State Superintendent Jillian Balow sends an update to school district superintendents at the end of every week so they can see the memos which will be sent out the following week and highlight statewide education work.
We have a big week under our belts and a big week ahead:
Stakeholder groups including the accreditation task force and Chapter 29 panel met separately this week to continue work on their respective projects. The involvement of education leaders and stakeholders in the most important policy decisions is critical. I say it often and I will say again–thank you for your involvement in various groups and for generously allowing us to tap your top leaders from schools to assist us in our work!
We kicked off Random Acts of Kindness in Wyoming (officially February 11-17). Madelynn Oden, 15, of Casper, who with her two sisters, Katelynn and Delaney, raised $500 for Kindness Wyoming. First Interstate Bank matched the $500 and Madelynn presented the Kindness Wyoming Team with a check for $1,000.
Please encourage your schools to participate, invite media to cover culminating events, send photos to us to share on our social media, and pay it forward with a few RAKs of your own. More ideas at: http://www.kindnesswyoming.org/
The legislative session begins next week. On Sunday, I’ll have the opportunity to address legislators at their party caucuses. I’ll summarize the state of Wyoming schools and comment on several bills including early learning programming, computer science, accountability, and school funding.
The 2018 Wyoming Legislature convenes on February 12. This is a 20 day+/- budget session and, as such, bills need 2/3 majority to be introduced (versus simple majority during a longer general session). The pace of a budget session is quite swift and staff at the Legislative Services Office (LSO) work hard to keep information up to date on its website:
It is probable that there will be numerous education bills sponsored by individual legislators as well.
The upcoming State Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) is a great opportunity to network with your colleagues, legislators, the education committee, and members of the House and Senate during the session. There are also numerous panels and breakouts that are directly relevant to Wyoming education. The conference is free of charge and every school district is encouraged to bring a team. Here is the link to more information and registration:
In a couple of weeks our students will be focused on Valentine’s Day–cards, sweet nothings, secret admirers–all the stuff that turns my 6th grade son’s stomach. In 2017, students across the state celebrated a different type of love during Valentine’s week through Kindness Wyoming. It was wildly successful because of the efforts of teachers and students. The common celebration went like this:
Schools set goals to commit random acts of kindness-RAKs (307 was a popular number).
Teachers and students agreed on RAK ground rules–what constitutes a RAK? How will they be tracked? (sticky notes on a prominent school wall was common)
Students commenced doing nice things for one another.
Last year RAKs in the school led to RAKs in the community– cards for veterans, visits to assisted living homes, and so much more.
WDE, local news, and community members spotlighted Kindness Wyoming in schools.
Schools celebrated reaching goals which was secondary to the positive energy created by the week.
Again this year, I encourage all schools in Wyoming to celebrate kindness instead of romance on Valentine’s Day and throughout Kindness Wyoming week, February 11-17.
Last week, I sent a memo that warrants a repeat performance. Please pass this along to teachers and principals. Don’t forget to invite your local media to events during the week. The WDE would love your photos and RAKs to share on social media.
As more state ESSA plans are approved we are beginning to see how others have established accountability systems post AYP and NCLB. Recently, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) released this report: 50-State Comparison: States’ School Accountability Systems. The report provides an overview of state accountability systems and the changes states are making as a result of ESSA. I’ll reaffirm that Wyoming had a solid foundation from which to build and our accountability system is stronger as a result of aligning it to ESSA requirements.
Economic Development and Diversity
This week the ENDOW executive council met and further solidified their preliminary recommendations, including education. Governor Mead signed two executive orders today to spur the work ahead. One recognizes Wyoming’s tech industry and the other sets ambitious goals for post-secondary education and training. Here is a link to the executive order with a specific call to action for K12 and higher ed:
The Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming Community College Commission, Wyoming’s seven community colleges, and the University of Wyoming will collaborate on a plan necessary to achieve Wyoming’s educational attainment goal, implement strategies and programs necessary to fulfill the goal, and provide annual progress reports. Wyoming’s plan should meet the need of the State’s businesses and be aligned with priority economic sectors identified by the ENDOW Executive Council in its 20-year comprehensive economic diversification strategy as approved by the Governor.
Thank you for inviting me to be part of the great discussions at the Northeast Division WASA meeting. It was great to see many of you. Our discussions about economic diversity and computer science education left me enthused and motivated to continue the conversation.
On Thursday, the State Loan and Investment Board voted in favor of a $12 million+ grant to SEEDA. Sheridan will build a 100,000 square-foot manufacturing facility and lease it to a company relocating to our state. The name of the company will be revealed next Tuesday by the Wyoming Business Council via Facebook Live.
Also, the City of Buffalo received a $1,000,000 grant to build road and utility infrastructure to begin development of Phase 1 of the Buffalo Technology Business Park. This space has the potential to compliment the unnamed company and boost workforce and education opportunities.
The success of these two projects (and the others we voted on) depends on meaningful partnerships with K12 and higher education. This is the new face of Career and Technical Education and business/school partnerships!
I sent out a special update this week to let you know our ESSA plan was approved and that we received the high ranking of 7th in the nation, best in the west, in EDWeek’s Quality Counts Report. Here is the information once again:
Here is the link to the press release and final Wyoming ESSA plan:
Wyoming scored slightly above average on two of three metrics. We are #1 in the nation for school finance and that metric score put us ahead of the pack for our overall rating. A main talking point from me will be quality, equitable, and sustained funding by the legislature. There were a number of ancillary articles and I found this one about the five commonalities of leading states particularly insightful.
It was a pleasure to visit Park County with other statewide elected leaders this week. We visited with students, businesses, local leaders, and others about the great efforts in Park County. Shout outs to Powell Superintendent Jay Curtis for joining us on the Powell tour of the community makerspace and Cody Superintendent Ray Schulte who attended the Forward Cody dinner banquet–thank you. Community partnership from education leaders pays off today and tomorrow!
A recurring topic in every community I visit is moving past mineral dependence through economic diversification. The ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming) executive council released preliminary recommendations last week. With innovation, diversity, and economic success as overarching ENDOW goals, little can be accomplished without a strong education system that fosters a future workforce. Here are the recommendations. Please note the education recommendations on page 2:
Provide equitable opportunities for students to learn computer science
Improve higher education attainment and retention of graduates
Allocate resources for workforce training
Details under the education recommendations can be found beginning on page 7. The ENDOW council is both aware and supportive of policy recommendations I’ve made to the recalibration and education committees during this legislative interim. I look forward to continued work and support of legislation to expand computer science education, workforce development, and improved student outcomes.
Wyoming’s ESSA plan is still under review at the U.S. Dept. of Education (ESED) with the 120 day timeline drawing to a close. We have worked closely with USED over the past several weeks to ensure compliance with federal law and make necessary adjustments to the plan. We look forward to getting an approved plan over the finish line very soon.
The Chapter 41 rules are out for public comment through February 18. To view the rules or comment, visit the following link. The rules establish the minimum requirements that districts must meet to provide part-time or full-time virtual education to Wyoming students. The revised rules are in fulfillment of SEA0057 passed during the 2017 legislative session. Many stakeholders took part in drafting these rules and I appreciate the participation.
The optional WY-TOPP winter interim testing window will be open January 16 to February 9, and will now include grades 1 and 2. Please continue to have your assessment coordinators, teachers, and others reach out to WDE to work through issues or give feedback.
The statewide accreditation task force met this week and began a productive dialogue about state-led accreditation. The task force is comprised of educators from all five regions in the state. The group will continue to meet and provide recommendations to the WDE with a discussion that is centered around:
The definition and purpose of accreditation
Revisions to the Chapter 6 rules
The annual accreditation report and required evidence
This will be a brief update written from Thermopolis. I am here under a ruse to recognize the work of PLCs at Thermopolis Middle School. The truth is that Wyoming brought back the Milken Educator Award and the assembly quickly shifted gears to recognize Shannon Hill as a 2017-18 recipient for her work as a Physical Education teacher. The award comes with national recognition and $25,000! You can read the full release from Milken here and watch the exciting announcement video here. She was completely surprised!
Congratulating Shannon! (photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation)
The last memo of 2017 will be released on Tuesday, January 2. The memo, in conjunction with a media release, kicks off the public input period for Ch. 41 virtual education rules. The rules comport with 2017 statutory changes.
Here’s to ringing in a new year full of hope, promise, and opportunity for all of Wyoming’s students!
Not overshadowing the biggest news of the week, the opening of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, it was a productive week in Wyoming education.
Work continues at the state level to prepare for WY-TOPP. This week educators met to discuss the WY-ALT items, our Info Management team worked with school districts to ensure tech readiness, and the Assessment team fielded specific questions and concerns.
Thank you for continued commitment to a successful roll out of the new assessment!
ESSA State Plan:
The 120-day clock is ticking for review and approval of our state ESSA plan by the USED. At this point USED and our staff are corresponding, exchanging documents, and clarifying various aspects of the plan.
Separately, a number of independent organizations are reviewing ESSA plans. One such review by Bellwether Education was released earlier this week. Here is the Bellwether report for all states including Wyoming which received an average rating. The independent reviews are insightful in some ways but one should be cautious of any independent report comparing state plans because:
ESSA shifts authority of education from the federal government to states and local districts. As such, states uniquely leveraged strengths and addressed challenges in their plans. There is not one right way to address education at the state and local levels.
100% proficiency goals under NCLB led to over testing and a focus on compliance. Wyoming is focused on growth, equity, and attaining achievable and ambitious goals based on where our students are today.
Using one comprehensive accountability system (ESSA and WAEA) is a priority in our state. Our ESSA plan meets all federal accountability requirements while our state accountability system is more comprehensive. Not all aspects of our state accountability systems were included in our ESSA plan because they weren’t required.
ESSA provides opportunities for states to revisit target levels and goals regularly.
I am excited about the quickly approaching 2018 Superintendent’s Summit (S5S) and I hope every district in the state will be represented. During year one we heard from Senator Enzi, Governor Mead, and experts from across the state. Last year leaders from the legislature spoke candidly and UW President Nichols underscored her commitment to Wyoming students in a wonderful keynote speech.
As a reminder, I invite every Wyoming school district to send their superintendent, board chair, outstanding principal, and teacher of the year to join the WDE team for critical conversations about education from national, state, and local perspectives.
Here are highlights for this year:
Welcome reception and special recognition for District Teachers of the Year
Partnership with Wyoming EXCELS and new executive director Amber Ash for legislative reception
Keynote speech from NGA Education Division Director Aaliyah Samuel on early literacy interventions
Bison Train Tour courtesy of Wyoming Mining Association and BNSF Railway
Relevant and critical breakouts and panels
The WDE is moving more and more to social media. Please send articles, events notices, and photos from your school district to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help get the word out. Use the links below to stay connected to our website and social media accounts. I also tweet about education in Wyoming regularly and my handle is @jillian4supt.