How New Graduation Rules May Impact Wyoming Districts

Governor Matt Mead signed and approved an update to Chapter 31 rules on August 15, 2018. These rules will be effective August 15, 2019, giving school district one year to revise their graduation policies as necessary.

The new graduation rules are designed to strike a balance between uniformity and flexibility. The uniformity part of the equation requires high schools throughout the state to ensure that all students have the opportunity to meet the rigorous state standards in all 10 content areas. The flexibility part of the equation allows school districts to offer a locally-organized curriculum that bundles together the state standards into classes required for graduation. Ultimately, the minimum number of courses that all Wyoming high school graduates must complete include four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of science, and three years of social studies.

The new rules impose two requirements on districts: First, districts must demonstrate that their local courses and assessment systems align with state standards. Typically, course alignment is proven through a class syllabus, and assessment alignment is shown through a two-way alignment process. The two-way alignment process demonstrates assessment alignment to the content, as well as to the required level of cognitive complexity. Despite these new requirements, most districts will consider this far easier than the more challenging requirements within the previous “body of evidence” system that mandated five different criteria for a review of the District Assessment System.

The second requirement is to establish district policy on what constitutes successful completion of the courses students take to earn a high school diploma in that district. Within the new Chapter 31 framework, districts retain flexibility to set graduation requirements beyond the minimum coursework required in statute, and they can define parameters for proficiency in each course.

The Chapter 31 rules were written in consideration of the average student, without a great deal of specific consideration of unique situations. School districts want to set policy based on consideration of all situations including graduation requirements for special education students, transfer students, virtual education students, and others.

Given the state board’s commitment to uniformity and flexibility within the new graduation rules, districts and local trustees should be able to develop policies that work for a variety of student scenarios.