State 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 State 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)

  • ASPIRE is a new product in the ACT line of college and career readiness assessments. It assesses students’ achievement in English, math, reading, and science. This assessment will be administered to all 9th and 10th graders for the first time in the spring of 2016.
  • 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

After many discussions with our vendors, our Technical Advisory Committee, and with district staff, we’ve decided to keep the PAWS window during the month of March. We struggled with the timing of districts’ spring breaks along with the need to get data files from vendors as early in June as possible. And, we’ve heard consistently from the field, “Please stop changing the state assessment system!” Moving the test window to April would have complicated the spring 684 data collection for accountability, thereby delaying reporting of assessment and accountability results by at least a month, and made performance comparisons to prior years less meaningful given the additional time for instruction. All in all, we think it’s a better idea to shift the timing of statewide assessment when we make the shift to a new assessment system. Thanks to all of you for your patience as we carefully examined all of our options.

2015-16 Assessment Calendar

Grade PAWS
Mar 7-25
Feb 29-Mar 25
Jan 19-Mar 4
Apr 11-May 3
ACT Plus Writing
Apr 19 (May 3)
Apr 19-May 3
COMPASS Oct 5-23
Apr 11-May 3
1 X
2 X
3 X X X
4 X X X
5 X X X
6 X X X
7 X X X
8 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

In the Spring of 2014, the WDE requested an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office regarding parent opt outs from state-mandated testing (e.g. PAWS, ASPIRE, 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