Category Archives: News Releases

News releases from the Wyoming Department of Education

REVISED: WDE Seeks Public Comment on Perkins V Performance Assessment Targets

This news release was revised to include updated postsecondary targets (highlighted in yellow), indicator definitions, and an extended public comment period closing date.

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) is taking public comment on proposed performance assessment targets for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Perkins V (five) provides federal funding for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education in Wyoming. The 2019-20 federal award to Wyoming is $5,037,372.

In order to receive these funds, Wyoming must submit a plan for Wyoming Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the next four years, which includes these statewide performance assessment targets. The Perkins V State Advisory Council of stakeholders was formed to propose guidelines and performance assessment targets for school districts and community colleges receiving Perkins funds in order to provide student learners with high quality educational and work-based learning opportunities.

The federally-required indicators below refer to measurements that WDE will use annually to evaluate whether CTE goals have been met statewide. Definitions for these indicators can be found in the Perkins V Indicator Definitions document.

PerkinsJPG

The public comment period on the proposed targets is extended until November 8, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Dr. Michelle Aldrich
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

Please specify which target you are commenting upon by referencing its indicator number.

Perkins V was signed into law in July of 2018. Wyoming’s one-year transition plan was approved in July of 2019. States must submit their full plan for Perkins V by April 15, 2020. More information on Wyoming CTE and Perkins V is available here.

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Media contact:

Michelle Panos, Communications Director

307-777-2053

michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

WDE Seeks Public Comment on Perkins V Performance Assessment Targets

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) is taking public comment on proposed performance assessment targets for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Perkins V (five) provides federal funding for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education in Wyoming. The 2019-20 federal award to Wyoming is $5,037,372.

In order to receive these funds, Wyoming must submit a plan for Wyoming Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the next four years, which includes these statewide performance assessment targets. The Perkins V State Advisory Council of stakeholders was formed to propose guidelines and performance assessment targets for school districts and community colleges receiving Perkins funds in order to provide student learners with high quality educational and work-based learning opportunities.

The federally-required indicators below refer to measurements that WDE will use annually to evaluate whether CTE goals have been met statewide. In setting the proposed performance assessment targets, the Perkins V State Advisory Council used historical data and federal guidelines. By federal definition, secondary concentrators are students who have completed two courses in a career program of study and postsecondary concentrators are students who have completed 12 credit hours in a career program of study or an industry credential.

Perkins2

Public comment will be taken until November 8, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education

Attn: Dr. Michelle Aldrich

122 West 25th Street, Suite E200

Cheyenne, WY 82002

Please specify which target you are commenting upon by referencing its indicator number.

Perkins V was signed into law in July of 2018. Wyoming’s one-year transition plan was approved in July of 2019. States must submit their full plan for Perkins V by April 15, 2020. More information on Wyoming CTE and Perkins V is available here.

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Media contact:

Michelle Panos, Communications Director

307-777-2053

michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

National Education Quality Report Ranks Wyoming System Sixth in Nation

CHEYENNE – Education Week’s 23rd annual report card, Quality Counts 2019, ranks Wyoming sixth nationally in education quality – up one spot from seventh nationally in 2018. Once again, Wyoming scored the highest among western states, and first in the nation in school finance.

“It is always positive news to see Wyoming at the top of national rankings, and also improving from year to year,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Adequate funding for education has been a bedrock of Wyoming education since the state’s founding. Our funding model has allowed us to make a real difference in the lives of all students. For instance, theNation’s Report Card places Wyoming above national averages consistently from year to year.”

“This is no coincidence. Funding alone does not equate to a great education. Funding plus great schools in supportive communities makes all the difference,” Balow added.

The 2019 grades are based on three key indices: the Chance-for-Success Index; K-12 Achievement Index; and school finance.

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Wyoming Highlights Report

How States Were Graded

Audio from Superintendent Balow

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Media Contact: Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

2019 WY-TOPP Results Available Online

CHEYENNE – Results for the second administration of the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP) are now available online. The results indicate an increase in proficiency rates over most grade levels and content areas.

Overall student proficiency rates have increased in English Language Arts (ELA) by 2.6%, Math by 2.1% and Science by .9%. The largest increases occurred in grade 9 ELA, rising 8.3%, grade 3 ELA, rising 3.4% and grade 6 Math, rising 3.1%

“Students are comfortable with the online format of WY-TOPP and teachers have meaningful results almost immediately,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Besides providing a much better measure of student performance, WY-TOPP has allowed us to spend less money on statewide assessments – and take up less classroom time for testing .”

Compare

Wy-TOPP is administered through an adaptive online platform. Students in grades 3-10 took WY-TOPP summative assessments for math and English language arts. Grade 4, 8, and 10 students were also assessed in science through a fixed-form online assessment. Students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 were assessed in writing. More information is available here.

New this year, the Wyoming Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities (WY-ALT) moved from a paper-and-pencil assessment to the same online platform as WY-TOPP.

WY-TOPP results will be used to inform accountability determinations, which will be released on September 16, 2019.

Along with the WY-TOPP results, the 2019 state-, district-, and school-level results for the ACT taken by students in grade 11 are also available online.

ACT

The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) will host a media call-in at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28 to discuss the spring 2019 statewide testing results. To join the call-in, visit www.uberconference.com/wdeuberconference, or dial 888-670-9530 or 307-438-9905, or join us in person in Room 227 of the Herschler East Building, 122 W. 25th St. E200 in Cheyenne.

Assessment FAQ

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Media Contact: Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

WDE Seeks Public Comment on Chapter 38 Rules on the Hathaway Success Curriculum

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks public comment on proposed revisions to Chapter 38 rules concerning changes to the Hathaway Success Curriculum, which students are required to take in order to earn a Hathaway Scholarship.

As a result of the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 20 in 2019, students now have more options for meeting the Hathaway elective requirements. The proposed rules reflect these new provisions.

Prior to the new law,  students were required to complete two years of a foreign language in sequence plus two years of either fine arts, career and technical education or additional foreign language, in order to qualify for an Honors or Performance Scholarship. Now students must complete four years total of foreign language, fine and performing arts, or career and technical education. Students must take at least two years of related courses in sequence. In addition, one year of high school coursework taken prior to high school may satisfy one year of the four year requirement.

For 2019 and 2020 high school graduates, students can take either the current Success Curriculum or the new amended curriculum. The new Success Curriculum will take full effect in the 2021 school year.

The public comment period on the proposed rule revisions will be open from August 19 through October 6, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Jennifer LaHiff
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

All public comments will be recorded verbatim, including the submitter’s name and city of residence, on the Secretary of State website as part of the rules promulgation process.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

WDE Seeks Public Comment on Chapter 46 Rules on Early Childhood Community Collaboration Grants and Requests Applications

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks public comment on proposed Chapter 46 rules concerning the process to award Early Childhood Community Collaboration Grants to early childhood providers.

As a result of the passage of House Enrolled Act 51 in 2019, WDE is required to work collaboratively with the Governor’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council to oversee funds directed to early childhood learning opportunities. This work includes establishing rules and implementing and evaluating grants to eligible school districts or other nonprofit service providers to facilitate community early childhood collaboratives that promote high standards for early learning, while maximizing the use of resources.

Each grant award is worth $50,000 and requires a 1:4 match; $1 of appropriated funds to $4 of matching funds. Matching funds may include: local tax dollars, federal dollars, parent tuition, philanthropic contributions and in-kind donations of facilities, equipment and services required as part of the program such as food services and health screenings.

The public comment period on the proposed rule revisions will be open from August 19 through October 6, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Thom Jones
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

All public comments will be recorded verbatim, including the submitter’s name and city of residence, on the Secretary of State website as part of the rules promulgation process.

Due to the short timeframe to award these grant funds, the WDE is currently working under emergency rules to expedite the process. Interested early childhood programs are encouraged to apply now for this grant; however, all public comment on Chapter 46 rules will be considered before the grants are awarded.

The application is available on the WDE’s website. Grant applications are due October 1, 2019, and successful applicants will be notified by November 1, 2019.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

News clips, August 12, 2019

How a State Plans to Turn Coal Country Into Coding Country

Dana Goldstien – New York Times

SHERIDAN, Wyo. — The soldiers were about to storm the fortress when they suddenly went still. James Smith, 17, and his teacher, Shirley Coulter, squinted at the desktop monitor.

James was programming his own military game, the final project in his Advanced Placement computer science principles class at Sheridan High School, here in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Users competed as countries, like Israel or Japan, to take over a castle. But the game had crashed, and neither James nor Ms. Coulter — a 19-year veteran whose background is in teaching business classes — could figure out how to debug it.

“I’m learning with the kids,” she said. “They grasp it faster than I do.”

Ms. Coulter is one of hundreds of teachers in this sparsely populated state tasked with carrying out one of the most ambitious curriculum reform laws in the nation. Dozens of states have taken steps in recent years to expand students’ access to computer science, but last year, Wyoming became one of the few to require that all K-12 public schools offer it.

The mandate is part of a wide-ranging package of new laws, passed by the State Legislature last year, that is intended to wean Wyoming off its heavy reliance on the oil, gas and coal industries, and stem the flow of young people leaving for better jobs. Both major political parties have embraced the effort, as have tech companies eager to promote a national vision of rural economic revival built on coding skills.

There is little evidence that public school computer science lessons can drive economic change. But those who see them as fundamental to understanding today’s world say the grand promises from politicians do not matter. Nationwide, most students never have the opportunity to take a coding course. Now Wyoming’s 48 school districts have until the 2022-23 school year to begin teaching computer science at every grade level.

A virtual reality headset at Sheridan High School. Wyoming’s public schools must soon teach computer science at every grade level.

The Wyoming Legislature did not dedicate new dollars to the plan, so schools are relying on federal funds and philanthropy.

 

“I’m comfortable with the economic argument happening because a side effect of that is tens of thousands of fifth graders learning programming who otherwise wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said David Weintrop, a professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on how computer science is taught.

Full of coal mines, vast cattle ranches and snow-capped peaks, Wyoming is perhaps an unlikely leader in a drive to bring coding into the classroom. Computer programming and software development account for fewer than two jobs per 1,000 here, compared with 19 per 1,000 in Washington State, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But with half of Wyoming’s revenue coming from the boom-and-bust cycles of the energy sector — one facing an uncertain futurebecause of climate change and environmental regulation — state leaders are looking to branch out.

The education mandate will not be easy to pull off. American public schools have long struggled to define computer science. Do keyboarding classes count, as they did in South Carolina until last school year? What about lessons in digital literacy, such as conducting internet research or protecting personal information online, as they do in Alabama?

Wyoming answered some of these questions with state standards released this spring. All students must learn what an algorithm is (a set of instructions a computer follows to solve a problem). They must grasp concepts such as loops (processes that repeat until certain outcomes are achieved, like entering a correct password after progressively more infuriating failures). They must study the impact of technology on society (immense and sometimes alarming). And they must learn to write their own code (window.alert(“Good luck.”);).

But low taxes are an orthodoxy in Wyoming, and the Legislature did not dedicate any new dollars to the plan. That has left schools reliant on limited state, federal and philanthropic funds — and on individual educators, like Ms. Coulter — to bear the burden of introducing an entirely new subject. It is a challenge without much precedent.

Ms. Coulter had three weeks of training in basic programming from a group called Project Lead the Way, which is backed by companies like Chevron, Toyota and Lockheed Martin. She also partnered with Anne Gunn, a computer science instructor at a local community college who visited her A.P. computer science course three days a week.

When James’s military game froze, Ms. Coulter turned to Ms. Gunn for help going through his code. The culprit: a missing parenthesis.

James’s school district in Sheridan, a city of 18,000 residents with a postcard-perfect 19th-century downtown, was lucky enough to land a $1.8 million grant from a local foundation, Whitney Benefits, to help introduce computer science.

Full of coal mines, vast cattle ranches and snow-capped peaks, Wyoming is perhaps an unlikely leader in a drive to bring coding into the classroom.

 

That money helps pay for Ms. Gunn, who sees her role as teaching students and teachers simultaneously. Without deep teacher expertise, she said, students are likely to get stuck on “the cliff of confusion” and have trouble progressing from basic coding tutorials to independent programming. Several Sheridan students who seemed to have made that leap said Ms. Gunn’s help was crucial.

Kate Moran, 16, used the programming languages JavaScript and HTML to build a chemistry conversion calculator.

Jacob St. Pierre, 18, worked on a game in which players move a rocket through space. He wanted the ship’s movements to reflect dynamic gravity, and developed his own JavaScript physics library to build his world.

“In high school, you need a hobby,” he said.

Elsewhere in the district, eighth graders at Sheridan Junior High School crawled on the floor, chasing robotic birds they had programmed to waddle and chirp. Others threw electronic balls back and forth as they changed color in the air.

Both activities used block-based programming, in which students piece together pre-written bits of code with easy-to-read and customizable labels like “move Finch Left 90 degrees” or “fade from purple to green over 5 seconds.” A few students had advanced to Python, a language used in many real-world applications.

When their instructor, Chris Bloomgren, began teaching middle school computing here in 2001, computer education meant typing classes. Now Ms. Bloomgren does programming tutorials on her phone in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, just to keep a step ahead of her 13-year-old students. She estimated that she spent 40 hours per month, unpaid, training herself.

“I’m more of a facilitator than a teacher with this,” Ms. Bloomgren, 44, said.

In rural districts with less philanthropic support than Sheridan, school leaders are still debating what to do about the computer science mandate. Some plan to use video conferencing to get students help from experts far away.

 

George Mirich, the superintendent in ranching-focused Niobrara County, said some high school students had built and programmed drones to monitor cattle from overhead. But work like this has generally been limited to club activities and electives, he said, while a big focus of the computing curriculum has been how to safely use social media.

Mr. Mirich said that he had reassigned a staff member to elementary school computer science, and that he expected much of the new programming curriculum to be folded into traditional subjects like math.

Students work on a block coding exercise during class at Sagebrush Elementary School in Sheridan.

Sharon Deutscher testing one of the virtual reality headsets at Sheridan High School.

 

The major corporate backer of the Wyoming plan is Microsoft. Kate Behncken, vice president of Microsoft Philanthropies, had sweeping visions for the company’s nationwide push on computer science education, from closing so-called skills gaps (a concept that economists have questioned) to soothing national political tensions.

The 2016 presidential election showed “it was clear there were people across the U.S. who feel like they don’t have the same opportunities as people in the major metros,” Ms. Behncken said. “We have a responsibility to help address these issues.”

Microsoft and the state Department of Education hope to provide computer science training for at least one teacher in every Wyoming school, in part by working with the University of Wyoming and Code.org, a group backed by tech giants to promote computer science in schools. Microsoft’s presence in the state dates to 2012, when the company began work on a data center in Cheyenne that now employs about 100 people.

Andrew Weaver, an economist at the University of Illinois who has studied regional labor markets, said there were few success stories of promoting technology clusters in remote areas. “If anything, the growth in computing over the past 30-plus years has led to more concentration of computer jobs” in a few regions, he said.

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Operations that do move to rural areas, like data centers, tend to require a less-skilled work force, Professor Weaver said. Basic IT jobs at local mines or government agencies may not require the coding skills that are the focus of the state’s push.

Indeed, at Sheridan High School, several of the computer science students said they assumed that if they wanted to pursue programming careers, they would need to leave their home state. Jacob, who is starting community college this fall, said he was attracted to the Seattle area. “I like bigger cities with more opportunity,” he said.

Wyoming educators say that despite the rhetoric of politicians and tech giants, they are teaching computer science to enrich their students, not to enrich the state.

“Our job is not to contain our kids in Wyoming,” said Craig Dougherty, the Sheridan superintendent. “They need to compete globally.”


Additional stories:

Juvenile Defender Wants Teachers To Disrupt The School-To-Prison Pipeline – Wyoming Public Media 

Three-Year Grant to UW Promotes Computer Science Education in Wyoming – Sheridan Media 

Fourth-Grade Students in Wyoming Make Gains on NAEP – National Assessment Governing Board

New grants available for Central Wyoming College students – Jackson Hole Daily

Wyoming STEAM Educators Of The Year Recognized At Conference

CHEYENNE – The 2018-19 Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Educators of the Year were honored Wednesday at the 2019 Roadmap to STEAM Conference in Laramie.

Each year, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) recognizes exemplary STEAM educators from elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels of education; new this year is the selection of a STEAM Student of the Year.

“These educators have a passion for STEAM that is passed on to their students – and students well-versed in STEAM are essential to the economic well being of our state,” said Dr. Michelle Aldrich, supervisor of the WDE Career Technical Education (CTE) Section. “The Department is privileged to honor these educators and thank them for preparing Wyoming’s children for the future.”

“Innovative and dedicated STEAM educators are critical to our success as a state,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Whether students are bound for college, military, or straight into a career, science and technology will play a larger role in their lives. This year’s recipients are a testament to the field – they are the best of the best.”

The 2018-19 awardees include:

STEAM Elementary Educator of the Year Shelby Randall, Westside Elementary School

Randall has implemented a genius hour each week where first grade students learn computer coding. She begins with using hopscotch tiles to teach movements as code. As a final project students use WeDo2.0 robotics kits to build race cars and rovers. Using computational thinking and the coding tiles on the WeDo app, students tell the robots what to do. Randall said it is an incredible moment to watch the students grow and inquire as they experience this genius hour.

STEAM Secondary Educator of the Year Jesse Smith, Shoshoni School

Smith’s high school STEM program started as a one-year experiment, but due to popular demand, it is now a four-year program. Smith takes students of limited technical abilities and transforms them into innovators, designers, and creators. They receive training in multiple programming languages, 2D and 3D design, laser cutting and engraving, 3D printing and printer maintenance. They also learn to build and refurbish computers, setup physical and virtual servers and protect them from cyber attack. Students learn about new technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies and digital wallets.

STEAM Post-Secondary Educator of the Year Dr. Andrew Young, Casper College

Young has played an active role in mentoring teachers and students across Wyoming. His lecture series that covers physics and astronomy are available in podcast form. Young’s past research interest includes blazars, space weather, aurora borealis, and astrophysical search engines. His current primary academic duties consist of teaching live and on-line astronomy and physics courses at Casper College. He serves as a board member for the Wyoming NASA Space Grant and also is the Wyoming RadNet systems operator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

STEAM Student of the Year Bailey Bowcutt, Cheyenne Central High School

Bowcutt founded the Young Women In STEAM group at Central High. The group met monthly and brought in professional women who have excelled in STEAM fields to talk about how they chose their career path.The group also created STEAM Night at Central High, where high school students gathered to explore STEAM careers and helped encourage grade-school children to investigate science and technology. Bowcutt intends to recreate the Young Women In STEAM group at Michigan State University, where she will be studying microbiology, genomics and molecular biology.

Nominations for Wyoming STEAM educators were submitted and reviewed by a selection committee at the WDE.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

Superintendent Balow Chosen as National Leadership Fellow

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has been selected as a Fellow in the Hunt-Kean Leadership program. The program is part of the Hunt Institute, a national leader in education policy. Numerous governors, members of Congress, and state education chiefs are alumni and board members of this program.

“I am honored to join such a distinguished group of national and state leaders to learn about, formulate, and share strategies for effective education policy,” Balow said. “I look forward to working with education experts on complex policy issues facing our nation and Wyoming.”

The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Program is an intensive education policy immersion program for high-level state leaders focused on exposing Fellows to the best research and analysis on innovative policies and practices. The program also looks at how other leaders direct successful reform efforts. Importantly, Fellows cultivate an atmosphere that explores different points of view.

“Superintendent Balow is a proven leader for the state of Wyoming and is nationally recognized as an innovator in education policy,” said Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO of The Hunt Institute. “She is an ideal candidate for the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program and we are excited to have her as a Fellow.”

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Hunt Institute was formed in 2001 and is an affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy. The Hunt Institute’s mandate is to inspire elected officials and key policymakers to make informed decisions that result in improving the lives of all children through quality education.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053

WDE Seeks Public Comment on Chapter 3 Rules on Informal Reviews of School Performance Ratings and Citizen Petitions of WDE Rules

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks public comment on proposed revisions to Chapter 3 rules concerning parameters under which a school district may seek an informal review of its annual school performance ratings. The revisions to the rules are a result of the passage of House Enrolled Act 43 in 2019.

An informal review will examine whether the school’s overall performance rating was improperly computed and reported, and examine whether the school was unable to administer the statewide assessment for good cause.

Chapter 3 also includes a new Section 4, outlining the process whereby a citizen may petition a review of current education rules in accordance with W.S. 16-3-106.

The public comment period on the proposed rule revisions will be open from July 17 – September 9, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Julie Magee
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

All public comments will be recorded verbatim, including the submitter’s name and city of residence, on the Secretary of State website as part of the rules promulgation process.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov
307-777-2053