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.

Thunder Basin High School Dedication

Dear Superintendents,

It was an honor to help dedicate the new Thunder Basin High School in my hometown, Gillette. This was one stop of several I made across the state–I really appreciated seeing so many many students, educators, and citizens in my travels this week.

Campbell County School District Superintendent #1, Dr. Boyd Brown, stands at the podium in Thunder Basin High School gym full of students, staff, and community members while a staff member reads the Governor's proclamation.
Dr. Brown is presented with a Governor’s Proclamation during the dedication of Thunder Basin High School
Students sit in the bleachers at Thunder Basin High School's gym during the dedication ceremony for the school. The words "BASIN NATION" are written in blue on the wall above where they are sitting with thunderbolts painted on each side representing the new schools' mascot.
Thunder Basin Bolts

Federal Funding

The U.S. House of Representatives passed FY18 appropriations for education this week. This is not a final budget, but, rather, the order of business that advances the budget process. Both the House and the Senate budget bills maintain Title I funding. However, the House Bill eliminates Title II funding, while the Senate bill keeps it. This discrepancy is a significant concern and I will be involved in national efforts to restore important Title II funding for schools.

Visit from Secretary DeVos

Wyoming welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as she kicked off the ReThink School tour. She visited two schools, Woods Learning Center-Casper and St. Stephens High School-Fremont County. At both sights, the secretary emphasized the importance of tailoring education to the unique needs of students, communities, and our state.

Dr. Hales talks to the runners before they begin their race at the Hereford Ranch.
Dr. Hales shares history of the Hereford Ranch with runners before the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom 5K run

There are a number of pertinent memos this week for teachers, counselors, and federal funds managers. Thank you for your consistent review of memos before they are released and for helping to ensure they are passed onto appropriate staff.

Memos to be released on Monday, September 18:


ACT Results and WY-TOPP Testing

Dear Superintendents,

ACT scores for the class of 2017 were published this week. Here is a link to the media release from WDE:

Media Release: Class of 2017 ACT Results

A few key takeaways for Wyoming:

  • Wyoming saw incremental growth across the board–partial point gains are important on this measure.
  • Wyoming scored in the top half of states that administer the ACT to all students with less than a point separating us from #2 Colorado.
  • 49% of students reported they were interested in a STEM career or STEM major. Wyoming workforce and labor data indicate that high demand occupations include semiconductor processors, wind turbine technicians, OT/PT aides, and nurse practitioners.
  • Students taking the test two or more times had an average composite score of 22.4.

WY-TOPP Test the System Day

On Tuesday, September 5, about 25% of the districts participated in a “test the system” day. The purpose of the day was to test the state infrastructure for WY-TOPP with actual student traffic and to give schools an opportunity to interact with the new assessment. WDE staff visited 17 schools during the “test the test” day and debriefed afterward. Here are a few takeaways:

  • The state infrastructure handled the statewide traffic and almost all were able to access the WY-TOPP platform without assistance.
  • Kinks occurred at the local level and most were easily addressed, i.e. secure browsers, firewalls, etc.
  • Students used computers, laptops, and tablets in mobile labs and in hard-wired labs. We were pleased to see the variety and how the state infrastructure handled it.
  • WDE will continue to work with schools and districts.
  • All schools should set up a local “test the system” date and use the training test that will remain live at

Two fourth-grade boys sit at a table in their classroom looking at laptops in which they are taking the training test for Wyoming's new statewide assessment. One of them has his tongue sticking out slightly in a look of concentration.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow smiles while sitting next to a fifth-grade student as he concentrates on a laptop which hosts the training test for Wyoming's new statewide assessment.

Memo to be released on September 11:


School Performance Ratings

Dear Superintendents,

School Performance Reports (SPRs) were made public this week along with this media release. Main points from my comments to media included:

  • The number of schools meeting or exceeding expectations increased
  • The number of schools not meeting expectations decreased
  • 7 schools jumped two levels
  • 13 schools exceeded expectations for three or more years in a row
  • Goal must be to increase the number of high schools exceeding expectations
  • Next year’s report will be more comprehensive and fulfill federal and state requirements for reporting
  • The WDE will continue to work with schools and districts to provide support and professional development


Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) states will annually publish a report card that meaningfully differentiates school performance. Since Wyoming is moving toward one, comprehensive accountability system, our report card will fulfill state and federal requirements for reporting student data and differentiating school performance. Additionally, local report cards must be generated. Each district must disseminate an annual report card with specific information for each school. WDE will provide more information in the coming months–this is a new responsibility for local districts.

Here is an information sheet about the federal public reporting requirement for schools and districts.

 An article this week in Education Dive raises awareness about the responsibilities of schools under ESSA and some of the challenges you and principals may face this coming school year.

 On ESSA: Many principals have little idea what the law actually means

A group sits at a table talking during a meeting at the WDE.
Construction at the WDE is almost complete—this group is planning the next Wyoming Career Readiness Council (WCRC) meeting. L-R: Robin Grandpre (WDE), Carmalee Rose (Workforce Services), Laurel Ballard (WDE), Mark Madsen (Simon Contractors)

WY-TOPP Upcoming Date

September 5 is the statewide “WY-TOPP Test the System” day. All schools and media outlets have received information about this unique opportunity for teachers, students, and members of the media and public to sample the new assessment. The test is not mandatory but it’s important that at least one school in every school district participates so we can work out technology kinks before the test goes live.


The number of weekly memos is beginning to increase as the school year gets underway. For the second year, we developed a back-to-school toolkit. Included in the toolkit is our statewide Education Snapshot. This was very popular last year and many school districts used it as a template to create a district snapshot. We are excited to offer it again with new information and data.


A view of the cover of the snapshot shows the Wyoming Department of Education's URL,, and mission to Create opportunities for students to keep Wyoming strong with the vision To significantly increase the percentage of Wyoming students that are College, Career, and Military Ready. A stock photo of colored pencils, an eraser, a ruler, a calculator and a notebook in a bright green backpack is also seen.

Memos to be released on Tuesday, September 5:


WY-TOPP Update

Dear Superintendents,

After Monday, I have placed “Implement Total Eclipse Annually” at the top of my policy priority list. Wasn’t that amazing? Thank you for making it special for the students and families in your community!

Good job, Wyoming, for welcoming visitors and making it a special day for everyone!

A dozen children sit outside on a trampoline wearing eclipse safety glasses to watch the solar eclipse.

Wyoming kids (including mine) enjoy the Great American Eclipse

WY-TOPP Assessment in Action

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) and WDE officially kicked off our partnership with a tour of the WY-TOPP assessment and the reporting/data dashboard. Technical discussions to ensure smooth implementation of the assessment system are also underway.

On September 5th we will test the system statewide starting at 9:00 a.m. to make sure everything is in place for WY-TOPP. This is a great opportunity for teachers, administrators, parents, and local media to get a hands-on peek. Participants on September 5th will experience the training test and explore sample question types. I am excited to participate in this event at a local school.

The WDE will provide additional information about the system test soon.

WDE and AIR staff sit at a conference table while meeting about the new state assessment system, WY-TOPP.

AIR and WDE meet to kick off our WY-TOPP partnership

Memos to be released on August 28:


Big ESSA News

Dear Superintendents,

The big news for this week is that I signed Wyoming’s completed state plan as required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This signifies the official end to No Child Left Behind. The shift from compliance and success for some students (NCLB) to responsibility and success for all students through a well-rounded education (ESSA) will not happen overnight. Through the development of this stakeholder-driven plan, we examined our strengths and weaknesses and are on a path to better prepare students for school and post-secondary success.

Wyoming’s plan is submitted well ahead of the September 18 deadline because it’s important that Wyoming educators begin the 2017-18 school year with a clear path forward under the new law. As has been our practice, we will continue to update you as we learn information about ESSA and the approval of our plan.

Here is a link to the media release and plan:

Superintendent Balow smiles and holds the signed copy of Wyoming's ESSA State Plan shortly after signing it at Laramie County Community College.

Superintendent Balow holds Wyoming’s signed ESSA plan.

Memos to be released on Monday, August 21:

Best to all as you begin your new school year AND take part in the great eclipse!


New Chief Policy Officer

Dear Superintendents,

Welcome to our new Chief Policy Officer, Megan Degenfelder, who started on August 1. As a Casper native and policy leader, she is quite familiar with the strengths and challenges in education. She has spent her first days on the job meeting educators from across the state. Here is a link to the related media release: 

For the second year, WDE will honor our Chief Operations Officer and breast cancer survivor, Dianne Bailey, by running as a team at the Wyoming Pink Ribbon Run. Go Team Bailey!

I’ll travel to several schools and districts over the next few weeks to help kick off the new school year. It remains my privilege to see, first hand, the great work that is happening and to welcome back educators and students. Thank you for the invitations!

State Superintendent Jillian Balow, Chief Operations Officer Dianne Bailey, Communications Director Kari Eakins, and former Chief Policy Officer Lisa Weigel are all dressed in pink following last year's Pink Ribbon Run.

Lisa Weigel, Dianne Bailey, Superintendent Balow, and Kari Eakins represent Team Bailey at last year’s Pink Ribbon Run


At its last meeting, the School Finance Recalibration Committee asked that the the WDE  assist in sharing information about the work of the committee. Here is a letter from the chairs encouraging participation in stakeholder meetings. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act–ESSA

I intend to sign Wyoming’s stakeholder-driven ESSA plan on August 17. We can all be very proud of the framework that this plan sets forth for education in our state. We successfully built on many of our strengths and addressed pressing challenges in the plan. As we move closer to implementation, more and more important decisions will be made at the school and district levels. We all know that true improvement is about much more than compliance or checking boxes–how will your schools move from compliance to responsibility to improve outcomes for all students? I hope you find empowerment through ESSA to:

  • Challenge and change existing norms and structures that hinder improvement
  • Create new conditions that accelerate progress for all students with the expectation that all students can master the skills and knowledge necessary for success in school and life
  • Explore new approaches that could better serve students even if they require a change to the existing system
  • Recognize that the best school improvement strategies are evidence-based and locally-driven
  • Combine evidence, innovation, and best practice to truly change the trajectory for our students who are most at risk of not succeeding

Memo to be released on Monday, August 14:


ESSA Update

Dear Superintendents,

This week there is an important memo related to assessment in the early grades. Please take note that this is the first of several key shifts to be made as we implement ESSA and a new assessment system.


Thank you for the focused effort to bring our state ESSA plan to near completion. We are on-track to submit a final plan to the U.S. Department of Education before most school districts convene for the school year. It has been my goal to ensure that you begin this academic year with an unobjectionable path forward with federal programs, assessment, standards, teacher certification, accountability, local reporting, and more.

Of the thirteen states that already submitted plans, most received feedback and several states may make significant changes to their plans. We have taken their lessons learned, worked closely with the USED and stakeholders, and carefully crafted a plan to help ensure a well rounded education for all Wyoming students.

I remain proud of the stakeholder driven plan. All told, we held fourteen public meetings, received 135 public comments, engaged with the tribes, and hosted 550 online survey participants. WDE also helped facilitate over a dozen stakeholder consultation groups.

While accountability is just one component of ESSA, a cohesive state system of accountability is a main objective. In the coming weeks, a number of reports to the legislature are due that will help solidify the use of one system. It is important to know that the state and federal accountability systems work in conjunction with one another and neither will be replaced by the other. The Wyoming Accountability in Education Act and resulting state accountability system are a mainstay in our state and a strength from which we devised the ESSA accountability plan. The two will merge to become the cohesive system designed to hold schools accountable for student growth and school improvement.

Navy Seals help with the Challenge Rodeo for kids during Cheyenne Frontier Days

Navy Seals help with the Challenge Rodeo for kids during Cheyenne Frontier Days

Challenge Rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days

Challenge Rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days

WDE Individual Learning Division helps with the Challenge Rodeo

WDE Individual Learning Division helps with the Challenge Rodeo


In late July, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations approved its Fiscal Year 2018 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill in a party-line 30-22 vote.  The Committee rejected a number of amendments to increase funding for education programs, including proposed increases for early childhood programs, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Title IIA of ESSA, and other key K-12 federal funding streams.  The Committee did include a $200 million increase in IDEA funding and a $100 million increase for ESSA Title IV, Part B (Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grants).  It did not fund the school choice programs proposed in President Trump’s budget. The House has not yet scheduled a date for consideration of the Committee-approved bill on the House floor. The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has yet to publish or act on its Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations legislation.

I am very concerned about the possible elimination of funding for Title IIA of ESSA, the primary federal program to support effective teachers, which is authorized under ESSA to receive approximately $2.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. A mainstay of Wyoming’s ESSA plan is growing a strong and sustainable workforce of teachers and leaders.

Memos to be released on Monday, August 7


Practitioner Panels for Recalibration

Dear Superintendents,

There are no memos this week.  Below is a link to a letter from the chairmen of the Recalibration Committee on School Finance:

Letter from Chairmen Coe and Sommers on Practitioner Panels

State Superintendent Jillian Balow holds a framed flag of the State of Wyoming with Laramie County Commissioners Ron Kailey and Troy Thompson at the Governor's residence.
Laramie County Commissioners Ron Kailey and Troy Thompson and Superintendent Balow hold the Wyoming Flag that traveled 50K miles on a space mission. The flag was presented by Lockheed Martin during Cheyenne Frontier Days.


Summer Days

Dear Superintendents,

Just a short and sweet update this week as the summer days fly by. PAWS scores were released yesterday and you can view the news release here. Thank you all for your help reviewing student data so we could get this information out quickly.

The State Superintendent speaking to business leaders at an outdoor luncheon in the downtown Cheyenne with the historic depot in the background.
Talking about agriculture at the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce Event “Pardners N’ Prosperity”

Memos to be released on Monday, July 17: