As the Wyoming Department of Education moves to replace the PAWS assessment, the agency announced Monday it has discontinued its affiliate member status with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in order to avoid perceived conflict in seeking a new testing contract.

“I wanted to basically level the playing field and make sure that all vendors have an opportunity to bid or vie for the Wyoming student assessment,” says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Balow also cites Wyoming’s desire for a customized test that assesses state content and performance standards, as opposed to a nationalized test.

“At the same time, we want it comparable,” says Balow. “So we want to be able to compare students from state to state. And that’s a little bit like having your cake and eating it too, but we think we can accomplish that.”

Balow says Wyoming was previously an SBAC governing state and then an affiliate state before discontinuing its affiliate status.

The department is required to hold a competitive bidding process for a potential vendor for statewide assessments in grades 3-10, and the process presents an opportunity for improvement to Wyoming’s educational system.

“We think that we can have a better product that measures student performance and the health of our system carefully,” says Balow. “And we think we can do that a much better price than we have with the PAWS.”

Balow says she asked the Wyoming Assessment Task Force to look at a complete student assessment system, rather than focusing on one standardized test, and the group returned recommendations aimed at gauging both the health of the state’s educational system and individual student performance.

“We hope that this standardized assessment is minimal, that it tests our standards and that it gives information about the health of our education system and the performance of our students,” says Balow.

According a news release from the Wyoming Department of Education, contracts with Wyoming’s current vendors for statewide assessments in grades 3-10 expire January 1, 2018. The department says it will issue a request for proposals this fall.

“We have an opportunity to improve on PAWS, improve on what we were doing, and really get the most appropriate and best test for our students in Wyoming,” says Balow.