Northern Arapaho Business Council Meeting

Dear Superintendents,

It was a privilege to conduct a formal government to government conversation with the Northern Arapaho Business Council this week. The conversation was in fulfillment of the requirement for meaningful consultation with tribes on the Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) State Plan. Beyond the requirement, however, the visit was a wonderful opportunity to talk about education opportunities and challenges for Native American learners. We also discussed the Indian Education for All legislation that passed in the Wyoming Legislature this year. Later this month, I will meet with the Eastern Shoshone Business Council to begin the same dialogue.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow and WDE tribal liaison Rob Black meet with three members of the Northern Arapaho Business Council
Members of the Arapaho Business Council

I also had an opportunity to attend Wyoming’s National History Day competition this week. Congratulations to all of the students, teachers, and schools who participated! One of the award presenters from the Wyoming Bar Association asked me if teachers are paid extra to work with students on their projects. It was another chance to tell about the great work and tremendous dedication of teachers across our state. Thank you for creating opportunities for students to keep Wyoming strong.

I’ll draw your attention to the memo this week about the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. The Institute would like to pay for fifteen Wyoming educators to attend (all costs covered) this American history training. There are seven slots still available.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow poses with Wheatland Middle School students and their teacher at the University of Wyoming for History Day,
Wheatland Middle School History Day Winners with Mrs. Birt
NAME THE NEW ASSESSMENT SYSTEM CONTEST

WDE is pleased to announce a competition to name the new statewide assessment system that will replace PAWS and be administered next school year. All Wyoming students are invited to submit their name suggestions by following the link below. Entries may be submitted by individual students or classes of students through May 12th. The competition is limited to one submission per email address.

The winning name will be announced by May 26th.  The school district of the winning name will receive a box of books and goods, and the student or classroom will also receive a prize.

Contest Submission Link

School Improvement under ESSA

We are inching closer to completion of the ESSA State Plan. The first draft is slated to go out for public comment in the coming weeks. While quite a lot of discussion in Wyoming has been centered on accountability, assessment, and standards, there are other essential components of ESSA. I’ll shine a light on school improvement in advance of the release of the draft plan.

We remain committed to providing opportunities and improving outcomes for each and every student in each and every school. Continuous improvement is cultivated in every school and community. There is a special urgency to drive dramatic improvement for students in our lowest-performing schools and those with the most significant achievement gaps.

Under NCLB, the approach to school improvement was “top-down” with waivers, AYP, and constraints that did not work particularly well. In the draft plan, we have incorporated ESSA criteria into the existing school improvement and support framework.

ESSA Identification criteria for school improvement:

Comprehensive Support

  • Lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools on state accountability index
  • High schools with graduation rates less than 67 percent
  • Schools with underperforming subgroups that do not improve after a state-determined number of years

Targeted Support

  • Schools with consistently underperforming subgroups, as defined by the state

Of course, there is a strong connection between schools and the communities and, thus, ESSA requires schools to engage community and education partners in the development of improvement plans with the ultimate goal of equitable access to high-quality instruction for all students.

Additionally, ESSA requires the state to carry out the following key activities:

  1. Flexibility with and Distribution of Title I school improvement funds: Continues to be a major leverage point for states.
  2. Approval and monitoring of improvement plans: The hard work of school improvement is going to happen at the district and school levels.
  3. Coordination: Strategies for supporting the lowest-performing schools and the use of Title I school improvement funds must be aligned with the other initiatives that support these same students and schools.
  4. Differentiated assistance: States must identify how they intend to deliver support to identified schools and districts, including how comprehensive support differs from targeted support.

Memos to be released on Monday, April 17:

Jillian