All posts by Kari Eakins

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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Photos of 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year



Classroom 1

Classroom 2

Classroom 3


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.


Public Hearing on Proposed Rules for Special Education Funding

CHEYENNE – A public hearing will be held on the proposed Chapter 44 Rules regarding the Special Education Component within the Education Resource Block Grant Model. The hearing is set from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 23 in the Laramie County School District #1 boardroom, 2811 House Avenue in Cheyenne.

The proposed rules were drafted after the Wyoming Legislature directed the Wyoming Department of Education to review statutes and rules related to special education for possible fiscal efficiencies. The Department of Audit had also recommended rules be revised to give clearer guidance on reimbursable special education expenditures. More information is available in the Statement of Reasons.

Anyone wishing to join the meeting virtually can register here. Verbal and written comments will be accepted at the meeting in person, as well as online. All comments will be recorded and filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

WDE Hits the Road

Dear Superintendents,

WDE was out and about across the state this week. Here are a few photos–partnering with educators on policy and practice is our specialty!

WDE staff look at Standards Supervisor Barb Marquer as she points to a screen she used for her presentation which features the logos for Boot Up Wyoming and the Wyoming Department of Education.
WDE’s Catherine Palmer, Barb Marquer, and Laurie Hernandez (L to R) presented on Implementing Computer Science: Supporting Districts through Grants & Programs at the 2018 CSTA State Policy Forum Friday in Denver
WDE staff wit with staff from the American Heart Association in a collaboration space at the WDE. One of them holds a keyring full of trinkets.
WDE teammates Rob Black and Kodi Gerhold met Monday with Emily Kirk and Elizabeth Tomlin from the American Heart Association to discuss the promotion of the Kids Heart Challenge in schools and communities across Wyoming
The state superintendent sits on stage at Little America with two other panelists.
Slyvia Lyles from the U.S. Dept. of Education and Jodi Grant from the National Afterschool Alliance attended Wyoming’s Afterschool Alliance annual conference this week.
A classroom full of teachers look at a screen where Cindy and Sharla lead training on the new science standards.
Round two of the Five Tools training began at Laramie County School District #1 on Monday with Cindy Gay and Sharla Dowding from BSCS Science Learning

Memos to be released on Monday, October 8:


Fall is Here

Dear Superintendents,

The week wrapped up with snow in some of our communities–fall is definitely here! With that comes additional announcements (memos) from our office. Many are the annual requests for data and the dissemination of information while some have brand new information and opportunities. As I have for the past several years, I will continue to send memos for you to preview with this update–they go public on Mondays. The WDE also shares information via social media. If you, your board members, or your staff are not connected to our social media sites, links are at the bottom of this update.


The Joint Education Interim Committee met this week in Casper to hear from stakeholders about school finance and education issues. The meeting wrapped up late this afternoon.

AdvancED held their Continuous Improvement Conference in Laramie. Former State Superintendent Judy Catchpole and Cody Superintendent Ray Schulte were recognized for their service on the council and Lovell Superintendent Rick Woodford received an award for his leadership.

Executives from AdvancEd give Superintendent Woodford his award.
Lovell Superintendent Woodford is honored for his leadership
An executive from AdvancEd gives former state superintendent Judy Catchpole her award.
Judy Catchpole is honored for her service to the AdvancED council
Memos to be released on Monday, October 1:


2018 WY-TOPP Results Available

CHEYENNE – Results for the first administration of the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP) are now available online.

“WY-TOPP was a major shift and improvement for our schools,” said State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “We went from a paper and pencil, multiple-choice-only test that provided limited useful information to teachers, to an adaptable, interactive, online assessment that gives teachers data that can be used to inform instruction. I’m so proud of the teachers, principals, tech directors, and assessment coordinators who helped make this transition as seamless as it could be for students. Now, not only are we spending less money on the statewide assessment, it’s also taking up less time in the classroom while providing a better measure of student performance.”

2017-18 English Language Arts. Summative Assessment Results by Grade and Performance Level. In Grade 3, 15.5% were advanced, 36% were proficient, 25.6% were basic, and 23% were below basic. In Grade 4, 18.7% were advanced, 30.5% were proficient, 27.4% were basic, and 23.4% were below basic.2018-18 Mathematics. Summative Assessment Results by Grade and Performance Level. In Grade 3, 21.9% were advanced, 29.4% were proficient, 25.3% were basic, and 23.4% were below basic. In Grade 4, 25.1% were advanced, 25.7% were proficient, 24.7% were basic, and 23.5% were below basic.2017-18 Science. Summative Assessment Results by Grade and Performance Level. In Grade 4, 15.6% were advanced, 36.3% were proficient, 31.2% were basic, and 17% were below basic. In Grade 8, 8.8% were advanced, 38.0% were proficient, 36.2% were basic, and 17.0% were below basic. In Grade 10, 14.0% were advanced, 32.2% were proficient, 26% were basic, and 27.8% were below basic.

The new assessment system was implemented in the 2017-18 school year, with students in grades 3-10 taking the WY-TOPP summative assessments for math and English language arts through an adaptive online platform. Grade 4, 8, and 10 students were assessed in science through a fixed-form online assessment. Students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 were also assessed in writing.

The 2018 WY-TOPP results represent a new baseline for statewide assessment results. Proficiency rates from WY-TOPP will not be comparable to proficiency rates from the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS).

The WY-TOPP results will be used to inform accountability determinations, which will be released on November 1, 2018.


Assessment FAQ

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

CTE and Afterschool Programs

Dear Superintendents,

This week I had the opportunity to present to a U.S. Senate Caucus on Career and Technical Education and after school opportunities. Attendance at the panel was standing room only and caucus members heard clearly about how the work they’ve done to create flexibility in both Perkins and ESSA creates more opportunities for students to achieve education goals. It was exciting to share how, through grant funding (Title IV-B and Wyoming Trust Fund), we were able to create alignment between accountability, CTE, computer science, and after school programs. Thank you for your innovation–it’s always an honor to represent the great work happening in Wyoming schools.

Superintendent Balow stands with other presenters to the U.S. Senate Caucus in the congressional room where the meeting took place. A presentation screen reads, "CTE and Afterschool Update: Youth Career Pathways Succeed with Partners."
Presenters from across the nation share experiences and policy

Wyoming’s First Ever Hackathon was a Success! (take a look at #6!)

  1. committed to opening a new office for blockchain software developers in Wyoming.
  2. ActiveAether announced it is relocating from New York City to Jackson.
  3. ActiveAether announced a donation of compute capacity worth $20k in fogcoins to UW’s Computer Science Dept.
  4. 27 teams competed—comprised of developers from Switzerland, Egypt, Slovakia, China, Kenya, Canada and all over Wyoming and the US.
  5. All 3 candidates for governor of Wyoming (D, L, R) judged the “Best for Wyoming” category and pitched to participants to stay in Wyoming.
  6. A teacher and his 3 teenaged students from Shoshoni were awarded several thousand dollars in prize value by Decent, a Swiss company whose engineers traveled from Switzerland and Slovakia to attend and they mentored the Shoshoni students.

Latina Conference

In years past, many schools have sent young women to the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference and I would like to, once again, extend an invitation for students and teachers in your district to attend. With “Power of Choice” as a theme, there are inspirational speakers throughout the event. Please share this link with anyone who might be interested:

UW President Laurie Nichols and Community College Executive Director Sandy Caldwell meet with State Superintendent Jillian Balow in her office at the Wyoming Department of Education.
Community College Exec Director Sandy Caldwell, UW President Laurie Nichols, and State Superintendent Jillian Balow meet regularly to align goals and practice.

Memos to be released on Monday, September 24, 2018:


Financial Literacy Resource

Dear Superintendents,

Thanks to a partnership between the University of Wyoming and Ramsey Education, Wyoming high schools can receive financial literacy curriculum and entrepreneurship curriculum free of charge. Financial literacy continues to be a priority of mine and I encourage you to read my letter with more information:

Superintendent Balow with Assistant Deputy Secretary Jose Viana and staff at Munger Mountain Elementary School stand in the hallway underneath a banner that reads, "Somos Los Lobos. We are safe. Responsables. Respetuosos U Global Citizens."
Touring Munger Mountain Elementary, a dual language immersion school in Jackson, with USED’s Assistant Deputy Secretary Jose Viana.

Both Teton #1 and Laramie #1 welcomed Assistant Deputy Secretary Jose Viana on school visits as part of USED’s Back-to-School Tour. Jose is the Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition and both school districts were able to show their excellent work with English Learners and their families. You can read more on his visit in the articles linked below:

Memos to be released:


A New School Year

Dear Superintendents,

As the school year begins, I remind you that the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) stands ready to support your schools. We sponsored, supported, and attended dozens of trainings across the state over the summer and we understand that “sit and get” is the least effective professional development. We intend to continue supporting, coaching, and providing guidance throughout the school year.

Congratulations to new superintendents in the state and we look forward to seeing you throughout the year in your community, and at statewide gatherings.

It was a remarkable experience to attend the Solution Tree PLC and RTI conference recently in Worland. What struck me most profoundly was the enthusiasm of the teachers (mostly from Wyoming). Even on day 3, the energy was contagious. I am so proud of our work together in the RTI and school culture arena to support all schools, especially those that are struggling the most. This initiative is a hallmark that positively and immediately impacts students. Thank you for your commitment to the initiative!

Kayla stands and speaks at the podium inside the Casper Events Center.
Kayla was named Youth of the Year at the Central Wyoming Boys and Girls Clubs breakfast in Casper this week. The event brought thousands of community members who support learning opportunities outside of the school day.
The runners up for Youth of the Year hold their plaques and pose with the State Superintendent at the Casper Events Center, next to a sign for Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming
Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming Youth of the Year runners up


In the coming weeks, we will be asking for staffing data for special education in your school district, via survey. This information is being collected in fulfillment of our statutory obligation under 2018 House Bill 140 (Enrolled Act 68), Section 4(b) which states:

“On or before January 1, 2019, the state superintendent of public instruction shall establish statewide guidelines for adequate special education staffing levels as required by W.S. 21-2-202(a)(xxiii).”

In advance, I thank you for your effort in completing the survey expeditiously.

The State Superintendent stands with Andy Jones inside the new B.E.A.S.T. facility, which is a large warehouse-type building with basketball and volleyball courts and wide open space for a variety of activities.
Andy Jones, Founder of B.E.A.S.T. in Cheyenne, welcomes visitors into the community facility (rec center and STEM space) this week.
Memos to be released on Tuesday, September 4:


Statewide ACT Results Available

CHEYENNE – State, district, and school-level results are now available online for the ACT taken by students in grade 11 in the spring of 2018.

“The ACT is a college readiness exam that opens doors for Wyoming students through the Hathaway Scholarship,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “We are appropriately no longer using the ACT to measure academic achievement. We emphasize multiple options for students after high school, and we don’t tie success to a single test. As we implement changes to how we hold schools accountable and offer them support, I know our educators and administrators will continue to do everything they can to better prepare students for the future.”

11 Grade ACT Results table showing a 6-Year Comparison of Average Scores. Overall, students averaged a Composite score of 19.5 in 2017-18, 19.7 in 2016-17, 20.0 in 2015-16, 19.8 in 2014-15, 19.9 in 2013-14, and 19.7 in 2012-13. For English, students averaged a score of 18.4 in 2017-18, 18.6 in 2016-17, 19.1 in 2015-16, 18.8 in 2014-15, 19.0 in 2013-14, and 18.8 in 2012-13. In Math, students averaged a score of 19.3 in 2017-18, 19.5 in 2016-17, 19.7 in 2015-16, 19.5 in 2014-15, 19.7 in 2013-14, and 19.6 in 2012-13. In Reading, students averaged a score of 19.9 in 2017-18, 20.2 in 2016-17, 20.5 in 2015-16, 20.0 in 2014-15, 20.3 in 2013-14, and 20.1 in 2012-13. In Science, students averaged a score of 19.8 in 2017-18, 20.0 in 2016-17, 20.4 in 2015-16, 20.2 in 2014-15, 20.1 in 2013-14, and 19.8 in 2012-13.

Statewide results show a statistically insignificant decrease in the average composite score and in each subject area. The eight high schools that earned the highest average composite score are:

  • Burlington High School: 24.6
  • Jackson Hole High School: 22.3
  • Sheridan High School: 22.1
  • Lovell High School: 21.8
  • Central High School: 21.6
  • Star Valley High School: 21.6
  • Laramie High School: 21.5
  • Cokeville High School: 21.5

In the spring of 2018, 21 schools administered the ACT online, compared to 14 schools the year before. Individual student results on the ACT help determine Hathaway Scholarship Program eligibility. Students must earn a minimum average composite score of 17 to be eligible for the Provisional level of the scholarship, 19 for Opportunity, 21 for Performance, and 25 for Honors.

11th Grade Hathaway Scholarship Qualification graphic showing the percentage of students who met the 2018 ACT requirement for Hathaway Scholarships. 30.7% were not ACT Qualified and 69.3% were ACT Qualified for Hathaway Scholarships, including 16.4% qualifying for the Provisional scholarship, 15.2% qualifying for the Opportunity scholarship, 22.1% qualifying for the Performance Scholarship, and 15.7% qualifying for the Honors Scholarship.

“By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require training beyond high school according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce,” said Superintendent Balow. “These results show that through the Hathaway Scholarship, nearly 70 percent of our students have better access to that training at our community colleges or the University of Wyoming.”

A new assessment system was implemented in the 2017-18 school year, with students in grades 3-10 taking the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP). In prior years, students in grades 9-10 took the ACT Aspire, and grade 11 ACT results were used to indicate achievement for accountability purposes. Now, grade 10 WY-TOPP results will be used to measure achievement, and the grade 11 ACT results will be used to indicate growth and post-secondary readiness for accountability. All WY-TOPP results are set to be released in late September, and accountability determinations will be released in November.

“This data does not represent how Wyoming did compared to other states on the ACT,” added Superintendent Balow. “I’m encouraged by the percentage of Wyoming students that qualified for the Hathaway Scholarship on the ACT, but we know we don’t have the full picture yet.”

Nationally, the release of ACT scores for the class of 2018 has been delayed until October 17, 2018. ACT has preliminarily noted an unexpected dip in average composite scores.


Audio from Superintendent Balow

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director