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.

COVID-19 Action Plan

Dear Superintendents,

Federal FYI:

This week President Biden announced his COVID-19 Action Plan. The plan focuses on three priority areas:

  • Get more people vaccinated.
  • Decrease hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
  • Keep schools and our economy open.

President Biden also announced that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require workers to produce a negative test result at least  weekly. While this requirement has been widely publicized around its impact on workers in the private sector, it is probable that public sector employees – including K-12 educators – will be included in the 26 states and 2 territories that have OSHA-Approved State Plans. Wyoming is one of the states with an OSHA approved plan. We anticipate more information in the coming days.


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Students at the Wild West Air Show STEM DAY on September 10

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Civics and Cultural Opportunities in September

Dear Superintendents,

Civics and Cultural Opportunities in September:

  • September 11 is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 when a coordinated terrorist attack unfolded on American soil. Here are several resources for classrooms:

PBS 9/11 Anniversary in the Classroom 

9/11 Museum

  • National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15-October 15 and we celebrate the contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Organization

  • September 17 is U.S. Constitution Day – the day that the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funding hold an educational program about this seminal document. Here are a just a few resources available:

National Archives and Records Administration and its free version of the U.S. Constitution Workshop

Library of Congress

National Endowment for the Humanities

U.S. Census Bureau

The Constitution Center

Jack Miller Center, Constitution Day 2021

*The resource lists are not exhaustive and, rather, are included to spark awareness and further research. Neither the Wyoming Department of Education, nor I, mandate, recommend, or fully vet all resources listed.*

There are five memos this week – here are a few highlights:

  • Wyoming’s Judicial Learning Center is located in the Wyoming Supreme Court building and open to the public. Prior to COVID-19 students were frequenting the Center in growing numbers (and they should – it is AMAZING!) At the Center, interactive learning brings the judicial branch of government to life. Prior to or in lieu of an in-person visit, there are many resources at https://jlc.wyo.gov/. All activities are aligned to Wyoming’s Social Studies content and performance standards. 

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“You Be the Judge” is one of the exhibits at the Judicial Learning Center and allows students to examine evidence and decide the verdict of a case.

OTHER MEMOS:

  • Wyoming did not participate in Cards for the Military Project in 2020 but we are eager to pick the project up again this year. I would love to visit your school to pick up cards personally (and I am working on bringing a special guest with me).
  • A new FAFSA campaign geared toward students and families is underway.
  • There are also memos about WAVES training and a cyber challenge for students round out the memos – take a look.

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Sneak peak at the new FAFSA campaign here.

 

FEDERAL COVID RESOURCES *Please Note: Schools and states that did not have in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 schoolyear are the primary audience for several resources below.*


Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

STEM Day Opportunity for Students

Dear Superintendents,

There is still time for classes (middle and high) from across Wyoming to plan to attend STEM Day in conjunction with the Wild West Air Show in Cheyenne. September 10 is STEM Day. For more information please contact Lt. Maxwell McMillan at: maxwell.mcmillan.1@us.af.mil

Results from the 2021 administration of the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP) were released on Tuesday. Here is the media release and links to data.

The work of the Capitol Interpretative Exhibits and Wayfinding Subcommittee is underway. As the co-chairman of the committee (alongside Senator Bill Landen), I am very excited to provide students (and visitors of all ages) with an educational and hands-on experience at Wyoming’s Capitol. Stay tuned.

The Wyoming Education Summit will be held virtually on September 21-22. We have a great line-up of speakers and breakouts presenting under the theme of “Pursuing Excellence Together.” Here is a link to additional information.

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FEDERAL UPDATES

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) sent a letter to state and local partners reiterating a shared commitment to ensure children with disabilities and their families have successful early intervention and educational experiences in the 2021–2022 school year. The letter outlines a series of question and answers (Q&As) as children return to in-person learning.
  • Public Comment on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science Assessment Framework will be accepted through September 30. To learn more, click here.
  • On Thursday, Sept. 9, Understood, with the American Academy of Pediatrics, UnidosUS, and 2021 National Teacher of the Year Juliana Urtubey, will facilitate conversations to help parents and teachers move forward in the next school year together. The free event will be live-streamed via Understood’s YouTube channel and syndicated across its Facebook page. Learn more and register here.

Five Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Civic Readiness

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier last week, I participated in a panel discussion about civic readiness hosted by REL Central, operated by Marzano Research. REL Central release of a new resource for state and local school systems to help educators measure or assess civic readinessAn article in K-12 Dive provides more context about the issue and the panel. Requirements for teaching and assessing Wyoming students about knowledge of both the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions are generally laid out in statute. There is not a specific or consistent assessment used across schools in Wyoming.

Statewide assessment results and information will be released publicly on Tuesday. 96.43% of students took the WY-TOPP assessment during the 2021 testing window. Statewide assessments, including WY-TOPP, were not administered in 2020 because of COVID-19-caused school closures.

FEDERAL UPDATES

The U.S. Department of Education communicated directly with school district superintendents and announced that it will administer a 2021-2022 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for the second year in a row. The CRDC gathers and publishes information about students access to educational courses as well as school climate factors like use of discipline and student experiences of harassment and assault. To learn more, click here.

U.S. Education Secretary Cardona outlined his commitment to schools, students, and educators in a recent blog, Meeting the President’s Call to Support the Safe and Sustained Reopening of Schools. And, on NBC’s TODAY, he emphasized the importance of schools addressing students’ mental health needs (video and Homeroom blog).

A sampling of resources:

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Wyoming 2021 Teacher of the Year, Alexis Barney (Evansville Elementary School) greets rodeo fans at Cheyenne Frontier Days

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Alexis Barney and her husband Sam enjoy Cheyenne Frontier Days with the Governor, First Lady, and State Superintendent


Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Preparing for the 2021-22 School Year

Dear Superintendents,

There are a few updates and several memos this week as we all prepare and meet the challenges of the 2021-22 school year. I ask that you preview the memos prior to the public release on Monday and distribute them to the intended audience, e.g. CTE teacher orientation goes to teachers, principals, and CTE coordinators.

Finally, the U.S. Senate approved a major bipartisan infrastructure package by a vote of 69-30 this week. The legislation approved does not have a strong focus on K-12 education but there are a number of education-related provisions included that I’ll be keeping my eye on (especially broadband):

  • $500 million to support energy-efficiency improvements and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities;
  • $500 million to support increasing transportation energy efficiency for school buses and mass transit, in addition to other vehicles;
  • $200 million to support voluntary testing or compliance monitoring for and remediation of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and child care programs;
  • $5 billion (FY22-FY26) to support a Clean School Bus Program;
  • $42.45 billion to establish a Broadband Access, Equity and Deployment program (not education-specific, but major implications for K-12 students and families).

Memos to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Summer Professional Development Season

Dear Superintendents,

The summer professional development season is wrapping up. This week the WDE, tribal partners, Wyoming Humanities, Wyoming PBS, and many others will host the Native American Education Conference virtually. Conference registration is still open. The speakers and sessions will provide inspiration and resources for educators, students, and community members.

Last week the Wyoming National Guard, WDE, and the Wyoming Military Department hosted the first-ever Leadership Rendezvous. Educator stars from across the state merged with military members for a unique week of leadership and learning. Participants repelled, flew in Blackhawk helicopters, and did PT at 5:00AM at Camp Guernsey. We are already planning for 2022!

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Educator Leadership Rendezvous at Camp Guernsey

Governor Gordon released this statement about a safe return to in-person school.  According to the release no statewide mask mandates will be issued. Locally elected school boards, school administrators, and county health officials should continue to make decisions that are best suited for their communities.

The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which develops policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is seeking candidates for several positions (to be appointed in fall 2022): fourth-grade teacher, eighth-grade teacher, secondary school principal, and general public representative-parent leader.

The Wyoming National Guard and partners are hosting STEM Day and the Wild West Airshow (historically held in July) on September 10 (for schools) and September 11-12 for the public. The event is not a recruiting event and many state and local partners in STEM will participate. Coordinators of the event are prepared for busloads of students and will work with schools and teachers to accommodate the school day hours and travel time. For more information about STEM Day or the airshow contact maxwell.mcmillan.1@us.af.mil

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FEDERAL UPDATES and RESOURCES

(Note: some of the resources are not fully applicable to Wyoming since schools were nearly universally in-person for the 2020-21 school year)

  • Upcoming Deadline for FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund: Schools and libraries can submit applications for the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund. The fund can be used towards purchasing laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connections. To learn more, click here. Instructions on how to apply for funding can be found here.
  • The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a study on the promise of community schools based on an assessment of the impact of the New York City Community Schools Initiative. To read the study, click here. Several Wyoming schools have moved toward becoming community schools in recent years.
  • Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) requests comments on national school lunch and breakfast Programs on buying American. Comments are due on or before November 2, 2021. To read the Federal Register notice, click here.
  • The United States Department of Education (USED) released the “Return to School Roadmap” on August 2. The roadmap can support students, schools, educators, and communities in preparing for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • The USED released a resource to help schools, colleges, and universities improve their ventilation systems. The resource explains how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds can be used to improve indoor air quality, as part of the agency’s broader efforts to support campuses as they welcome back students for in-person learning and build back better. Note: The WDE can provide technical assistance if a school or district is considering using ARP funds for this purpose.

Memos released on Monday, August 9:

Blue Balow Signature

CCSSO Summer Leadership Conference

Dear Superintendents,

In less than two weeks, Wyoming will host state superintendents from across the nation at the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Summer Leadership Convening in Cheyenne. I am very excited to reconnect with my colleagues across the nation, show off our wonderful state, and lean in on the most important education topics.

Among the topics we will discuss is how funds from the American Rescue Plan Act are being used to make up for lost learning time and enhance opportunities for students and communities. I have been thinking a lot lately about innovation and 21st Century learning, along with critical partnerships between K-12, post-secondary, and the employer community. In the past year and a half we have all taken steps to ensure technology in our schools makes learning more mobile than ever before. Simultaneously, are we also thinking about how we will teach the skills that enable our students to prosper in a quickly evolving technological world that permeates every career? The Wyoming Department of Education will continue to support efforts to prioritize 21st century teaching and learning.

A couple of additional thoughts about innovation:

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit UW’s makerspace, called the Wyrkshop. It was exciting to hear about the many ways UW is reaching out to K-12 students and partnering with other makerspaces across the state.

Finally, computer science standards are to be fully implemented next school year. The number of “early implementers” is astounding. Attendance at computer science professional development opportunities continues to grow and teachers are excited for the transition.

#bootupwyoming

 

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Tyler Kerr (far L) led us on a tour of UW’s makerspace, WYrkshop


Memos to be released today:

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Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor emcees our first in-person WDE all-staff meeting in 18 months

Sincerely,

Blue Balow Signature

WDE’s Summer Professional Development Offerings

Dear Superintendents,

Summer professional development is in full swing. It is wonderful to connect with participants who impact every facet of education and leadership. I look forward to more!

The WDE is sponsoring/hosting a number of conferences this summer. Here are a few:

  • Embracing Literacy (virtual in July)
  • Native American Education Conference (virtual – August 11-14)
  • Wyoming Education Summit (virtual – September 21-22)

There are also a number of content or audience-specific events such as Level-Up for award-winning teachers and leaders, TeachUNITED, virtual teaching, computer science, CTE, and more.

Opportunities are listed on the WDE website or you can reach out to WDE staff for more information.


ALSO UPCOMING

  • There will not a be a special legislative session, as was anticipated, in July. The Joint Education Committee (JEC) will meet July 19-20. The agenda can be found here.
  • Wyoming will host all state superintendents in Cheyenne in July at the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Summer Leadership Convening. This marks the first time the organization has held an all-member event in Wyoming.
  • Statewide work on the Profile of a Graduate continues. Information about the work so far, led by the State Board of Education, can be found here.

FEDERAL UPDATES

  • The Lessons from the Field series continues with a webinar about air quality and ventilation in schools. The webinar will be held on June 30, 2021 – 3:00pm to 4:15pm ET. the topic will be air quality and ventilation. For more information or to register, visit here.
  • On June 24, President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on an infrastructure bill framework. Specific to education, the framework includes funds for Broadband but does not include resources for school infrastructure.
  • The U.S. Department of Education issued a revised interpretation of Title IX. The interpretation and implementation requirement can be found here. Secretary Cardona’s comments can be read here.
  • A roundtable with rural youth and Secretary Cardona took place early this week. The conversation was about students’ COVID-19 experience. You can view the discussion here.

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Note: In my update last week I included an image with the Cowboy Code of the West without fully crediting the creator, © 2004 James P. Owen from his book Cowboy Ethics.

Memo to be released today:

Blue Balow Signature

Reviewing the Cowboy Code of Ethics

Dear Superintendents,

It’s been an inspiring week. I attended the Wyoming Association of Career and Technical Educators (WACTE) conference and the Wyoming Custodians Association conference. If ever there were a time to reflect on the Cowboy Code of Ethics, it is now. Wyoming educators, students, and families have ridden for the brand like never before over the last eighteen months and exemplify all that makes Wyoming, well, Wyoming. I will be sharing the stories of hope, perseverance, hard work, passion, and leadership across the state and nation.

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FEDERAL UPDATES

  • Twenty- eight states, including Wyoming, submitted state ARP plans to the U.S. Department of Education by the June 7 deadline. The plans are posted here.
  • On June 15 the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) posted a blog stating that national spending for public schools has increased for the sixth consecutive year in the 2018-19 school year. To learn more, click here.
  • Congress voted this week to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and President Biden signed it into law. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced that most federal employees would observe the holiday on Friday, June 18.

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Wyoming Custodians Association conference with L-Scott, VP and R-Jeff, President

Memos to be released today:

 

Blue Balow Signature

Summer Professional Development Opportunities

Dear Superintendents,

Summer professional development opportunities hosted or sponsored by the Wyoming Department of Education are listed on our website. We strive to keep the content relevant and engaging for educators and look forward to seeing you this summer.

An interesting article this week in Education Week  includes a poll that found 42% of teachers and administrators surveyed said more students would have to repeat a grade and 68% said more students would have to retake courses. The story also featured expert discussion on retention policies.

Federal Updates

  • The U.S. Department of Education released a new FAQ document on uses and restrictions with ESSER funding. 
  • The Office of Civil Right released “Dear Educator” Letter reminding schools of obligations to investigate and address all forms of harassment in educational environments, including harassment directed towards Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students. You can read the letter here.
  • The Office of Civil Rights OCR announced a virtual public hearing June 7-11 to gather information for improving enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  This hearing is part of OCR’s comprehensive review of the Department’s existing regulations and other actions related to implementing the President Biden’s executive orders regarding discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Members of the public may register to make live comments during the hearing.  They may also send written comments to T9PublicHearing@ed.gov, following guidelines in the hearing notice.

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Student designers gave me a tour of the student-built cabin they staged. All are students at Pathways Innovation Center 21st Century School in Casper.

Memos to be released on Tuesday, June 1:

 

Blue Balow Signature