Category Archives: News Releases

News releases from the Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming Students Selected for United States Senate Youth Program

CHEYENNE – Zoe Marie Crisp and Grace Fain Steenbergen will join Senator John Barrasso and Senator Cynthia Lummis in representing Wyoming during the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) Washington Week, set for March 14—17, 2021.

Zoe Crisp of Jackson and Grace Steenbergen of Burns were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will each also receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 program will break ground as the first-ever fully virtual Washington Week, and is designed to be a highly interactive and exciting education and leadership forum for the nation’s most outstanding student leaders.

The USSYP was established by the U.S. Senate in 1962, and provides an educational experience for students interested in public service careers. The program provides an in-depth view of the Senate and federal government, as well as a deeper understanding of the relationships between the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Branches. During the program week, the student delegates will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies and senior members of the national media, among others.

Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Wyoming delegates and alternates were designated by  Jillian Balow, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Zoe Crisp, a senior at Jackson Hole High School, serves as the co-president of the student council, and has assisted new high school students and parents in the incoming Ninth Grade Open House, acted as a student peer tutor to Middle School students in the Student to Student Peer Tutoring program, assisted local veterans during the schoolwide annual Veterans Day event, completed a community based internship at the Mannen and Browne Law Firm as a part of completion of the Jackson Hole High School School to Career Program, and has facilitated many school wide events. One of these events included the organization of student to student round table discussions, where students from all backgrounds and grades discussed race, equality and inclusion for all. Zoe’s future plans include majoring in political science at the College of Charleston and then law school.

Grace Steenbergen, a junior at Burns Junior-Senior High School, serves as the vice president of the student council. Grace is a leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Future Business Leaders of America, 4-H, and the Future Farmers of America, where she has served as the Greenhand president, secretary and reporter over several years. She volunteers with the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, the Wyoming Hunger Initiative and the Wyoming Equality Group. Grace earned her bronze and silver Wyoming Congressional Award medals and served as the Intermediate National Ambassador for the American Gelbvieh Association. Grace’s future plans include graduating high school in 2022, and attending Oklahoma State University where she will focus her undergraduate studies in animal science and biochemistry. She plans to earn a  Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine.

Chosen as alternates to the 2021 program are both residents of Laramie, Collin Krueger, and  Leila Johnson, who attend Laramie High School.

Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program brings the most exceptional high school students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. However, this year, the program will be held online. The mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service.

For more information, visit: www.ussenateyouth.org

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Statement to President Biden Penned by Five State Superintendents and Commissioners of Education

CHEYENNE – On February 17, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow submitted a letter to President Joe Biden on behalf of State Superintendents and Commissioners representing North Dakota, Montana, Alaska and Utah. The letter, which follows, expresses the five education representatives opposition to the actions taken to ban oil and gas leases on federal land and to curtail production and transmission of the commodities.

The Honorable Joseph Biden
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

February 17, 2021

Dear Mr. President:

It is unusual that state education leaders would be in a position to warrant this letter. We write to oppose the actions taken to ban oil and gas leases on federal land and to curtail production and transmission of the commodities. Specifically, 1) The Department of the Interior’s Order 3395 places a moratorium on new mining, oil, and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands, off and onshore; 2) Section 208 of the Climate Crisis Executive Order places a “pause” on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters; and allows for review and reconsideration of  federal oil and gas permitting and leasing.

As state education chiefs we have appreciated generous access to your education transition team and we had multiple opportunities to discuss schools safely reopening, student well-being, and academic priorities. We are also enthused that U.S. Secretary of Education nominee, Miguel Cardona, most recently served as a state education chief, and well understands the critical leadership role that we have as state leaders. We look forward to working collaboratively on many education issues. Thus, it is imperative that we bring to light the arbitrary and inequitable move to shut down oil and gas production on federal lands in our states that depend on revenues from various taxes, royalties, disbursements, and lease payments to fund our schools, community infrastructure, and public services.

  • In Wyoming, the oil and natural gas industry contributed $740 million in funding for K-12 education and $28 million to Wyoming’s higher education system in 2019. 92% of all natural gas and 51% of oil produced in Wyoming comes from federal lands. The ban translates into the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for education and 13,300 direct jobs in a state of 500,000.
  • In Montana, $30 million in revenue is at-risk, along with over 3,000 jobs.
  • In North Dakota, the lease moratorium would result in 13,000 lost jobs over four years, along with $600 million in lost tax revenue and a $750 million loss in personal income. North Dakota’s oil and gas industry accounts for 24,000 direct jobs in the state.
  • In Utah, $72 million in revenue is at risk with 11,000 jobs at stake.
  • In Alaska, over $24 million in state revenue is tied to federal leases for oil and natural gas, along with 3,500 jobs.

As state education chiefs, we place equity and quality at the forefront of policy making. We care deeply about clean air and clean water for future generations. And, we advocate fiercely for adequate funding for all students in all schools. Reform of the industry is necessary and can be accomplished, but not by abruptly restricting industries that define our culture and the generate revenue on which so many rely.

Mr. President, as state education leaders, we are uniquely positioned to think about how to support and fund education for the next generation. Given support by your administration, in the form of an exemption from orders that diminish the oil and natural gas industry, our states can continue to diversify and innovate the industry and fund education. Our shared goals are a reduced global carbon footprint, protected wildlife, and quality educational opportunities for all children.

We thank you for your consideration and we welcome a continued conversation.

Respectfully,

Jillian Balow, Wyoming Elected State Superintendent
Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Elected State Superintendent
Elsie Arntzen Montana Elected State Superintendent
Michael Johnson, Alaska Governor-appointed State Commissioner
Sydnee Dickson, Utah Board-appointed State Superintendent

Cover Letter

Signed Letter

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Public Input Requested for Proposed Science Performance Standards

CHEYENNE – The 2016 Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards have been updated to meet the request of the State Board of Education (SBE) to identify Performance Standards. Content Standards are what students should know and be able to do, and Performance Standards specify the degree of understanding. Districts are expected to assess students on Performance Standards through the District Assessment System. 

For Public Input on Science Performance Standards:

The input collected on the Performance Standards will be shared with the SBE.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Public Input Requested for English Language Arts Standards

CHEYENNE – The 2012 Wyoming English Language Arts (ELA) Content and Performance Standards are up for review. The Wyoming Department of Education is collecting public input for the committee’s consideration during its review.

To give public input on ELA Standards:

The input collected on the ELA Standards will be shared with the ELA Standards Review Committee. 

The WDE is seeking stakeholders interested in reviewing the Wyoming Content & Performance Standards for ELA. Those interested in serving on the ELA Standards Review Committee need to complete the Call for Participants Survey by March 26, 2021. Completing a survey expresses interest in participating, but does not commit anyone to serve on the review committee. Standards review committee members will be chosen based on diversity in experience, roles, and region or school size. Individuals who are chosen to serve will be contacted via email.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Wyoming High School Graduation Rate Improved for Seventh-Consecutive Year

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) announced today that high school graduation rates increased to 82.3% in 2019-20, marking the seventh consecutive year of improvement from the class of 2013, where 77.6% of students graduated.

Full graduation rate statistics are available here.

“When we work hand-in-hand with our school districts to make sure every student can succeed, good things happen,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Wyoming continues to set high standards for our graduates, which is reflected in our plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, and evidenced in the graduation rate increase. That it’s our seventh-consecutive year for an increase demonstrates that our plans, our partnerships, are working.”

gradgraph

Eighteen Wyoming school districts posted graduation rates of 90 percent or above, up from 15 districts last year:

  • Park #16 – 100.0%
  • Washakie #2 – 100.0%
  • Big Horn #4 – 95.8%
  • Sublette #9 – 95.6%
  • Park #1 – 95.2%
  • Lincoln #1 – 95.1%
  • Laramie #2 – 94.9%
  • Carbon #2 – 94.7%
  • Sublette #1 – 93.7%
  • Teton #1 – 93.6%
  • Fremont #24 – 93.5%
  • Sheridan #1 – 92.3%
  • Converse #2 – 92.3%
  • Crook #1 – 91.6%
  • Fremont #2 – 90.9%
  • Fremont #1 – 90.8%
  • Sweetwater #2 – 90.0%
  • Sheridan #3 – 90.0%

Since the 2009-10 school year, the WDE has calculated graduation rates using the Federal Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Methodology established by the U.S. Department of Education, complying with federal law that requires all states to calculate graduation rates the same way. Students are counted in the four-year, “on-time,” high school graduation rate if they earn a diploma by September 15 following their cohort’s fourth year. Five- and six-year graduation rates are also calculated, and can be viewed with the rest of the graduation rate data.

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Graduation Rate Brochure

U.S. Department of Education Graduation Methodology

Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Statement from State Superintendent Jillian Balow on the Biden Administration Defunding Schools with a Federal Ban on Oil and Gas Leasing

CHEYENNE – “I was taken aback by swift orders executed by the Biden Administration last week after months of rhetoric around bringing unity to our nation. Funding for public education in Wyoming and other states has been eviscerated by an order issued by Acting U.S. Interior Secretary de le Vega. A federal ban on oil and gas leases will defund schools. Wyoming depends on some $150 million a year in oil and gas federal mineral royalties to fund our K-12 schools.

“Shockingly, this move hurts the students in soon to be Interior Secretary Haaland’s home state of New Mexico substantially worse. A University of Wyoming study estimates that Wyoming and seven other top federal oil and gas producing states stand to lose hundreds of millions in revenue for their schools and governments due to this moratorium. There are also Native American reservations negatively impacted by this moratorium and speaking out.

“And on the heels of the worst economic year we’ve all experienced in modern history, it is unconscionable that Acting Interior Secretary de la Vega would now do this to our kids. I plan to call my counterparts in these most affected states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, Montana, California, and Alaska to discuss advocacy with the Acting Secretary and anticipated Interior Secretary to end the moratorium. I understand there may be further, similar orders coming in the near future that need to be stopped. I hope that K-12 advocates across both parties will join me in speaking out against defunding our schools. Our students, teachers, and communities simply cannot afford this draconian executive order.”

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

WDE Media Conference Tuesday to Discuss 2020 Graduation Rates

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) will host a virtual media conference at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 to discuss the 2019-20 Wyoming high school graduation rate. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and other WDE staff will be available to discuss the graduation rate and answer questions.

Media may register in advance here. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the press conference.

Full graduation rate statistics for the 2019-20 school year will be available Tuesday morning. Since the 2009-10 school year, the WDE has calculated graduation rates using the Federal Four-Year Adjusted Cohort methodology established by the U.S. Department of Education, which complies with federal law that requires all states to calculate graduation rates exactly the same. Students are counted in the four-year (or “on-time”) high school graduation rate if they earn a diploma by September 15 following their cohort’s fourth year. Five- and six-year graduation rates are also calculated, and can be viewed with the rest of the graduation rate data.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Temporary Federal Accountability Changes Open for Public Comment

CHEYENNE – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wyoming Department of Education seeks public comment on temporary changes to its federal accountability plan. Public comment is being accepted from January 8-25, 2021. A summary of the changes, copy of the draft document and waiver can be found here.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancelation of statewide assessments in the spring of 2020. Wyoming’s accountability system requires multiple years of assessment data, which means that even if students are able to be assessed in the spring of 2021, some adjustments are necessary in order to meet federal requirements for the 2020-21 school year because of the absence of assessment data.

Wyoming plans to submit an addendum to its federal accountability plan, which would allow long-term goals in academic achievement, graduation rate, and English language acquisition to be pushed one year. The addendum would also allow Wyoming to – for one year – not calculate measures for which there is not adequate data, not calculate overall scores for schools, and delay identification of low-performing schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement . Additionally, Wyoming plans to seek a waiver from the annual requirement to identify schools for Targeted Support and Improvement based on the performance of specific student populations.

These temporary changes to Wyoming’s ESSA plan do not waive the federal assessment requirements. For the 2020-2021 school year, Wyoming will assess its students to the extent possible.

Comments can be submitted to the WDE through January 25, 2021 via an online survey, or by mail. Two online public meetings will be offered, one at noon and another at 5 p.m. MST on January 14. Anyone wishing to participate can register online here for the noon session and here for the 5 p.m. session.

Comments can be mailed to:
Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Linda Finnerty
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

SPECIAL STATEMENT: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow’s Statement on the Events of January 6

CHEYENNE – “Like most Wyomingites right now, I am deeply saddened and concerned at the events that transpired in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. As an educator, I cannot help but recognize the complexity of the situation and how difficult it must be for thousands of kids across Wyoming to sort through. As parents, state leaders, educators, and adults, we all have a responsibility to lead by example. The example made by some adults yesterday rioting at our nation’s capital was disgraceful.

“This is a teachable moment, an opportunity to reiterate to our youth that violence against people and property is never acceptable. Our founding principles have been tested over the last year in many unprecedented ways, culminating in yesterday’s tragic events. It is more clear than ever that we must strive to restore civility, transparency, and trust in our nation’s founding and institutions.”

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Student Enrollment Down 1,894 for 2020-21 School Year

CHEYENNE – Fall school enrollment in Wyoming’s 48 school districts dropped from 93,832 students in the 2019-20 school year to 91,938 during the 2020-21 school year – the first time enrollment has dipped below 92,000 students since 2012. Fall K-12 enrollment data for Wyoming public schools for the 2020-21 school year is available online.

Wyoming’s public schools lost a total of 1,894 students. While 10 districts saw an increase in enrollment, 38 districts decreased enrollment from the previous year.

Wyoming school districts that saw the largest increases in enrollment offer statewide virtual education programs:

  • Niobrara County School District #1 with a 76.8% increase, or 607 students.
  • Park County School District  #16 with a 75.5% increase, or 74 students.
  • Big Horn County School District #1 with a 68.1% increase, or 729 students.

“Wyoming had a structure in place to offer full-time virtual education to students before the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “I am proud of Wyoming educators for their commitment to offering in-person instruction and I’m grateful that parents and families had a range of public, home, virtual, and private options.”

The Wyoming Department of Education has prepared the following reports that break down the enrollment statistics:

This data was gathered from all school districts throughout the state in a snapshot performed on October 1, 2020. The agency does not collect numbers of students enrolled in home or private school.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov