Early Literacy on the National Stage

Wyoming Department of Education > Superintendent's Update > Early Literacy on the National Stage

Dear Superintendents,

U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Mick Zais visited Wyoming last week. Here is an article from the Casper Star Tribune about his visit. 


USED Deputy Secretary Mick Zais goes on a school visit with Wyoming’s Chief Academic Officer, Shelley Hamel.


It is a privilege to serve as the CCSSO president for many reasons and this week was no exception. I was invited to co-facilitate a national discussion about early literacy. The stage was set with an overview of 2019 NAEP results that show a decline in 8th grade reading scores in thirty one states, including Wyoming. Next, a journalist, Emily Hanford, shared clear and longitudinal evidence about the science of teaching reading. If you haven’t listened to Emily’s podcast, “At a Loss for Words; How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers”  on the topic, I highly recommend it. Our follow-up discussions were focused on three main literacy areas: teacher preparation, high quality curriculum, and Pre-K to 3rd grade instruction.

As I understand, the event was recorded and once I have a link, I will share it. Suffice to say, I was excited to share Wyoming’s policy work with the passage of HB297 in 2019 and some the work you are doing in schools.


One of many tweets sent during the CCSSO Literacy Summit.


The USDA announced proposed rules that will provide more flexibility to schools while still ensuring nutritious meals are served to students during the school year and summer. Here are a few key changes:

  • More variety in allowed vegetable offerings.
  • More ways to offer “a al carte” meals in schools.
  • More flexibility to offer meals at times other than lunch to better accommodate small schools and innovative programs like “breakfast after the bell.”
  • Reduced administrative burden for schools.

Wyoming’s schools are innovative and hard-working from purchase to preparation to serving meals to students. Increased flexibility with our programs means less food waste and a continued focus on nutritious and wholesome student meals. The Nutrition Team at the WDE and I will examine the proposed rules carefully and comment where we see that the plans conflict with what has proven to be successful in Wyoming schools. Overall, I am enthused about the proposed rules.

NEW ARM OF THE OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS (OCR) – for schools, families, and students

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-Discrimination (OPEN) Center. The focus of the OPEN Center is on proactive compliance with federal civil rights laws to provide assistance and support.

The OCR typically enforces federal civil rights laws through the complaint resolution process. The OPEN Center aims to provide information and support prior to the filing of complaints.

Memos to be released on Monday, January 27:

  • 2020-010:  Douvas Scholarship Application
  • 2020-011:  Native American Student Pacesetter Awards
  • 2020-012:  Wyoming Education Trust Fund Grant Availability