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Since 2005, the Proficiency and Assessments for Wyoming Students (PAWS) has served as Wyoming’s official state assessment for reading, writing, and mathematics. Grades 3-8 and 11 are assessed each year in reading, writing and mathematics. A science assessment was added in 2008 for grades 4, 8 and 11.
PAWS are standards based exams. It is constructed around specific instructional goals in such a way that teachers may understand, interpret and develop methods to suit the specific learning needs of their students based on test results. The test uses three methods for testing, selected-response, constructed-response, and free-response (for the writing portion of the test).
The primary purpose of the PAWS is to assess student performance against the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards. The assessment serves as a tool to promote school, district and state development as it relates to the teaching of standards of the Wyoming state curriculum, as well as the requirements set out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The results are used by a wide variety of stakeholders, including policymakers who determine how well students are performing individually, how well schools are performing, and how the state as a whole is performing.
Students in grades 3-8 and 11 take the PAWS each year. All students attending Wyoming public schools must take the PAWS; there are no exemptions for public school students to avoid taking the PAWS. Accommodations are made for students with a disability an individualized education plan (IEP), or non-native speaking ability (i.e., English Language Learners or ELLs). A modified version of the PAWS, the PAWS-ALT, is the state assessment for students with learning disabilities who cannot be accommodated by modifications to the PAWS.
The state uses the levels Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Below Basic to assess student performance levels on the PAWS. Students must receive a “proficient” score in order to meet grade level standards. Students are also given raw and scale scores for their performance.