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.

WDE Outreach – In Pictures

Dear Superintendents,

One memo and a few photos:


It was a privilege to speak at the annual custodians conference. Pictured here with the incoming and outgoing assosication presidents.script

Computer Science SCRIPT training is well-attended and well-received.nkh

Wyoming received a grant to expand school breakfast and a team of leaders set goals this week in New Orleans.

Memos to be released on Monday, June 17

Wyoming’s A Grade On Quality Counts Report

Dear Superintendents,

This week the Quality Counts report on school finance was released and Wyoming is ranked #1. Looking just beyond the “A” grade that Wyoming received is an important story. Half of the score is based on quantity–how much money is spent on education. The other half of the score represents how fairly money is spread to schools and districts–quality of funding. Here are a few Wyoming-specific highlights:

  • The national average grade was “C.” Wyoming was the only state to receive and “A.”
  • Other states with high grades ranked high in spending (quantity) but low in equity (quality). Wyoming scored high in both.

Here is a link to the report and interactive state reviews.


Teachers in Rock Springs participate in the SCRIPT Computer Science training.

Memos to be released on Monday, June 10:

  • 2019-073 – Webinar on English Learners and Title III Funding



‘The Condition of Education, 2019’

Dear Superintendents,

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released “The Condition of Education 2019,” a report on education in America today.  The report presents 48 indicators in four areas:

  • pre-primary
  • elementary, and secondary education; postsecondary education
  • population characteristics and economic outcomes
  • international comparisons.

It also spotlights several issues of policy interest: young adult educational and employment outcomes by family status and postsecondary outcomes for non-traditional undergraduate students (blog post).

For a snapshot of key information, check out the “At a Glance” and “Highlights” options.

Memos to be released on Monday, June 3:

  • 2019-070 Wyoming Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities
  • 2019-071 AP Course Information and Trainings
  • 2019-072 Chapter 45 Public Comment: Special Education


Hats Off To All 2019 Graduates

Dear Superintendents,

Hats off to all 2019 graduates at every level!

This week recipients of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program were named. The program honors the nation’s top-performing students and was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again expanded to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

Congratulations to this year’s Wyoming Presidential Scholars:

  1. Lillian Brazil, Jackson – Jackson Hole High School
  2. Scott Nicholas Orton, Afton – Star Valley High School


Former State Superintendent Judy Catchpole received an honorary doctorate from the University of Wyoming.

Memos to be released on Tuesday, May 28:



Educators Embrace Computer Science Training

Dear Superintendents,

This week saw the first of several CSforAll SCRIPT trainings for educators to help bring computer science and computational thinking to every Wyoming classroom by 2022.

Wyoming received more than $93,000 in grant funding from Microsoft’s TechSpark initiative to offer Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) training for school districts. CSforALL is an organization dedicated to making computer science part of every K-12 student’s education.

SCRIPT training provides districts with strategic planning tools to think through what is needed to provide equitable, high-quality computer science education available to all students in their districts. Through a series of self-assessment and goal-setting activities, districts will develop a computer science education vision and roadmap for implementation.

Training will occur in five locations and will be open to six districts in each location. Each training consists of several sessions over a year.

  • Casper: May 14 & 15, 2019, Oct. 15, 2019 and May 20, 2020.
  • Rock Springs: June 4 & 5, 2019, Nov. 14, 2019, and June 4, 2020.
  • Cheyenne: June 11 & 12, 2019, Nov. 19, 2019, and June 11, 2020.
  • Worland: Aug. 5 & 6, 2019, Jan. 7, 2020, and Aug. 6, 2020.
  • Gillette: Sept. 24 & 25, 2019, Feb. 25, 2020, and Sept. 24, 2020.


Educators, industry partners and WDE teammates took time for a group photo at the CSforALL SCRIPT training in Casper this week. 


CSforALL SCRIPT training asked educators to work on how to engage their communities to help bring computer science to the classroom. The groups then shared out in a ‘gallery walk’ to promote and share ideas.


The leadership group from Prairie Wind Elementary in Cheyenne came to the WDE offices Friday to discuss education policy and leadership with Chief Policy Director Kari Eakins. The group also got a tour and talked with WDE teammates. 

Memos to be released:

  • 2019-066: Native American Education Conference
  • 2019-067: Hathaway Success Curriculum Changes and Guidance
  • 2019-068: Change in Home Language Survey Requirements


Let’s all celebrate Military Appreciation Month

Dear Superintendents,

On Monday, May 13, Governor Gordon will proclaim May as Military Appreciation Month – I look forward to attending the ceremony and celebration. Military Appreciation Month was introduced by Senator John McCain and passed by Congress in 1999.

We would love to help you celebrate past and present military servicemen and women in your schools using social media. Send photos and blurbs to Here are a few observances during the month of May:

Military Spouse Appreciation Day
Date: Friday, May 10th, 2019. The Friday before Mother’s Day is a day to honor military spouses.

Armed Forces Day
Date: Saturday, May 18th, 2019. A day (and the week leading up to it) to thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

Memorial Day
Date: Monday, May 27th, 2019. Commemorates the men and women who died while in military service.


Early in the week I had a visit from a retired Wyoming education leader, Bill Hardesty, who now works with Troops to Teachers. The program’s tagline is “Proud to Serve Again” and assists veterans who want to become classroom teachers.

When you hire a veteran, you bring unique skills, experiences, and dedication to your schools and students. Skills needed to be successful in the military transfer nicely to the classroom and community.

Here is a link to learn more about Troops to Teachers.


Bill Hardesty of Troops to Teachers visited the WDE to share the work of the organization during Military Appreciation Month.

Tech directors met in Casper this week. There were great conversations about district tech infrastructure, computer science standards, professional development, leadership, the legislature, and much more.

tech directors conference

Memos to be released on Monday, May 13:

  • 2019-063: Virtual Education Vendor Teacher Collection
  • 2019-064: Change in English Language Proficiency Criteria
  • 2019-065: Public Comment Computer Science Standards



Professional Development Opportunities Abound

Dear Superintendents,

Staff at the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) are coordinating multiple opportunities for professional development this summer. We are excited about offering new and established events for Wyoming’s educators. Thank you for partnering with us to ensure all trainings are relevant, timely, and substantial. The best way to stay abreast is via the WDE website and social media:




Here’s a sneak peek at some of what we will offer  and/or coordinate this summer:

  • SCRIPT Computer Science Training – various dates and locations
  • Roadmap to STEAM – July 30-August 2 in Laramie
  • Open Range OER Workshops – various dates and locations
  • STAR Conference – June 18-20 in Cheyenne
  • Week of Academic Vision and Excellence (WAVE) Conference, July 29-31 in Laramie
  • Native American Education Conference – August 7-8 in Riverton
  • State Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) – October 1-2 in Laramie

We look forward to learning from one another and national experts!


WDE CTE Director Dr. Michelle Aldrich and CTE Consultant Jeannie Coulson hosted an online listening session for the Perkins V grant recently. The CTE team is gathering public input on how the grant will be utilized in Wyoming over the next five years.


While gathering public input on Health/P.E., Fine & Performing Arts, and Math Extended Standards in Casper Monday, WDE teammates got to hear the Casper Fiddle Club, whose members were practicing at the Natrona County School District #1 offices. Members talked about how music education provides opportunities for lifelong experiences, gives students hands-on learning, and can give positive social interactions.


Wyoming’s Teacher of the Year and Rozcoe the Bear visit Washington, DC and Wyoming’s delegation.

Memo to be released on Monday, May 6:



Moving Forward on Computer Science Standards

Dear Superintendents,

Last week Wyoming’s State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously voted to move forward with  the process to adopt the K-12 content and performance standards for Computer Science. Below are links to the standards along with a letter from the standards development committee comprised of teachers, members from business and industry, parents, and others. The next phases of Boot Up Wyoming include rules promulgation and a shift in focus from standards development to standards implementation.

Wyoming has three years to fully implement the standards. Implementation, as with other content areas, includes efforts by educators to unpack standards, select curriculum, reset scopes and sequences for integration, and seek professional development. This work is familiar to educators and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) stands ready to facilitate opportunities and assist in the work. There are also other entities poised to support the implementation of Computer Science including UW and community colleges, Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB), business and industry, tech companies and experts, the WDE, and schools that have already implemented Computer Science.

Via memos, professional development events, social and traditional media, grant/funding opportunities, and technical assistance the WDE will continue to broker opportunities for educators to onboard the new standards.

Adopted CS Standards (with minor changes):


The SBE discusses computer science standards in Riverton

School Climate Document from USED:

The Federal Commission on School Safety released recommendations after a series of listening sessions. One recommendation addressed the topic of  school climate and student well-being. This week USED released The Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate ResourcesThe guide was produced jointly by the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and it provides best practices and resources that parents and educators can utilize as they work to achieve a positive school climate, lower disciplinary issues, and enhance school safety.

There are no memos this week.


The Push for CTE Education in Wyoming

Dear Superintendents,

Next week my family welcomes my daughter home from a military deployment in the Middle East. For so many reasons I am a proud mom – but I’ll save the bragging for a different time. Through high school and since graduation, she has had countless opportunities to learn. Through CTE pathways in high school she earned FFA degrees and deepened her knowledge of agriculture. She also became a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) and earned college credits through dual enrollment. During her tenure as a soldier she has served her country, trained, traveled, and earned a semester’s worth of college credits. As a mom and educator, I love how college, career, and military readiness has evolved to mean more than three singular pathways after high school. Today, all three paths (or any combination therein) prepare the next generation of adults for success and fulfillment through coursework, training, experience, and discovery.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, a group of baby boomers (now nearing retirement or retired) changed jobs 11.7 times during their careers. Most economists agree that today’s millennials are on-track to change jobs more times during their careers. This means that lifelong learning is more important than ever and exposure to foundational and executive skills is key.

I’ll add three final thoughts:

  1. Thank you Wyoming educators for instilling a love of learning and discovery in students while preparing them for the world of today and tomorrow.
  2. We must never lose sight of the demands of this fast-paced world and must always ensure every student has relevant learning experience.
  3. It always takes more than school to develop lifelong learners and self-sufficient adults. I am so encouraged to see strong partnerships between education, business/industry, and community partners.

Over the past couple of weeks, WDE’s Dr. Michelle Aldrich and her CTE team have traveled across the state to conduct listening sessions for Perkins V. Stakeholder participation for these events has been immense and we are so encouraged that Wyoming is interested in steering the career and technical education ship. Of note, Perkins V:

  • Places greater emphasis on developing clear connections between CTE programs and labor market demands.
  • Encourages states to to invest in early postsecondary opportunities.
  • Expands stakeholder input requirements.
  • Provides states and local recipients more flexibility in how they spend Perkins funds.
  • Creates the framework for Perkins accountability at the state and local levels.

In Wyoming, we look forward to leveraging Perkins V as a way to ensure that all students have opportunities to discover and acquire valuable skills as they make choices about college, career, and military readiness.


Teams from Wyoming Destination Imagination competed recently. DI is a program that teaches students the creative process and 21st century skills.2

Students compete using their skills to develop innovative solutions to complicated problems.

Memos to be released on Monday, April 22:

  • 2019-057: Innovative Leaders Virtual Conference-Spotlight on Wyoming
  • 2019-058: Kindergarten Readiness Data Collection
  • 2019-059: Student Volunteer Opportunity: My Life, My Story
  • 2019-060: 2019 Summer Learning Opportunities for Students
  • 2019-061: 2019-20 Hathaway Success Curriculum Course Verification



 No Longer Forgotten: The Triumphs and Struggles of Rural Education in America 

Dear Superintendents,

Over the past eighteen months it’s been a privilege to contribute to a book project about rural education. The book, No Longer Forgotten: The Triumphs and Struggles of Rural Education in America was released earlier this week. I am grateful to have taught in a rural Wyoming school (Hulett) and believe our smallest communities have more strengths than challenges. My small town experiences are with me in every policy discussion as State Superintendent. Here are a few takeaways from the book and panel:

  • There is no consistent definition for “rural” except “areas that are not urban.” Rurality is defined at least 72 different ways by the federal government.
  • Think tanks, majorities, and education philanthropies are located in cities. This is just one of many reasons rural education reform doesn’t usually gain traction.
  • While diverse yet undefined rural “regions” exist (deep south, northeast, midwest, west, southwest), rural areas and schools have much in common especially around pride in schools, social cohesion, shared values, and parental involvement.

If you are interested in watching the panel, here is the link:

Here is an article summarizing a few main ideas from the book:

This week at the annual Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) convening we had many discussions about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). I wanted to share three diverse documents on the topic because I know we all (leaders, school boards, parents, and teachers) are thinking about the SEL issues, such mental health, and its role education. None of the documents come with a specific endorsement from me other than having found each one insightful and thought-provoking:

Setting the Right Conditions for Learning

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope

What SEL Needs to Survive


STEM Teacher and State Board member, Ryan Fuhrman, engages in discussion with the computer science standards committee in Lander this week. The committee is reworking and refining the standards.


Who says you can’t be two places at once? I greeted the computer science standards committee via video from my meetings in Washington, DC.


It was so much fun to interview Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of, on-stage after his keynote speech at the CCSSO opening dinner.