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.
There are some new faces on the WDE leadership team as we kick off 2019. First we said goodbye to our Chief Operations Officer, Dianne Bailey. She retired after many years of service to the State of Wyoming and a lifetime in education (her father was a district superintendent). Dianne was a key leader during my first term and has been the voice of wisdom and experience in our agency. Here is our leadership team at WDE with newly appointed staff in bold:
Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff
Shelley Hamel, Chief Academic Officer
Trent Carroll, Chief Operations Officer
Kari Eakins, Chief Policy Officer
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
Jeremy Wilch, Finance Director
Ken Reynolds, Information Management Director
Julie Magee, Accountability Director
Laurie Hernandez, Standards and Assessment Director
John Bole, Federal Programs Director
Brenda Creel, Interim Special Ed and Programs Director
I am very excited about all that these leaders add to our dynamic staff at WDE!
Dual Immersion Teacher Chris Bessonette (in black shirt) from Munger Mountain Elementary School was happily surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Friday Morning.
It was so exciting to celebrate, for the second year in a row in Wyoming, a Milken Educator Award winner. Today, we surprised Munger Mountain Elementary School teacher, Chris Bessonette. Congratulations, Chris and Teton County School District!
Congratulations also to Baldwin Creek Elementary School in Fremont School District #1 and Sheridan Junior High School in Sheridan County School District #2. They were recognized as National ESEA Distinguished School Award winners (see related memo below).
Earlier this week I participated in Cheyenne’s Wreaths Across America ceremony. The event was particularly emotional for me as my daughter, a soldier, prepares to deploy to the Middle East. The purpose of Wreaths Across America is three-fold: Remember, Honor, and Teach. Remember our fallen warriors and their families. Honor our men and women who serve or have served. Teach the next generation about the price of our freedom. According to the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) only 23% of 8th graders are proficient in Social Studies. Wyoming citizens, including educators, frequently share their concerns about how we prepare students for civic engagement as adults. One way I hope to help in the coming months is to livestream more events like Wreaths Across America so students can join from the classroom.
Preparation for civic life was the primary purpose for establishing public schools in the United States. Students who receive effective social studies instruction are:
More likely to vote and discuss politics at home.
Four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues.
More confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives.
I recently ran across this related resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that is worthy of sharing with you.
*The inaugural event for Wyoming’s statewide elected officials will be streamed on January 7. Governor Gordon’s State-of-the-State address will be streamed on January 9. Details are forthcoming.
School safety is a priority topic in every community, state, and in our nation. It is approached with an appropriate sense of urgency. At the community level, the vehicle for school safety discussions is often the school board. However, school safety cannot be the singular responsibility of the school board. Discussions about policies and practices should always include school resource officers and other law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents, educators, students, and other community members. Here are some topics for stakeholder discussion:
Should a community task force be convened?
What roles do various stakeholders play in ensuring the safety of students?
Have current safety plans and policies been analyzed?
Are emergency drills adequate?
When is the last time a school safety assessment or audit was conducted?
What resources exist to help us set and reach goals that help ensure student safety?
As I discuss this important issue across our state, I always describe how school and student safety encompasses prevention, preparedness, crisis response, student well-being, responsibility, and the need for ongoing and coordinated dialogue.
As we have these critical conversations I’ll note that in some instances current state statute is out of sync with best practice. I was pleased to see the Joint Education Committee sponsor legislation earlier this week that begins the work of setting a stronger state framework for school safety. I look forward to continuing to work with legislators on the bill with the understanding that every aspect of school safety must be carefully weighed at the local level.
Congratulations to election winners across our state and nation. Governor-Elect Gordon mentioned his desire to support education and stable education funding during his acceptance speech on Tuesday night. He served on the Johnson County School Board for a number of years. Personally, I am thrilled to continue my service to the state for another four years. I look forward to working with the new governor and with both new and seasoned members of the legislature.
Education, as always, was a topic of campaigns nationwide. Election outcomes will impact state education governance in many state legislatures, state education agencies, and in the U.S. Congress. The Education Commission of the States tracked elections with an education lens and the outcome is depicted in the infographic below.
Despite the cold weather educators continue to gather for training opportunities. This week:
WDE partnered with community colleges and Canvas to host the annual Innovations Conference in Evanston
Jan Hoegh led the New Art and Science of Teaching training in Casper
25 school leadership teams participated in the first Leadership Coaching Academy session this week and focused on developing a Culture of Collaboration and Ensuring that Students Learn – two of the “big ideas” that represent the core principles of Professional Learning Communities.
The State Superintendent’s Policy Summit (S5S) is being restructured to provide training on the 25 components of Wyoming Accreditation. It will not be held during the 2019 legislative session as in the past. Information on the 2019 S5S will be shared at a later date.
Memo to be released on Tuesday, November 13, 2018:
Accountability results for 2017-18 were released yesterday. Thank you again to school districts for reviewing your school-level data and helping us to push out reports that are relevant and useful in the school improvement process. Reports are available on Fusion and our staff continues to provide technical assistance. Here is a link to the media release:
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a significant shift in educational authority from the federal government to states and local schools. Over the past two years you’ve likely heard me talk about the new requirements for public reporting that will be a lift for every district and every school. Two years ago this deadline seemed far away–now it looms.
Local and state report cards are a tangible way to:
link the federal and state accountability systems
reveal inequities and strengths with student groups and set goals to address challenges
link accountability to school improvement efforts
report to the pubic in a meaningful way
As with all educational endeavors in Wyoming, we at the WDE view our role as partners in successful implementation. There is a memo this week that outlines some information about state and local reporting.
Of note, the WDE will provide two webinars to help schools and districts navigate the requirements and next steps. The webinars are scheduled for November 8th and 13th. The requirement to report locally is the responsibility of the local school district and the WDE will be available for technical assistance.
The report card is one of the first opportunities for the public to view school performance under the updated accountability system and how schools are meeting the needs of specific student groups such as English Learners (ELs).
STATE ESSA PLANS
The final state ESSA plan was recently approved. (Wyoming’s plan was approved in January of this year–link to news release.) As the nation is now fully immersed in the implementation phase of ESSA, many are reflecting on the planning process in states. One thing Wyoming took to heart during the planning process was stakeholder engagement. Because of the input we received, our state plan was reflective of diverse views and aligned with other education reform efforts.
Recently, the Collaborative for Student Success analyzed every state ESSA plan and found nearly 2,000 mentions of stakeholder organizations throughout the plans. The Collaborative sent a survey to stakeholder organizations, and 400 responded to the survey.
81% of survey respondents said they had great or some opportunity to provide feedback.
82% of survey respondents said they were either “very engaged” or “somewhat engaged” in the development of the state’s ESSA plan.
75% of survey respondents said they received follow-up information from state officials after the plan was submitted.
In Wyoming, I suspect those numbers would be similar or higher. Stakeholder engagement continues to be an underpinning of all our work with ESSA and other education efforts. We thank you and value our partnership!
Embargoed accountability/school performance reports have been released. Thank you for reviewing, and having principals in your district review, your confidential reports. Thanks to you we’ve been able to make improvements to the report and have gotten great feedback on accountability in general.
It was so exciting to present the new Wyoming Teacher of the Year award to Valerie Bruce from Rozet Elementary School in Campbell County. Mrs. Bruce will represent our state for one year. She will take a deep dive into education policy at the national level, work with other state teachers of the year, and advocate for education.