All posts by Kari Eakins

Superintendent Balow Chosen President-Elect of CCSSO

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow was unanimously chosen as president-elect of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Board of Directors on Wednesday.

“It’s an honor to represent Wyoming at the national level,” said Superintendent Balow. “My hope is to be a strong voice for rural education and prioritize issues that impact our state, such as school safety and security, access to educational opportunity, and making sure all relevant decisions happen at the local level to better serve our students as they prepare for their future.”

Superintendent Balow has served on the Board of Directors since 2016. She will have one year to select a national platform before assuming the presidency in 2019. As President, she will frequently be asked to speak with federal policy makers about education issues.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO’s Board of Directors manages the overall business affairs of the Council and is the governing body of the organization. The board is composed of the president, the president-elect, the past president, and six directors elected by CCSSO membership.

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Election Results

Dear Superintendents,

Congratulations to election winners across our state and nation. Governor-Elect Gordon mentioned his desire to support education and stable education funding during his acceptance speech on Tuesday night. He served on the Johnson County School Board for a number of years. Personally, I am thrilled to continue my service to the state for another four years. I look forward to working with the new governor and with both new and seasoned members of the legislature.

Education, as always, was a topic of campaigns nationwide. Election outcomes will impact state education governance in many state legislatures, state education agencies, and in the U.S. Congress. The Education Commission of the States tracked elections with an education lens and the outcome is depicted in the infographic below.

Education Commission of the States. 2018 Elections. Changes in state education leadership. Governors: 36 states plus D.C. held Governors races resulting in 16 democrats (11 new, 5 incumbent) and 19 Republican Governors (8 new, 11 incumbent). Of the 50 state governors, 23 are democrats and 26 are republicans with some races still being decided. In Legislative Chambers, 87 elections were held. Democrats gained control in six states: Colorado senate, Connecticut senate, Maine senate, Minnesota house, and New Hampshire house and senate. Democrats now control 37 chambers and Republicans control 61. Seven states held elections for Chief State School Officers, resulting in a new democratic chief in Arizona and a new Democratic chief in California. Republican incumbents were reelected in Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming.  Eight states plus the District of Columbia held elections for State Boards of Education, with 40 seats up for election, resulting in 21 new and 19 incumbent board members. Thanks to NGA, NCSL, CCSSO, and NASBE for their collaboration.

Educator Training

Despite the cold weather educators continue to gather for training opportunities. This week:

  • WDE partnered with community colleges and Canvas to host the annual Innovations Conference in Evanston
  • Jan Hoegh led the New Art and Science of Teaching training in Casper
  • 25 school leadership teams participated in the first Leadership Coaching Academy session this week and focused on developing a Culture of Collaboration and Ensuring that Students Learn – two of the “big ideas” that represent the core principles of Professional Learning Communities.

The State Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) is being restructured to provide training on the 25 components of Wyoming Accreditation. It will not be held during the 2019 legislative session as in the past. Information on the 2019 S5S will be shared at a later date.

A trainer from Canvas speaks from a podium while the dashboard is displayed on a projector screen for attendees to follow along.
Training on the Canvas platform was offered in advance of this week’s Innovations Conference

Memo to be released on Tuesday, November 13, 2018:


Revisions to ESSA State Plan Open for Public Comment

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks public comment on proposed changes to its Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Public comment is being accepted for 30 days, and at a series of public meetings.

Wyoming’s ESSA State Plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education on January 16, 2018 on the condition that the plan be amended to include data regarding new criteria for teacher effectiveness by January 15, 2019. Additionally, a new statewide assessment, WY-TOPP, was implemented in the 2017-18 school year, making it necessary to resubmit long-term goals for achievement with the new assessment data. All proposed changes can be reviewed here.

“The resubmission of our ESSA State Plan gives us a chance to make sure we are using the best possible information to evaluate our schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Thankfully, ESSA give us the flexibility to set our own goals as a state and to make sure they are both ambitious and attainable.”

The public meeting schedule:

  • 4:30 p.m. on November 13, Room 116 of the Intertribal Education and Community Center at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
  • 6:30 p.m. on November 19, online, register here.
  • 6:30 p.m. on November 29, Laramie County School District #1 boardroom in Cheyenne.

Public comment can be submitted through December 7, 2018. Comments can be submitted online or by mail to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Kari Eakins
122 W. 25th St, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

ESSA reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the principal federal law affecting K-12 education, and replaced No Child Left Behind. More information is available on the WDE’s website.

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

New Accountability Results Released

Dear Superintendents,

Accountability results for 2017-18 were released yesterday. Thank you again to school districts for reviewing your school-level data and helping us to push out reports that are relevant and useful in the school improvement process. Reports are available on Fusion and our staff continues to provide technical assistance. Here is a link to the media release:

Media Release: New State and Federal Accountability Results

Three educators sit around a table working intensely on their laptops. The wall behind them is full of posters covered with sticky notes from the workshop.
Educators from across Wyoming came to Laramie recently to participate in a three-part series to plan and develop science units of instruction. The Five Tools training was presented by BSCS Science Learning.
Five WDE staff wear halloween PacMan Halloween costumes. Everyone is dressed in black with posterboard hanging around their neck that shows PacMan, cherries, and three of the ghosts that chase PacMan throughout the game.
WDE staff welcomes local trick-or-treaters while channeling old-school PACMAN

Memos to be released on Monday, November 5:


New State and Federal Accountability Results Available

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has released school accountability results for the 2017-18 school year. Full results are available online.

“We set a high bar for schools with our accountability system, and my hope is that this information is a catalyst for discussions at the local level on how our schools can continue to do their best for all students,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “This year marks significant changes to accountability in Wyoming. Results include information from a new assessment system, incorporate changes to how we measure whether a student is ready for life after high, and focus on specific students groups, including students learning the English language. Today we step away from looking just at test scores to determine how well our schools are performing.”

The accountability results reflect the requirements of both state and federal law. Under state law, all Wyoming elementary, middle, and traditional high schools receive one of four School Performance Ratings: Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, or Not Meeting Expectations. The School Performance Ratings show that 55.2 percent of Wyoming schools are Meeting or Exceeding Expectations.

2017-18 School Performance Ratings by Percent: 37 of All Schools were Exceeding Expectations, 137 were Meeting Expectations, 66 were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 75 were Not Meeting Expectations. For schools that offer grades 3-8, 30 were Exceeding Expectations, 108 were Meeting Expectations, 48 were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 60 were Not Meeting Expectations. For schools offering grades 9-12, 5 were Exceeding Expectations, 19 were Meeting Expectations, 15 were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 13 were Not Meeting Expectations. For K-12 schools, 2 were Exceeding Expectations, 10 were Meeting Expectations, 3 were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 2 were Not Meeting Expectations.

2017-18 School Performance Ratings by Percent: 11.7% of All Schools were Exceeding Expectations, 43.5% were Meeting Expectations, 21.0% were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 23.8% were No Meeting Expectations. For schools that offer grades 3-8, 9.6% were Exceeding Expectations, 36.5% were Meeting Expectations, 28.8% were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 24.4% were Not Meeting Expectations. For schools offering grades 9-12, 12.2% were Exceeding Expectations, 43.9% were Meeting Expectations, 19.5% were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 25% were Not Meeting Expectations. For K-12 schools, 11.8% were Exceeding Expectations, 58.8% were Meeting Expectations, 17.6% were Partially Meeting Expectations, and 11.8% were Not Meeting Expectations.

Alternative high schools do not have School Performance Ratings for the 2017-18 school year, as it was the final pilot year for alternative school accountability. School Performance Ratings for alternative high schools will be available beginning in the fall of 2019.

Federal law requires the schools that are struggling the most be identified for support. There are three types of support:

  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) is for Title I schools performing among the lowest in the state and any school with a graduation rate below 67 percent.
  • Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) is for schools that have a specific group of students that is not performing well.
  • Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) is for schools that have a specific group of students that is chronically not performing well.

Under federal accountability, 21 schools were identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement, 34 schools were identified for Targeted Support and Improvement, and two schools were identified for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement.

Changes in both state and federal law have impacted the measures used for accountability. Both now include the progress of students learning the English language and high schools factor in career readiness, along with college readiness. Additionally, WY-TOPP results were used to inform the accountability results.

Superintendent Balow added that these results show how the state and federal requirements can work together to provide greater insight into the health of education in Wyoming. “This information helps us to see which schools are performing the best and which schools need support to better serve their students. This important work is paramount to transparency and ultimately to improving our schools.”


Accountability FAQ

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Report Cards

Dear Superintendents,


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a significant shift in educational authority from the federal government to states and local schools. Over the past two years you’ve likely heard me talk about the new requirements for public reporting that will be a lift for every district and every school. Two years ago this deadline seemed far away–now it looms.

Local and state report cards are a tangible way to:

  • link the federal and state accountability systems
  • reveal inequities and strengths with student groups and set goals to address challenges
  • link accountability to school improvement efforts
  • report to the pubic in a meaningful way

As with all educational endeavors in Wyoming, we at the WDE view our role as partners in successful implementation. There is a memo this week that outlines some information about state and local reporting.

Of note, the WDE will provide two webinars to help schools and districts navigate the requirements and next steps. The webinars are scheduled for November 8th and 13th. The requirement to report locally is the responsibility of the local school district and the WDE will be available for technical assistance.

The report card is one of the first opportunities for the public to view school performance under the updated accountability system and how schools are meeting the needs of specific student groups such as English Learners (ELs).


The final state ESSA plan was recently approved. (Wyoming’s plan was approved in January of this year–link to news release.) As the nation is now fully immersed in the implementation phase of ESSA, many are reflecting on the planning process in states. One thing Wyoming took to heart during the planning process was stakeholder engagement. Because of the input we received, our state plan was reflective of diverse views and aligned with other education reform efforts.

Recently, the Collaborative for Student Success analyzed every state ESSA plan and found nearly 2,000 mentions of stakeholder organizations throughout the plans. The Collaborative sent a survey to stakeholder organizations, and 400 responded to the survey.

  • 81% of survey respondents said they had great or some opportunity to provide feedback.
  • 82% of survey respondents said they were either “very engaged” or “somewhat engaged” in the development of the state’s ESSA plan.
  • 75% of survey respondents said they received follow-up information from state officials after the plan was submitted.

In Wyoming, I suspect those numbers would be similar or higher. Stakeholder engagement continues to be an underpinning of all our work with ESSA and other education efforts. We thank you and value our partnership!

Member of the Computer Science Standards Review Committee sit at tables reviewing the draft standards.
Above and Below: the Computer Science standards committee meets in Casper this week to work on stand-alone CS standards for implementation by 2022.
Computer Science Standards Review Committee Members sit classroom style in a conference room reviewing outlines of the draft standards, which are projected onto large screens as the WDE Standards and Assessment Director, Laurie Hernandez, leads them through a facilitated discussion.

Memos to be released:


Reviewing Accountability Reports

Dear Superintendents,

Embargoed accountability/school performance reports have been released. Thank you for reviewing, and having principals in your district review, your confidential reports. Thanks to you we’ve been able to make improvements to the report and have gotten great feedback on accountability in general.

It was so exciting to present the new Wyoming Teacher of the Year award to Valerie Bruce from Rozet Elementary School in Campbell County. Mrs. Bruce will represent our state for one year. She will take a deep dive into education policy at the national level, work with other state teachers of the year, and advocate for education.

Mrs. Bruce stands with faculty and students from her school behind a banner that reads, "2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year, Valerie Bruce."
Mrs. Bruce and a few hundred of her fans planned a surprise assembly for her.
Valerie Bruce and Sara Reed pose next to each other outside Valerie's school with the Wyoming prairie in the background.
2018 & 2019 Wyoming Teachers of the Year–Valerie Bruce (L) and Sara Reed (R)

Memos to be released on Monday, October 22:


WDE, UW, Community Colleges Agree to Share Information

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols sits with WDE Chief Academic Officer Shelley Hamel, Wyoming Community College Commission Executive Director Sandra Caldwell, and the presidents of all seven of Wyoming's community colleges at a ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. A Banner includes everyone's logo and reads, "Partnering for Wyoming."

CHEYENNE – A new partnership involving Wyoming community colleges, the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Department of Education has set the stage for an increased level of information sharing aimed at improving the performance of the state’s education system.

A new memorandum of understanding — signed this week by presidents of each of the seven community colleges, the Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC), the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) — paves the way for seamless transitions for students from high school to the workforce, while meeting the state’s objectives related to educational attainment and economic diversification.

The agreement establishes a process whereby UW, WDE, the colleges and WCCC will share data elements related to the state’s Hathaway Scholarship Program, student financial aid, student success, dual and concurrent enrollment, virtual education and electronic transcripts.

The partnership will support Governor Mead’s Executive Educational Attainment Council established by executive order in August, responsible for coordinating data throughout Wyoming’s education system from primary to secondary education with the ultimate goal of increasing the level of education and training of the State’s workforce.

Under the new agreement, the sharing of information will not begin until the deployment of a data governance structure that assures the security and privacy of student information. The governance structure will include an executive governance board and a data governance committee to make decisions on data needs and approval for reports. As the database system is currently used at the community college level, all data are encrypted in motion and at rest, adhering to all Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements regarding student data and suppressing all Social Security information.

“This agreement allows us to provide information without collecting any additional student data,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow says. “I look forward to carefully crafting a data governance structure that safeguards student data and helping students make seamless transitions from high school.”

UW President Laurie Nichols says the agreement is a major step in efforts by the university and the community colleges to ease the transition for students transferring from the colleges to UW. Those efforts include nearly 200 articulation agreements to help ensure that students earning associate degrees at Wyoming community colleges can transfer to UW and earn their bachelor’s degrees in the same majors in two years.

“We are working diligently to develop a common college transcript system that will make things even easier for students enrolled in the state’s institutions of higher education, and this new agreement moves the process forward,” Nichols says. “All of us involved in this agreement are committed to doing everything we can to meet the state’s educational attainment goals by increasing post-secondary completion and boosting opportunities for Wyoming workers to obtain meaningful workforce credentials. Sharing of information is an essential ingredient to facilitate a seamless transfer.”

The event is the result of many years of work involving departments from the seven community colleges, the University of Wyoming, WDE, and WCCC. It has been a multi-agency effort.

“It was certainly an exciting first step toward achieving our educational attainment goals for the State of Wyoming,” Executive Director of the Wyoming Community College Commission Sandy Caldwell said. “Partnerships that will facilitate sharing data, common course numbering and common college transcripts (HEA 47) will help us increase completion rates and strengthen our education to work pipeline. This will ultimately help us reach one of the main objectives of ENDOW which is a more diversified economy supported by an educated workforce.”

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Valerie Bruce Named 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year

TOY announcement

CHEYENNE – Valerie Bruce, a first grade teacher at Rozet Elementary School in Campbell County School District #1, has been named Wyoming’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow says that Mrs. Bruce builds relationships with her students that will stand the test of time. “Mrs. Bruce understands the power of relationships and fully embraces the opportunity to work, learn, and grow with her students every day. Her classroom is built on trust, hard work, and a growth mindset; and she models what it is to be a lifelong learner.”

Mrs. Bruce has taught at Rozet for nine years, and was inspired to teach by her grandmother, who taught for 42 years. Setting goals and celebrating student growth are everyday occurrences in Mrs. Bruce’s carefully cultivated classroom community. She believes every student can grow and achieve at high levels, and nurturing student self-confidence is her daily goal. Mrs. Bruce fosters a love of reading and learning by engaging her students using various modes of instruction, including technology. Her strategy provides an avenue for all students to convey and demonstrate their understanding and learning in individualized and highly engaging ways. She also organizes “Reading Role Models” to connect her students with the community.

Rozet Elementary School Principal Nate Cassidy says Mrs. Bruce is a master teacher: “She is a vital part of her grade-level collaboration team, constantly examining the work they do, and looking at student data to provide the best opportunity for her students every day.”

As a member of the Olweus Anti-Bullying Program Coordinating Committee, Mrs. Bruce organized “Be a Hero, Not a Bully” spirit days which involved high school athletes serving as role models and sharing how the four anti-bullying rules apply in their lives. She then invited the athletes to visit her classroom and serve as “Reading Role Models” after spirit days.

Mrs. Bruce has worked for the past four years on the first grade STEM team. This team is a collaboration of district educators and faculty from the University of Wyoming, working to embed technology into study units that help bring learning to life. She believes that the rise and evolution of technology impacts every educator and every aspect of student’s lives. She views the change as an opportunity to learn and grow, and has worked to accelerate her capacity and knowledge of how to use technology within the classroom to meet the ever-changing needs of students.

Principal Cassidy added that Mrs. Bruce also focuses on the development of students outside of the classroom by looking after their social and emotional needs. “She sees this as a huge part of developing the whole child, and finds unique and effective ways to tap into getting students to know that she cares about them as people, first and foremost.”

As the 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Bruce will serve as an education ambassador for the state. Wyoming’s Teacher of the Year automatically becomes the nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Program, which is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Leadership in Personalized and Digital Learning

Dear Superintendents,

This is a short and sweet update as I am hunting in northern Wyoming and there are no memos to share.

Educators from across Wyoming met in Casper this past week for the first Leadership in Personalized and Digital Learning training. This cohort of Winning innovative leaders offers school and district leaders an opportunity for job-embedded, professional learning to prepare to lead personalized learning in their schools and districts.

A dozen educators stand in a circle in the middle of a conference room for a facilitated discussion.

There are no memos this week.