Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

– END –

Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

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.”

 

graf1


graf2

 

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

– END –

Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

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, HelpKidsRecover.org, 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

– END –

Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

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

Governor Gordon and State Superintendent Jillian Balow issue a recommendation on school closures

Earlier today the Office of Governor Mark Gordon issued the following release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 15, 2020

CONTACT: Michael Pearlman, Communications Director
307.777.7437 | michael.pearlman@wyo.gov

Governor Gordon and State Superintendent Jillian Balow issue a recommendation on school closures

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Due to the unprecedented circumstances facing our state, Governor Mark Gordon and State Superintendent Jillian Balow recommend that all schools remain closed to students through at least April 3. This is a recommendation to local superintendents and school boards, who will make the final decisions on closures. Additionally, decisions relating to the requirement for school district staff to report to work remain with local school boards of trustees. Governor Gordon and Superintendent Balow will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments throughout this three-week period, with the goal of getting students back to classrooms as soon as safely possible.

This recommendation is not necessarily based on epidemiological best practices but is an attempt to allow schools and communities to prepare to operate in a way that mitigates community spread of COVID-19 and minimizes negative economic impacts locally and statewide.

“This is Wyoming, where we are all neighbors,” Governor Gordon said. “While social distancing should be a priority for all of us, it should not keep us from helping out our neighbors. I am thinking of our first responders and healthcare workers on the frontlines who may be without child care. This is a time, if the risk is low, to help one another out.”

The Governor and State Superintendent urge district leadership to work within their schools and communities to ensure the continuity of learning and essential services as determined locally. “In the midst of this pandemic, communities need the latitude, empowerment, and support to make difficult decisions that affect education, economy, and essential functions,” Governor Gordon continued.  “While we safeguard the health of every person we must also do our best to continue our daily work for the economic security of our state and nation.”

“Evidence of community spread in Fremont County, two confirmed cases in Sheridan County, and pending tests from across the state have led us to this,” Superintendent Balow said. “Wyoming has over 90,000 square miles where schooling is an essential function in each community – the decision is difficult.”

Social distancing, basic hygiene, and heightened disinfection efforts continue to be the primary means to contain COVID-19 spread. We strongly encourage everyone to continue these practices. Local school districts continue to be empowered to make decisions in consultation with the State Department of Health and local health care officials as to closure and other containment strategies.

Governor Gordon, Superintendent Balow, the State Health Officer, and others will continually evaluate COVID-19 data, guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and other reliable information to make additional recommendations.

-CDC guidance and other resources are available at https://edu.wyoming.gov/. The State Superintendent is exploring her ability to hold districts harmless from any financial reduction as a result of this ten instructional day loss. In addition, the Wyoming Department of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools to offer student meals during school closures. For more information, visit: https://edu.wyoming.gov/educators/covid-19-resources/

-END-

The Legislative Session Kicked Off Last Week

Dear Superintendents,

The legislative session kicked off last week. Here is a link to Governor Gordon’s State of the State Address:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKUrbgfoEYI#action=share

Since this is a 20-day budget session, bills need two-thirds vote to be introduced and the work moves swiftly. In addition to the budget bill, there are a handful of education bills–some of which have been introduced. Here are a few:

HB40 – Select Committee on Recalibration- By law, Wyoming re-examines education funding every five years. We rightfully invest a lot into our K-12 system and we also need to take the time to ensure that the system we are investing in provides our students with the best probability of success in school and beyond. With our funding situation and the realization that we haven’t made any substantial changes to the core content of our basket of goods, other than computer science, since the mid-1990s, it is time to rethink what we ask of school districts in law. I am advocating for a recalibration of costs and an examination of the basket of goods.

HB119 – Medicaid claims in schools. We are the only state in the country that ignores this revenue stream and it is the only proposed cost-saving measure that would not cut services for students. Over the past year, the WDE and Dept. of Health have studied the best way to implement Medicaid reimbursement for school-based services with minimal administrative burden on school districts. This bill is in line with those recommendations.

SF79 – Student safety and school security. In 2019 I supported a school safety and security bill that did not make it over the finish line. SF79 helps Wyoming accomplish the goal of every school and district having a threat assessment protocol in place. The bill has been pared down to allow enough flexibility for districts and has been vetted by a stakeholder group of superintendents from small, medium, and large school districts.

SJ1 – Firearm and hunter education elective in high schools. This is an issue near and dear to my heart as an avid hunter who learned hunter safety in PE class.

fccla

FCCLA members Gracelyn Troxell and Sophia DeMatteo from East High in Cheyenne, along with advisers Maureen Eldridge and Jessica Gerwig, came to the WDE to help give teammates a better understanding of the national Career and Technical Student Organization. FCCLA offers intra-curricular resources and opportunities for students to pursue careers that support families.


Dane

Wyoming’s Teacher of the Year, Dane Weaver, is on the Google Campus attending induction with other teachers of the year.

Memos to be released on Tuesday, February 18:

  • 2020-021:   March 2020 WDE684 Data Collection Window and Training
  • 2020-022:   CTE Construction Trades Sector Connector March 25
  • 2020-023:   2020-21 Virtual Education Program Information
  • 2020-024:   WAPSD Public Meeting Set For March 17

jillian_signature

Wyoming High School Graduation Rate Improves for Sixth Year

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) announced today that high school graduation rates increased to 82.1% in 2018-19, marking the sixth consecutive year of improvement from the class of 2013, where 77.6% of students graduated.

Full graduation rate statistics are available here.

“Wyoming has reached the highest graduation rate under this methodology, which was put in place over a decade ago,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “More Wyoming students are prepared to succeed in college careers and military service. Districts have worked hard to increase the number of students who received a diploma, and I am proud of that effort. But we must continue to focus on the 18 percent of students who don’t finish, and work to ensure that high school and earning a diploma is relevant to them.”

GradGraf2

Sixteen Wyoming school districts posted graduation rates of 90 percent or above, up from fifteen districts last year:

  • Lincoln #1: 100.00%
  • Washakie #2: 100.00%
  • Laramie #2: 97.10%
  • Sheridan #1: 96.72%
  • Sublette #9: 96.67%
  • Big Horn #2: 95.92%
  • Platte #2: 95.45%
  • Teton #1: 93.99%
  • Sweetwater #2: 93.52%
  • Unita #6: 92.45%
  • Crook #1: 92.11%
  • Park #6: 92.05%
  • Fremont #24: 91.30%
  • Johnson #1: 91.01%
  • Sublette #1: 90.59%
  • Big Horn #3: 90.00%

Since the 2009-10 school year, the WDE has calculated graduation rates using the Federal Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Methodology established by the U.S. Department of Education, complying with federal law that requires all states to calculate graduation rates the same way. Students are counted in the four-year, “on-time,” high school graduation rate if they earn a diploma by September 15 following their cohort’s fourth year. Five- and six-year graduation rates are also calculated, and can be viewed with the rest of the graduation rate data.

– END –

Media contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053