Category Archives: Superintendent’s Weekly Update

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.

On the Road, In the Field

Dear Superintendents,

With the general election now behind us, we wish to congratulate and welcome Megan Degenfelder as the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. We want to again reiterate that we will do everything we can to ensure a smooth and seamless leadership transition within the Wyoming Department of Education for both Megan and the WDE staff.

The transition period will take place through November and December, leading up to the swearing-in ceremony on January 2. It will include a series of orientation meetings with myself, my deputy superintendent, the department chiefs and division directors, as well as an all-staff meeting on December 9.The superintendent-elect will also have access, like all new incoming elected officials, to a transition team out of the A&I office that will deal with all the other details and aspects of the process.


Vision & Focus 

Because of the law of increasing entropy, mission drift is inevitable if the focus becomes foggy from a vision that has become blurred. For leaders of educational entities, therefore, constant clarity is essential.

For example, take the mission of “teaching thinking:” viewing this challenge in the critical thinking domain alone can unwittingly blur the vision which can eventually fog the focus. This happens when the logic piece is missed or by-passed, and it can happen in no small measure.

Since critical thinking does not necessarily include logical thought, it does not necessarily produce the same. But logical thought always includes critical thinking and, therefore, always produces the same. Therefore, we can’t fulfill education’s ultimate mission (teaching thinking) without teaching logic (the systematic rules of thinking). It’s only logical!

Other obvious benefits to the life of the mind notwithstanding, because logic (as both a content area as well as a skill) increases clarity, it remains one of the most powerful tools in an educator’s arsenal for not only equipping students for life, but also helping students break out of some of those inevitable youth-based mind blinds, to which the undeveloped mind is so vulnerable.


On the Road, In the Field

“On the road” this week means in the air and “in the field” means overseas travel. By the time this update lands in your laptops, I will have landed in Taipei, Taiwan to represent both the state and schools of Wyoming on a trip that will give official credence to the newly unfolding educational and cultural relationship between Taiwan and Wyoming.

For the long-range purpose of firming up and further developing the prospects of student and teacher exchanges between their great country and our great state, Taiwan has graciously offered to host and fund this entire opportunity. With two of our Wyoming schools already committed to this program (Black Butte Alternative High School in Rock Springs and Campbell County High School in Gillette), “the sky is the limit” as to where this could go for future student and teacher exchanges.

This of course will not only be an incredible experience, but also a tremendous honor, and I will certainly do my best to represent Wyoming well. Armed with many Wyoming gifts to share (thanks to Penny!), the intent will be to not only solidify an official educational exchange, but also to build good will and reinforce the long-standing tradition of mutual admiration between the Taiwanese and American people.


In the Spotlight

Two years ago, the Wyoming State Board of Education (SBE) launched a project called the Profile of a Graduate. The goal was to understand what our Wyoming high school students needed to know to move into the world after graduation, whether they chose college, career or the military. Over the course of two phases of work focused on collecting insights and feedback from stakeholders across the state (including parents, students, teachers, administration, industry, business, community members, elected officials, higher education, and more), a dedicated team working with the board presented their findings.

At the SBE’s August meeting, the board unanimously approved the final Profile of a Graduate. The website also provides a bit of a look into how the process was executed. Having the opportunity to join the SBE during my tenure as Superintendent, a well-earned and well-deserved round of applause should be given to this very invested board and their supporting team for the work they have accomplished in this regard. For this they are all ‘In the Spotlight’ this week. Congratulations, Ryan Fuhrman and fellow SBE members!


Mark Your Calendars

Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), addresses students participating in alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS) of the statewide assessment system. Each state must submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education if it predicts exceeding 1.0 percent participation in the AA-AAAS in any subject.

After reviewing the 2021-22 assessment participation data, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has determined that participation in WY-ALT ELA, Math in grades 3-10 and WY-ALT Science in grades 4, 8, and 10 may be over 1% of the total number of students assessed in that subject area for the 2022-23 school year. Pursuant to Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34 (34 CFR), Section 200.6(c)(4), the WDE is requesting a federal waiver for exceeding the 1% threshold on AA-AAAS participation in the WY-ALT ELA, Math, and Science.

The WDE seeks public comment on the One Percent Participation Waiver Request for the Alternate ELA, Math, and Science Assessment. Public comment may be submitted online, or via mail, by 11:59 p.m. on November 15, 2022. All public comment will be recorded verbatim, including the submitter’s name and city of residence, on the Secretary of State website as part of the public comment process.

For more information, contact Cat Palmer, Assessment Supervisor, at 307-777-8568 or catherine.palmer@wyo.gov.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

Purple Star Schools

Dear Superintendents,

Knowledge has to do with the facts while wisdom has to do with the truth. In a world that has convinced so many there is only your truth and my truth – not the truth – wisdom often gets boxed out and short-changed. But historically, it was a major part of the educational process. The reason was because the ancients were convinced and convicted that knowledge tends to puff people up, while wisdom has the opposite effect.To pursue one without the other, then, has a major downside. To pursue both is to not only inform the mind (via facts & data) but also deepen it (via understanding & discernment). The latter of course is the key to weakening those deceptive student “mind blinds” while strengthening an expansive student vision.


Vision & Focus

Because just like people (just like our students), mind blinds come in all shapes and sizes: mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, political and philosophical – so many varieties and a plethora of examples.

Moreover, no age group is immune.  You have childhood mind blinds (“If I’m naughty, my parents won’t love me …” or “It was my fault my parents divorced.”), adolescent mind blinds (“My identity is tied to my clothes, my popularity, my looks, my grades, my feelings …”), and adult mind blinds  (“I must make lots of money or I’m not successful!”).

Mind blinds are the lies we have come to believe as true, whether passed down by family, society, toxic brands of religion or misguided models of education.  They are as seductive as they are pervasive; though a trap, they appear to be the door to freedom.

The good news is, while a liberal arts education is not humanity’s ultimate savior, it can play an enormously powerful role in helping our students evaluate and then break free from these formidable mental strongholds – a process that begins at home with wise parents and at school with conscientious teachers.  The link between both of course is the literacy legacy, beginning first and foremost with the linguistic layer, and then continuing with all aspects of both cultural and financial literacy as well.


Primary Priority

Regarding that first layer, as the specter of a structured linguistic literacy movement in this nation continues to rise, may it serve to fortify our own commitment to literacy excellence as the foundation of everything we do in our schools.

In that vein, crystal clear clarity will be championed through the three core pieces of a stellar literacy paradigm: (1) training literacy teachers in the most effective model, (2) teaching literacy in the most effective way, and (3) testing student literacy with the most effective assessments.  Accordingly, our resolve for a structured literacy model will grow exponentially and stand existentially as Wyoming’s primary educational priority.


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

This week, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) highlighted the WTA in its national update. The CCSSO is the organization of officials leading departments of education nationwide.

Earlier this week the WTA also received accolades from the U.S. Department of Labor. This is the feedback received by Michael Broad, US DOL Office of Apprenticeship in Cheyenne:

“I was contacted by Mike Qualter, Deputy Administrator with the Office of Apprenticeship, who commented on the “awesome” program! This is the first time I have received comments on a great program from anyone in D.C.”

“I was also contacted by the Colorado State Director, asking questions regarding the program. She thought this was the best K-12 Registered Apprenticeship written. She will take the information to her interested school districts.”

 


In the Spotlight

With more than 1.1 million military-connected students attending schools, issues of school transition are a high priority for their families. The Wyoming Purple Star School Program recognizes the efforts of Wyoming K-12 schools that are committed and supportive of military students and families as they transition to their new homes and schools. The program was designed to help with the challenges of high mobility by setting standards of commitment for the school’s award of the military-friendly Purple Star designation. All Wyoming public and private schools are eligible to apply for the Purple Star School Award.

In that spirit, we would like to congratulate and recognize Cheyenne’s Freedom Elementary and McCormick Junior High School (Laramie County School District #1) for being the first two Wyoming Schools to be awarded with the Purple Star Award – putting both schools – and Laramie #1 – ‘In the Spotlight.’

(Additional information about the Wyoming Purple Star Program, and school application, can be found here.)


Mark Your Calendars

Wyoming Digital Learning Plan Listening Sessions Set

We are seeking your feedback with the help of Marzano Research on the Wyoming Digital Learning Plan. We are going on a listening tour so you can have your thoughts heard. Your first opportunity will be from 4:50-5:30 p.m. on November 14 in Rock Springs at Sweetwater #1’s Central Administration Boardroom, 3550 Foothill Blvd. in Rock Springs, then other locations across the state.

listen

Can’t make one of these dates? No worries! We are having a virtual session via Zoom from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on November 10, 2022; register here. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

You can find out more on the WDE’s DLP website.

But wait, there’s more…

code

CodeHS is partnering with the WDE to host free, in-depth professional development cohorts to prepare Wyoming K-12 teachers to take the Praxis Computer Science Exam. The course is delivered within a 14-week cohort model where teachers work through the course at the same pace on the CodeHS platform. Teachers are provided:

  • 1:1 Support
  • Live Lessons
  • Exam Prep
  • Networking Opportunities

After completing the course, teachers will also receive a $200 stipend.

Upcoming Wyoming Praxis Prep Courses: February 2-May 18 on Thursdays starting at 4 p.m.

To be eligible to register, you should be a Wyoming K-12 public school teacher preparing to add a computer science endorsement to your teaching license. Learn more about the technical requirements here and register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

Improving Literacy

Dear Superintendents,

As we head into a new week, we wanted to announce that we are transitioning this week to a new distribution schedule for the Superintendent’s Update and memos. You will now receive the update at 11 a.m. on Monday, rather than the previous Friday.  We hope this makes things smoother and more efficient for everyone all the way around.


Vision & Focus

When talking about the Old West with your students, here’s a great one to try on them: Once upon a time, in the Wild West days of Wyoming, a cowboy came slowly strolling into a small cow-poke town on his horse. After riding for days, he came up to the saloon, got off his horse, tied it to the hitching post and walked inside. He moseyed up to the bar and said to the saloonkeeper, “Please, give me a glass of water.”   

The question is, why did he ask for a glass of water? 

If your first answer is, because he was thirsty, you are incorrect – which means, you’re in a mind blind! If you try this on your students, they will most likely fall into one too.  So you might then tell them two things, in terms of teaching thinking: (1) sometimes they can find the right answer by asking the right questions, and (2) they’ll break out of the mind blind faster if they work together as a group rather than by trying to figure it out on their own.

This little exercise has a parallel purpose: to teach kids how to think for sure, but also to illustrate how easily we all fall into mind blinds, which always prevents healthy and constructive thinking. [The answer is (are you ready?) … because he had the hiccups.]   


The Primary Priority

Improving literacy education across this country is so doable because the science of reading is not rocket science — we know how to teach reading well. We know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s no longer a mystery or debate. The jury has long been in on this issue, as well as the verdict. And the verdict is structured literacy, the backbone of which is the phonetic approach. It bears much better fruit and produces far better results than all its competitors.  In real estate, it’s location, location, location; in education, the primary priority is literacy, literacy, literacy!


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

Just one week after the signing of the WTA Standards with the U.S. Department of Labor, team leaders Dr. Laurel Ballard at the WDE and Brendan O’Connor at the PTSB are certainly not taking a break. They are preparing to present in November to the Legislature’s Joint Interim Education Committee. This will include updates on the progress of the initiative, work with the pilot school districts, and cost determinations.


In the Spotlight

This week the WDE launched its first Career and Technical Education (CTE) Summit – Classrooms to Careers in Cheyenne. The WDE’s CTE team organized the event, which included key stakeholders from government, business, industry, education, and community leaders from across the state.

The focus of the think-tank style event was to understand the barriers to CTE growth and success in Wyoming – and potential solutions. Over the two-day summit, considerations around perception, funding, curriculum, staffing and more were dissected and organized into actionable determinations, some near term and some longer. We know that the pathways for our graduates need to be increased and fortified going forward, and this event has set the stage for that to happen. Well done, Dr. Michelle Aldrich, Ilaine Brown, and Mary Billiter, and for that you are ‘In the Spotlight.’


Mark Your Calendars

This is the last chance to register for the 2022 Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference. The Innovations Conference will be held virtually on November 3-4, 2022. The Innovations Conference is an opportunity for educators from kindergarten through higher education to share and explore innovative teaching and learning practices for classrooms and distance learning environments. PTSB and UW Credit will be available. Register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Moves Forward

Dear Superintendents,

When we remind our students that the reason they go to school is to learn to think, we remind ourselves that education is that uniquely parallel process that pursues both knowledge and wisdom – the learning side engages knowledge, the thinking side engages wisdom. To become both knowledgeable and wise, then, is the path to an educated mind. Because students crave both, we do well to indulge them. May this week provide innumerable opportunities to do just that!


Vision & Focus

A “mind blind” develops when we’re not in reality about something, when we miss the obvious or when we’re simply in denial.  It is similar to a deer blind or duck blind. The only difference is, with the hunting blind, it’s the animal in danger – with the thinking blind, it’s the human.

When we’re blinded from the truth, we’re in a mind blind. When we’re running or hiding from the truth, we’re in a mind blind. We’ve all been there, we all know what that’s like. And as parents, teachers, and school leaders, we usually recognize it instantly when we see our own children stuck in one or our own students falling into one – whether related to their homework or to life.  The bad news is, this is a real thing. The good news, we can help them break out in any number of ways, not the least of which is breaking out of our own.


The Primary Priority

I strongly believe that parents are the sole authority when it comes to teaching their children about sex and gender identity. Further, I am greatly concerned about the actions of teachers who are circumventing parental authority and imposing their personal views of sex and gender ideology on children without parental consent or notification. Even further, I intend to give voice to the vast majority of Wyoming parents who believe that school libraries are not the place for sexually graphic material.

Although I believe it is well within my duties as State Superintendent, I have decided to separate the press conference scheduled for October 25 from the Wyoming Department of Education. No state funds will be used in connection with this event and the final venue for the press conference is yet to be determined.

I want the focus of the discussion to be on the issue of parental authority and standing up against the inappropriate sexualization of Wyoming’s children.


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

sign1

This past week the WDE and PTSB hosted representatives from U.S. Department of Labor to sign the official standards for the WTA. What an exciting milestone for the project and for Wyoming.

Read the media release here. Watch the media conference event here. Visit the WDE’s teacher apprenticeship website here.

sign


In the Spotlight

This week we want to honor the contributions of Brendan O’Connor, Executive Director of the Professional Teaching Standards Board.

Brendan has taken leadership in Wyoming to support districts by ensuring districts have access to high-quality teachers. Most recently, Brendan has co-led the efforts to establish the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative. He led a team of district and postsecondary staff to develop Wyoming’s K-12 Teacher Apprenticeship Standards. This work has been described by the U.S. Department of Labor as the Cadillac of K-12 teacher apprenticeship models.

So this week, for your incredible service to Wyoming Education, Director O’Connor, you are ‘In the Spotlight.’


Mark Your Calendars

We are seeking your thoughts on the role of digital learning in the classroom to inform the state’s strategic direction. The first round of in-person listening sessions have been completed, but we have a virtual session set for 4:30-5:30 p.m. on October 25. Register for the Zoom event here.

For more information on the listening sessions, including the next round of in-person sessions, visit the WDE’s DLP website.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

Congratulations, Tom Wright

Dear Superintendents,

The older I grow, the more mindful I become of the inexorable link between liberty and literacy. The one cannot live without the other. Our best leaders are our best readers, and we effectively sustain American liberty by producing a generation of adept and voracious readers. May this edition of the Update serve to help reinforce our commitment to both as we constantly take steps to renew our vision for the one and our focus on the other.


Vision & Focus

The liberal arts of education are the liberating arts, or sometimes called the arts of freedom. They liberate the mind from ignorance and free the mind from mind blinds. These “thinking arts” serve as the fuel for a free society because they provide the kindling for a constitutional republic, and they fan the flames of civic virtue because they pursue the true, the good and the beautiful. Moreover, they help to form a solid foundation for our young because they lay the necessary groundwork for an invested and involved future citizenry.

This is the work we have chosen for such a time as this, and it is surely one of life’s greatest opportunities as well as its highest honors. As difficult as it truly is sometimes, we nonetheless can count ourselves lucky to be a part of it.


The Primary Priority

This week’s Superintendent’s Update will mark the transition from the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship (WTA) as the Primary Priority of the WDE to what is unarguably the unmitigated foundation of education, i.e., linguistic literacy.

Weekly updates, of course, will continue in the segment directly below regarding ongoing WTA progress, but moving the literacy emphasis front and center will not only reflect our celebration of all the progress made in recent years (in both our department and in the districts), but will also seek to fan the flame of continued exponential progress and success that is both necessary and anticipated.

Deepest heartfelt thanks to all our literacy teachers in every school in this state for working so hard at laying this sure foundation for all our early learners. This is where it all begins.


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Q&A

Question:
What are the requirements or qualifications for a candidate for the apprenticeship?

Answer:
Minimally, the state guidelines are as follows. School districts can then add requirements or qualifications that they consider necessary, and evaluate candidates based on alignment with the needs at the individual school level.

  • Employee of the district, seeking a Wyoming teaching certificate.
  • Completed application with letter of recommendation from administrator within the district.
  • Must complete an interview by district personnel, followed by entering into an agreement to complete the degree, to complete the on-the-job learning, to obtain the Wyoming PTSB teacher certificate. Ensure the individual has the personality, skill set, and disposition that will be a good match to the profession
  • Minimum work history in the same district of one academic year.

In the Spotlight

Tom Wright has served on the school board of the Weston County School District #1 since 1975. You read that right, since 1975 – that is 47 consecutive years, which may be a record in this state! Think of the contribution this great man has made over all those years to the students of Weston County and their families. He easily gets choked up just talking about it, so deep goes that commitment.

Superintendent Brad LaCroix himself has served 30 years in this same district, no small feat in its own right. He is obviously (and rightly) very proud of his school board, and especially of Tom Wright. “Tom has seen a lot and is so incredibly knowledgeable,” LaCroix said. “He can weigh in intelligently on virtually every subject, from school funding to legislation policy to ranch water.”  Most importantly, LaCroix said, what marks Tom most is his “…integrity and how much he cares. He takes great pride in his family, his ranching and this district.”

All of this and more makes Tom Wright a living Wyoming legend, and one of the major reasons Wyoming schools still are (exceptions notwithstanding) what all schools in America used to be. For Tom, this is a very special legacy worth protecting and preserving, whatever it takes.

Truly, it is the old-school character of men like him that makes this state what it is.  Thank-you, Tom, for your unmatched commitment. It was such an honor to meet you last week, and it is an equal honor this week to put you “In the Spotlight!”  What a profound example you are to the rest of us. May your leadership continue to bear much fruit.


Mark Your Calendar

The Daniels Scholarship Program provides the opportunity for motivated students to attend the college of their choice. Daniels Scholars® will receive up to $100,000 to be applied at any two- or four-year, nonprofit, accredited college or university in the United States, depending on financial need.

We’re looking for students with great potential, strong character, and big dreams. Daniels Scholars are America’s next generation of leaders, persevering through life’s challenges and rooted in the values important to Bill Daniels. They are free and entrepreneurial thinkers who are proud of this country and their community and work hard to improve it.

Apply for the Daniels Scholarship Program by October 15 here.


earth

Earth Science Kits Available

The 2022 Earth Science Week toolkits are now available for Wyoming classrooms. The 50 toolkits, provided by the American Geosciences Institute to the Wyoming State Geological Survey, are available at no cost to Wyoming educators on a first come, first served basis.

Earth Science Week is Oct. 9–15 and celebrates the theme, “Earth Science for a Sustainable World.”

Request a toolkit by emailing Christina George at christina.george@wyo.gov.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,


sig

Wyoming Digital Learning Plan Listening Sessions Set

Dear Superintendents,

Leaders are thinkers and thinkers are leaders. As Dr. Albert Mohler said, “Before anything else, leadership is an intellectual activity.” That is because it is in this first stage of leadership where the seeds of potential success or failure are sown.

There is no place where this is more evident than in the educational arena and there is no place where this is more needed than in our society. So as our teachers equip our students to become thought-leaders in this world, it falls to us to be the thought-leaders in our schools, simultaneously training both leaders and thinkers, thinkers and leaders – because with only a few exceptions here and there, they’re usually one and the same.


Vision & Focus

Math teaches kids how to think logically; Science teaches kids how to think critically. History teaches kids how to think in context with perspective, and Language teaches kids how to communicate their thoughts efficiently and effectively. Reading teaches kids to think other people’s thoughts after them while Logic teaches kids to think systematically, consistently, coherently and intelligently.

An educated mind is a well-trained mind, and there are few things in life more consequential or rewarding than to send our young people into this world with an educated mind. As we share this vision with our students, the focus will strengthen and sharpen; as we share this vision with their parents, the focus will broaden and deepen.


The Primary Priority

This week’s Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Q&A is:

Question: Is the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship initiative creating an alternative pathway to licensure?

Answer: The Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship does not create an alternative pathway to endorsement. The apprentice will need to complete the same education prep coursework as those teachers going through the traditional route. In addition, the apprentice will spend three years in a classroom with an experienced teacher mentor throughout those years. They must also demonstrate a series of on-the-job competencies before exiting the apprenticeship.


In the Spotlight

Last week, two of our Wyoming schools were recognized as 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools: Washington Elementary, Sweetwater County School District #2, and Henry A. Coffeen Elementary, Sheridan County School District #2. The program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of these Wyoming students, educators, families, and communities, and for that you are ‘In the Spotlight’ this week. Congratulations!


Also, I had the distinct pleasure to travel to Newcastle last Thursday to present Zach Beam, a physical science, physics, and advanced chemistry teacher at Newcastle High School, with the Wyoming 2023 Teacher of the Year award.

It was a surprise assembly at the school, and Zach is an amazing teacher who will represent Wyoming well. Of course, Zach is “In The Spotlight” too.

Read the full media release here.

zach

Mark You Calendars

code

Free Wyoming Praxis Computer Science Preparation Course 

CodeHS is partnering with the Wyoming Department of Education to host free, in-depth professional development cohorts to prepare Wyoming K-12 teachers to take the Praxis Computer Science Exam. The course is delivered within a 14-week cohort model where teachers work through the course at the same pace on the CodeHS platform. During the course, teachers are provided 1:1 support sessions, live Q&As, exam prep sessions, networking opportunities, and more.

To be eligible to apply, you should be a Wyoming K-12 public school teacher preparing to add a computer science endorsement to your teaching license. If you have questions, contact hello@codehs.com.

For dates and registration for the Fall Cohort, click here.


listen

But wait, there’s more…

Wyoming Digital Learning Plan Listening Sessions Set

We are seeking your feedback with the help of Marzano Research on the Wyoming Digital Learning Plan. We are going on a listening tour so you can have your thoughts heard. Your first opportunity will be from 4:50-5:30 p.m. on October 10 in Jackson at Teton #1 district board room at 1235 Gregory Lane in Jackson, with more dates and locations across the state.

Can’t make one of these dates? No worries! We’ll have a virtual session and another round of tours to ensure we get as many stakeholders in the conversation as possible.You can find out more on the WDE’s DLP website.


Monday memos:

There are no memos this week.

Sincerely,

sig

2022 Governor’s Mental Health Summit

When in the role of a classroom teacher, there were times that I would wrestle with the following question: “Is education about putting it on the bottom shelf where they can reach it, or on the top shelf where they have to stretch for it?” On some days, I concluded it was the former; other days, it was clearly the latter. Eventually, I decided it was a both/and proposition rather than either/or, depending on where the student was at and what he/she needed on any given day. Though we can fall off either side of the horse as teachers, the trick was to stay on the horse. This seemed a sensible stance to take.

With more time and growth, however, I realized it could be argued that while a balanced approach is usually safest, it is not always best. So when in teaching mode these days, if I am going to error on one side or the other, I more often now choose to error on the side of placing it on the top shelf, i.e., making them stretch. Though agonizing at times (for both student and teacher!), long-term it generally produces better fruit. This is not only consistent with education’s historic tendencies, but also with its ultimate objective, the foundation of its abiding vision.


Vision & Focus

If education’s timeless purpose really is teaching thinking, then it is only logical that this would be rooted in the teaching of logic, because logic is simply the systematic “rules of thinking.”

But the discipline of logic is not easy, because thinking is not easy. In fact, as Henry Ford said,  “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” Thomas Edison agreed: “There is no expedient,” he said, “to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

Nevertheless, learning to think is the singular transcendent purpose of a real education as it relates to our students, and we best serve our students by making them stretch.


The Primary Priority

The Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative work continues at a quick pace. The Work Group is concentrating on completing the application to the US Department of Labor for the WDE to become authorized as a sponsor for the initiative, supporting our school districts in Wyoming. Once this step is complete, the pilot districts will be able to officially accept applications for apprentices. More to come soon.


In the Spotlight

Which brings us to two very special people here at the WDE: Shelley Hamel and Dr. Laurel Ballard.

The WDE most certainly could not function without either one of them and their teams. Shelley brings a love for special education and dedication to the work of literacy that edifies us all. Laurel has brought an expertise and joy to the process of building the Teacher Apprenticeship program that has made it move along at a rate many outsiders thought impossible. Together, these two ladies are titans in the Wyoming education world and, for good reason, have earned the respect of their peers in both the department and in the districts.

So this week, for their incredible and meaningful service, we put Shelley Hamel and Laurel Ballard ‘In the Spotlight’! Thank you both for all you do.


Mark Your Calendars

mental

2022 Governor’s Mental Health Summit, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on October 11, 2022

Join Governor Mark Gordon, alongside members of the Legislative and Judicial branches, to discuss the state of mental health in Wyoming. Discussions will focus on current efforts related to mental health and substance abuse, the continuum of care, expectations of the system from various perspectives, and the development of a common agenda for Wyoming. In addition, Dr. Rob Anda, developer of the Adverse Childhood Experiences research and founder of ACE Interface, will connect leadership conversations related to mental health and substance abuse support with the importance of establishing trauma-responsive communities using panel discussions of current efforts. The event will also include opportunities for networking with state leaders and community partners across Wyoming. Register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

Dear Superintendents,

With the demands of the job and the stressors that go with a profession that is highly people-intensive, each of us at times struggle on various fronts and in various ways with our own leadership prowess. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses, which carry with them their own assets and liabilities. Experience is certainly one of the best instructors, but just as certainly, not the only one.

While some are only open to learning from their own experiences, others are open to learning from the experiences of those who have gone before them. Hopefully, life has done enough of a number on most of us to where we fall into the latter category. If so, the budding School Leaders Training Regimen (SLTR) will become a lifeline for many of our school heads across this state.

Because leadership is sometimes lonely, the SLTR can provide some much needed community. Because leadership is often difficult,  SLTR will provide support. And because leadership is a very deep ocean, this new statewide leadership training paradigm envisions becoming a repository of mentoring, instruction and learning. Led by some of Wyoming’s best and most successful school leaders, this emerging “leadership academy” will prepare our school boards, superintendents and principals to lead their schools more effectively so our schools can lead the nation more proactively. Stay tuned …


Vision & Focus

To learn to think … In math, to learn means computation, to think means application. In history, learning is about what happened, thinking is about who told you what happened.  In science, the learning side comes through observation while the thinking side comes through experimentation. In reading, it’s not only learning how to read, but also distinguishing what is worth reading.

This is where the finer appetites are cultivated, because as C.S. Lewis reminded us, “We are far too easily pleased.” So the more we expose our students to the “great works” of literature, which embody some of the greatest thoughts from some of the greatest minds of all time, the more we teach kids how to think. And with few exceptions, once they’ve had steak, it will be hard for them to go back to hot dogs.


The Primary Priority

We get asked often what the general path of a Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship (WTA) candidate would look like. When the apprentice completes the program they will have at least a bachelor’s degree. They will also be required to complete on-the-job training, demonstrate on-the-job competencies, receive ongoing, intensive mentorship from experienced teachers, and meet all PTSB licensure requirements. The WTA will not create an alternative pathway to licensure. The graphic below illustrates this:

WTA Image 2

In the Spotlight

August is a very busy month for the WDE School Foundation Program. Data is the lifeblood of the Wyoming Funding Model and August is the time of year when multiple data collections are due to the WDE so that numbers can be crunched and entitlement payments distributed. A big thank you to the SFP team and all of the business managers for your incredible efforts over the past few weeks. It’s because of you that schools have the necessary resources to kick off the new year and continue to provide Wyoming students with a world-class education, and for that….you are “In the Spotlight!”


Mark Your Calendars

The Sixth-annual Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference will be held virtually on November 3-4, 2022. The Innovations Conference is an opportunity for educators to share and explore innovative teaching and learning practices for classrooms and distance learning environments, from kindergarten through higher education. Don’t miss out on this chance to connect with other inventive educators – register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship

Dear Superintendents,

After a long and tiring campaign, Superintendent Schroeder is taking a few days to rest and recover.

As you lead our schools into the new school year, all of us at the Wyoming Department of Education are working hard to support you and we are cheering for you!  You are the heart and soul of our great schools and we appreciate you.

It is a tremendous honor to serve alongside you as Wyoming goes back to school!

Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer


Vision & Focus

It will always be the purpose of any endeavor that drives its vision and focus. For us, it is the purpose of education that will drive the vision and focus of our K-12 Wyoming education institutions. If teaching thinking is the timeless purpose of education, and if that purpose is constantly clarified and reinforced through each of the content areas (“basket of goods”), then we will see our way more clearly to what it is we’re supposed to accomplish with our students. Classrooms become think tanks, students become fellow thinklings, and our schools become “schools of thought.”

If not, education can quickly become confused with such good things as job-training, such nefarious things as propaganda, such inappropriate things as proselytizing or such well-meaning things as therapy. But education is none of those things, and must never succumb to the pressures to become such.

Education provides a solid foundation for job-training, but it is not the same thing as job-training.  Real education is contrasted by propaganda (and exposes the same) while propaganda is an inept poser. True education improves the heart, but is not simultaneously conflated with the therapeutic model.  The challenge is to stay in our lane, and keep others out of it.  May that ever be our focus as that will ever be education’s vision.


The Primary Priority

Here are our Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship questions for this week.

Questions: Who will provide the coursework necessary for the apprenticeship program? Will it be through the apprenticeship program, University of Wyoming, the college of the apprentice’s choice or the school district itself? When the apprentice has completed the program do they have a Bachelor’s Degree?

Answers:

  • The apprentice will enroll in a preparation program that leads to Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB) licensure and a Bachelor’s Degree. The WDE and PTSB will verify the programs will meet the requirements before apprentices enroll. Preparation programs will complete an Institutional Recommendation form attesting that the apprentice has completed all program and licensure requirements.
  • The University of Wyoming and Central Wyoming College have some programs that are available and accessible for apprentices – Elementary Education/Special Education dual major, and Early Childhood Education/Early Childhood Special Education respectively. Not every content area aligned to a district’s need is currently available at these two institutions, so additional preparation programs may be necessary within the apprenticeship initiative.
  • On-the-job training will be provided by district personnel.

Mark Your Calendars

The Sixth-annual Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference will be held virtually on November 3-4, 2022. The Innovations Conference is an opportunity for educators to share and explore innovative teaching and learning practices for classrooms and distance learning environments, from kindergarten through higher education. Don’t miss out on this chance to connect with other inventive educators – register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

Security Updates

Dear Superintendents,

Leading is the opposite of following (although every good leader began as a good follower!). But to lead the nation in education means we must lead (not follow) in some very foundational educational areas (high literacy expectations, quality of teaching, test scores, character formation, countering unhealthy cultural currents, etc.). And this is obviously already happening in so many ways across the state (teachers and schools switching to more effective literacy curriculum, some of the best teachers and classroom teaching anywhere, top-tiered NAEP scores, most in-person class time during Covid-19, etc.)

But from a strictly leadership standpoint, the most significant way we can lead the nation in education will be through our school leaders, and of course (it again goes without saying), as the local educational leaders or our local education systems, our district superintendents are the key. As the leaders of our school leaders, it is the statewide school leadership force at the ground level that will produce (if it is to happen) one of the finest state-wide education systems in our country. To be the best, we must be led by the best.

This is a worthy ambition, good for us, good for our country. And after visiting so many of our districts in this state, it is clear we have the personnel to do it. We just need to keep taking the necessary and appropriate steps in that direction, beginning with a School Leadership Training Regimen (more to come on that in the future). In the meantime, let’s keep raising the bar and pursuing excellence. Our parents and students deserve the best, so we must deliver.


Vision & Focus

Three guiding principles for this present WDE administration, in terms of fulfilling the above objective, will be to (1) reinforce the purpose of education, (2) recognize parents as the owners of our schools, and (3) resist the cultural pressures to conform to societal norms and trendings on so many levels.

Regarding the first principle, the purpose of education for our students is “to learn to think” through each of the academic disciplines, with all that that means. For our schools, it means fulfilling our roles as an extension of and support to our Wyoming families, as well as an incubator for and bridge to our Wyoming communities, with all that that involves.

Regarding the second principle, it means that we work for the parents, which means we are accountable to the parents, which means we must listen closely and carefully to the parents – even (at times) the toxic, hostile ones (no easy task, I know).

[As a side note, please know I am doing everything I can as I travel and speak across the state and spread the message that parents are the owners of our schools, to challenge parents who are frustrated and who become unduly confrontational, that they need to be kind and appropriate when asking questions or expressing their concerns to school authorities,  not mean-spirited or nasty. I also remind them that they, as parents, have a huge responsibility in this process and need to step up and take responsibility for their child’s education, not blame everything on the schools or think the schools can do everything.]

Regarding the third principle, William Bennett would always say, “When the culture pushes hard against you and your family (in our case, against our schools), we must push back just as hard.”  So don’t hesitate and don’t apologize if you need to set strong (or stronger) school-wide boundaries on those cell phones! Protecting our kids from the dark hole of the social media scene is certainly part of our responsibility to push back, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.


The Primary Priority

As the team continues to work with the Wyoming Teacher Apprentice (WTA) pilot districts, we thought it might be helpful to begin sharing some of the content being created for the FAQs about the initiative. Over the next several weeks, we will pose and answer a question that has come directly out of the discussions with school districts. Here we go…

Question: Is the WTA for all content or teaching areas, or just those that are hard to fill?

Answer: The Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative is focused on supporting districts with developing credentialed teachers to fill positions that will be needed in the future. Any content area or teaching position could be considered for application through the apprenticeship. A comprehensive needs assessment is critical to determine a district’s employment needs extending out one to five years. The program will take one to three years to address the current teacher shortage issues due to the time required for participants to complete the apprenticeship. Districts must also prioritize what areas will be supported by the sustained, long-term effort of building a robust pipeline of teacher candidates.

The following are key considerations when developing a needs assessment for the district:

  • Are any schools/subject areas/grade levels experiencing historically higher turnover rates?
  • Are individuals currently teaching outside of their certification area? Are there any schools/subject areas/grade levels where this is more prevalent?
  • Are individuals currently teaching with emergency credentials? Are there any schools/subject areas/grade levels where this is more prevalent?
  • What is the experience level in years of service of the teaching corps? Are there any schools/subject areas/grade levels with more or less experienced teachers?
  • Are there any schools/subject areas/grade levels where there is an anticipated need for recruitment based on the trend in the tenure level of current teachers?
  • How does the teacher demographic profile compare to that of the students they teach? Where are there gaps?
  • How are highly effective teachers distributed across schools/subject areas/grade levels? Are there areas where they are more concentrated versus others? Are highly effective teachers available to mentor apprentices in apprenticeship focus areas?

Security Update

Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer has been engaging stakeholders across the state on the issue of school safety and security. At this point, he has visited with superintendents, parents, teachers, the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement, principals, legislators, school board members and students. As this is an ongoing discussion, he will be talking with even more stakeholders in the coming months. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some emerging themes with you.

First, Wyoming school districts have been working diligently to ensure that schools are safe and secure. Local leaders are collaborating with law enforcement, first responders and other community entities. Districts have developed and implemented safety plans, conducted ongoing training and have invested in a wide range of systems designed to solidify safety. Additionally, school resource officers are a critical, yet under-funded, element of school safety and security.

Second, Wyoming recognizes that school safety and security is a community responsibility. To that end, districts are working within their communities to expand the dialogue to include healthcare providers, mental health supports and many others. Third, there is no doubt that providing adequate mental health support to students and staff is critical to school safety and security. Finally, there is a need for enhanced communication among agencies at the local and state level in terms of community safety and security.

Deputy Auer continues to keep me updated on this important effort and will be drafting an action plan to address specific needs across the state. Per Deputy Auer, “The bottom line is that school safety and security in Wyoming is very strong, but we are going to make it even stronger!”


In The Spotlight   

Leaders from Black Butte High School in Rock Springs and Kaohsiung Nanzih Senior High School in Taiwan celebrated their partnership this week. WDE Chief of Policy Wanda Maloney, and Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer joined Black Butte High School Principal Bryant Blake and Spanish teacher Christopher Clifton in a virtual meeting with their counterparts in Taiwan. The schools are connecting teachers and students via virtual meetings, in a cross cultural project aimed at building bridges and giving students the opportunity to work together on various educational projects. The group hopes to coordinate face-to-face site visits to each other’s schools in the future.

“This is a great example of why I believe Wyoming school leaders are the best in business,” Auer said. “Principal Blake and Mr. Clifton have forged a pathway for their students to work with others around the world. They are leveraging technology in a meaningful way. I am a firm believer that innovation and creativity are critical to preparing students for the future. Black Butte serves as yet another example of courageous educational leadership in Wyoming”

”Opportunities such as a sistership school with another country provide students and educators with a diverse perspective to experience another culture through classroom connections,” Maloney said.

Creating global thinkers and opening the barriers of geography for collaboration is invaluable to our Wyoming students and leaders. Principal Blake and Mr. Clifton, for your innovative work you are ‘In the Spotlight’ this week.


Mark Your Calendars

Join the Wyoming MTSS Center on September 21 at Little America in Cheyenne for an in-person training on effective MTSS progress monitoring. Registration is open now. For more information about Wyoming MTSS, visit the WDE’s MTSS page here.


Monday memos:

BSchroederSig