- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Most Wyoming K-12 students scored lower this year on statewide tests designed to measure their proficiency in math, science and reading.

State education officials noted that this was just the second year of testing under new, tougher reading and math standards and that the Wyoming Department of Education was working on initiatives to help school districts improve student performance.

“I think we remain enthused, not necessarily about the scores that we see today, but about the bar that’s set, about the work that’s being done and about the commitment to Wyoming education,” state schools Superintendent Jillian Balow said Thursday.

The Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, tests students in grades three through eight each year in math and reading and grades four and eight in science.

Science scores were down from last year in the two grades tested - with the percentage of fourth-grade students who are proficient or advanced falling from 52.87 to 51.34 while fifth-grade students who are proficient or advanced fell from 47.07 percent to 41.61 percent.

Reading scores were lower in six of the seven grades tested. The only improvement was in fifth grade where it was slight, increasing from 58.36 percent in 2014 to 58.58 percent this year.

Math scores were a relatively bright spot in the student scores, improving in three of the six grades tested. Students in fourth, sixth and seventh grades all performed better on the tests this year. Fourth-graders made the biggest improvement with 50.58 percent scoring proficient or advanced compared to 47.02 percent in 2014. By contrast, the worst drop in scores occurred in eighth grade from 49.69 percent in 2014 to 47.44 percent this year.

Brent Young, chief policy officer with the Education Department, said he hoped to see improvement in the reading and math scores starting next year as districts and students get more familiar with the new reading and math standards.

Young noted that while reading and math scores were lower, they also were relatively stable.

Young said there’s some concern for the science scores because the state’s science standards have not changed.

He said he didn’t know why those scores dropped but noted that the state’s recent education reform efforts and new emphasis on science education might help turn that around.

Wyoming spends about $1.9 billion over two years on its public K-12 education system, ranking among the highest among the states in per student spending.

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