Category Archives: Uncategorized

WDE Media Conference Tuesday to Discuss 2021-22 Graduation Rates

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) will host a virtual media conference at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, to discuss the 2021-22 Wyoming high school graduation rate. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder and WDE staff will be available to answer media questions.

Media may register in advance here. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the press conference.

Full graduation rate statistics for the 2021-22 school year will be available Tuesday morning. 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, which complies with federal law that requires all states to calculate graduation rates exactly the same. Students are counted in the four-year (or “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.

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

Summer Food Service Programs Available Across Wyoming

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Summer Food Service program for kids offered through the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) served thousands of meals last summer to Wyoming children and teens.

The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded, state-administered program. The program reimburses providers who serve free healthy meals to children and teens during the summer months when school is not in session. In addition to serving food, summer food sites often include activities for students to do during the summer, including crafts and games.

If you are interested in being a serving site, contact WDE Nutrition Programs State Director Carla Bankes at 307-777-6263 or carla.bankes@wyo.gov.

USDA Non-discrimination Statement

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

Superintendent Degenfelder Appoints Former Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler as Boards and Commissions Coordinator

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder has named Karen Wheeler as the Boards and Commissions Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE).

Wheeler began her 37-year career with the Secretary of State’s Office in 1985, and served under seven Secretaries of State. Wheeler finished her career in the Secretary of State’s Office in 2022, serving as the Deputy Secretary of State. She is now a private consultant, and will be staffing and advising the Superintendent on her board and commission work.

“I am thrilled to announce the addition of Karen Wheeler to our leadership team,” Degenfelder said. “One of my top priorities as State Superintendent is to maximize return on state lands and investments for schools and other beneficiaries. Karen’s nearly 40 years of experience in the state’s executive branch, many of which included regular staffing of the State Loan and Investment Board, State Board of Land Commissioners, and State Building Commission for the Secretary of State, will be an invaluable resource on this priority.”

Wheeler started in the Secretary of State’s business division as a registrar, then transferred to the securities division as a financial analyst, where she audited stockbrokers and brokerage firms. She then became the Compliance Division Director in the Secretary of State’s office, and was responsible for the regulation of the investment industry as well as the registered agent industry.

As the Deputy Secretary of State, Wheeler was responsible for all statutory duties and operations of the Secretary of State’s Office, including planning, budget, personnel, staff development, boards and commissions, legislature, and oversight of service to the public. During her time as Deputy, the Secretary of State’s Office received national recognition for their state of the art administrative rules system and blockchain and digital asset regulation.

She  joins a WDE  leadership team that includes Dicky Shanor as Chief of Staff, Wanda Maloney as Chief Policy Officer, Trent Carroll as Chief Operations Officer, Shelley Hamel as Chief Academic Officer, and Linda Finnerty as Communications Director.

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

Partnering with Taiwan

As we continue the transition to a new administration, we have been conducting a series of orientation meetings with our new Superintendent-Elect, Megan Degenfelder, related to the duties and responsibilities of the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and all things WDE.

We remain committed to a smooth transition, as well as Superintendent Degenfelder’s success for the ultimate good of the department and our Wyoming school districts. Feel free to reach out to Megan and offer her a warm welcome, as she prepares to assume the role of this very important and difficult position.


Vision & Focus

Vision is best cultivated and sustained in a contextual framework, and the vision of American education, with deep historical roots in the arts and sciences, boasts not only an impressive intellectual legacy but also an enduring educational model. Though human nature will always want to reinvent the wheel, only short memories propel us to actually do so. Because, indisputably, the arts and the sciences of the Western education tradition are the two rails that have kept the train on the track, and for good reason.

While a contemporary familiarity with both rails typically involves little more than the Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science degrees that we may have earned in college, a look behind the curtain really does provide the context and inspiration for an incredibly visionary academic legacy.

When most of us nowadays hear the word “art,” we think of a painting or sculpture, with brush or chisel nearby. But the backdrop of history gives us a more expansive definition. Since art comes from the Latin word ars, the arts were closer to what we would now call a skill or craft. So it was not surprising to hear about how soldiers were learning the art of war or doctors the art of healing. An art, then, was a craft that you honed, an ability you developed or a skill you mastered.

In like manner, the term “science” is now linked to what we know as the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics). But the Latin root word again sheds light: Scire means “to know or understand” and scientia means knowledge. So science was simply an organized body of knowledge.  In that context, history and literature were as much a science as astronomy was.

This distinction was, and is, enormously significant, and in terms of vision and focus, it gave our Western model of education a formidable substance and balance that can’t be beat to this day.


Partnering with Taiwan

A recent  trip to Taiwan on behalf of the WDE yielded not only a consequential signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding that sealed the deal between Taiwan and Wyoming regarding a robust future Teacher/Student Exchange, but also an amazing look behind-the-scenes at the educational, cultural and geopolitical dynamics of a very impressive country and people.

Determined to make English the primary language for their students and their future, the Taiwanese educational leadership is extremely focused, motivated and excited about their schools forming partnerships with our Wyoming schools. The stage is set, therefore, for some wonderful student and teacher exchanges for both parties that will, no doubt, enrich the school systems and lives of both peoples.


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In the Spotlight

Jessica Kavitz’s young students rarely sit still — and that’s by design. Kavitz, who teaches kindergarten at Meadowlark Elementary in Buffalo, knows that movement engages students’ brains and helps them process and retain information. She borrows basketballs and other sports equipment from the school gym to coordinate with books the class is reading and encourages students to hop, leap, crawl and do push-ups as they move through learning stations. Interspersing physical activities like cup-stacking and agility ladders with reading, writing and math tasks helps Kavitz “wake up” her young learners’ brains as they absorb and master new skills. Kavitz takes a project-based approach that includes trips to the park and other local attractions, often on foot.

For all of her amazing work, Jessica was chosen as this year’s Wyoming recipient of the Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize. Kavitz is among up to 40 elementary educators across the nation who will receive the Milken Educator Award during the 2022-23 school year, and the first recipient from Johnson County School District #1 in the history of the award. For that, Jessica Kavitz is ‘In the Spotlight’ this week.

Read more here.


Mark Your Calendars

Join the WDE for the second virtual session in its Wellness Speaker Series, with presenter Shaundalyn Elliott discussing “Self-Care for Educators” from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on December 7, 2022. This two-hour interactive presentation will highlight practical solutions to cope with stressors that surface throughout the school day, as well as outside of the classroom. Since this session will be interactive, participants should bring a pen/pencil and paper for notes. Register here.


Monday memos:

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Sincerely,

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Rest & Recharge

Dear Superintendents,

I hope you were all able to spend time with family and friends over the Thanksgiving Day long weekend. There is no better way to recharge your batteries for the important work you return to today. The WDE is thankful for you and your teams. You all hold the future of Wyoming’s youth in your capable hands.


Mark You Calendars – Today

The WDE is updating the statewide Digital Learning Plan. The WDE, with assistance from Marzano Research, will be hosting listening sessions to learn more from educators, parents, students, and business and community members about how to provide equal access to educational instruction and information.

Join the next virtual listening session from 4:30-5:30 p.m. TODAY. Please share this information with staff and stakeholders.

Register here.


Monday memos:

 

Sincerely,

sig

District Teachers ‘In The Spotlight’

Dear Superintendents,

‘Tis trite but true, teaching is loving – loving both the subjects we teach and the students.  That connection is crucial, because (though just as trite but no less true!), they really don’t care how much we know until they know how much we really care. May we again set out this week to do both well, and may we again discover how true it is that the only thing more interesting than the subjects we teach is the students we teach!


Vision & Focus

Picking up on last week and further illustrating the human propensity for falling into various kinds of “mind blinds,” here is a good question for our classroom teachers to pose to their students at the start of class, just to get their wheels turning:  What is the one word that every Harvard graduate pronounces wrong? (Watch the mind blind overtake them!)

Let them struggle with it for a minute (they’ll typically say Harvard, graduate, word, etc.), then if you want to play with it a bit, follow-up with this question: What is the one word that EVERY college graduate in America (who speaks English) pronounces wrong? After a bit more banter (if you’re enjoying it), end with one final question: What is the one word, in fact, that every high school graduate in America (who speaks English) pronounces wrong?

Once you’ve milked it as much as you dare, write the word WRONG on the board. Then say, “The word that every (English-speaking) Harvard, college and high school graduate in America pronounces wrong is … WRONG!”  Get it?

The salient point here is to simply illustrate how easily we all fall into those pesky mind blinds, and that the purpose of education is to help us break out of the same, by teaching thinking via those core academic disciplines. The other point is that this whole project can be lot’s of fun!


The Primary Priority

If the purpose of education is teaching thinking, then it begins with teaching reading. That’s the foundation, and we must get really good at laying a strong foundation: the literacy of every child in every classroom in every school in every district in every county. This must be our standard and our primary priority, and may we never rest until we meet it.


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Q&A

Question:
If I already work in the school district, do I still need to go through an application process?

Answer:
Yes, the apprentice candidate will apply for a new position with the school district. If selected by the school district, the candidate will be required to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor as well.


In The Spotlight

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The WDE and U.S. Senator John Barrasso celebrated the 2023 District Teachers of the Year last week in Casper. Each district has the opportunity to select an outstanding teacher to represent them as their Teacher of the Year.

For all your efforts, you are ‘In the Spotlight’ this week.

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Mark Your Calendars

The State of Wyoming, Department of Health, Public Health Division has contracted with Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care to conduct the Wyoming Young Adult Survey – now open to Wyoming residents aged 18 to 29.

The survey measures substance use and other health-related behaviors, is anonymous, does not record personally identifying information, and should take about 15 minutes. Participants who complete the survey will be able to enter a drawing for one of twenty-five $25 gift cards and one of two $100 gift cards. Share the survey here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

sig

FAFSA Website is Live

Dear Superintendents,

Having once served in the roles of both a classroom teacher and professional counselor has helped inform the conviction that our work as educators is not only about understanding the subjects we teach, but also the students we teach. We are daily faced with the challenge of bringing them to a better understanding of the subject matter, as well as bringing ourselves to a better understanding of them – a good reminder not only for a new week, but (perhaps) also for a discouraged or frustrated teacher.


Vision & Focus

As suggested in the previous update, the liberal arts of education (the humanities and the languages, math and science, music and logic, etc.) are the liberating arts. They not only can free the mind from ignorance in all its shapes and sizes (pooled ignorance, groupthink, etc), but also help it break out of the myriad of “mind blinds” to which all humans are so susceptible and into which we all so easily fall if left to ourselves.

What is a “mind blind”?  It is that most curious phenomenon when members of the human species struggle to see what is obviously there, or can’t see what is really happening or won’t see what many others see. Sometimes referred to as the Ostrich Syndrome, it most certainly has nothing to do with one’s level of intelligence – some of the smartest people in the world were riddled by mind blinds (Howard Hughes and Antony Flew).

For example, it is not a low I.Q. or a learning disability that develops a mind blind, but things like stubbornness, pride or dishonesty. Propaganda and nefarious ideologies serve only to solidify mind blinds while authentic education challenges and exposes the same. Our role is clearly the latter, consistent with the liberating arts of freedom that comprise and sustain education’s transcendent vision and focus.


The Primary Priority

By the time you read this, my daughter and I will be flying high over the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Rwanda, Africa. We will be working there for 10 days with one of the fastest growing schools in the country on a two-fold mission:  (1) To train their teachers and students in structured literacy, (2) To help them deal with their generational trauma wounds. Concerning the latter, many of these Rwandan youngsters have parents who endured the genocide back in 1994. Consequently, much of their pain and trauma gets passed on to their children.

This will be an effort, therefore, that deals with both the cognitive and the affective – not only the mind, but the emotions as well, reinforcing again both head and heart as the primary priority.


Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Q&A

Question:
When will the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship be available in other school districts besides the pilot districts?

Answer:
The WDE intends to begin conversations with interested districts in Fall 2023. The soonest these districts would be recruiting apprentices would be in Spring 2024. The WDE and pilot districts need time to begin and refine the apprenticeship program once it is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.


In the Spotlight

fafsa

Last year, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) launched a campaign to encourage and support the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The statewide campaign includes digital media, a website, and support tools for schools and communities. UNLOCK YOUR FUTURE…FAFSA IS THE KEY encourages students to unlock the possibilities, and reach the next level in life.

On October 1, 2022 we launched this year’s FAFSA Completion Challenge. The WDE will track FAFSA completion (this will not be based on submission, but confirmed completion) percentage rate by high school, in four size categories just as we did last year. A cash prize of $500 will be awarded to the winning schools in the name of their counselor. Root your school on, students, parents, and school staff can track their progress on the FAFSA website dashboard.

I want to give a shout-out to all our Wyoming high school counselors. Helping students find their pathway forward after graduation is key to their success, and completing the FAFSA is a big part of that. For all your efforts, you are ‘In the Spotlight’ this week.


Mark Your Calendar

Join the Wyoming MTSS Center Tier 2 & 3 in-person training on October 14 at Little America in Cheyenne to learn the essential features of interventions.

Register now before it’s too late.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

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Purple Star Schools

Dear Superintendents,

Leadership is a convictional enterprise – it starts with a purpose, not a plan. Therefore, it is more about what a leader believes than what he or she does. And because ideas have consequences, it makes a difference what a leader believes.

Moreover, it is these convictions that give a leader his or her vision, mission and passion. And from this soil comes other leaders, for good or for ill, affecting generations to come. May we each lead our troops with the sense of direction and conviction that our roles require. May we also find solace in the fact that none of us do it perfectly.


Vision & Focus

Years ago, a tractor trailer truck got stuck while heading into a Boston tunnel. City officials were confused as to how they were going to move it. Some suggested they hire a blasting crew to remove part of the tunnel; others suggested that the roof of the truck and trailer be sawed off.  Meanwhile, traffic was piling up and patience was wearing thin.

Finally, a child stepped forward and suggested they let some air out of the truck tires and back it out to a nearby exit ramp. Needless to say, it worked – the truck was removed and traffic was soon flowing smoothly.

The city officials in this anecdote were taught what to think. The child was taught how to think.


The Primary Priority

This week’s Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Question & Answer session:

Questions: Are mentors compensated for their role, If so, by whom are they compensated? Do mentor teachers go through any training?

Answers: Yes, they will be paid a stipend for mentoring an apprentice. The WDE has some funds set aside to assist the district in covering these stipends while sustainable funding sources are achieved. The WDE and PTSB have resources available for training mentors, and the University of Wyoming launched a Mentor Cohort this past summer. It is a year-long training to build capacity and network of support for mentors.


In the Spotlight

Military children experience many challenges as they relocate to new schools due to a parent’s change in duty station. By establishing statewide Purple Star Schools programs, states can encourage local education agencies to implement practices that assist military children with transitions/deployments and also recognize military service and civic responsibility.

We are especially excited about the work that Ken Reynolds and his team have been doing with this program at the WDE. The Purple Star School program is designed to help schools respond to the educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected children face during their transition to a new school and keep them on track to be college, workforce, and life-ready. Military-connected refers to children of service members on active duty, and in the National Guard and Reserves. And for that, we put Ken, his team, and the Purple Star program “In the Spotlight!”


Mark Your Calendars

Seats at the Wyoming MTSS Center Effective Progress Monitoring in-person training on September 21 at Little America are going fast. Progress monitoring is the use of reliable and valid measures to assess a student’s performance and to quantify a student’s rate of improvement or responsiveness to supplemental instruction and support. During this training, participants will learn the critical elements of a progress monitoring tool and how to analyze progress monitoring data to evaluate a student’s response to instruction/intervention. Participants will evaluate and select progress monitoring tools for their own sites. Claim your spot, and register here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

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Wyoming National Board Certification Initiative

Dear Superintendents,

As we are now past the August 16 election, we want to congratulate Megan Degenfelder on her primary victory for Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction. We also will assure the winner of the November general elections that we will do everything we can to achieve a smooth and successful transition, for the good of the WDE, Wyoming, and most importantly, our schools and our students.

In the meantime, I look forward to the remainder of my term here (four months) and the work that still needs to be done. Besides the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative that is now off the ground, we have in our sights the Wyoming Literacy Campaign (to be officially launched in November), a School Leadership Training Regimen (in the works), and the Tourism & Hospitality Project (in concert with our CTE programs). We are excited about how each of these programs will further position Wyoming to lead the nation in education, reinforcing our vision and focus.


Vision & Focus

The great historic education tradition was about teaching young minds how to learn from others so they could think for themselves. The thrust of Aristotelian logic and the Socratic teaching method was always on developing thinkers. Socrates himself said, “I can’t teach anyone anything, I can only make them think.”


The Primary Priority

Here are the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship questions for this week.

Questions: 

Can districts limit the number of candidates based on available funding? Is there a screening beyond meeting the requirements or qualifications?

Answers:

Yes, districts can have additional considerations for who they select as apprentices beyond the minimum qualifications identified by WDE and PTSB. Apprentice applicants will need a letter of recommendation from a building administrator, and participate in an interview about the apprenticeship. Some of the additional considerations may include: content area staffing needs and apprentice candidates wanting to become licensed in those areas; availability and number of mentors selected and their work load; eligibility of apprentice applicants to enroll in an educator preparation program; or any potential funding limitations.


In the Spotlight

This week, we wish to recognize our very capable Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chad Auer, and commend him for the impressive work he has done on several fronts in the past few months: (1) holding down the fort here at the WDE while I’ve been gone campaigning, (2) traveling the state conducting a series of roundtables reviewing the safety/security of our community schools (see his progress update memo to me here), and (3) representing Wyoming at a national think tank hosted by the Hunt Institute and SAS on Covid-related learning loss (see highlight video here).

As my first hire here at the WDE, Chad has proven to be a huge asset both to our agency and the school districts we serve. He’s a good listener, a careful thinker, articulate communicator, and provides balanced leadership in terms of his work ethic and decision-making skills. Moreover, the counsel he provides on any given issue will always be honest and well-reasoned.

Though he does not like the spotlight, we would be remiss not to put him in it.  His contribution to Wyoming K-12 education in the short time he has been in his role has been significant and we are grateful for his passionate commitment to the work of the WDE. Chad, you are the man, and therefore … You are In The Spotlight!


Heads Up

As indicated in legislation, the $4,000 National Board Certification state stipend is still in place. The Wyoming National Board Certification Initiative will support teachers pursuing certification for the next two candidate cycles (2022-23 and 2023-24 school years). Go here for more information.


Mark Your Calendars

Applications are now being accepted for the United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), a unique educational experience and scholarship opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Senate for outstanding high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in public service.

Find out more information about the program here.

Apply here.


Monday memos:

Sincerely,

BSchroederSig

WDE Promulgating Chapter 44 Rules; Public Comment Open

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education is promulgating Chapter 44 Rules, and now seeks public comment on the proposed rules.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is responsible for collecting data and administering Wyoming’s school finance system pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-2-203(a). In accordance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-13-309(m)(iv)(E)(II), the Department reimburses districts annually for special education programs and services as provided under the rule-making authority in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-13-321(d).

Chapter 44 is necessary to establish the requirements for allowable special education
expenditures for students with disabilities. Districts report these expenditures and claim reimbursement using the WDE401 Special Education Reimbursement collection. Allowable expenditures are limited to the actual costs of providing education to students with disabilities and the necessary support and services that are required by federal law and included in a child’s Individual Education Program (IEP).

Updates to Chapter 44 are proposed to resolve questions that arose in applying the rules and to further refine descriptions of what district expenses are reimbursable. The rules are necessary to maintain the integrity of the school finance system.

The comment window is open from August 15, 2022 to October 4, 2022.

Submit a public comment, review the Statement of Reasons and the rule changes here or here.

A public hearing will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 via Zoom; register for the public hearing here.

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