Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to greet members of the Wyoming Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) during their spring meeting. What an outstanding group of education leaders! Here are a few points from my remarks:
The staff at WDE consistently demonstrates professionalism, expertise, and commitment in all they do–they are amazing! We know our success depends on our ability to partner with you–our school districts are essential team members!
Since taking office in 2015, WDE has lost over 10% of our staff due to budget reductions. Almost every line item in our general fund and foundation budgets has been reduced, totaling millions. We will continue to meet our core and critical mission of supporting school districts and we are grateful to have you as partners.
As the legislative session winds down, we have seen a spectrum of solutions that attempt to address the education funding shortfall—everything from raising taxes 5%+ so no cuts are needed to fundamentally changing the way education funding is prioritized. This spectrum of ideas underscores the crisis and has every Wyoming legislator invested in the challenge. No matter what funding legislation makes it to the “finish line” I think we can count on recalibration commencing almost immediately after the session. This is where you come in.
It is critical that education leaders, superintendents, board members, business managers, and others come to the table with solutions that are incremental and truly address the enormity of the shortfall.
Aside from funding, there is important legislative and policy work moving Wyoming education forward.
The U.S. Department of Education has formally directed state superintendents to continue moving forward with assertive timelines for ESSA implementation.
As changes related to Title funding formulas and programs are analyzed by our staff we will communicate that to you, the districts. We don’t anticipate state allocations changing but may see changes in formulas for local districts.
Only in Wyoming
Yesterday was the 100th birthday of the Smith-Hughes Act which created Vocational Education, now known as Career and Technical Education, or CTE. Earlier in the day, our CTE supervisor, Guy Jackson, bumped into the Senator at the bakery and invited him for cake. And, in a tale fit for Wyoming, Senator Enzi stopped by WDE to help us celebrate. Senator Enzi is a champion for education and CTE and we thank him dearly for visiting and for his work!
ESSA State Plan
I shared with WASBO members and others this week that Wyoming is moving forward with our ESSA state plan and full implementation of the new law. The timeline is assertive but we owe our teachers and students a finalized ESSA plan by the beginning of school year 2017-18. There are multiple areas within the state plan that need to be developed or articulated including our standards, assessments, accountability, federal dollars, alignment of local and state reform efforts, professional development, innovations, partnerships, and more. No decision is made unilaterally or in a vacuum. Thank you for your continued willingness to participate in the process along with many other stakeholders in Wyoming education. We have many strengths to leverage and we are doing just that. Please visit our website for more information, updates, and drafts.
This was a week of education celebrations in Wyoming. It was a pleasure to attend several of the events.
Congratulations to the Blue Ribbon Schools:
Southside Elementary School in Worland
Fort Caspar Academy in Casper
Wilson Elementary School in Wilson
Also, Lingle-Fort Laramie Elementary School cut the ribbon to open their new school.
Finally, the prevention and safety app, Safe2Tell, rolled out in Casper (pilot district). The app replaces the WeTip program and will be available in all schools within six months.
Thank you for the great attendance at the ESSA Roundtable held in Casper. Recall that Wyoming was one of several states to host a listening session attended by the US Department of Education. The topic was implementation of the new law in our state. We were very pleased with the content, depth, and variety of questions and comments. The meeting was streamed and will be available on our website shortly. The Powerpoint will also be available. A new set of listening sessions begins next week. The meetings will primarily be held at community colleges. This is one more opportunity to provide input on how ESSA should be implemented at the local level. All are invited to attend these listening sessions. The WDE will reach out to personally invite higher education, business and industry, and local government officials. Thank you, in advance, for helping spread the word. Here is a link to the dates and the media release.
NAEP SCORES were released this week. To see how Wyoming and the nation did, follow this link.
The roundtable discussion with the United States Department of Education is next week in Casper. This is an important opportunity for Wyoming and I encourage you to attend and bring parents, board members, educators, community partners, and even students to the event. Here is a link to the press release with additional information.
Planning for the implementation of ESSA in Wyoming continues to move forward on several fronts. Namely, the WDE is actively soliciting and receiving meaningful input from a variety of stakeholders. Almost every day, new information is added to the ESSA link on our website. Here is a timeline of historical and upcoming milestones:
June – Aug 2016: First round of public input
July 2016: Internal Design Team convenes
Sept 2016: Internal Design Team begins writing state plan
Recently, Secretary of State Ed Murray held the first Wyoming Youth Voter Summit–only a small percentage of eligible voters aged 18-24 actually vote. During this event, several Wyoming leaders learned about the Every Kid Votes campaign. This is a fast-approaching opportunity for our K-8 students to “cast their votes” for the upcoming election. “Election Day” is November 1. The Responsibility Foundation will host a training webinar for Wyoming next Wednesday, October 26, at 10:00 AM. If you are interested in this opportunity for any of your schools, please have a facilitator or administrator reach out to the Responsibility Foundation:
Here is a statement from Governor Mead on the topic:
I encourage all Wyoming schools and students to participate in the “Every Kid Votes” mock election on November 1. We all have an obligation to study the issues and the candidates, and every American should vote. “Every Kid Votes” offers an opportunity for our school children to learn about civic responsibility and the precious right to vote.
President Ronald Reagan said, “The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties and we will not see its luster diminished.” Its luster is brightest when every person participates fully in the democratic process. I support this effort to help our kids learn more about that process.
CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) is offering multiple ways for the public to give more input on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A statewide listening tour and an online survey have been launched to continue stakeholder engagement on the implementation of ESSA in Wyoming.
“This really is an effort to continue the stakeholder engagement we began this summer with the virtual town halls,” said State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “We know that in order to build the best plan for Wyoming, we must hear from the people in our state about what they want from their public education system.”
Dec. 8: Laramie County Community College, Center for Conferences and Institutes Room 121, Cheyenne
All listening sessions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
The online survey is available at edu.wyoming.gov/essa through December 31, 2016 to gather further input, as is a link to volunteer to be on an ESSA Work Group, and information on the transition timeline and public input gathered so far.
CHEYENNE – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi and State Superintendent Jillian Balow announced today that officials from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) will participate in a Community Roundtable on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) at Casper College on October 26.
“Due to Senator Enzi’s major role in overhauling No Child Left Behind and getting us to ESSA, Wyoming is one of a handful of states that the USED is visiting in person to hold a discussion on what it will look like in practice. We appreciate their willingness to travel to Casper and listen to our concerns related to federal education policy and how it affects rural states like Wyoming.” said Superintendent Balow.
Senator Enzi will be unable to attend the roundtable, but adds, “When Congress passed this new education law, our intent was clear – we want authority of education policy to rest with the states. The U.S. Department of Education needs to heed this directive in its implementation process. I am pleased that the department chose Wyoming as a state to visit, we have a lot of insight to share.”
USED officials will participate in a listening session in which the public is invited to share ideas and provide meaningful input on how ESSA affects Wyoming and rural states. In addition, staff from the Wyoming Department of Education will collect input specific to the development of Wyoming’s plan for implementation of ESSA.
The Community Roundtable will go from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in CS-160 Nichols Auditorium at Casper College.
The WDE continues to welcome new educators and subject matter experts into key positions—our team grows stronger every day! First, Shelley Hamel joins us as the new Director of School Support. She previously served as the Special Education Director in Douglas—her leadership is a mainstay in Wyoming education and we are fortunate to have her lead work in CTE, federal programs, and more. Next, Laurie Hernandez was appointed as the Interim Director of Standards and Assessment. She successfully led the science standards committee work –she’s the right person to lead staff and stakeholders through this transition. Mike Flicek, who works with WDE on a number of data and assessment projects, will temporarily fill the role of assessment administrator. We intend to conduct a national search for a new assessment administrator. Meanwhile, Laurie and Mike will oversee the RFP and statewide assessment procurement work.
Upcoming ESSA Roundtable
We are nearly finished planning the ESSA roundtable with the United States Department of Education. As you’ll recall, the USDOE selected Wyoming as one of seven states to seek feedback from during a “listening session.” Here is a tentative agenda for the event. It will be held October 26 at Casper College. Please plan to attend and invite others to join you. This is a unique opportunity for Wyoming’s education voice to be heard.
Rural Education Forum
This week I attended a convening for rural education. Chiefs from rural states met in Ohio to discuss ESSA implementation, Native American education, equity in rural states, teachers as leaders, and more. I am enthused about the direction we are headed as a nation and grateful to have strong State Chiefs in rural states. The next president of CCSSO is South Dakota’s Melody Schopp and I expect to see rural education leaders continue to have a distinct voice at the table.
WeTip to Safe2Tell
Below is a memo for Wyoming Safe-2-Tell. This program REPLACES the WeTip program. Please advise building principals and/or school safety coordinators to remove WeTip posters and information. The Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General’s Office, the Wyoming Legislature, and the WDE have worked for quite some time to put this program in place and we are all anxious to roll it out.
Teachers Hunt and More
Finally, last week was the 4th Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. It was an honor to co-chair the event with Chief Justice Marilyn Kite. The event is also a fundraiser for the Wyoming Women’s Foundation which lends its support to self-sufficiency among women by providing resources, scholarships, and information. 37 of 45 hunters filled their tags. I gave lots of shout outs to the teachers who hunted, guided, and/or volunteered. It was very neat to have educators at the event!
CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) released school performance ratings today. The state accountability measure shows that over half of Wyoming schools are meeting or exceeding expectations.
“This year we have more schools meeting or exceeding expectations than ever before,” said State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “We’ve seen schools and communities focus their efforts on proven practices and take advantage of what is working in our top districts. These improvements are something to be very proud of as we look to create opportunities for students to keep Wyoming strong.”
This data does not include school performance ratings for Wyoming’s 21 alternative high schools. An alternative high school accountability model is being piloted during the 2016-17 school year.
Under the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act, schools serving grades 3-8 are rated on achievement, growth, and equity indicators. Indicators for high schools also include graduation rates, 9th grade credits earned, and Hathaway Scholarship eligibility. Before the next legislative session, the Advisory Committee to the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability will recommend an additional indicator for the state accountability model as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
“Wyoming has a strong accountability system and ESSA gives us a chance to make it even better,” said former State Superintendent Judy Catchpole. “As chair of the Advisory Committee, we are working diligently to ensure that Wyoming students remain our first priority as we transition into this new federal law.”
As part of Wyoming’s transition to ESSA, the WDE did not make federal accountability determinations this year. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) does not exist under ESSA. For the 2016-17 transition year, schools and districts identified as being in improvement under No Child Left Behind will remain in their current improvement status for the next year. Once ESSA is fully implemented, Wyoming will use its state accountability model to make both state and federal accountability determinations.
The purpose of this meeting is to continue the Advisory Committee’s interim work in response to directives from the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability, including formulating and finalizing potential changes to the authorizing statute for the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Those changes will be presented at the September 21st meeting of the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability.
We are excited to report a successful Coders of the West pilot that connects K-16 students with industry in a project-based computer coding “camp.” I had the opportunity to speak to the aspiring coders and one student asked the all important question, “Why did you choose coding as an education initiative?” My response was along this line:
The ability to code is a skill that indicates a student is literate in what is “behind the curtain” on our computers and smart phones. It’s a skill that is becoming more sought after by higher education, business, and industry. As Wyoming looks for ways to diversify its economy, we need look no further than our future; our students. When we equip students with skills for tomorrow’s world, like coding, diversification is organic. The work to grow technology as a viable economic sector in our state is underway with facilities and upstarts like NCAR, Microsoft, Greenhouse Data, Gannett Peak, Ptolemy, and others. Coding for all students and intensive pathways of advanced coding for some students is the goal and Coders of the West helps build the momentum around this initiative.
Coders continues this week and ten students have elected to be mentored by industry partners throughout the school year.
The WDE recently released the 2017 Wyoming Digital Learning Plan for public comment at http://edu.wyoming.gov/tech. The plan is designed to support districts in providing equitable education opportunities for students through the use of digital learning knowing that quality of digital learning as well as access are challenges we all face. The Plan is a culmination of input received from a statewide listening tour, digital learning readiness surveys, and focus groups. On area emphasized in the report is the need for professional development. The final plan will be released on October 1, 2016.
ACT scores will be released Monday, August 15, 2016. Here is a link to the media announcement. Thank you to school districts and the WDE Assessment Team for successfully transitioning to the ACT Aspire test which was administered almost exclusively online in 2016.
The third of five virtual town hall meetings to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) took place yesterday. The topic of this session was school improvement. Under NCLB, school improvement strategies and turnaround tools were limited. Wyoming and other states now have the responsibility to ensure that our strategies and supports are meaningful and systematic. We are well on our way with the Statewide System of Support. While we will need to be more prescriptive in identifying, assisting, and allocating fund to the lowest performing schools and schools with less than 67% graduation rate, it remains the intent to provide support and assistance to all schools and districts by leveraging the expertise and knowledge at the national, state, and local levels. This is an exciting component of ESSA.
Information about ESSA, Wyoming’s virtual town hall meetings, links to audio recordings, powerpoint presentations, and other input opportunities can be found here.
Last week Wyoming submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education in response to proposed ESSA rules on accountability. While there were over 20,000 comments or sets of comments submitted, only about half of the states submitted. Wyoming will continue to vigilantly review and comment on proposed rules, regulations, and guidance wherever it veers from congressional intent and/or does not fit well in our state. Here is a link to comments submitted by other states.
Two statewide training opportunities, hosted by WDE, took place this week. Thank you for helping make both a success. If you don’t already, please take a moment to follow WDE on Twitter and Facebook where you can view photos and read about educators from your district and around the state engaged in professional development. At the STEM conference, science educators across the state were recognized and applauded for their work. Here is the link to the press release. At the WAVE conference, Carolyn Connor, from Thermopolis, was honored as the Special Education Director of the year. Here is a link to the press release.
Next week, the Native American Education Conference will be held in Riverton. We anticipate a record number of participants and we are anxious to have important conversations with educators, community members, tribal leaders, youth, and others.