Walt Wilcox elected as new board chair

February 16, 2017

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming State Board of Education (SBE) voted this Monday to replace one of the state’s current assessment providers. Starting in spring 2018, the current Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming (PAWS) will no longer be administered as Wyoming’s statewide summative assessment. A new set of statewide summative and interim assessments will be administered for grades 1-10 by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and will measure Wyoming Content and Performance Standards in an online learning format. The new tests will provide almost immediate feedback to students, teachers, and parents. Based on recommendations from the assessment vendor review committee, the board also voted to continue Wyoming’s assessment contract with ACT Inc. to measure college readiness and WorkKeys to measure career readiness.

The summative and interim language arts, math, and science assessments will now include an essay portion, per last year’s legislative mandate, and allow schools access to machine-scored testing results within one day. Hand-scored portions of the test will be available within 15 days. AIR develops assessments for several large and small states, like California and Vermont, based on their respective statewide content and performance standards. This means Wyoming will soon be able to compare student performance across state lines. This meets the legislature’s requirement set forth in the 2016 Statewide Student Assessment Act, based on the recommendations of the Assessment Task Force.

“After extensive review of several capable testing providers, we are ready to move forward with statewide assessments that better reflect Wyoming’s Performance and Content Standards and allow us to compare our students’ knowledge and proficiency with those in other states,” said Walt Wilcox, SBE chairman. “The new statewide tests will also allow for more meaningful, immediate feedback on student performance, helping teachers to identify specific opportunities to improve instruction and increase learning right away.”

“AIR and ACT will help deliver a dynamic statewide assessment to Wyoming students. The new statewide assessment will take less time than PAWS, provide meaningful information about student achievement, and come at a lower cost to the state,” said State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “My hat is off to the many citizens in Wyoming who took part in the process to select the new assessments, and to the team led by Laurie Hernandez at the WDE who facilitated the work.”

During this week’s meeting the board voted unanimously to elect Walt Wilcox, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Natrona County Schools, as the new SBE chair. Sue Belish was elected vicechair, and Ken Rathbun was reelected as board treasurer. Terms also expired for three board members: Chairman Pete Gosar, Kathy Coon and Hugh Hageman.

“We are grateful to Pete, Kathy and Hugh for their service and commitment to Wyoming’s students,” said Wilcox. “I’m looking forward to making meaningful contributions to the State Board of Education throughout my term as the board chair.” Wilcox has been a member of the board since 2011, when he filled an unexpired term. He was appointed for a full six-year term in 2016 and will serve until 2021. Governor Mead will appoint new board members for open seats throughout the next month. The SBE will add a new ex-officio member from the University of Wyoming within the next two months.

During this week’s board meeting, SBE coordinator Dr. Thomas Sachse’s legislative update informed the board that Wyoming’s Senate reinstated the board’s responsibility to recommend college and career readiness indicators (HB40). The board will utilize their Professional Judgment Panel, a group of more than 30 Wyoming citizens representing educational stakeholders, to assist in defining school accountability indicators and goals.

Laurel Ballard, Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) student/teacher resources team supervisor, briefed the board about the WDE’s digital learning plan. The comprehensive five-year plan was written to provide a roadmap for equal access to education through technology, and aid educators in fully utilizing resources and broadband connectivity in Wyoming schools. “This is not just about expanding online education,” said State Superintendent Balow. “This is about finding high quality virtual learning.”

Brent Bacon, WDE chief academic officer, updated the board on the department’s work surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act, informing them of recent federal changes made by the U.S. House of Representatives related to accountability, state plans and teacher preparation.

The SBE’s next meeting is March 23-24, 2017 in Wheatland. All meetings are open to the public.

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For more information, contact Chelsie Oaks at (307) 777-6213 or Chelsie.Oaks@wyo.gov.

Media Contact:
Thomas Sachse, Ph.D.
(307) 752-1900