Improving Literacy

Wyoming Department of Education > Superintendent's Update > Improving Literacy

Dear Superintendents,

As we head into a new week, we wanted to announce that we are transitioning this week to a new distribution schedule for the Superintendent’s Update and memos. You will now receive the update at 11 a.m. on Monday, rather than the previous Friday.  We hope this makes things smoother and more efficient for everyone all the way around.

Vision & Focus

When talking about the Old West with your students, here’s a great one to try on them: Once upon a time, in the Wild West days of Wyoming, a cowboy came slowly strolling into a small cow-poke town on his horse. After riding for days, he came up to the saloon, got off his horse, tied it to the hitching post and walked inside. He moseyed up to the bar and said to the saloonkeeper, “Please, give me a glass of water.”   

The question is, why did he ask for a glass of water? 

If your first answer is, because he was thirsty, you are incorrect – which means, you’re in a mind blind! If you try this on your students, they will most likely fall into one too.  So you might then tell them two things, in terms of teaching thinking: (1) sometimes they can find the right answer by asking the right questions, and (2) they’ll break out of the mind blind faster if they work together as a group rather than by trying to figure it out on their own.

This little exercise has a parallel purpose: to teach kids how to think for sure, but also to illustrate how easily we all fall into mind blinds, which always prevents healthy and constructive thinking. [The answer is (are you ready?) … because he had the hiccups.]   

The Primary Priority

Improving literacy education across this country is so doable because the science of reading is not rocket science — we know how to teach reading well. We know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s no longer a mystery or debate. The jury has long been in on this issue, as well as the verdict. And the verdict is structured literacy, the backbone of which is the phonetic approach. It bears much better fruit and produces far better results than all its competitors.  In real estate, it’s location, location, location; in education, the primary priority is literacy, literacy, literacy!

Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

Just one week after the signing of the WTA Standards with the U.S. Department of Labor, team leaders Dr. Laurel Ballard at the WDE and Brendan O’Connor at the PTSB are certainly not taking a break. They are preparing to present in November to the Legislature’s Joint Interim Education Committee. This will include updates on the progress of the initiative, work with the pilot school districts, and cost determinations.

In the Spotlight

This week the WDE launched its first Career and Technical Education (CTE) Summit – Classrooms to Careers in Cheyenne. The WDE’s CTE team organized the event, which included key stakeholders from government, business, industry, education, and community leaders from across the state.

The focus of the think-tank style event was to understand the barriers to CTE growth and success in Wyoming – and potential solutions. Over the two-day summit, considerations around perception, funding, curriculum, staffing and more were dissected and organized into actionable determinations, some near term and some longer. We know that the pathways for our graduates need to be increased and fortified going forward, and this event has set the stage for that to happen. Well done, Dr. Michelle Aldrich, Ilaine Brown, and Mary Billiter, and for that you are ‘In the Spotlight.’

Mark Your Calendars

This is the last chance to register for the 2022 Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference. The Innovations Conference will be held virtually on November 3-4, 2022. The Innovations Conference is an opportunity for educators from kindergarten through higher education to share and explore innovative teaching and learning practices for classrooms and distance learning environments. PTSB and UW Credit will be available. Register here.

Monday memos: