challenging science standards.

Based on the evidence received from Wyoming, which was reviewed by the peers and Department staff, we have concluded that Wyoming does not yet meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, Wyoming must submit evidence of its science academic achievement standards, alignment of those standards with grade-level content, and technical quality of the science assessments that were administered for the first time in 2007-08. The complete list of evidence needed to address these concerns is enclosed with this letter. We have scheduled peer reviews for states’ science assessments for the weeks of October 25 through November 2, 2008, and March 23 through 27, 2009. All materials for review must be provided to the Department three weeks before the peer review is scheduled.

Please keep in mind that science standards and assessments represent one piece of a state’s complete standards and assessment system, which also includes regular and alternate assessments for reading/language arts and mathematics. As stated in my letter to you on November 13, 2007, Wyoming’s standards and assessment system for reading/language arts and mathematics is currently designated Approval Pending. In order to be fully approved, Wyoming must demonstrate that all components of its standards and assessment system as administered in 2008-09, including general and alternate assessments for reading, mathematics, and science, comply with all ESEA requirements for standards and assessment systems.

We look forward to working with Wyoming to support a high-quality standards and assessment system, of which science standards and assessments are an integral part. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Don Watson (Don.Watson@ed.gov) or Lauren Prehoda (Lauren.Prehoda@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Dave Freudenthal
Joe Simpson
Lesley Wangberg



  1. Evidence of final adoption of cut scores for the PAWS and the PAWS-Alt.
  2. Final achievement level descriptors that differentiate across grade spans and that are content specific.
  3. Evidence of alternate academic achievement standards, descriptors, and cut scores for the PAWS-Alt.
  4. Evidence demonstrating how the state ensures that parents are informed that students are participating in the PAWS-Alt, along with evidence of how the state ensures that parents are informed of the implications of that participation.
  5. Documentation of the number and percentage of students with disabilities enrolled, the number and percentage assessed on the PAWS-Alt, and the number and percentage assessed on PAWS, either with or without accommodations.
  6. Evidence of diverse stakeholders’ representation in the standards-setting process in June 2008, including participants’ demographic information, such as content area knowledge, special expertise (i.e., limited English proficient students and students with disabilities), and grade taught.


  1. Evidence of alignment for the PAWS and PAWS-Alt. [Evidence submitted for element 5 will satisfy this concern.]


  1. Documentation of a final, comprehensive technical manual that addresses the critical elements contained within this section.
  2. Plans for examining intended and unintended consequences.
  3. Evidence of the methodology and plan for demonstrating the reliability of the PAWS-Alt, particularly the Portfolio of Student Work (PSW) component.
  4. Documentation of the monitoring system.
  5. Plans for analyses that evaluate the use of accommodations.
  6. Evidence of an overarching framework and management plan that ensures critical components of the assessment system are operating in a coherent manner, thus establishing evidence that operational forms are developed in a consistent manner from one assessment cycle to another; alignment results are integrated within the upcoming assessment cycle; monitoring the intended implementation of the assessments, including the appropriate use of accommodations, provides feedback to state and school officials; and evaluations of intended and unintended consequences produced by the implementation of the assessment system are used to improve overall system quality.


  1. Evidence of the alignment study and a plan to address any findings from that study.
  2. Evidence of a plan to address any alignment deficiencies noted in the study and ensure alignment over time.
  3. Evidence that the state’s alternate academic achievement standards are aligned with the state’s academic content standards.


  1. Data demonstrating that all students are included in the science PAWS and PAWS-Alt assessments.
  2. Evidence to address the consistency and accuracy of assessment translations provided for limited English proficient (LEP) students in their native language(s).


  1. Documentation of PAWS-Alt reports and interpretative guides which demonstrates and/or explains performance level scale scores, the use of an error bands, and the elimination of non-essential technical terms.
  2. Evidence of revised PAWS reports and interpretative guides which demonstrates and/or explains performance level scale scores, the use of an error bands, and the elimination of non-essential technical terms.
  3. Documentation that districts provide all necessary information in reports to parents.
  4. Evidence of the timeframe for the districts to deliver reports to parents.

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