Category Archives: News Releases

News releases from the Wyoming Department of Education

Leaders, Educators Selected for 2020 Digital Learning Innovations Awards

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has selected the winners for the 2020 K-12 Digital Learning Innovations Awards. These awards were created to honor leaders and educators to create cultures of innovation and forward-thinking through effective uses of digital, 21st century technologies to engage students while empowering them in owning their learning.

The Digital Learning Innovations Award is an acknowledgement of educators utilizing new and innovative ways to incorporate digital learning into their work. There are four categories to the award: Student Voices, Education Leader, District Leader, and State Leader.

“Now more than any other time in education, digital innovation is essential. These leaders undoubtedly pushed themselves as well as their students to bring excellence to digital education,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “I know firsthand that these awardees make a difference in students’ lives and will continue to push through difficult challenges to ensure high quality digital education is accessible to more students.”

Student Voices – Erika Quick and the Cody Broadcast Journalism Students

The Broadcast Journalism program at Cody High School has been student-led for 20 years. The students are the voice of the school, and they inform their student body on what is going on. Their stories often transcend past the student-body and into our community. As their advisor, Quick pushes them to ask the tough questions. She always warns the students that some stories may lead them into the unknown. It may challenge them to arrive in a place they did not expect. That is what journalism is, the pursuit of what’s true, even if it makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t fit within the walls of your normalcy. Through COVID-19, the students captured their experiences through a series of photos to try and convey how the pandemic has impacted them.

Education Leader – Krista Sweckard, Johnson #1 

Sweckard is a prime example of an innovative teacher in all she does in her classes from the elementary school to the high school. She is always striving and searching for effective approaches to help her students learn through engaging lessons and units. Sweckard has a unique position in her district. She teaches computer science and technology classes at the high school half time and spends the afternoon at an elementary school teaching classes with elementary teachers using lessons she develops to assist teachers to integrate technology in their lessons. In the elementary school, she learns about the units or lessons they are teaching and then develops lessons she models and teaches with the classroom teacher to the students. In her high school classes she integrates hands-on activities and designs her lessons beyond the format of most classes. Sweckard is the most dedicated and innovative teacher committed to changing the classroom to prepare and empower her students and colleagues for the future.

District Leader – Dr. Joe Heywood, WYVA

Heywood is the Head of School and K-8 Principal of the Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) for the past three years. During this time, he recognized the need to improve the Social-Emotional component for students online and how valuable it is for student’s to feel connected, especially in a virtual setting. To do this he has created a library of virtual field trips for students and has instituted the first online Junior National Honors Society and Student Council for grades 7-8. He created a series of virtual field trips that can be accessed by students online to bring different parts of Wyoming to them, at home. He has also used videos to create welcome messages to help build a sense of connection. There is usually an educational component as well to these videos and are geared for all students K-12.

State Leader 1 – SSG David Pulsipher, Wyoming Army National Guard

Pulsipher faced COVID-19 head-on by helping to teach several classes for Wyoming High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) Program through Western Wyoming Community College by assisting students that had endured an unprecedented end to their in person classes. Pulsipher Instructed classes via Zoom on Career Development and Life Skills courses. The classes reached students in Rock Springs, Big Piney, Bridger Valley, Pinedale, Kemmerer, Green River, and Star Valley. Education is one of the most revered freedoms of every society. Pulsipher’s ability to overcome and adapt in such a short period as well as assist with one of the most critical aspects of the American way of life is a testament to his professionalism and commitment to the betterment of human potential.

State Leader 2 –  SFC Jeffrey Blascyk, Wyoming Army National Guard

Blascyk took digital learning to a new level by creating a resiliency video series for the Sheridan SCOPE program. In Tongue River, he conducted a virtual workout series with an accountability piece to encourage students to work out and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Blascyk also conducted a goal setting video series for multiple English classes in Sheridan High School, in conjunction with their reading of the Alchemist to promote realistic goal setting. He did two videos, one on military equipment and the uniform for those who took the ASVAB.  Blascyk also had a bunch of education centered videos posted on Facebook for the students in the areas of physical fitness, how to apply social distancing, additional military equipment videos and benefits videos.

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

WDE Receives $93,245 Microsoft Grant For Computer Science Initiatives

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has received $93,245 from Microsoft Corporation’s TechSpark initiative and the Digital Skills for Youth program. The award will support Computer Science teacher training as part of Boot Up Wyoming, a statewide initiative launched in 2018 to implement Computer Science in Wyoming K-12 schools.

“Microsoft has been a key partner in Boot Up Wyoming since day one,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow. “Funds from this Digital Skills for Youth grant keep us on-track to deliver the highest-quality Computer Science education to all Wyoming students.”

A portion of the grant will enable the WDE’s Boot Up Wyoming initiative to provide a second cohort of the Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) training for school districts. CSforALL is an organization dedicated to making Computer Science part of every K-12 student’s education. The SCRIPT training provides districts with strategic planning tools to think through what is needed to provide equitable, high-quality Computer Science education available to all students in their districts.

The Wyoming chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has emerged as a premiere professional learning network and a valuable resource for Computer Science educators across Wyoming. This grant provides resources to support this network and encourage teachers to learn together. The CSTA hosts monthly online Professional Learning Network meetings.

In addition, the grant will provide the WDE with support for developing high-quality Computer Science micro-credentials for secondary teachers and students.

“Wyoming was one of the first states to implement Computer Science education in grades K-12 – now almost every state offers it,” Balow said. “This funding helps us remain pioneers by enabling the WDE to continue to provide professional development to educators focused around Computer Science education.”

“Wyoming’s vision is that every student has the opportunity to be met where they are — at their skill-level, in their school — and be inspired to learn how technology works and how to build solutions to society’s challenges. We strongly support that vision.” said Dennis Ellis, manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark Wyoming, an initiative to partner with rural and smaller metropolitan communities to spark new economic opportunities and job creation.

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

WDE Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Computer Science Performance Standards and Math Extended Standards

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education seeks public comment on the proposed Chapter 10 Rules, which include the proposed 2020 Computer Science Performance Standards and 2020 Math Extended Standards. Public comment may be submitted online, in person, or via mail, October 2-November 30, 2020.

The standards documents and proposed Chapter 10 Rules can be found on the Standards Review webpage and at the links below:

Send written comments to:
Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Barb Marquer
122 W. 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:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

WDE Seeks Public Comment on 21st Century Community Learning Center Waiver

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) intends to apply for a Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers waiver for the 2020-21 school year, and will take public comment starting on September 23, 2020 and ending on October 7, 2020.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) restricts activities provided by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program to activities provided only during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session. Under this waiver, the WDE may permit 21st CCLC programs to provide supplemental activities when school is in session but students are not receiving in-person instruction. All other requirements for a 21st CCLC program continue to apply.

On September 18, 2020, due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented obstacles schools, teachers, students, and their families are facing as the 2020-2021 school year begins, the US Department of Education offered flexibility to states regarding the requirement in section 4201(b)(1)(A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, reauthorized as ESSA, that a 21st CCLC program operate “during non school hours or periods when school is not in session (such as before and after school or during summer recess).” Given the hybrid approach some schools are utilizing in which students are in school part of the week and participating in distance learning during other times, students may benefit from dedicated personnel and enhanced technological resources to help them better engage with virtual  lessons, independent work that is assigned, and other academic enrichment activities during the portion of the week when they are not physically present in school but school is in session remotely for some portion of the day.

Input may be submitted online or mailed to:

Karen Bierhaus
Program Consultant
Wyoming Department of Education
320 West Main Street, Room 124
Riverton, WY 82501

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

Alexis Barney Named Wyoming’s 2021 Teacher of the Year

CHEYENNE – Alexis Barney, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Evansville Elementary School in Natrona County School District #1, was named Wyoming’s 2021 Teacher of the Year Tuesday, during the Wyoming Education Summit.

“Congratulations to Alexis on being named Wyoming’s 2021 Teacher of the Year,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “I find that her passion and charisma are contagious – and I’m excited for her to share that with others over the next year. Alexis has the heart, mindset, and drive of an excellent teacher. In this role, she will continue to inspire many as she learns to advocate for excellent teaching and learning.”

Barney grew up in Saratoga and graduated from the from the University of Wyoming at Casper with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education in 2016. She graduated from Capella University with a master’s degree in Educational Psychology in 2016. At Evansville Elementary, Barney is the English Language Arts goal team leader and also serves on the school leadership team. She also is the School Transformation team leader and the Lego Robotics coach and Reading Club coordinator.

Barney said her philosophy is grounded in empowering students to be kind and courageous, and creating life-long learners who are inquisitive and excited about the world around them, finding success no matter their circumstances.

“Our attitude is going to be infectious.” Barney said. “I want to empower people to see things in a different light, helping them to find resources, and really turn those ‘can’ts’ into ‘cans.’ ”

She has frequently presented reading strategies with her co-chair at teaching conferences around the state, as well as in Colorado.

“Alexis is without a doubt one of the finest educators I have worked with in my nearly three decades in education,” said Wayne Tuttle, Principal of Evansville Elementary school. “Students thrive in Alexis’ class because of her high expectations, innovative engagement strategies, and relevant learning. When a principal looks for an educator to be an anchor of their school for decades to come, they are searching for someone of Alexis’ quality.”

The Wyoming Teacher of the Year comes with the significant responsibility of representing the teaching profession in Wyoming. The Wyoming Teacher of the Year acts as liaison among the teaching community, Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Department of Education, districts and communities. In addition, the Teacher of the Year is an education ambassador to businesses, parents, service organizations, and media, as well an education leader involved in teacher forums and education reform.

“Wyoming has a strong sense of resilience and grit, as a community and as a whole,” Barney said. “And I think Wyoming teachers demonstrate that so well. I want to represent that grit and resilience and bolster that community. We need everyone involved – and to do that, we have to come together as a community. I think I can bring energy and excitement to our teachers.”

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Photo of 2021 Wyoming Teacher of the Year

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

Last Chance to Apply for Roadtrip Nation Adventure

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Roadtrip is scheduled to roll in April of 2021. In anticipation of the Wyoming Roadtrip, the application and selection process for Roadtrippers has begun. Wyoming youth who could use some insight or inspiration for their future, and are ages 18-24, can apply here by October 4, 2020.

The Wyoming Department of Education, along with the Wyoming Workforce Development Council, are sponsoring the Wyoming Road Trip project through Roadtrip Nation that will help empower Wyoming residents to identify their interests and explore pathways aligned with their unique aspirations and skills. The project is fueled by a Daniels Fund grant.

For 15 years, Roadtrip Nation has made it their mission to talk with professionals of every kind and ask the questions that no one is asking – honest questions about their struggles, successes, and how they figured out the age-old dilemma, “What should I do with my life?”

For more information, visit roadtripnation.com.

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

Superintendent Balow Announces $43.3 Million Federal Literacy Grant

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has received the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, which is awarded by the United States Department of Education (USED). Year one funding for Wyoming will be $8.6 million; with continued eligibility over the next five years, the total could reach $43.3 million.

“The most important milestone in every student’s education tenure is being proficient at reading by third grade,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “This grant is going to help Wyoming tremendously in ensuring that as many children as possible reach that milestone and continue to grow! I am very excited to begin this work.”

The USED grant will be used to create a comprehensive state literacy program to advance literacy skills — including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing — for students from birth through grade 12, including students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities.

All Wyoming school districts have the opportunity to benefit. Districts that have  struggled with literacy will have the opportunity to receive target training, coaching and technical assistance, and also be invited to apply for subgrants that will support the work at the district level.

“This grant really targets our state’s need to strengthen educators skills in teaching literacy and improving literacy outcomes for our students,” said WDE Chief Academic Officer Shelley Hamel. “For educators, this includes an understanding of the science of reading, the ability to apply these best practices in the classroom, confidence in identifying gaps in student skills and in knowing the next steps needed to correct these gaps.”

The funding from this grant will be used to develop a comprehensive state literacy plan by the Literacy Task Force; create a statewide system of Tiered Literacy Support; and invest in high needs districts and the early childhood sites that provide services to the district area families by subgranting 95% of the funds. The support provided through this grant brings together each stage from early childhood to adult education.

“Being a reader is too important to leave to chance,” said Tami Bebee-Schwartz, an independent educational consultant from Green River. “A child’s reading skills influence all other learning, their behavior, their self esteem, their life opportunities, and ultimately, their life choices. We have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the research and instructional practices with the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant – which means this is a phenomenal opportunity for Wyoming students and educators.”

The WDE plans to release a request for applications in January 2021.

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

Superintendent Balow to Announce Receipt of a $43.3 Million Federal Literacy Grant

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education will host a media conference at 11 a.m. Friday, September 18 to discuss the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant awarded by the United States Department of Education (USED). Year one funding for Wyoming will be $8.6 million. With continued eligibility over the next five years, the total could reach $43.3 million. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and other WDE staff will be available to discuss the grant and answer questions.

The USED grant will be used to create a comprehensive state literacy program to advance literacy skills — including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing — for students from birth through grade 12, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities.

The grant will strengthen educator skills in teaching literacy and work to improve literacy outcomes for all students. Particular attention will be given to schools identified as high need due to lower reading scores on state assessments.

Media may join by the Zoom call here.

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

WDE Receives Daniels Fund Grant For Wyoming Road Trip Project

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE), along with the Wyoming Workforce Development Council, will sponsor a Wyoming Road Trip project through Roadtrip Nation that will help empower Wyoming residents to identify their interests and explore pathways aligned with their unique aspirations and skills. The project will be funded through a Daniels Fund grant.

“Daniels Fund is a committed partner to Wyoming’s next generation,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Their generous funding will enable us to share inspiring stories about planning for the future with students across the state.”

For 15 years, Roadtrip Nation (RTN) has made it their mission  to talk with professionals of every kind and ask the questions that no one is asking – honest questions about their struggles, successes, and how they figured out the age-old dilemma, “What should I do with my life?”

RTN does this through a multi-platform content strategy, including its long-running documentary series on public television that reaches up to 60 million households annually. This content is then post-produced for educational purposes via RTN’s Interview Archive, encompassing over 5,500 real-world career pathway stories distributed to 14 million students, a project-based curriculum, and a New York Times bestselling book.

To gather content for these outlets, every year RTN selects various industries and/or socially relevant issues – such as Cybersecurity, Veterans, Opportunity Youth – as primary themes for its Roadtrips. On these trips, selected young people hit the road to interview Leaders across America who relate with those same students’ social backgrounds and personal interests, empowering them to define their own roads in life. Simultaneously, people currently engaged in various career pathways can share their own career stories on Roadtrip Nation’s online storytelling platform – Share Your Road – providing a crowd-sourced opportunity for professionals to share their own “Roads” and significantly scaling the number of career pathways represented in RTN’s Interview Archive.

All Roadtrip and Share Your Road content is included in RTN’s rapidly growing Interview Archive which fuels educational resources that reach 14 million middle school, high school, and college students through the College Board, Hobsons-Naviance, and other RTN distribution partners. Approximately 175,000 students have participated in RTN’s project-based learning curriculum, resulting in a proven increase in self-efficacy rates and academic performance.

The Wyoming Roadtrip is scheduled to roll in April of 2021. In anticipation of the Wyoming Roadtrip, an application and selection process for the Roadtrippers will begin this fall.

The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program, and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.

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

The WDE Seeks Public Input on the Proposed Wyoming Computer Science Performance Standards

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) will host two virtual meetings to collect public input on the proposed 2020 Computer Science Performance Standards. Previously, all Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) were deemed the Performance Standards to measure student proficiency.

Attendees will sign in through the Zoom online platform and will remain in a “waiting room” until the meeting begins promptly at noon and 6 p.m. on August 25 respectively. Meeting details are below.

August 25, 2020
Noon-2 p.m.
Join the Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/92919364903
Meeting ID: 929 1936 4903
Dial In: +1 669 900 6833 US

August 25, 2020
6-8 p.m.
Join the Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/94666353183
Meeting ID: 946 6635 3183
Dial in: +1 669 900 6833 US

The State Board of Education (SBE) has asked the Computer Science Standards Review Committee to identify a subset of PLDs to be the Performance Standards, on which students will be assessed through the District Assessment System.

The Content Standards were adopted on Feb. 4, 2020. The Computer Science Content Standards are the content and skills students are expected to know and be able to do by the end-of-the gradeband.

Performance Standards are the standards all students are expected to learn and be assessed on through the district assessment system by the end-of-the grade-band. They specify the specific degree of understanding or demonstration of the knowledge and/or skill for a particular content standard. As such, it employs clear action verbs and describes “how good is good enough.” Districts are expected to give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency on the Performance Standards and provide appropriate supports for student success.

Once adopted, the Performance Standards will accompany the previously adopted 2019 Wyoming Computer Science Content Standards. Performance Standards will be tied to the Content Standards on which districts are expected to assess all students through the district assessment system. The input collected on the Performance Standards will be shared with the SBE for its consideration for adoption.

Public input on the proposed Performance Standards is open through 11:59 p.m. on August 27, 2020. In addition to the online public meetings, comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

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

For more information, contact Barb Marquer, Standards Team Supervisor, at 307-777-5506 or barb.marquer@wyo.gov.

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