Category Archives: News Releases

News releases from the Wyoming Department of Education

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

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 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

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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Photos of 2019 Wyoming Teacher of the Year



Classroom 1

Classroom 2

Classroom 3


Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

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

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

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

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.”

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

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.

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director