Statewide Assessment System

Wyoming’s assessment system measures students’ progress toward the Wyoming Content Standards. It is used to enhance teaching and learning, support school improvement, and to provide data for accountability to help ensure the effectiveness of schools, programs, and staff. When used in conjunction with a school district’s annual assessment program, statewide assessments provide the information needed to develop and implement strategies for improvement of student performance.

Wyoming Statewide Assessment System Composition

Elementary and Middle Grades Assessments (grades 3-8)

  • The Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, PAWS, is a summative assessment in reading, mathematics, and science. The PAWS in reading and mathematics is administered once a year in grades 3-8. The PAWS science assessment is administered in grades 4 and 8.
  • The WY-Alternate (Wy-ALT) is given once a year to students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-8 in ELA and mathematics and in grades 4 and 8 in science.

High School Assessments (grades 9-12)

  • EXPLORE is the initial assessment of the ACT College and Career Readiness System. It assesses students’ achievement in English, math, reading, and science. This assessment was administered to all 9th graders for the first time in the spring of 2013.
  • PLAN is the second assessment of the ACT College and Career Readiness System, and it is administered once a year to all 10th graders. It assesses students’ achievement in English, math, reading, and science.
  • ACT Plus Writing is the capstone of the ACT College and Career Readiness System. It measures students’ general learning outcomes in English, math, reading, writing, and science. This assessment is given once a year to all students in the 11th grade.
    • WorkKeys is an optional assessment for students in grades 11 and 12, and is used to assess a student’s job skills.
  • Wy-ALT is given once a year to students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 9-11 in ELA, mathematics and science.
  • COMPASS is an optional computer-adaptive college placement assessment. Students are to be given the opportunity to take this assessment at least one (1) time during their senior year.

English Proficiency Assessments

  • The ACCESS for ELLs® is required once a year with all students who are English language learners. It assesses students’ progress in attaining English proficiency. An alternate ACCESS is also available for English language learners who also have significant cognitive disabilities.


  • In addition to the statewide assessment system, Wyoming schools and students also participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, every other year. The next administration of the NAEP is in 2015.

2015-16 Assessment Calendar

WDE is currently investigating the possible windows for the 2015-16 assessment calendar. Some of the changes affecting this year’s calendar are the elimination of SAWS, the possibility of using pre- rather than post-equating for PAWS (equating is the process that links one year’s test to the next to ensure comparability), and the transition from ACT’s Explore and Plan assessments to the ACT Aspire assessment. WDE is working with both ETS (for the PAWS) and ACT (for the Aspire and ACT) to investigate possible dates for the latest assessment windows possible that still ensure the availability of the data in time for state and federal school accountability reporting. The new assessment calendar for the 2015-16 school year will be coming in June.

2014-15 Assessment Calendar

Grade NAEP
Jan 26
-Mar 6
Mar 2
Feb 23
-Mar 27
Apr 13 -May 1
for ELLS
Jan 19 -Feb 23
Apr 20 -May 12
Apr 20
-May 12
ACT Plus
Apr 28 (May 12)
Apr 29
(May 13) Optional
Oct 6-24
Apr 20-
May 12
1 X
2 X
3 X X X X
4 X X X X
5 X X X X
6 X X X
7 X X X X
8 X X X X
9 X X X
10 X X X
11 X X X X
12 X X X

Parent Opt Outs from Statewide Assessment

Last spring, the WDE requested an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office regarding parent opt outs from state-mandated testing (e.g. PAWS, EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT, Wy-ALT). The following is part of the AG’s response:

“In summary, the State Board of Education is authorized to establish the statewide accountability system pursuant to state law, including the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act. It has promulgated rules that require districts to administer the relevant assessments to all students in the appropriate grade levels. These requirements are within the authority granted to the Board by the legislature. Consequently, districts may not allow students or their parents to opt them out of the assessments provided by law.”

The full opinion can be found here:

The Wyoming Growth Model

The graphic below is a link to a summarized history of the changes made to the Wyoming assessment system since 1995. Click on the graphic to see the summary.

Statewide Assessment System History