All posts by Kari Eakins

End of Summer

Dear Superintendents,

Summer is winding down and I know many of you are already welcoming back your staff to prepare for the start of the new school year. Thank you to all who attended one of our conferences this summer. Special thank you to the sponsors who helped us put together the first School Safety Summit a couple of weeks ago.

School Safety Summit logo. Thank you to our sponsors: Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Hat Six Travel Center, Wyoming Education Association, School Facilities Division, Laramie County Community College.

Earlier this week, Governor Mead approved changes to rules for Chapters, 6, 10, and 31 regarding accreditation, statewide standards, and graduation requirements. More info is in the press release sent earlier today, available here.

Memos to be released on Monday, August 20:


Governor Approves Update to Math and Social Studies Standards, Graduation Requirements, and Accreditation Rules

CHEYENNE – Governor Matt Mead has signed and approved amendments to rules and regulations regarding Wyoming’s statewide standards for Math and Social Studies, high school graduation requirements, and district and school accreditation.

“Many stakeholders willingly came to the table to make sure all of these rules were updated to the benefit of Wyoming students, including agency staff, state board members, educators, administrators, higher ed, industry, and parents,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “The ultimate beneficiary is our students, and having good policies and standards like these in place creates an equal opportunity for every student to learn, regardless of where they live in Wyoming.”

“I am extremely excited to have the rules for graduation requirements signed by Governor Mead,” said State Board of Education Chairman Walt Wilcox. “I’ve heard from many districts that have been looking for this guidance and they are eager to get it in place. A thumbs up to the WDE staff that has been working hard on all three of these chapters of rules. Districts are also looking forward to having content areas in place from the work of the standards review committee, and with this approval they can begin aligning their curricula for their teachers and students.”

Standards define what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade
level in every subject. The math standards were reviewed as part of the approved timeline, which ensures all content areas are reviewed at least once every nine years. The social studies standards were reviewed following the passage of a law in 2017 which called for the inclusion of Native American history, culture, and contemporary contributions in the standards. Additionally, the science extended standards for students with significant cognitive disabilities were approved. State law allows up to three full school years for the implementation of standards.

“I am so pleased by the contributions of our Wyoming educators in reviewing and amending our statewide standards,” added Superintendent Balow. “We can confidently say that our math standards align well with industry and higher ed, and thanks to the contributions of many tribal members, we know that our social studies standards will present a complete picture of Wyoming history to our students.”

The revisions to the graduation requirements were made in response to a change in state law. The changes include the elimination of the tiered diploma system, identification of the required components of each district’s assessment system, and the establishment of a consultation process between the SBE and local school districts. Additionally, changes to the rules would give districts more flexibility to help students meet the graduation requirements. These rules will be in effect beginning with the Class of 2019.

The update to the accreditation rules was necessitated by changes to state and federal law. The rules are meant to ensure that Wyoming school districts meet statutory requirements intended to improve student learning, and ensure equity of opportunity to learn. They also now include a description of the process by which Wyoming school districts are annually accredited by the SBE. The 2018-19 school year will serve as a pilot year for this new accreditation process.

Superintendent Balow said that the new accreditation process allows for cost savings for the state and flexibility for school districts,

“Bringing the accreditation process back in-house allowed us to eliminate an expensive contract, and lets districts have more say in how their external reviews are conducted by introducing a peer review option,” she said. “These changes mean we are doing more to make sure schools are doing the best they can for their students while spending less.”

– END –

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Special Announcement

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier today the Federal Commission on School Safety confirmed plans to hold its third listening session of four in Cheyenne on Tuesday, August 7. President Trump appointed members to the Commission in March of this year and they are: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. The Commission is charged with rapidly making recommendations to keep students safe at school. They are discussing a range of issues like social emotional support, effective school safety infrastructure, minimum age for firearms purchases, and the impact that videogames and the media have on violence.

The listening session is held in conjunction with our first statewide school safety summit where school, community, state, and national leaders will have the opportunity to coalesce around safety priorities and needs.

Here are media releases for both events with hot links to agendas, locations, registration, and more:

Statewide School Safety Summit

FCSS Listening Session

I am very pleased that the Commission has chosen Wyoming as the location to hold a listening session. The rural perspective is essential and your participation will ensure our voice is on the record. The first two sessions were held in Washington, DC and Lexington, KY, respectively.

In addition to taking public comment, the listening session will feature several roundtable discussions. I will have the opportunity share comments on behalf of our state and participate in a roundtable discussion.

This is a rare opportunity for our state and an important time for Wyoming voices to be heard. Please plan to attend.

School Safety Summit Logo


School Safety and Security Summit to Follow Federal Listening Session in Cheyenne

School Safety Summit Logo

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) will be holding a School Safety and Security Summit in Cheyenne on August 7-8, 2018. The Summit will follow an afternoon of roundtable discussions and a public input session hosted by the Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) in Cheyenne on August 7.

“We are thrilled the U.S. Department of Education chose Wyoming as one of four locations for these public listening sessions,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Important conversations are happening at the local, state, and federal level about school safety and security, and it’s our privilege to assist educators and communities in keeping students safe and supporting them in every way that we can.”

After the FCSS public input session at Little America, the Summit will begin with a networking reception on the evening of August 7 at Terry Bison Ranch. The next day, the School Facilities Division of the State Construction Department is bringing in national school safety expert Randy Braverman as the keynote speaker. Braverman is a Senior Consultant at Facility Engineering Associates PC in Chicago and has more than 25 years experience in managing security operations in a variety of roles, including Security Consultant, Director of Security and Campus Safety, and law enforcement officer.

Throughout the rest of the Summit, participants will rotate between three breakout sessions centered around school-based mental health support, information from the School Facilities Division, and best practices for school and law enforcement coordination.

Registration information and a full agenda for the Summit, along with information on the FCSS listening session are available on the WDE website.

– END –

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Perkins Reauthorization

Dear Superintendents,

This week, the U.S. House and Senate approved bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. President Trump will soon sign into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

The Perkins Act was last authorized in 2006. Since that time, the employment marketplace and career paths have changed dramatically. Health care, information technology, and many other cutting- edge fields have growing demands for well-educated and trained workers. Wyoming’s Senator Enzi, a longtime proponent of the Perkins Act and CTE, was a key leader in the development and passage of the final legislation. In the coming days our team at WDE looks forward to unpacking the tenets of the new Perkins Act and aligning them with our priorities, practices, and goals for CTE.

Dressed in pink shirts and cowboy hats, a teacher helps an elementary student learn how to rope at the Challenge Rodeo.
Wyoming’s Teacher of the Year, Sara Reed, helps Challenge Rodeo participants during Cheyenne Frontier Days. For the second year, CFD honored teachers and treated the Wyoming Teacher of the Year to VIP events.

Memos to be released on Monday, July 30:


Public Comment Open On Proposed Leader Evaluation Rules

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks public comment on the Chapter 29 Rules: Evaluation Systems For District And School Leaders And Other Certified Personnel. These rules are being revised following the passage of SEA0031 during the 2017 Legislative session, which requires the implementation and administration of a comprehensive leader evaluation system.

The WDE worked with the State Board of Education and the Leader Certified Personnel Advisory Committee to develop a leader evaluation system for superintendents, district leaders, and school leaders. A rationale for the revisions to these rules can be found in the Statement of Reasons.

Public comment is open through September 15, 2018, and may be submitted online or mailed to:

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

All public comments will be recorded, filed and posted on the Secretary of State website as part of the rules promulgation process.

– END –

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Busy Teachers During the Summer

Dear Superintendents,

I’ve had the opportunity to visit with various groups of educators over the past couple of weeks and am humbled by the hard and thoughtful work taking place. From work on standards to curriculum to setting cut scores to traditional PD, hundreds of Wyoming educators are working to improve all facets of education. Thank you!

A WDE employee sits with two teachers at a table developing agriculture focused curricula for Wyoming's science standards.
Teachers develop Wyoming-specific science curriculum through the Wyoming Stewardship Program (Ag in the Classroom)
About 30 members of the standards review committee sit at classroom style tables with their arms raised in excitement to start their work on computer science standards.

Wyoming begins developing K-12 computer science standards

In September a unique and monumental event will take place in Laramie–a Hackathon! We are partnering to create a K-12 Hackathon strand. This event adds to the momentum created by computer science education and blockchain legislation passed in 2018. Chances are good that a few folks in your community or district are interested in attending–Please pass this information along!

Wyoming Hackathon link

Hackathon Press Release

Finally, the discussion about school safety is ramping up and, in my opinion, the conversation is more productive than in previous years. At the national level, leaders from various federal agencies are taking on tough subjects that compromise the safety of students including violence, mental health, and more. I serve on a national steering committee charged with the development of a repository of data and resources for states to use. The Wyoming Legislature is studying school safety as an interim topic. And, next month, Wyoming will host the first-ever school safety summit. The dates of the summit have changed and some very exciting plans are in development even as I write this update. Please make sure your plans include early arrival on August 7 as we anticipate discussions ahead of the summit. There is also a networking reception planned for August 7. Here is a rough agenda for the event:

School Safety Summit Dates and Draft Agenda

Please look for more information about this in the coming days.

School Safety Summit

Memos to be released on Monday, July 23:


Grant Awards $295,000 for Computer Science Implementation

CHEYENNE – Seven innovative education programs across Wyoming have been selected to receive 2018 Wyoming Education Trust Fund grants, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow announced Friday.

Applications that showed the creation or improvement of computer science programs and professional development activities specific to computer science and computational thinking were given priority in the scoring process this cycle, Balow said. Each winning project will create computer science opportunities for students just entering kindergarten to high school seniors who will be going onto college, a career, or the military.

“Through the Wyoming Education Trust Fund, we were able to award funds for seven unique computer science projects across the state,” Balow said. “I am excited about the opportunity these schools have to blaze the trail for the rest of the state as we implement Boot Up Wyoming.”

In April, the Wyoming Department of Education launched its Boot Up Wyoming 2022 initiative to help school districts implement computer science in all Wyoming classrooms. During the 2018 Budget Session, the Wyoming Legislature passed Senate Enrolled Act 0048, which added computer science and computational thinking to the state educational program.

The seven winning projects include: Shoshoni Code Wranglers; Full STEM Ahead (Diamondville); Fremont @Coder (Lander); Computer Science-Roosevelt High (Casper); The Middle Space Project (Buffalo); CTacs-Computational Thinking and Computer Science (Wheatland); and Sublette School District No. 9 Cyber Academy (Big Piney). A full description of each project is available here.

In Big Piney, Superintendent Steven Loyd said his teachers set out to create an after-school ‘Cyber Academy’ for students in fifth through eighth grades. The program will focus on four integrated threads within the context of computer science, all while increasing the availability of computer science opportunities to low-income and female students.

“Thanks to the Wyoming Education Trust Fund Grant, the SCSD #9 Cyber Academy will provide students with a rich learning experience in STEM and computer science education,” Loyd said.

All seven grant projects funded this year will help expose Wyoming students to a host of new educational opportunities around computer science, Balow said.

“Each award will positively impact students, Wyoming communities, and our state,” she said. “Funds were awarded to bold and innovative computer science projects that range from targeting economically disadvantaged students to partnering with local businesses.”

Wyoming Education Trust Fund monies are available for one-year grants to any public school district. Districts may apply individually, or in conjunction with other districts. A total of $295,728 was granted this year. More information about the trust fund is available on the WDE website.

– END –

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

21st Century Community Learning Centers-Cohort 12 Awards

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) Cohort 12 grants. With $1.63 million in funding available, the WDE is awarding a grant to each of the following school districts and community-based organizations across the state.

  • Boys and Girls Club of Cheyenne – $108,677
  • Fremont County School District #1-Lander -$140,653
  • Greater WY Big Brothers Big Sisters-Albany County – $174,500
  • Lincoln County School District #2 – $190,000
  • Mercer Family Resource Center – $190,000
  • Teton Literacy Center – $122,446
  • Uinta County BOCES Education Center – $179,450
  • Washakie County School District #1 – $145,500
  • Weston County School District #1 – $190,000
  • Youth Emergency Services, Inc. – $190,000

The 21st CCLC program is authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Recipients of 21st CCLC grants must serve students and families from low-performing, high needs schools with before/after school programs as well as summer learning programs. The grants are awarded for up to five years, with continued funding dependent on performance and Federal funding allocations. For more information about the individual programs, contact the recipients.

– END –

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director