Wyoming Cuts Ties with Common Core-Aligned Testing

Published July 11, 2016

The Wyoming Department of Education has ended its affiliation with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a group that provides states with high-stakes achievement tests aligned with Common Core State Standards. 

Wyoming has been a member of SBAC since 2010. The state currently uses the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS), which is not an SBAC test. State Department of Education (DOE) officials announced in May 2016 they won’t be adopting the SBAC system when they seek bids for a new testing contract in the fall. 

Down the ‘Nationalized Education’ Road

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow says Wyoming is leaving SBAC, in part, because “[c]onsortia tests take states, like Wyoming, further down the road toward nationalized education.

“We have more freedom to move away from one-size-fits-all standards, [such as] Common Core, when we don’t also have a one-size-fits-all assessment,” Balow said.

PAWS will sunset after the 2017 school year. Balow says it is in the best interests of students and taxpayers to collect bids for a new exam.

“Simply, we can do better than we have,” Balow said.

‘High Expectations’

“Statewide assessments should be carefully aligned to local and district assessments as part of a system that gives meaningful information about the performance of students and the effectiveness of education,” Balow said. “Wyoming wants to ‘have its cake and eat it too’ and will consider all proposals with high expectations.” 

With the 2016 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) formally giving states authority to determine their educational standards and assessment systems, “Now is the time to move further away from nationalized assessments and, hence, nationalized education,” Balow said.

Not Optimistic

Christy Hooley, a former public school teacher and a member of Wyoming Against the Common Core, says DOE does not share Balow’s view on Common Core.

“What the state superintendent says and what the Department of Education does are not always the same things,” Hooley said. “The steps the DOE takes are putting tools in the hands of the teachers to continue down the road toward Common Core, to embed it even more rather than to free up the districts to use whatever they want.”

Hooley says the Wyoming Education Association newsletters refer frequently to Common Core-aligned materials and provide links to make it easier for teachers to align their curricula with Common Core.

“All the professional development being encouraged and recommended trains teachers how to better align their classrooms with Common Core, even though we call those ‘Wyoming Standards’ here,” Hooley said.  

Hooley says Wyoming’s final plan still involves federal oversight.

“The feds still have to sign off on Wyoming’s final plan to assess whether or not our kids are ‘college and career ready,'” Hooley said. 

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.