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.
Wyoming made a big splash with the release of NAEP scores this week. In addition to consistently performing above average in grades 4, 8 in both math and reading, Wyoming is closing achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged and special education students. Students across the state are taking advantage of educational opportunities that are a result of equitable and adequate funding. Here is a link to the press release for Wyoming NAEP scores:
Just four years ago, professional development opportunities provided by WDE were frequently canceled due to lack of participants. Because of the work we’ve done together, that is never the case today. Our model for delivering statewide professional development has quality, relevance, and input from Wyoming educators in the driver’s seat. I often reiterate that prophets need not come from a foreign land, nor do the best trainings need to take our educators out of the state. Included in this week’s memos are the results from a recent professional development survey. Results indicate that we are all on the same track and moving forward on a path that will help improve student outcomes.
We all know that no matter how dynamic a speaker or idea may be, change is unlikely without follow-up, accountability, and a school culture change that supports transformation. The survey results confirm this–districts value peer support, leadership development, and increased knowledge about new requirements. That is precisely what we aim to deliver using both Title II and general fund dollars.
Here is a snapshot of survey results (full results in memos) that summarize what 805 Wyoming educators indicated what Title II professional development should include:
Support high-quality instruction and instructional leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including computer science.
Integrate technology into curricula and instruction, which may include training to assist teachers in implementing blended learning projects.
Instructional strategies to integrate career and technical education (CTE) content into academic instructional practices.
Teacher and leader certification to expand options and expertise.
Include early educators in professional development to close crucial school readiness gaps.
Develop school and district leaders who are prepared to lead a culture that promotes improved student outcomes and excellent teachers.
STATEWIDE SYSTEM OF SUPPORT AND PLCs:
We are all very excited to kick off the next phase of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) this month. In preparation, I’ve had conversations with many of you and visited schools across the state. Without exception every school is inspired by and working towards strong PLCs–but every school is unique and in a different stage of growth. One key to success is for you to continue talking to us–when we are in your communities, on surveys, and during conversations, about the successes and challenges so we can learn from each other. Below is an important opportunity.
This week, we officially launched Boot Up Wyoming 2022, our Computer Science Initiative. Here is a link to the release:
2017 NAEP scores for reading and math will be released on April 10. Four states were invited to participate in the live release, including Wyoming. Wyoming outperformed most states in reading and math in most grades in 2015. While the NAEP is one measure, it’s important because it’s stable from year to year and offers a true state comparison. At the state level, NAEP is an excellent thermometer to help us gauge the health of our education system. Here are links to 2015 scores and the event page:
Included in this week’s memos is a summary of legislation passed that WDE will be implementing. Where possible, we’ve included timelines, analyses, and additional information. Notably, we will visit districts to develop baseline information for the Computer Science Standards Development Committee. If there are specific activities and/or people we should include during our visit, please let us know. We are geared up to kick off the computer science initiative next week.
ABOVE: I visited Area 59, a makerspace, in Gillette this week. Ian Scott (right) is the director of the facility and works with business, industry, K-12, and Gillette College to ensure that maker experiences are valuable. Ian, Area 59, and the makerspace will be featured during this summer’s Roadmap to STEM conference. Also pictured is Paul Hladky (left) who supports the makerspace.
ABOVE: Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) has worked with teachers and partners for over two years to develop high quality curricular materials aligned to Wyoming’s new science standards. Specifically, WAIC focused on science in Wyoming including agriculture and natural resources. The above group of business, industry, and policy partners has worked to ensure information in the curricula is accurate and relevant for Wyoming’s students. The first materials will be available for teachers this year. Historically, Wyoming Ag in the Classroom has provided activities, not curriculum and their work will be immensely valuable as new standards are implemented.
Federally, final congressional action and the President’s signature are expected today on education funding that lasts through September. Here’s a summary of Title funds:
There is a $300 million increase for Title I, the most important driver of equity in the federal education budget. Title II funding, which supports teacher preparation and professional development, is preserved at FY 2017 levels. Also, in light of recent tragic violent events in schools across the country, this bill includes $1.1 billion – an increase of $700 million – for Title IV-A to support school climate and safety initiatives.
The bill also includes the recently House-passed Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act, funded at $75 million for the remainder of this fiscal year. The funding is made through the Dept. of Justice, not Education, so I’ll be working in the coming days to determine if Wyoming has access to a portion of these funds and what parameters are in place.
The 2018 legislative session adjourned “sine die” yesterday with late budget compromises that affect education. My team, like yours, will spend the next days analyzing, evaluating, and planning. Preliminarily, here’s where education is headed:
The school finance bill reduces education funding by $27.3m in the next biennium, through changes to special education, transportation, ADM calculation, and groundskeepers.
SF29, Computer Science, was signed by Governor Mead on Wednesday. Additional bill passage includes creation of an alternative school accountability system, Hathaway scholarship application extension, and the naming of the State Superintendent’s office in the Capitol after Estelle Reel.
For the interim, focus will be on school safety and security, state accountability, transportation, and review of the basket of goods, among other topics.
Testing time is limited to 1% of the school year (e.g., 9 hours for elementary, 10 for middle school, and 11 for high school); this is for “actual testing time” and does not include test prep, breaks, or time reading the instructions
Comparability across states – students’ scores are to be comparable to students’ scores from other states
Readiness check and training SHOULD HAVE ALREADY been conducted to ensure schools have a smooth online test administration
Not only is this a new assessment, aligned with our state content and performance standards, it is also a new format. Thus, ensuring that stakeholders in your community have an understanding that assessment data is just one measure of school success, is essential.
This year, maybe more so than in recent years, it is important to pull data together from formative classroom assessments, district benchmark assessments, and the WY-TOPP to tell the assessment story for your students in your district. Student success is richer than assessment data yet sometimes that seems to be the main focus. Our improved and refined accountability system puts a greater emphasis on student growth and a well rounded education and this will be reflected in this year’s performance ratings.
It looks like the legislature is close to reaching a budget deal with a few education funding snags still being debated. As anticipated, it is not likely the legislature will adjourn within the 20-day session. Third readings, concurrence, and committee work continues. Bills that support children from military families as well as a significant Computer Science bill, Senate File 29, passed both houses.
I traveled to Washington DC this week for an annual legislative conference–It is always a privilege to represent Wyoming at the national level. I participated on a panel and shared how our accountability system, standards adoption process, and stakeholder input opportunities have all helped shape student-focused policy.
While in DC, state superintendents had several discussions about federal funding, ESSA, school safety, and other federal programs. To date there are still 17 states that do not have an approved ESSA plan. I am grateful Wyoming is focused on implementation versus approval of our plan. Federal education funding appears to be stable for the time being. And, the USED again stated they will refrain from providing additional guidance to states regarding supplement vs. supplant, report cards, and spending of title funds.
It was wonderful to see many of you at S5S and at the Jonah Capitol this week. Like last week, bills are moving swiftly through the Wyoming House and Senate and an update would be outdated within minutes. There is one week left for the 2018 Wyoming Legislature to concur on a state budget, education funding, and dozens of bills—education and otherwise.
SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY
In the wake of the school tragedy in Florida, schools across the nation (including Wyoming) are thinking carefully about school safety and security. Last session, HB194 passed and made it possible for Wyoming school boards to consider arming qualified and willing personnel as a student safety and security measure. In response to the legislation, I convened a statewide ad hoc committee to develop non-regulatory guidance for communities. Here is a link to the guidance.
Related, I understand there may be student observances, in some cases, walkouts, planned this spring. I have observed schools across the nation and in Wyoming utilizing the events as learning opportunities. While my staff does not intend to issue guidance for these events here is a practical resource you may find helpful. Note: The resource was developed independent of WDE and may not be applicable in local school districts.
There is a memo this week regarding new accreditation guidance. This is initial guidance as a result of the accreditation task force that will continue to provide input through implementation.
Education bills are moving through the Jonah Capitol chambers. By the time I send this the status of bills will have changed–the session is moving quickly. Up to date information can be found at the Wyoming Legislature’s website: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/
We have a big week under our belts and a big week ahead:
Stakeholder groups including the accreditation task force and Chapter 29 panel met separately this week to continue work on their respective projects. The involvement of education leaders and stakeholders in the most important policy decisions is critical. I say it often and I will say again–thank you for your involvement in various groups and for generously allowing us to tap your top leaders from schools to assist us in our work!
We kicked off Random Acts of Kindness in Wyoming (officially February 11-17). Madelynn Oden, 15, of Casper, who with her two sisters, Katelynn and Delaney, raised $500 for Kindness Wyoming. First Interstate Bank matched the $500 and Madelynn presented the Kindness Wyoming Team with a check for $1,000.
Please encourage your schools to participate, invite media to cover culminating events, send photos to us to share on our social media, and pay it forward with a few RAKs of your own. More ideas at: http://www.kindnesswyoming.org/
The legislative session begins next week. On Sunday, I’ll have the opportunity to address legislators at their party caucuses. I’ll summarize the state of Wyoming schools and comment on several bills including early learning programming, computer science, accountability, and school funding.