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.

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:

Jillian

Summer Conferences

Dear Superintendents,

It’s been a privilege to attend and greet participants at education and education services conferences this summer. Wyoming schools are amazing from the boardroom to the lunchroom to the classroom. Thank you for empowering your people to grow as professionals!

Superintendent Balow stands with transportation conference participants near a small remote-controlled school bus.
Annual Transportation Summit
A woman speaks from a podium to a room full of participants sitting at round tables eating lunch.
Annual Nutrition Services Conference

Memo to be released on Monday, June 26:

Jillian

School Funding Discussion

Dear Superintendents,

Summertime for me has become synonymous with lots of time on the roads of Wyoming–and I love it. Educators are engaged in professional development. Communities hold celebrations. And, our family embarks on a few trips “just for fun.”

There are also lots of meetings—more than usual. This week many of us attended the legislative committee discussion on school funding. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Groups that don’t normally attend education meetings were engaged including Wyoming Taxpayers Association, Liberty Group, Business Alliance, County Commissioners, and Municipalities.
  • WDE and the LSO presented information that laid out the finer details of the funding model and how local school districts are adapting to the current mandatory cuts.
  • After the presentation, the committee discussion steadily moved to the same impasse that we saw during the session—to tax or not to tax. All of us know that it’s not quite this simple but no consensus emerged among members, nor was that the intent.
  • School construction entered the conversation. This is essential moving forward and a topic that was not a significant part of the discussion during the legislative session.

The discussion about education funding is still in the beginning stage. There is both a sense of urgency and importance among legislative members. After the meeting, a different group convened to select a funding model consultant. This is a key decision that will steer the conversation going forward.

Superintendent Balow smiles in a picture with Meredith Miller, former North Carolina Governer Perdue, Holly Coy, and Anna Edwards.
Meredith Miller (USDE), Fmr NC Governor Perdue, Holly Coy (VA DOE), and I participated on an ESSA panel about state and local impact of the law. It was sponsored and moderated by Whiteboard Advisors (Anna Edwards, CAO).

Memos to be released on Monday, June 19:

Jillian

Recalibration Meeting

Dear Superintendents,

Next week’s educational funding recalibration meeting will be live streamed by WyomingPBS. Here is the information:

WyomingPBS will live stream the Wyoming Legislature’s June 12 meeting beginning at 8 a.m. of the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration and the Joint Revenue Committee. The committees will meet jointly to discuss solutions to the projected budget shortfall for funding related to public education in the state of Wyoming. The Committees will review and identify new revenue sources or diversion of existing revenue streams or sources for the support of generally funded operations of the Wyoming state government and public schools in Wyoming to offset the deficits in state government operations and in public education for school operations, school facilities and major maintenance.

“This live stream and archive are part of WyomingPBS’s expanded coverage of the State Legislature,” said WyomingPBS General Manager Terry Dugas. “A core part of our mission is to help Wyoming residents stay informed on topics of critical importance to the state.”

“I’m pleased that WyomingPBS is providing this opportunity for constituents to watch their elected representatives take on the challenge of finding solutions to our state’s complex school funding shortfall as they work in committee and hear from experts,” said WyomingPBS Public Affairs Producer Craig Blumenshine.

The live stream can be accessed at WyomingPBS’s website www.wyomingpbs.org. The meeting will also be archived at wyomingpbs.org/legislature for later viewing.

A group of boys state delegates stand at attention outside in front of a flagpole as the U.S. and Wyoming flags are lowered.
Wyoming Boys State delegates lowered the flag after dinner on Wednesday

NO MEMOS THIS WEEK

Jillian

Our Amazing Teachers

Dear Superintendents,

Early this week, I lost a teacher and lifelong friend–JuLan Decker–she was 82. Undoubtedly, family, friends, and students will celebrate her life and contributions in the coming days. Mrs. Decker’s greatest attribute was her kindness–we entered class as her students and left as her friends. There are so many amazing teachers who deserve recognition in their chosen field, in their communities, and in our state. Here are a few ways we are making inroads:

1. TOYs 

Despite the downturn in state revenue and mandatory cuts at the Wyoming Department of Education, we are growing the Wyoming Teacher of the Year (WTOY) program–though not financially. Historically, the WTOY received a stipend and traveled to Washington, DC for recognition and celebration–that was about it. Over the past two years, I’ve worked to place WTOYs into state leadership and policy positions. They’ve also been great sports whenever I thrust them into the spotlight as ambassadors for their profession.

–Amy Pierson-2016–

Amy is participating in Leadership Wyoming, class of 2018, and is on the governing committee for the University of Wyoming Trustees Education Initiative. She has spoken at multiple events sponsored by WDE and others. Amy represented Wyoming teachers during halftime of the 2017 College Football National Championship game in Florida.

–Ryan Fuhrman-2017–
Ryan was appointed to the Wyoming State Board of Education. He met with Secretary DeVos and advocated for Title IV-B and STEM in Wyoming schools. He will participate in and be recognized at Cheyenne Frontier Days. More events are TBD for Ryan.

There are countless opportunities for district and state TOYs to be recognized and I intend to see the WTOY program continue to grow. At the national level, the TOY program is also on the move. The Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) sponsors the TOY program and is using the program as a springboard to spotlight the education workforce. Through a major initiative, all states are called upon to  to encourage teaching innovation, learn from other professional and leadership sectors, and apply new principles to transform the teaching and educational leadership professions. Wyoming will participate fully in this initiative.

2. TEI

The University of Wyoming is steeped in the work of the Trustees Education Initiative (TEI) for which I serve as a member of the coordinating council. This initiative will use evidence and best practice to move the UW College of Education from above average to preeminent. Here is more information about the progress of the TEI:  http://www.uwyo.edu/trust_edu_init/ 

3.  Pipeline

Wyoming’s equity in education plan reveals a shortage of special education teachers, especially in rural areas. Because of competitive salaries and an adequate pipeline of teachers, Wyoming has been mostly immune to the extreme teacher shortages other states face. Of course, with impending cuts to Wyoming education, this could change. It’s vital that we continue to uphold the teaching profession as a funding priority and encourage our brightest to pursue it as a career. For example, we are exploring ways to recruit more Native American Wyomingites into the teaching profession. Also, we need to consider leadership opportunities within schools, retention incentives for the best teachers, and more strategies to develop beginning teachers into master teachers. Here is a link to the 2015 Equity Plan: https://edu.wyoming.gov/downloads/communications/equitable-access-plan.pdf

Gillette Mayor Carter-King speaks from a podium with Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi and Governor Matt Mead during the ceremony celebrating the completion of a water pipeline project.
Gillette Mayor Carter-King celebrates years of work leading to the Madison Water Pipeline. It was exciting to be part of the ceremony in my hometown.

Memo to be released on Monday, June 5:

Jillian

New Statewide Assessment Named WY-TOPP

Dear Superintendents,

School visits are a highlight of being the State Superintendent. This week we made a special visit to a 6th grade classroom and celebrated the winner of the contest to name the new statewide assessment. The assessment is newly minted as the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress, or WY-TOPP:

Media Release on School Visit for WY-TOPP

News Story on KGWN

Of course students liked hearing that the test will be shorter, in color, and online. In the coming weeks, as the contract with American Institute for Research (AIR) is finalized, we will release details about WY-TOPP. Dates we know now:

Load Test: Sept. 5, 2017

Fall Standards Based Interim (SBI-optional): Oct. 23, 2017 – Nov. 17, 2017

Winter Standards Based Interim (SBI-optional): Jan. 16, 2018 – Feb. 9, 2018

Modular Interims (SBM-optional): Available All Year

Standards Based Summative (SBS): April 16, 2018 – May 11, 2018 

State Superintendent Jillian Balow and Aiden Weinzierl smile and point at a poster that says, "Congrats Aiden!!! You made it to the TOPP!!" and has a stick figure of Aiden sitting on top of the world.
Aiden and his class enjoyed a WY-TOPP celebration

Education and Economic Diversity in Wyoming 

Several weeks ago, I shared a letter regarding my concerns about not having education well-represented on the executive committee of a new statewide initiative called Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, or ENDOW. I’m resharing the letter and the response from Governor Mead:

This week the steering committee for the Wyoming Business Alliance met in Casper–I serve as an honorary member on this committee. Education was the main focus of the meeting: funding, Wyoming Excels, and student outcomes. We all recognize that strong relationships between business/industry and education are essential. Education is a major player in economic development and diversity. Our great education system enhances our communities and makes moving or staying in Wyoming even more appealing. Since ENDOW is a broad based, multi-year effort, please consider how you and other education leaders can be part of the effort moving forward.

Memo to be released on Tuesday, May 30:

Jillian

Two Years of Updates

Dear Superintendents,

I have been writing weekly updates for about two years now. The endeavor began in response to your request for regular communication from me. From the beginning, I’ll confess, I intended to delegate the task. However, personally writing the update has become a reflection for me and I regularly hear from you about how the brief update and preview of memos is appreciated. Here are a few items I try to provide:

  • talking points when reports and data are released
  • upcoming activities or events
  • federal updates
  • major events that I attend with a short reflection or connection to the work we do
  • updates on initiatives like CTE, coding, standards work, the new assessment
  • upcoming professional development opportunities

I remain resolute in having an exclusive audience from Friday until Monday. Superintendents are the only group that receives the update and weekly memos before a public release on Monday. This gives you an opportunity to preview the memos before they are blasted to specific audiences on Monday morning.

I’m always open to hearing how the updates could be more helpful to you. Previously, I’ve stopped writing during the summer months. For this summer I intend to send frequent updates because we are moving forward with important work that will drive how you open your schools in the fall.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT and OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Over the past two and a half years, we have worked hard to ensure that all WDE-sponsored professional development is high quality, relevant to your needs, low cost or free, and aligned to our statewide and multi-tiered systems of support. Please check our website and social media frequently. We will utilize social media to a greater degree and as a main source of information for stakeholders. Please share the links to join the WDE social media stream:

Facebook

Twitter

WDE Website

Fourth grade students don poodle skirts and white t-shirts for a performance. Two couples swing dance while their classmates sing on the stage in the school gym during a schoolwide assembly.
Evansville Elementary celebrated their recognition as one of two distinguished Title I schools in Wyoming
Fremont #25 Superintendent Terry Snyder and Fremont #38 Superintendent Kenneth Crowson stand with WDE Chief Policy Officer Lisa Weigel before the state board meeting in Arapahoe.
Chief Policy Officer Lisa Wiegel with Fremont County Superintendents at the State Board Meeting

Memos to be released on Monday, May 22:

Jillian

Shoshone Business Council Meeting

Dear Superintendents,

Several members of the WDE staff and I had the opportunity to spend time in Fremont County this week. The main purpose was to talk with the Shoshone Business Council about ESSA. We also held listening sessions, participated in a tri-district discussion about the implementation of the Indian Education for All bill, met with Fremont #1 leaders, and spoke about education with community groups.

ESSA requires deliberate and formal consultation with tribal governments and we were able to “mark that box.” More importantly, the discussion was part of an ongoing dialogue about Native American learners and schools. At the forefront of our conversations was school improvement.

ESSA gives states the latitude to tailor school and district improvement strategies more so than under NCLB. The SIG program no longer exists, and instead there is a 7% state set-aside under Title I for school improvement activities (which is an increase from the 4% required by NCLB and is intended to offset the elimination of SIG). ESSA is prescriptive about identifying schools for the most comprehensive and targeted interventions and support but specific evidence-based strategies are left up to states. As we move closer to implementing our ESSA state plan, we will work together to build out specific needs, evaluation, and incentives for school improvement.

Superintendent Balow with the five members of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council.
Eastern Shoshone Business Council
Graduates walk past a line of professors and dignitaries during their commencement ceremony at the Casper Events Center.
UW-Casper 2017 Commencement on May 11

Memos to be released on Monday, May 15:

Jillian

Federal Funding of Education

Dear Superintendents,

There was notable news from Washington, DC this week regarding federal funding of education. Congress approved a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill which prevents a government shutdown and funds the government at updated levels through the end of September 2017.  President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

 The Department of Education will receive $68.2 billion in FY 2017. Here is a summary:

  • Title I—$15.5 billion, a $550 million increase above the prior fiscal year (including $450 million from the consolidation of the School Improvement Grants program into Title I).
  • Title II, Part A—which the Trump Administration had proposed to cut by $1.2 billion in FY 17, will be funded at $2.1 billion, a $294 million decrease.
  • Title IV, Part A—Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, will receive $400 million, a $122 million increase over the combined prior year funding levels for the programs consolidated in ESSA to create this program. Under ESSA sates may award these funds by formula or competitively to school districts or consortia of districts, with a priority for highest need.
  • Title IV, Part B—21st Century Community Learning Centers, will receive $1.2 billion, an increase of $25 million above FY 16. President Trump’s FY18 budget proposed to eliminate this program.
  • The Child Care and Development Block Grant will receive a $95 million increase, while Head Start will receive an $85 million increase.
  • Special education—$12 billion, up 1%, which maintains the federal share of the extra costs of educating children with disabilities at approximately 16% of per pupil expenditures.
  • Impact Aid—$1.3 billion, up $23 million
  • Charter schools – $342 million, up $9 million
  • Indian Education – $165 million, up $21 million
  • Education for Homeless Children and Youth – $77 million, up $7 million
  • TRIO programs – up $50 million, proposed elimination by President Trump’s FY18 budget.

ENDOW

Recently, Governor Mead named an executive council for the ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming) Initiative. Please see this correspondence to the governor regarding council membership. In the coming months, a number of steering committees will be developed. To you, I reiterate the importance of education leaders’ participation on these steering committees. The relationship between our economy and our education system is undeniable and deep. It would be unfortunate to not have education represented in this important work.

ACYPL

Malaysian members of the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) are immersing in local, state, and federal politics. It was a privilege to discuss Wyoming’s education system with them.

Memos to be released on Monday, May 8:

  Jillian

Wyoming’s Draft ESSA Plan

Dear Superintendents,

The biggest news of the week is that a draft of the ESSA State Plan was released for review and public comment. We are beginning to receive feedback already. My hope is that every school district and advocacy group will set up a process and time to review, discuss, and provide input on the plan. We will continue to seek meaningful consultation and input through community meetings, listening sessions, external work groups coordinated by WDE, and stakeholder conferences. Still, this is not a substitute for reviews and comments sparked by your leadership at the district and school level. Wyoming’s draft ESSA plan can be found here. 

Also of note is a vote by the State Board of Education one week ago to move forward with statewide accountability work (in fulfillment of HEA61) using the same foundation for post secondary readiness, goals, and support as articulated in the ESSA plan. This means we are moving toward a single, coherent accountability system versus two as was the case under No Child Left Behind.

Sixteen students stand smiling on a stage in suits and gowns with their National Honor Society medals around their necks during their induction ceremony.
St. Stephens students are inducted into the first ever NHS class

I traveled to Washington, DC, this week and met with Secretary DeVos. Generally, our discussion centered around Title funding and budget cuts, school choice, and ESSA. We started a positive and productive dialogue about education policy, vision, and initiatives. The small group of state superintendents took an opportunity to reiterate how diverse our states are and how important flexibility and state authority is under ESSA. I proudly represented Wyoming and rural education in the meeting and emphasized our strengths and challenges.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the U.S. Department of Education

There are a number of memos this week that are worthy of your review before they are publicly released on Monday. One is a survey about accreditation. We are asking each district to submit one survey by May 22. The work should be led by you or your designee. Results will help us to determine the best path forward in light of mandatory budget cuts to the agency.

Finally, our summer conference and training schedule is mostly set. Be sure to look our website for annual and new professional development opportunities.

Memos to be released on Monday, May 1, 2017:

Jillian