Tag Archives: Wyoming Legislature

Draft Science Standards

Dear Superintendents,

Today, draft Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards were released.  The WDE held a press conference this morning where we discussed the review/development process, the 41-person committee, and a few highlights in the standards and the process.  We also fielded questions including how the committee reconciled controversial language and standards such as climate change. Here is a link to the media release and draft standards: http://edu.wyoming.gov/draft-science-standards-available-to-the-public/ 

The committee shared their views on the review and development process in a video: https://youtu.be/5hXolvWbazY

It was with the help of Wyoming superintendents that the standards review process was improved to include greater transparency and inclusiveness while maintaining a commitment to high rigor of standards. Thank you for your work!

Next week, the State Board will have an opportunity to discuss the draft standards and vote on next steps.

Wyoming Science Standards Review Committee reaches consensus

Legislative Update

The Legislative Management Council met on Wednesday to determine interim study topics for education:

Priority #: 1 Every Student Succeeds Act

Priority #: 2 Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA)

Priority #: 3 School Finance

Priority #: 4 Hathaway Scholarship Program

Priority #: 5 Alignment of public education efforts

Priority #: 6 Distance Education

Priority #: 7 Medically Necessary Placements

These are the topics that will be discussed in the interim at 3 x 2-day meetings.  One or more of the topics may result in committee-sponsored legislation for the 2017 session.

Disability Awareness Proclamation
Disability Awareness Proclamation
Lander receives its accreditation award along with others at the Spring AdvancEd Conference
Lander receives its accreditation award along with others at the Spring AdvancEd Conference

Memos to be released March 14, 2016:

A Focus on Growth and Success

Dear Superintendents,

Welcome to the newly designed template for my weekly update to district superintendents. I will continue to personally write the update each week and it will only go to superintendents on Fridays. To recap, the purpose of the update is to:

  • Keep you informed about what I am doing
  • Provide insight and information about salient topics in Wyoming education
  • Send memos before they are public for your preview/review

It’s important to keep the focus on our growth and success versus the aftermath of a rough budget legislative session. Here are a few:

Rawlins Elementary School was recognized at the Governor’s Arts Awards after applying for and receiving a sizable grant from Crayola. Crayola was, in particular, impressed with RES’s commitment to teaching Art in an integrated way.

RES faculty and Mike Lange of Wyoming Arts Council at the Awards Gala
RES faculty and Mike Lange of Wyoming Arts Council at the Awards Gala

Hulett High School students successfully brought a bill to make the Sagebrush Wyoming’s state shrub. It was met with opposition but, in the end, passed. Nearly 60 students traveled to Cheyenne for the bill signing. Senator Driskill reports that students are more interested in the Legislature than ever.

HHS students at signing of State shrub bill
HHS students at signing of State shrub bill

45 teachers received National Board Certification in 2015 and were recognized with a check for $1000, continued support from the Ellbogen Foundation, and an annual stipend. Wyoming ranks among the highest for the total number of board certified teachers. More Wyoming schools than ever achieved the status of having 10%+ board certified staff. This is unique in the nation and the envy of many rural states whose small districts struggle to grow a quality teaching staff.

Havely Holt of Douglas receives recognition after achieving Natl Board Certification
Havely Holt of Douglas receives recognition after achieving Natl Board Certification

This week marked Read Across America and Dr. Suess’s birthday. Schools across the state hosted “celebrity” readers and activities. I also serve on the advisory board for the UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic. Yesterday, we met and talked about how to better spotlight literacy and the wonderful activities happening across the state. More news to come…

Reading aloud to students on Dr. Suess's birthday
Reading aloud to students on Dr. Suess’s birthday


Governor Mead signed the biennial budget into law late on Thursday. He did so with more line-item vetoes than ever before and concerns about not expanding Medicaid, blurred lines of responsibility among the executive and legislative branches, and significant cuts to education, local governments, and others.

As it stands, education was cut by $36 million (1% year one; 1.4% year two). The state projects a drop in revenue of $480 million in the upcoming biennium.

The WDE is beginning to field concerns about how cuts translate in your districts as you begin conversations with your stakeholder groups. Please feel free to reach out to us knowing that we need your input and ideas for solutions as well.


The testing window for Aspire, the new online assessment for grades 9 and 10, opens on April 11th. This is our first foray into online state assessment since 2010. It’s imperative that all high schools are ready to successfully administer the test. The Wyoming ACT Aspire team and school district faculty/staff have worked together to provide many resources for districts to help ensure a smooth administration.

Here’s a short checklist for you to use to ensure readiness for the assessment:

  • Has your high school completed the online Infrastructure Trial? (If not, it should be completed well in advance of April 11th)
  • Has your high school set up testing sessions?
  • Have you reviewed and shared this week’s memo?

Memos to be released Monday, March 7, 2016:


A Decision on the ECA

Good Afternoon,

There are five days left in the legislative session.  Work on bills, committees, and the budget is winding down.
The Joint Conference Committee has discussed the ECA and school funding off and on the last several days. This afternoon they agreed on cuts of 1% the first year and 1.4% the second. Transportation reimbursement is off the bargaining table.  Bills regarding assessment, student privacy, school safety, alternative school accountability, early education and more are making their way to the finish line. If looking at the Wyoming Legislature website, http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LSOWEB/Session/SessionHome.aspx, it’s helpful to track bill changes since introduction by viewing the engrossed version.
It’s been great to see so many students in Cheyenne. Students from Hulett brought a bill to make the sagebrush Wyoming’s official shrub.  They came down to testify in committee:
Advanced Biology students from Hulett with teacher, Lila Kennah
Advanced Biology students from Hulett with teacher, Lila Kennah

Next week is one of my favorite weeks as we celebrate reading. I am excited to visit schools to read to students.  Thank you for inviting me!

Memos to be released Monday, February 29, 2016:

Week Two of the Budget Session

Good afternoon,

Week two of the legislative session is almost in the books. Unfortunately, there is not much good news to report. Initial attempts to restore the external cost adjustment (ECA) failed in the House and Senate. On Thursday, superintendents from small, medium, and large districts appeared in front of the House Education Committee with compelling testimony to restore the ECA and cuts to education. As one of five State Land and Investment Board (SLIB) members, I testified about how the excellent quality of our schools enables us to attract and keep families as we diversify the economy of our state to include new sectors such as technology. The education committee members on both sides were receptive and sympathetic. As evidenced by the failed amendments, however, the majority of the legislative body are casting votes of austerity in education and all other areas.

Superintendent Beard (Guernsey) testifies at House Ed Committee
Superintendent Beard (Guernsey) testifies at House Ed Committee

The School Facilities Commission (on which I sit as ex-officio) met this week and, as predicted, the outlook is not good. Discussions (with no firm decisions) are already taking place regarding how to keep up with major maintenance and construction priorities. Also, a bill is working its way through the legislature that merges the School Facilities Department with State Construction Management.

Finally, and as of today, the WDE agency budget has been cut by nearly 8%.  This goes well beyond the global cuts we expected and reduces our staff by 7-8 positions in the next biennium. In some areas we will have difficulty making maintenance of effort and supporting the expected duties of the agency.  We will work to restore some of these cuts in areas where it could cause issues with federal funds flowing to districts.

Despite this grim news, I remain hopeful.  No matter what, we will look for the silver lining and continue to grow education in ways that benefit our kids and strengthen our future as a state. The assessment bill is moving through the legislature as are several other bills that keep us focused on doing the best we can for kids.

It’s difficult to stay up on all of the amendments–the process is very fast. Here are a few that may be of interest and are related to the ECA:

*Please note that these may be voted on or changed even as I write this update.

State Board (SBE) Meeting Clarification
The State Board meets next week in Cheyenne and an update (part of the board packet) from board liaison, Brent Young, is attached. I include this in light of some confusion around the agenda item “ELA Extended Standards (SPED).” Our intent is to open the standards to rectify two items:
  1. The extended (Special Ed) standards are not the standards approved by the review committee during the 2014 adoption. Nor are they are not the standards that went out for public comment. We plan to ensure the extended standards are reflective of the committee work and are the product approved for promulgation.
  2. Several ELA standards review committee members noticed potential misalignment of extended standards with regular ed standards. We want to ensure alignment of standards only by adjusting extended standards, not regular ed standards.

I appreciate superintendents bringing concerns to our attention and I will keep you apprised of the outcome of the discussion. There is no plan to open up ELA standards for review beyond this narrow scope of work. I have encouraged the SBE to establish a process for reviewing standards out of cycle to ensure we are only opening standards when necessary and according to a scope of work. It is my hope that the discussion next week opens the door to further dialogue.

I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend and next week in Cheyenne!

Here are the memos to be released on Monday, February 22, 2016:


The Science Standards Review Committee Continues Work


Members of the Science Standards Committee are wrapping up their work this weekend in Cheyenne. It has been almost a year since the work on new Wyoming science standards began. I had an opportunity to thank them at the WDE office this morning. From the beginning, their charge was to develop the very best science standards and test a new review process that my team developed with additional input from WASA, the State Board, and others in 2014.  Comprehensive and rigorous Wyoming science standards will soon be released for public review and input. Additionally, this group made innovative adjustments to the process that serve to strengthen and enhance all Wyoming standards from here on.

Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Ag in the Classroom, Wyoming Petroleum Association, and others reviewed committee work throughout the process and suggested where additional local or state context could be added.
  • The committee denoted special standards and sections, e.g. geology, where unique Wyoming science could and should be incorporated. These standards are denoted with the bucking horse symbol

Synopsis of the standards review/development work: http://edu.wyoming.gov/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015-SSRC-Summary.pdf

More information about science and other standards: http://edu.wyoming.gov/in-the-classroom/wyoming-standards/

science st comm
Part of the Science Standards Committee @ WDE

The legislative session begins next week. The 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Pierson, from Buffalo, along with Big Horn High School (Sheridan #1) will be mentioned and recognized during the Governor’s annual State of the State address.  Again, here is information on how you and others can view the address:

Live Television Broadcast: Wyoming PBS
Live Video Stream: http://governor.wyo.gov/
Live Audio Stream: Click the “House Proceedings” link on Legislature’s Website at: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/Audio.aspx

Congratulations to Sheridan HS on 2016 We The People victory
Congratulations to Sheridan HS on 2016 We The People victory

My Best,

Getting Ready for the 2016 Session

Thanks to many of you for warmly welcoming me into your schools. I had an amazing week visiting classrooms and communities. I also had an opportunity to speak at the elementary and secondary principals’ conference in Cody.

Next week a team from WDE goes to Washington, DC to receive initial ESSA guidance. We have only had a couple of phone calls and conversations with the USDOE since passage of ESSA and we are anxious to get the work underway. At the principals’ conference, I likened Wyoming’s position with ESSA implementation as a kindergartner who comes to school knowing how to read. We have developed a state accountability system (many states have not). Also, recommendations from the assessment task force will fold into ESSA implementation nicely. We have a great deal of support at the national level and will rely on you and other partners to ensure we get this implemented so kids are always the winners. As always, I will be at the table advocating for Wyoming.

The 2016 Session kicks off a week from Monday. I will address legislators during their caucus time just prior to the official convening and will focus mainly on the budget (restoring cuts proposed by the Joint Appropriations Committee) and the bills we have all worked on during the interim (Hathaway, assessment, safety, security, data privacy, accountability, and more). I do not envy the task of the legislature this year. We all understand this time of austerity as well as our shared desire to continue investing in education. I look forward to seeing many of you in Cheyenne and remind you our doors at WDE are always open.

Classrooms across the State of Wyoming are invited to watch the 63rd Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Session live on Monday, February 8 at 10 a.m. Governor Matt Mead will deliver his State of the State message, followed by the State of the Judiciary message, delivered by Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice E. James Burke, as all three branches of Wyoming State Government come together to kick off the 2016 Budget Session.

How to watch:
Live Television Broadcast: Wyoming PBS
Live Video Stream: http://governor.wyo.gov/
Live Audio Stream: Click the “House Proceedings” link on Legislature’s Website at: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/Audio.aspx

National FFA week with Wyoming FFA officers at East HS #agistheanswer
National FFA week with Wyoming FFA officers at East HS #agistheanswer

Memos to be released Feb 1:


A Big Gift from the Daniels Fund and Recommended Cuts from JAC


This week the UW Board of Trustees announced and celebrated a $5 million gift from the Daniels Fund for the UW College of Education initiative.

 The gift comes after a year of planning to bring the College of Ed to preeminent status in the nation. Here is a link to the UW Board of Trustees resolution:​ https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c-4yp1OT0Cs8HCsz2N13v2G3H1uvBrkj9xe9ZLKyCcM/edit
Shortly after the gift was announced, an advocacy group comprised of trustees, interested UW partners, and K12 educators was passed by the UW Board of Trustees.  I have been involved with the planning and work from the beginning and am optimistic about the opportunities, collaboration, and work ahead. This is definitely an effort all in Wyoming will want to actively follow for years to come.
Link to video with comments from trustees about the Initiative:
with former U.S. Senator Hank Brown and Daniels Fund CEO Linda Childers
with former U.S. Senator Hank Brown and Daniels Fund CEO Linda Childers
The Joint Appropriations Committee is in the budget mark-up phase of their work in preparation for the upcoming legislative session.  Yesterday, they proposed cuts to education including the school foundation. Here are a couple of breaking articles on the proposed cuts:
My key message around the proposed cuts is to not panic and to remember that the full legislature, partners in education, advocates and the public will have opportunities to debate, weigh in, and advocate. Given the revenue forecast and cuts in other areas of the state budget, I am not surprised by the proposed changes to education funding.
Here are the memos slated for release on Monday, January 25, 2016:

My Best,