Category Archives: Uncategorized

Buffalo’s Financial Literacy Program

Dear Superintendents,

We’ll be brief this week, as it is summertime and the readership is probably minimal at this point.  Nonetheless, I hope you’re finding some time off and away, and have some great vacation plans ahead of you. Happy summer!

Vision & Focus

Because of the inherently independent character of the Wyoming people, our state and our schools are poised to lead the nation in education on several fronts: (1) remaining focused like a laser beam on the purpose of education, which is rooted in its long-standing and timeless purpose, summed up in four words: ‘to learn to think;’ (2) the priority of education, which is represented by the three key parties of education: parents, teachers and students, and that crucial relationship between each; and (3)  the purview of education, which is about state sovereignty and local control – when this is surrendered, we give up our identity, values, culture and future. More on each next time …

The Primary Priority   

The application to request participation in the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship pilot went out to district superintendents on June 15. The three school districts chosen will be notified by July 8, and will begin collaboration with the WDE and PTSB this summer to stand up the local program. We are excited to see several applications coming in already. The WTA Advisory Group will be meeting on June 28th to receive an update on progress and provide input.

In the Spotlight

Financial literacy is critical to a successful transition from high school to the ‘real world.’ At Cloud Peak Elementary in Buffalo, they start them early. Cloud Peak fourth grade teacher Jamie Irish recently shared highlights of the school’s Mini Bank system with the Wyoming State Board of Education. Started in 2016, the bank currently has 202 active accounts between its elementary and middle school customers. The bank is a collaboration between the school and First Interstate Bank in Buffalo, and savings accounts offer 4% interest up to $10,000 in a student’s account. Interest paid on amounts over $10,000 is applied at the bank’s regular interest rate.

Every Wednesday is ‘bank day’ and you’ll see students come to school early just to submit their deposits (imagine that). Fifth grade Mini Bank directors are in place and prepared to receive the students’ deposits, provide a receipt and reports on how their money is doing. The Mini Bank is only available through eighth grade, after which they open a standard savings account with First Interstate Bank or move their money elsewhere. Although the system does help students grow a little nest egg, the biggest perk of the Mini Bank is that students learn about money and finances through experience. Thank you Jamie and Cloud Peak Elementary school, you’re in the spotlight this week for empowering your students to take ownership of their financial future.

Mark Your Calendars

In partnership with Marzano Research, the WDE will offer a second opportunity for educators and leaders to come together in a regional session and explore the pandemic effect on achievement. Schools and Districts are encouraged to register a team of up to eight participants to attend these face-to-face events. These events are from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., with a working lunch (provided). Register here.

Monday memos:



Statement from Wyoming Superintendent Schroeder on Title IX Funding Mandate

CHEYENNE – “As Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, I wish to denounce in the strongest terms possible, the Biden Administration’s recent reinterpretation of the USDA’s Title IX funding to update its nondiscrimination policies and signage ‘to include prohibitions against discriminations based on gender identity and sexual orientation.’

“Though unsurprising, it is nonetheless both disheartening and astounding that our federal government could become so cynical as to tie the school lunches of little kids to its ever-relentless agenda of social engineering.

“Arrogance and disrespect are usually two sides of the same coin – and here you have a generous supply of both. This is not about discrimination, it is about control and manipulation, it is about forcing post-modernist thinking on people who refuse to embrace the same, and it is about imposing a value system on the majority of Wyomingites whose faith or common sense inform them differently. It is, on its face, an egregious, albeit subtle, form of discrimination in its own right.

“Federal overreach knows no bounds, and to hold our kids hostage in this manner is not only morally repugnant, but another breathtaking display of political ideology run amok.”

“In any other world, this would be sized up for exactly what it is: extortion. I only hope that ‘We the People’ have the stomach to stand up to it, because it won’t stop until the people say ‘enough.’ If we don’t, we will be guilty of enabling an overbearing and oppressive federal government that is completely out of control.”

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

A Vision for Wyoming Schools


Hope this finds you all well! As you continue to guide our Wyoming schools, be sure to let us know how we can help or get out the way, whichever is needed. The WDE stands ready to serve, and the hard-working staff here will leave no stone unturned in helping you make our schools the best possible and our students the highest-achieving possible.

In this edition of the Update, we will continue unpacking (layer by layer) a vision for Wyoming Schools, reporting on our most pressing initiative, spotlighting some of the great work and great people here at the WDE, and sharing briefly about some of the latest district visits. It will also include our usual calendar notation as well as the regular chief memos.

Vision & Focus

Wyoming is poised to lead the nation in education. As stated before, that doesn’t mean it will, it just means it could. There is something deep within the DNA and character of Wyoming people that sets the stage for a model of education that could be the envy of our entire country.

An example of this happened during the COVID-19 pandemic: why did the Cowboy State lead the nation in the most in-person class time of any state in the Union? When outside forces put on the pressure to shut down our schools, the people of Wyoming put on the pressure to keep them open.

So Wyoming schools begin to take the lead when they doggedly resist the cultural pressure to go in the same direction that thousands of other schools in the country are going. If this is Wyoming’s destiny, it will become one of Wyoming’s greatest legacies. Let’s make it happen!

The Primary Priority   

The Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative continues to make progress. The WDE, PTSB and other Work Group members have begun drafting a framework to present to the Governor and an Advisory Group in mid-May. Both the Work Group and the Advisory Group represent the key stakeholders in our state that will be needed to bring this initiative forward.

In the Spotlight

What an honor it was to meet this week with Major General Gregory Porter and some of his staff to hear about the good things the Wyoming Military Department (WYMD) is doing in our state, especially as it relates to our schools and the WDE. Besides the important contribution of the Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy with at-risk students, the WYMD will launch its second year of the Educator Leadership Rendezvous (ELR) this summer, on August 3-5.

During this three-day event, the WYMD will host around 40 Wyoming educators, counselors and principals at Camp Guernsey. The camp will focus on building partnerships with the WDE through various activities and presentations conducted by WYMD personnel.

Participants not only develop a stronger sense of connectedness and a deeper appreciation for each other’s respective roles, but professional educators will come away with a more acute awareness of some of the opportunities that the WYMD provides to students. They will also come to better recognize how the WYMD further supports service members while in college and during their careers, all the while preserving military readiness.

With the steep decline in military enlistments not only in our state but across the country, we want to do everything we can to promote patriotism in our schools and increase interest in the high honor of serving one’s country through military service. This is one very significant way to do that.

Mark Your Calendars

The 2022 Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference seeks engaging virtual session proposals from educators in kindergarten through postsecondary education that will be delivered in an online format. Proposals are open now through May 13, 2022. Register here.

Monday Memos



Weekly Update, a New Focus

Greetings District Superintendents,

I wish to start by saying thank you again for your dedication to making each of your districts the best they can possibly be. It can be lost on most people, I know, the long hours you put in and how difficult your job is. Hang in there, and take care of yourself. Everything rises and falls on leadership – and you are the leaders of our educational communities that are preparing the future of America. Stay encouraged, you are doing great work.

This week, we are introducing a new format for this weekly communique. The look, as well as some new components will reflect a fresh start and new direction here at the WDE. As always, your feedback will be coveted and appreciated. I hope it will be helpful.

Vision & Focus

Future entries in this space will unveil – layer by layer, week by week – a vision for our Wyoming schools that will (hopefully) not only serve to sharpen our collective focus, but also help to reinforce a model of education that is consistent with the DNA and character of the good people of Wyoming.

In this edition, we’ll begin by restating an audacious possibility that has been referenced a couple times in other venues over the past two months: Wyoming is poised to lead the nation in education. That doesn’t mean it will, it just means it could – and if it could, it should. Is this a hollow Pollyannaish platitude, or a big-picture vision rooted in reality?  Hold that thought … to be continued.

The Primary Priority   

This new section will keep our singular most urgent statewide educational challenge front-and-center, until the problem is solved. In the last two years, that would have been the COVID-19 pandemic; presently, it is the crisis of the nationwide teacher shortage.

Learning everything we can about the best recruitment and retention strategies from those “in the trenches” (here at home), as well as from the innovative work going on in other states, we will seek to aggressively pursue and develop multiple break-the-mold pathways to the teaching profession. This could come via some very successful customized teacher-apprenticeship models, and/or some incredibly fruitful “grow-your-own” teacher residency programs. If Tennessee can go from 1,000-1,200 teacher vacancies per year to a waiting list of hundreds, so can we.

Please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts and ideas as we make this our primary priority.  Just as our schools function better when they listen closely and carefully to the parents as the owners of the schools, so we here at the WDE will function better as we listen closely and carefully to Wyoming’s professional educators. You can send that feedback directly to  More next week.

On the Road, In The Field

On April 8, I was given the opportunity to speak to more than 1,500 young people at the annual FFA Convention in Cheyenne. Besides the incredible energy level in that place (they were having so much fun), I was immediately struck by how gracious and respectful these FFA teenagers were. Their kindness and natural humility was for me a refreshing flashback to another more innocent time in this country, and reinforced again the emerging conviction that Wyoming – in many ways – is still what all of America used to be.

As I told the group that night, I have always been – and will always be – a big fan of the FFA, not only because there are some things you can’t learn in a classroom, but also because, in a society addicted to change for change’s sake, there are still some things, thankfully, that never change – FFA is one enduring example.

Mark Your Calendars

The Quantum Science Summer School at Casper College is set for July 10-23, 2022. The school is under the direction of Dr. Marlan Scully, a Casper native and member of the National Academy of Science. The camp will be a high-level summer quantum science program in conjunction with Scully’s colleagues at the National Academy of Science and his lab at Texas A&M University. There is no charge to participate, and dorm housing and food will be provided. Get all the details here.

Monday Memos




Welcome Chief of Staff Chad Auer

Dear Superintendents,

First, I’d like to say how excited I am to be here at the WDE, and that I’m looking forward to meeting and working with each of you in the next several weeks and months.

I’d like to share the good news that I have appointed Chad Auer as Chief of Staff for the agency. Chad has come highly recommended, and even has some past experience with the WDE, specifically with our SPED Division; I’m sure many of you will recognize his name.

I’ve included Chad’s biography here, so those of you who might not know him can learn a bit more about his extensive experience and personal background. His first day will be today – and he will hit the ground running, as the Wyoming Legislature opens its 2022 budget session today as well.

Memos to be released today:



Brian Schroeder
Superintendent of Public Instruction

Wyoming Senators Driskill and Dockstader Join State Superintendent Jillian Balow to Lead Fight Against Critical Race Theory in Wyoming

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This release has been updated to include a link to the draft legislation, as well as a link to the full media conference.)

CHEYENNE – Wyoming Senator Ogden Driskill will introduce state legislation to fight back against Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Wyoming; with Senate President Dan Dockstader co-sponsoring the bill.

Driskill’s Civics Transparency Act is currently in draft form with the Legislative Service Office. Driskill said his bill gives “parents the tools to know what is being taught in their children’s classrooms and prevents the indoctrination found in the critical race theory curriculum that has been pushed by the far-left and has found its way into some classrooms.”

The public can read the draft legislation here. They can watch the full media conference here.

Driskill’s efforts will establish Wyoming as a leader among states in keeping critical race theory out of classrooms while ensuring full transparency as to what is being taught on a day-to-day basis.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, an outspoken critic of Critical Race Theory and the Biden Administration’s push to incorporate it into K-12 classroom curriculum, supports the Civics Transparency Act.

“K-12 classrooms are not an appropriate forum for radical political theory such as CRT,” she said. “But it is not enough as state leaders to say what shouldn’t be taught, we also need to help school districts with what should be taught. That is why this bill is so critical. This bill empowers parents with the tools they need to oversee what is being taught in their district and provides guidance to districts on comprehensive U.S. history and civics instruction.”

“We cannot stand by and let America’s history be rewritten,” Senate President Dockstader said. “We honor facts, we learn history, good and bad, and we recognize that Wyoming is the Equality State.”

Driskill said he intends for this legislation to “reinforce that no one race is inherently better or worse than the other, but that in America the human race is just as the U.S. Constitution says — equal.

“To prepare Wyoming students for their future, they must learn how to create opinions and ideologies on their own terms, based on factual knowledge of history, rather than on the terms of Nancy Pelosi, the far-left, and Hollywood,” Driskill added.

Background: The Civics Transparency Act provides for civics curriculum and materials to be published on school district websites so that parents and taxpayers can review them before the school year begins. The Act also expands guidance on teachings about the US and Wyoming constitutions, and the American ideal that discrimination against anyone for their immutable characteristics or religion is wrong.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

State Releases Assessment Results

CHEYENNE – Results for the third administration of the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP) are now available online.

Wyoming successfully administered the state assessments to 96.46% of students in the spring of 2021. Compared to the 2019 results, there was a slight decrease in student proficiency rates for all content areas and grade levels, with the exception of grade 9 math. However, the student performance in 2021 was consistent with the first administration in 2018, which set the baseline for performance expectation.

“I am enthused about our participation rate,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “State assessment data represent the hard work taking place in every classroom in Wyoming. That was hard to accomplish in states that did not have in-person school.”





WY-TOPP is administered through an adaptive online platform. Students in grades 3-10 took WY-TOPP summative assessments for math and English language arts. Grade 4, 8, and 10 students were also assessed in science through a fixed-form online assessment. Students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 were assessed in writing. More information is available here.

“WY-TOPP gives us useful data on where we were statewide last spring, but the most important assessment information is still what teachers gather in their classroom,” Balow said. “Together, this information will help us make sure we move all students forward from the educational disruption caused by the pandemic.”

All data for WY-TOPP and the Wyoming Alternate Assessment (WY-ALT) are now available. However, changes in enrollment and areas of low participation have limited the comparability and representativeness of the results for some student groups. Students eligible for free and reduced lunch, virtual education students, and some ethnic groups were impacted.

Unlike other years, these assessment results will not be used for accountability purposes. Wyoming received a waiver from federal accountability requirements and the State Board of Education approved exceptions from the state accountability requirements, meaning no accountability determinations will be made for the 2020-21 school year.

Assessment FAQ

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

Congratulations to WY U.S. Presidential Scholars

Dear Superintendents,

During visits to Wyoming schools this week I met with students and parents to gather stakeholder input about using the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, as required by law. The conversations were insightful and sincere. Thank you for generously scheduling the visits and welcoming me into schools. It is always an honor.

Monthly data from the NAEP 2021 School Survey were released for March – Wyoming is included.

Broadband Assistance Program for Families

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is managing an assistance program to ensure all students have access to broadband internet. More information about who qualifies and how to participate can be found here

Several new resources of note:

  • The Education Commission of the States (ECS) will host a webinar series, Data Privacy Lessons from the Pandemic Virtual Series
  • A newly developed website,, provides local and state leaders with evidence-based practices for implementing quality afterschool and summer enrichment programs and help meet the American Rescue Plan (ARP) goals of addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. 

mr b

Mr. Bahige is Wyoming’s National Distinguished Principal and leads Rawhide Elementary in Gillette. His school has been implementing a Spanish immersion program for 4 years.

May is Military Appreciation Month

Plan ahead for next school year.  This website is a good tool to help organize school or district support for current military members, veterans, and families in your community.


Memos to be released on Monday, May 17:

Blue Balow Signature

Superintendent Balow Releases Smart Start Guidance for Fall School Reopenings

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow released the Smart Start guidance document Wednesday at a joint press conference with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. The guidance provides requirements, recommendations, and considerations based on three tiers of possible reopening and operating scenarios schools may face this fall.

“Our efforts to adapt to the COVID-19 environment have been immense over the last three months,” Superintendent Balow said. “Today, as we look to open schools in the fall, I am confident that we will be successful and also transform our school system for the better.”

Each school district will be required to submit their Smart Start plan to the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) by August 3, 2020. These plans must include how they will meet the requirements for all three tiers of operation in four focus areas: communications, safety and wellness, school operations, and instruction and technology. This preparation will allow districts to continue safely and effectively operating schools no matter which tier of operation they are in based on state or local health orders.

The Smart Start Working Group was created by the Governor’s COVID-19 Education Task Force to develop guidance to assist school and district leaders in their efforts to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year. The group consists of school district leaders and educators, health professionals, representatives from the Governor’s Office, and technology partners. The Working Group is co-chaired by Wanda Maloney, Wyoming Department of Education Accountability Director and Stephanie Pyle, Senior Administrator of the Public Health Division with the Wyoming Department of Health.

“Now more than ever, school districts have the opportunity to strengthen community relationships by crafting reopening plans that include frequent two-way communication. Effective communication plans will be the cornerstone for successfully reopening school buildings and delivering a quality education to all students under any circumstances.” said Communications Subcommittee Chair Lachelle Brant.

“Beginning in March, health and education had to come together in ways no one could have imagined just a few weeks prior,” said Safety and Wellness Subcommittee Chairperson Janet Farmer. “Through the Safety and Wellness subcommittee, we have worked to make sure the school environment will be a healthy place.”

The guidance document will help school districts define a foundation and framework to move forward with an eye toward adaptability.

“Our team’s goal was to provide a blueprint of ideas to help districts develop school reentry plans to ensure a meaningful, equitable, and safe learning environment for all students,” said Instruction and Technology Subcommittee Chair Brian Harms.

“School Operations undergirds all the critical work in a school district ensuring students get to school safely and on time, that they are fed nutritious meals, and that our students learn in safe and inviting environments,” said School Operations Subcommittee Chair Paige Hughes. “Input from different-sized districts from all across the state has informed a targeted set of requirements and recommendations to help support district leaders in opening their schools in a way that allows optimal learning while keeping students and staff healthy.

Smart Start Guidance Document

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director

Superintendent’s Update – May 4, 2020

Dear Superintendents,

This week’s memos are a blend of business as usual, with modifications to accommodate the times, and new information.

Memos to be released on May 4:

  • 2020-065:   EARLY RELEASE –  2020 Summer Learning Opportunities for Students
  • 2020-066:   2018-19 Postsecondary Readiness and WDE950 Student Transcript Review
  • 2020-067:   2021 Teacher of the Year Application Extension and New Process
  • 2020-068:   2018-19 WAEA Exception Form Available Now