Superintendent’s Weekly Update

Check back weekly to hear the latest from Superintendent Balow.


December 10, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Hello,
I’m sending the weekly update a day early in hopes that the ESSA media release and accompanying FAQ will be helpful as you field information requests from your local media.

Please feel free to utilize any themes or ideas from the release and FAQ in your communications and include my quotes if you deem appropriate.

Below the release, please see additional updates.

SUPERINTENDENT BALOW PRAISES REWRITE OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent Jillian Balow released the following statement on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) being signed into law:

“This legislation gives states the flexibility and authority necessary to be more responsive to the needs of their schools and districts. Thanks to ESSA we now have an unprecedented opportunity to increase opportunities for all students while maintaining high accountability.

“Thank you to our federal delegation for their hard work and open dialogue with the Wyoming Department of Education. No piece of federal legislation is without challenges, but Senator Enzi’s work on the conference committee gave Wyoming and other rural states a strong voice at the table. Congress acknowledged that states and local educators are best situated to improve schools, not federal officials in Washington, D.C.

“Wyoming’s decision not to obtain a No Child Left Behind waiver has positioned us well for the transition into ESSA. Thank you to our legislature and education leaders for their diligence in creating Wyoming’s innovative state education accountability framework. We look forward to continuing this great work for Wyoming’s kids.”

ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaces No Child Left Behind. An updated FAQ on accountability can be found here: http://edu.wyoming.gov/downloads/accountability/accountability-FAQ-ESSA.pdf

Superintendent Balow will hold a press conference on ESSA with Joint Education Committee Co-Chairs Senator Hank Coe and Representative David Northrup at approximately 12:15 p.m. onMonday, December 14 at the Wort Hotel in Jackson, Wyo. Members of the media may join in person or by phone by dialing 1-888-670-9530.

– END –

The only memo this week includes a call for presenters for the STEM conference. I am putting the request out now for the best and most innovative practioners to share their wares, ideas, and practices. We had a high turnout last year and want to see the number grow exponentially. In addition to educators we will again invite the business and science community, policymakers, and higher education to participate.

Memo to be released on Monday, December 11, 2015

Have a great weekend!
Jillian


December 4, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon,
This week I traveled to Austin for the Education Commission of the States (ECS) Winter Commissioners Convening where I was voted in as a steering committee member. I was already serving as a commissioner along with others from Wyoming:
Governor Matt Mead
Senator Jeff Wasserburger
Representative Northrup, House Education Chair
Kathy Vetter, WEA President
Rachel Rubino, Teacher
Jim Rose, Executive Director of Wyoming Community College Commission

ECS staff could not recall a steering committee member from Wyoming in recent history. The opportunity will enhance our ability to be “at the table” during national conversations about education. One priority of mine is to continuously inject a rural education perspective into all national education discussions. This is a great way to accomplish that goal and contribute to an outstanding organization.

For fifty years ECS has existed to research, report, and counsel states on education policy matters. They also convene small and large groups around initiatives, trends, and variables in education. As State Superintendent, I often reach out to ECS to find information about existing policy and practice around particular issues.

Here is a recent ECS article about assessment trends that I think you will find of value:
http://www.ecs.org/ec-content/uploads/Testing-Trends-final.pdf

During the recent JEC meeting, Wyoming’s assessment task force presented their recommendations. For several years I knew an essential and meaningful conversation about assessment was missing in our state. In truth, this was one reason I ran for State Superintendent. The assessment task force hit a home run both in their work and product. The recommendations they put forward were bold and comprehensive. During follow-up testimony, I wholeheartedly endorsed the work of the task force and generally agreed with the recommendations.

The task force recommended making the ACT optional for juniors and this is one area where my views differ. Many states are trying to determine how to offer the ACT to all students. No states, that I am aware of, are backing off of offering the assessment. Additionally, having an ACT score creates additional options for high school graduates and statewide scores continue to provide valuable outcome data.

One recent argument I’ve heard is that the ACT is that it isn’t aligned with standards. This is why we shouldn’t overuse it for accountability purposes. Again, the task force discussed and acknowledged this it in their recommendations. I believe that the ACT not being aligned to standards actually strengthens our overall education system. Standards represent one component of student learning, a major component albeit. To be sure, the ACT is aligned to outcomes, or, what we want and expect our students to know to graduate career, college, and military ready. A focus on these next steps after high school is necessary and expected during the high school years. The ACT is one tool to help accomplish this.

Immediately upon returning from Austin, I traveled to Rock Springs to speak at a Leadership Wyoming function. The group of fifty visited schools in Sweetwater County and discussed education in Wyoming at length. It was an honor to address this group and visit with Sweetwater County education leaders.

I’m off to the Lego Robotics competition tomorrow in Casper and looking forward to spending time with kid builders from across the state.

There is only one memo to be released on Monday, December 7. Wyoming is the only state that does not have recipients for this generous scholarship and they would really like to make awards to deserving students.

Memo to be released on Monday, December 4, 2015

My Best,
Jillian


November 20, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon–
It’s a busy time for all of us and it was wonderful to meet with district superintendents and local school board members from across the state at the WSBA conference. Briefly:

ESEA REWRITE
A bipartisan bill passed out of conference committee by a vote of 39-1 late Thursday afternoon. This is an exciting step closer to new federal education legislation that returns more power over education back to the states and school districts, especially in the areas of assessment, accountability, and funding.

Members from my leadership team are attending CCSSO meetings this week and report the conversation among state leaders is decidedly different. We are beginning to talk timelines. I remain optimistic not only about the passage of new legislation but also where Wyoming is with our strong focus on state accountability, and not federal AYP.

http://www.codyenterprise.com/news/local/article_f0fe2e5a-8ed5-11e5-8cfa-eb1ef91d82f1.html
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2015/11/a_peek_at_what_looks_like_exte.html

Wyoming Business Forum and Author Visit
http://tinyurl.com/oqo5p4d
http://kgab.com/equipping-students-for-the-21st-century-economy/

Approval of Wyoming’s Equity Plan
http://kgab.com/wyomings-plan-to-ensure-equitable-access-to-excellent-educators-approved/

IMG_1329Dr. Higdon (my HS principal) and Dr. Brown (my HS PE teacher)
Dr. Higdon was recognized for his leadership in Wyo education

IMG_1334​Venture capitalist and author, Ted Dintersmith and Wyoming
businessman (FMC-Green River), Fred Von Ahrens visit WDE

Memos to be released on Monday, November 23, 2015

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! There will be no update on Friday, November 27, 2015.
Jillian


November 6, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Hello-
In lieu of a recap of the week at WDE, I want to pass along an invitation, a “save the date,” and a reminder.

First, Gov. Jim Geringer will moderate a discussion on education with Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston (Forbes Magazine says this principal gave the “Best Speech on Education… Ever”), Tim Taylor (Co-Founder of America Succeeds), and Harold Levy (Exec Dir Jack Kent Cooke Foundation). After the discussion everyone is invited to the “Live the Legend” reception sponsored by Visit Cheyenne. This event will take place Monday, November 16, 2015 (see invitation below).

Please RSVP your acceptance to Penny at penny.rodriguez@wyo.gov. This is an unprecedented networking opportunity for business and education leaders. This event is COMPLIMENTARY FOR WYOMING SUPERINTENDENTS OR THEIR DESIGNEES.

Screenshot (3)Basic details are available here: http://www.wyomingbusinessalliance.com/events/details/2015-governor-matthew-h-mead-s-business-forum-143.
Second, please SAVE THE DATES, January 13-15, for the 2016 State Superintendent’s Summit: A New Conversation. A formal save the date/invitation is forthcoming. Here’s what you can expect:

  • This is a “vertical” conversation and we ask that each school district bring the superintendent or designee, the board chair or member, a principal of the year or outstanding principal, and the teacher of the year or outstanding teacher.
  • The conference will kick off with an evening reception on the 13th, go all day the 14th, and conclude late morning on the 15th.
  • We will talk about salient education topics from the national, state, and local perspectives. The topics are not necessarily what you are accustomed to seeing on an education conference agenda.
  • Some of you will be asked to participate, moderate, or speak. Thank you in advance.
  • Here’s a sneak peak at the logo:s5s

​Finally, you received a survey about how financial literacy is offered in your district. Please take a few minutes, at your earliest, to give complete the survey.

Memos to be released on Monday, November 9. 2015

My Best,
Jillian


October 30, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good afternoon,
This week brought a number of education partners to Casper for legislative committee meetings (education, appropriations, accountability, school facilities). It is encouraging to see so many partners engaged in Wyoming education. To a greater degree, it was exciting to see so many members of the interim task forces on assessment, alternative school accountability, and distance education. You and all of Wyoming are to be commended for stepping up to be part of solutions to complex issues in Wyoming.

I was honored to attend Wyoming’s military ball last weekend with a very special date. Earlier in the day I presented to military leaders about civic engagement and service. This week I also had the opportunity to share a bit more with the state board and JEC about our strategic plan to ensure students are prepared for college, career, and military. There is still more to come.

Jack at Military Ball​Chief General Grass and Jack Balow 10/24/15

The beginning of this week was spent in Columbus, OH where I presented on rural education in Wyoming. We discussed successes and challenges. I’m anxious to visit with superintendents about the possibility of putting a Wyoming team together for next year.

Rural Education panel discussionSupt Balow discussing rural education in Wyoming 10/26/15

There are no memos this week. Enjoy another amazing Wyoming weekend.
Jillian


October 23, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Hello!

Next week there are multiple legislative committee meetings. I will present the annual general status of public schools to the JEC. Since this is my first report, I stuck to statutory requirements but my team and I will be retooling the report for broader distribution. You can view the report here: 2015 Annual Report.

At this summer’s STEM conference, staff from Governor Mead’s office rolled out the Governor’s Cup. This opportunity rewards real-world innovation by high school students. This is an exciting, new activity to help make the connection between success in STEM education and in real life. Here is the link: http://edu.wyoming.gov/in-the-classroom/career-tech-ed/governors-cup/

2015 UW Homecoming 135 smallUW Homecoming–October 2015

Other Updates
I travel to Ohio this week to participate in a discussion about rural education. This is an area where Wyoming has successfully met challenges such as funding equity and teacher shortages. It’s a professional goal of mine to share our best practices with other states while we continue to thrive as a frontier state because of excellent policy.

Memos to be released October 26, 2015:

Have a wonderful weekend.
Jillian


October 16, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Greetings-
Because another amazing Wyoming fall weekend is just ahead, I’ll be brief.

WDE Update
WDE is in high gear now as we finish submitting reports to the legislature. Some of the reports are culminating documents after months of interim task force work and others are annual reports we are required to submit. The reports will be reviewed by the Joint Education Committee and some will be discussed at upcoming committee meetings. Thank you to all who participated in the task forces to bring such excellent information and recommendations forward.

Early Learning
I had several opportunities to speak publicly this week about early education and families, which is often on my mind. Research supports what many of us have known and encouraged in our communities for a long time. That is, we want to support and grow our youngest citizens, especially those who are most at risk for failure in school. We also know that parents are the first and most important teacher in a child’s life and that early education goes beyond Kindergarten academic readiness. Finally, we know that the community that empowers and strengthens families is the community with the best shot at ensuring success for future generations.

There has been an effort afoot in Wyoming for several years to better coordinate early learning programming in state government. This resulted in the establishment of the community partnership grants two years ago. In addition to the tireless work and generosity of non-profits, Head Start. and many others, the State receives, distributes and manages state and federal funds for early learning services, support, and resources:

  • TANF preschools (funded federally, managed by WDE)
  • Partnership grants (state competitive grants, managed by DFS)
  • Head Start (federal funds direct to centers, celebrating 50 years, incidentally)
  • Direct care and provider education at UW and community colleges
  • Child Development Centers (federal and state funds, managed by WDH)
  • WY Quality Counts (statewide resource, managed from DWS) http://wyqualitycounts.org/

The coordination work is worthwhile and there is cohesiveness in our desire to make quality early education opportunities more accessible for all families.

Thank you for your commitment to early learning!

Children's Museum 2015 Annual MeetingSpeaking at the Children’s Museum of Cheyenne annual meeting on 10-15-15

Budget and Revenue

Last week, the governor announced significant cuts in state government up to $200 million. As WDE prepares its budget, we intend to make cuts as well. I came into office knowing we could do more with less and prepared to make cuts to our agency budget prior to the governor’s announcement. I know similar conversations are happening across our state. This is the time when we all must proactively plan for the near and distant future. Here is just one example of planning for our future:
http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/schools/schools-prepare-for-growth/article_45435f79-085c-507c-9b2e-86b0f68401a0.html

Earlier this week, the State Building Commission, on which I sit, recommended a number of construction projects for state government including UW and the community colleges. Our recommendations indicate our nod to the project before the CREG report is released later this month. Many, if not all, of the projects will not be approved in a final budget if the outlook is as dim as we anticipate.

Recalibration efforts continue in legislative committee. The CREG report and revenue outlook are on legislators’ minds as well. http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/lawmakers-face-tough-school-funding-decisions-amid-revenue-decline

The Capitol Complex restoration work is suspended and will likely be scaled back to ensure it comes within or below the budget already set aside.

SBC oct 2015State Superintendent, Sec of State, Governor, Treasurer at State Building Commission meeting on 10-14-15

Memos to be released October 19, 2015

Jillian


October 9, 2015

From: Chief Academic Officer Brent Bacon

To: District Superintendents

Chief Academic Officer Brent Bacon here, sending you an update for Superintendent Balow while she participates in the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. What a great week in Wyoming and the WDE.

On Monday, Wyoming celebrated the grand opening of the Wind River Job Corps Center in Riverton. United States Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Senator Mike Enzi, and Governor Matt Mead spoke before the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the official opening of the first Job Corps Center in Wyoming.

Job Corps Ribbon CuttingSenator Mike Enzi cutting the ribbon to open the Wind River Job Corps Center

On Wednesday, I welcomed at the opening of the WASEA (Wyoming Association of Special Education Administrators) Fall Conference. WDE staff lead by Lisa Weigel, Director of Individualized Learning from were on hand for trainings and technical assistance for the attendees through Friday.

Bacon WASEABrent Bacon, Chief Academic Officer, speaking at WASEA

Thursday and Friday marked the annual Mega Conference in Cheyenne where folks from around Wyoming with disabilities, their family members, professionals, providers, and educators learn about the best practices and issues surrounding the disability community. We celebrated with the governor as he signed the Employment First proclamation stating that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Did you know Wyoming is 2nd in the Nation for employing persons with disabilities within the workforce?

Disability Month ProclamationGovernor Matt Mead signing the National Disability Employment Awareness Month Proclamation

Again, this has been a great week for students in Wyoming with the combined efforts for the option of Job Corps, working with students with disabilities, and transition efforts for persons with disabilities into the workforce. Thank you to all those agencies, organizations, tribes, and business partners who participate and support the efforts of Creating Opportunities for Students to make Wyoming Strong.

Superintendent’s Memo to be sent out Monday, October 12:

Sincerely,
Brent Bacon


October 2, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Greetings-
This week a team from Wyoming traveled to Austin for the first national meeting on CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative known as Tier 2. The team consisted of a K12 administrator, two business representatives, a higher education representative, our state lead, and my Chief of Staff (in my stead). In addition to our stellar state team, Hans Meeder, our national expert coach, worked closely with the members for two days. He is not only familiar with the Wyoming education landscape but also worked as the deputy for career readiness at the USDOE under two presidents. The team worked with other states to brainstorm and share best practices on day one. On day two the Wyoming team worked to develop a general framework for Wyoming’s initiative. The overarching goals are to increase relationships between K12, higher education, and the employer community and to implement a policy framework that creates meaningful pathways for all students. The next steps are to appoint a steering committee and draft a more detailed strategic plan.

Link to WDE career readiness press release:
http://edu.wyoming.gov/downloads/communications/pr/2015/career-readiness.pdf

It was excellent to see so many of you at the Continuous Improvement Conference!

I will not provide an update next week—I’ll be hunting at the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt in Ucross.

Superintendent’s Memos to be released on October 5, 2015:

Jillian


September 25, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good Day!

This week I had the privilege, along with the other four statewide elected officials, of addressing county leaders from all 23 counties this week at their annual conference. A number of legislative members spoke as well. Funding for education is on the minds of many. While there are differing opinions about what constitutes a “rainy day” most agree that a tipping point is when mineral revenues are depleted to the point where we have to dip into the general fund to pay for education. The short of this is that the legislature will try to avoid this.

The State Board of Education met this week in Pinedale and had an in-depth discussion about the State System of Support. We are excited to move forward in partnership with superintendents, the State Board, and UW. There are other aspects to the system that will come to fruition as we begin including the formation of a steering committee, ongoing evaluation,and strategic planning.

This morning I spoke at the Wyoming Articulation Conference. If you haven’t seen the work they have done with 2 plus 2, I encourage you to do so. Here is the link to a Powerpoint the presented recently to secondary principals: http://www.wassp.org/WASSP_Site/WASSP_Home_files/Complete%20College%20Wyoming.pptx.
To date over 50 pathways to college graduation are aligned between community colleges and UW. I am anxious for secondary education to be a voice in future discussions.

Last weekend, I participated in a service project at Central High School. It was inspiring to volunteer alongside high school students from ten student organizations and their sponsors. Please keep me in mind if you have service projects and/or special events in your districts. I love to be out and about!

Finally, I want to reiterate that all superintendents or their designees are invited to attend Day 1 (November 16) of the Governor’s Business Forum free of charge. The topic of the panel discussion is education reform with business as partners in education. If you plan to attend, please let me know. Here is the agenda:
http://cloud.chambermaster.com/userfiles/UserFiles/chambers/9071/File/2015ForumAgenda.pdf

Superintendents Memos for the Week of September 28:

I look forward to seeing you at the Continuous Improvement Conference next week in Casper!

county leadersSpeaking at the Wyoming Assn of County Officials annual meeting

Service project-CHSwith Elliott Miller- a Skills USA superstar-at CHS Community Service Project

My best,
Jillian


September 18, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good afternoon,
It was great to see superintendents from across the state in Riverton this week. Thank you for the honest conversations about challenges and successes in Wyoming education and in our communities.

I wanted to follow up on the topic of Wyoming’s equity plan after several a short conversations with individual superintendents. This topic has had a fair amount of media attention in Wyoming and nationally over the past week also.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-approves-16-states-plans-provide-equal-access-excellent-educators

A short chronology may be helpful. In July 2014, states were notified that they would be required by the USDoE to submit equity plans. The guidance for doing so was limited to correspondence and an FAQ document. The WDE commenced work on Wyoming’s plan in January 2015. A broad stakeholder team convened and guided the gathering of data and providing input on equity gaps in Wyoming. In August, we submitted Wyoming’s plan (attached and FYI). Last week, plans for sixteen states were approved and Wyoming was not among them. We do not know, at this time, if we have to make revisions to our plan.

The team’s work revealed that equity gaps in Wyoming are few and mild. Nonetheless, we want to strive for zero equity gaps and can only do so in partnership with school districts, UW, and communities. We look forward to sharing best practices and innovatively finding new ways to combat our gaps.

Since taking office in January, I have had several opportunities to discuss rural education on a national level and have recently accepted an invitation to speak in Ohio in November on the subject. Simply put, in addition to our landscape, rural challenges are much different than in urban areas. Unfortunately, most federal education policy is set to be most effective in urban areas. I will continue to speak about Wyoming’s strengths in education as well as our challenges and I strive to be a national leader in this arena. I also look forward to working with our delegation and respective contacts in DC to help ensure ESEA legislation includes maximum flexibility is given to states as well.

Memos to be released on Monday, September 21, 2015:

Have a great fall weekend!
Jillian


September 11, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good afternoon. I’m writing from Ucross today as I participate in the Treasurer’s State Investment Conference. I have limited connectivity and am relying on my iPhone to send this message so I apologize for the brevity and formatting errors.

The Wyoming Business Council and Joint Revenue Committee are also meeting in the area. No matter the event, the message about Wyoming’s revenue outlook is the same. Rather than panic about impending losses, let’s be proactive.

At the Legislative Revenue Committee meeting, members are investigating alternative funding for school facility construction and the foundation account. I encourage education leaders across the state to think about local budgets as well as consider how, collectively, we have a voice in this discussion. It won’t be a matter of fighting for more but, rather, determining how to be effective and efficient with what we have, and maybe less.

I am attaching the most recent Wyoming CREG report for your review. This is a barometer for me as a member of the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) and many other state level decision makers.

On a more positive note, we have world class leaders in Ucross this weekend helping the Treasurer’s office, Legislature, members of SLIB, the Wyoming Retirement System, and others manage state policy to ensure we are well poised for whatever the future entails.

Memos to be released on 9/14/15:

Sincerely,
Jillian


September 8, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow

To: District Superintendents

Good Morning,

Adequate Yearly Progress and School Performance Ratings will be disseminated in an embargoed media release on Tuesday morning. They are considered public after a media call-in on Tuesday afternoon. Attached is the draft media release that we are working on internally. It is only for your information in advance of the release and call-in. Please do not share or distribute the draft. The final release will be available on Tuesday when the information becomes public.

Below are some comments that my team and I will be sharing. I hope they help you frame local conversations. Please feel free to echo some or all of the messages:

  • We want high achievement for students in Wyoming, but know that we also need to focus on growth.
  • The state accountability model focuses on growth and is a realistic measure of schools in Wyoming.
  • Wyoming will continue to grow and develop the accountability system just as school districts will continue to raise student achievement.
  • A potential ESEA reauthorization that replaces No Child Left Behind gives control back to states. Wyoming is well-poised with our accountability system and performance ratings.
  • Educators, parents, and other stakeholders should place more, if not all, value in accountability performance ratings versus AYP.
  • Statewide only 17% of schools made AYP; this is not an accurate measure of our schools. AYP:
    • Is a one-size fits all across the nation and provides a narrow look at student achievement
    • Imposes blanket classifications on schools in improvement status
    • Is overly focused on standardized test scores
    • Is overly focused on meeting proficiency instead of improving all students
  • About half of Wyoming schools are meeting or exceeding expectations. Most others are partially meeting expectations. The Wyoming Accountability system:
    • Is designed by Wyoming education stakeholders
    • Maintains focus on improvement of students from year to year
    • Guides our school improvement efforts
    • Enables our state to focus is on performance and growth for all students
  • Despite the headaches caused by AYP, there are no plans to apply for an ESEA flexibility waiver as there is no correlation between a waiver and student/school improvement.
  • There was an increase in schools not meeting expectations in 3-8. This was expected after PAWS results.
  • Districts are still aligning curriculum and instruction to more rigorous Wyo standards.
  • The goal is to improve schools (i.e. from partially meeting to meeting expectations).
  • A Statewide System of Support is being implemented to improve leadership, instruction, and other gaps in education in Wyoming.
  • This marks the second year of school performance and the first year that growth is an indicator for high schools.
  • This data is a valid representation of how schools are doing, which is needed for improvement. Simply, we know where we are, it’s not where we want to be, we will move forward.
  • Locally, there are numerous best practices. We will be asking schools that are exceeding expectations to share those.

My Best,

Jillian

[Editor’s note: This is the final version of the Accountability Determinations Press Release, not the draft as mentioned above.]

Attachment: 2015 Accountability Determinations

Superintendents Memos to be released Tuesday, September 8, 2015


August 28, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon:
As one of the five statewide elected officials in Wyoming I serve on several boards and commissions that you may be aware of. I wanted to briefly outline the function of the State Board of Land Commissioners and describe (in my words) how education is impacted by Commission decisions.

At its statehood, 4.2 million acres (now about 6% of all Wyoming land) was granted to the State of Wyoming. The land is held in trust to produce income that is to directly support public schools and other state institutions. As a Land Commissioner, I am committed to ensuring multiple use and maximum revenue for Wyoming schools. Since I took office in January 2015 the Board of Land Commissioners has considered a number of leases for natural resource extraction, agriculture and other uses.

I share this because as we go through recalibration for Wyoming education, we often think of adequate funding for schools without stopping to consider the many and sustained “buckets” from which it is funded.

Superintendents Memos to be released Monday, August 31, 2015

My Best,
Jillian


August 21, 2015

From: Chief Financial Officer Dianne Bailey
To: District Superintendents

Greetings this Friday afternoon from the Finance Division of the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE). For those of you who don’t know me, I am Dianne Bailey, the Chief Financial Officer for the WDE. The Superintendent of Public Instruction asked me to give you an update on two important items the Finance group is currently working on: the upcoming budget request and recalibration.

We are hard at work preparing our 17/18 biennial budget request for the 2016 Legislative Budget Session. The Governor has asked that budget increases be “rare and reserved for critical needs” in light of expectations that revenues will be lower. We believe the WDE can easily comply with his request while maintaining current levels of operation.

Meanwhile, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is continuing its in-depth review of the current school funding model and will be making recommendations for areas that may need to be recalibrated to ensure that funding for Wyoming’s schools remains adequate. The recalibration process takes place every five years and we are collaborating with legislators to make sure they know how changes to the model might impact school districts.

Memos to be released Monday:

Sincerely,
Dianne


August 15, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good morning!

It is after putting over 1000 miles on S5 (license plate number on the car assigned to the State Superintendent) this week that I finally have a moment to share thoughts. As with each of you “back to school” is on my mind. This time of year is a mixed bag of excitement, anxiety, and taking care of last minute details. Hence, I won’t take up much of your time.

This week I had an opportunity to speak at the Wyoming Native American Education Conference, present Ag In The Classroom teacher awards at the State Fair, speak at the Wyoming Children’s Society gala, discuss college completion as part of a PBS panel, and more. This is the most invigorating job and I am so honored to champion Wyoming’s students, families, schools, and communities.

2015 Pacesetter awardsStudents receive Pacesetter awards at the Wyoming Native American Education Conference

Other Updates
There were a number of committee meetings this week including Recalibration, State Board, Professional Judgement Panel, Distance Education Task Force, Standards Review Committee, and more. Work is moving forward at a fast pace thanks in large part to the work of you, the superintendents, who participated in all of these meetings.

Of note, the State Board passed most of the Statewide System of Support (SSoS) presented by WDE, WASA, and UW. This is the beginning of a new system that will provide the tools and support that districts need to meet the rigorous state accountability tenets. We look forward to continued collaboration to make this a successful endeavor for all!

As I mentioned above, I participated on a panel where we discussed college completion. The crux of my comments were about the K-12 connection and transitions to higher education. The panel was part of a PBS program, Wyoming Chronicle, that will air tomorrow (Sunday, August 16). It will also be also available online at: http://www.wyomingpbs.org/chronicle.php.

Superintendents Memos
The following memo was released in the spring and remains relevant as booklets from First Lady Carol Mead, via Wyoming Department of Health, arrive at schools for distribution. As a refresher, this booklet is written for parents and there is no classroom component. We appreciate your assistance with distribution and your acknowledgement of the First Lady’s continued efforts to address and curb underage drinking.

Sincerely,
Jillian


August 7, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Hello-
I want to spend just a bit of time summarizing the Statewide System of Support (SSoS) proposal that is before the State Board of Education.

In essence, the SSoS is a system Wyoming is required to have under federal law and expected to put into place under the state accountability law. For more than eight months, many of us have all worked hard to build the infrastructure for the SSoS. Here’s the gist of the proposal:

  • Establish a coherent approach to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) throughout Wyoming school districts with Wyoming school district superintendents (WASA) as the lead.
  • Strengthen education leadership in Wyoming through UW and the Wyoming Center for Educational Leadership.
  • Implement comprehensive school improvement planning with a focus on consolidating and aligning accreditation and accountability efforts.
  • Conduct immediate and ongoing system of support strategic planning for implementation, improvement and evaluation.

The district superintendents, through WASA, have played a key role in structuring the SSoS. All needs assessment data and research points to leadership capacity, PLCs, and strategic planning as lynchpins for success.

At a special State Board meeting this past week, the discussion centered around the components of the SSoS. Trustee Sessions asked how this equated to better teaching and improved learning. That’s where you come in! Any effort is as meaningful and far reaching as you make it. I believe that we have forty-eight districts that want to be the best. You have an opportunity to weigh in on the tools you need to be successful and to implement those with the knowledge and belief that we will strengthen school culture, improve teaching, and positively impact student achievement.

The next step is to have the plan and funding for implementation approved by the State Board on August 13. Then the work can commence immediately.

An article from the Cheyenne newspaper that was not posted electronically is worth a quick read, and can be seen here.

Other Updates
Thank you for helping make the STEM conference a success! Superintendents, principals, and teachers attended, along with industry partners and higher education faculty and administrators. It was truly remarkable! Attendees heard from two Wyoming governors, Mick Eberling (a truly transformational human being), and many others. As I said in my remarks, it is my intention to grow this conference and our STEM presence so that this event is a culminating opportunity for the education and employer communities to merge, partner, and work together. Enjoy the photos!

CLlc100W8AAgZBT

2015 Roadmap to STEM

2015 Roadmap to STEM

2015 Roadmap to STEM

2015 Roadmap to STEM

2015 Roadmap to STEM

Superintendents Memos:
Here is the lone memo to be released on Monday:

Jillian


July 24, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Dear Superintendents,

This week (in addition to Cheyenne Frontier Days), my Chief of Staff, Dicky Shanor, and I traveled to Boston for the summer convening of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). We spent a day on the campus of Harvard talking about change and resistance to change. We heard from researchers, business and education change icons. The “out-of-sector” look at “turn around” was particularly interesting as we mapped Taco Bell’s evolution to education.

On day two, we heard from several contemporary icons including authors, a Google executive, and the editor of the Boston Globe. Time Magazine called Dov Seidman a “game changer” and, indeed, his message was compelling. For more, consider reading How: Why HOW We DO Anything Means Everything.

On Day three, we heard from Daniel Pink, author of Drive. After the conclusion of the convening, several states stayed to discuss career readiness.

I am excited about a new, national career readiness initiative that includes Wyoming. We will effectuate change by committing to results. That is results-driven change in CTE through meaningful engagement and partnership with K-12, higher education, business/industry and others. Over the next several months, I will work to put together a state team and formalize our commitment to this initiative. The paradigm shift for our state and our nation is to consider CTE from the perspective of the labor market, not government. Policy, practice and partnerships will be key!

CFD Challenge Rodeo 083 smallCFD Challenge Rodeo–Barrel Racing

Superintendent memos to be released Monday, July 27, 2015

*Please take note of the High School Computer Science Workshop. This is a great opportunity for teachers and students!
Jillian


July 17, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon:

PAWS scores were released yesterday, as you know. Please let us know if we can assist with messaging in your community. Here are a few public talking points from Chief Policy Officer, Brent Young, and I:

  • Data was released earlier than it has ever been. Thank you WDE and school districts.
  • We have set a bar for student success. In 2014 the assessment was fully aligned to Wyoming standards. Now, districts have had an opportunity to align their work to this new bar. We will work from here to improve.
  • PAWS results are only one measure of student success.
  • This is an opportunity to underscore the efforts that are underway both in districts and in our state including Assessment Task Force, the Science Standards Review Committee, and the work to implement a state system of support.
  • Together, our efforts will ensure that more and more students meet the new bar for success.
  • The system of support will focus on school and district level leadership, practices that support educators in helping students meet these higher expectations, and the need to engage students in meaningful work.
  • Our partnerships with the University of Wyoming, Wyoming’s school superintendents, and other stakeholders hold a promise to support Wyoming schools that isn’t focused on any one specific idea or strategy. This will be a grassroots effort coming from those close to education in Wyoming. The WDE is looking forward to the opportunity to support and facilitate these efforts towards increased student success.

Other Updates
Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor and I travel to Boston next week for Council of Chief State School Officers. We are really looking forward to becoming part of a national career readiness initiative that will launch at the end of the meeting. More on that…

Superintendents memos to be released July 20, 2015

Enjoy your weekend and the warm weather!
Jillian


July 10, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Hello!

On Wednesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted (218-213) to approve the Student Success Act (SSA). The Senate also advanced their debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). Both pieces of legislation replace the Elementary-Secondary Education Act (ESEA). When and if the Senate approves the ECAA, the bills will go to conference committee so a bipartisan bill may go to the President for signature. Sounds simple, right? This is much closer to a reauthorization/rewrite of the ESEA than we’ve ever come but there are multiple amendments (13 in the House, over 20 in the Senate) and the constant possibility that even a bipartisan bill will be vetoed by the President.

A few hot items in the debate or in amendments include (simply):

  • Title I funds follow the student, not the school (also called “portability”)
  • Greater flexibility given to states for assessment systems and accountability
  • Opt-out provisions for standardized tests
  • Expanded use of professional development dollars, especially for early educators

A little about where I stand:

  • A bipartisan bill would help depoliticize education in general.
  • Greater flexibility for states in all regards benefit Wyoming. In Wyoming, we have laid the groundwork to see increased student achievement under this type of framework.
  • Multiple measures and reduced standardized testing are sufficient to determine student and system success.
  • Portability creates issues for Wyoming’s low-income schools in ways that are unique to Wyoming and other frontier states.
  • Parents are children’s strongest advocate and most important teacher and I am grateful so many are engaged in the education conversations. Opting students out of tests as part of a rewrite does not give states the ability to accurately determine academic performance in our states. Opt-out policies need to be determined at the state and local levels. Meaningful engagement by parents remains essential, but it is not articulated in this legislation.

Stay tuned. This is an exciting time in education and passage of a bill will have an immediate impact on our state.

Other Updates
I am honored to be part of summer celebrations in communities across the state. Thank you for inviting me!

Casper paradeCentral Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Parade–July 7, 2015

There is still time for educators to register for the STEM conference August 3-5 in Sheridan. It’s free. Our goal was 150 and we are past that but still have lots of room.

Please pass on this link: https://2015roadmaptostem.splashthat.com/

Superintendent memos to be released Monday, July 13, 2015

My Best,
Jillian


June 26, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon!
As I visit with Wyoming educators this summer, professional development is on their minds. The WDE sponsors a number of opportunities. The Leadership Symposium was in Riverton this week, the Wyoming STEM Conference is August 3-5 in Sheridan, and the Native American Education Conference is August 11-12 in Riverton. There are others, too. Our data indicate that educator participation in WDE trainings has dropped off significantly over the past few years and we want to change that!

Internally, we are striving to more effectively communicate information about opportunities and to make all training relevant and noteworthy. Please send staff to these training opportunities, which are usually free. Educators’ input on evaluations and in follow-up conversation will help us improve. I want you and others to notice a new standard for training quality and delivery in Wyoming.

The 2015 Roadmap to STEM Conference will be held in Sheridan August 3-5. I am very excited because at this conference we will formalize important relationships that are growing between business and education. Interestingly, Wyoming businesses indicate that access to schools, educators, and students is a significant hurdle. I know there are exceptions across our state and some communities effectively leverage business and K-12 education. We want to learn from you and set a new pace in STEM education!

I asked a number of STEM business partners to attend this year’s STEM Conference and gala to network, listen, and learn how to overcome hurdles. I also asked legislators to attend for the same reasons. STEM skills are paramount to staying competitive globally and keeping Wyoming strong. This starts with great partnerships between educators and business.

Please pass the conference link onto your building principals, STEM educators, and others. Let’s build on our success at this culminating event!

Conference Link: https://2015roadmaptostem.splashthat.com/
Highlights from 2014 STEM Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSLcIATrdoc&feature=youtu.be
Press release.

Other Updates
School Security and Safety
There are three distinct and important conversations about school security taking place in Wyoming right now:
–Student data security
–Security of school facilities
–Student safety related to bullying, crime, etc.
It’s important to help local boards, parents, and others understand the basics of these conversations and that solutions rely on participation by communities, as well as by the State.

PAWS Data Release
2015 PAWS data will be released in July. Here is the tentative schedule for release:
–June 29-Confidential, limited release of data via memo
–July 15-Embargoed release
–July 16-Public release and media conference

Superintendents Memos for Release on Monday, June 29, 2015

My Best,
Jillian


June 19, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Hello!
WDE completed a listening tour across the state to gather public input on science standards. Input from the meetings set the stage as the standards writing and review committee began their work last week. Public input was powerful and set a tone for excellence, objectivity, and a commitment to thoroughness. At every meeting, the need to reach out to Wyoming subject matter experts was expressed and the writing and review committee will not ignore this call to action.

Our science standards will ultimately drive a lot of what our students learn about science. And, Wyoming is arguably the richest science landscape of any state. So it makes sense to ensure that Wyoming’s content and performance standards for science not only be of the highest quality and on par with other states, but also uniquely tailored to educating our children on the importance of the energy industry, agriculture, and geology to Wyoming and the world. Wyoming’s leading role in many STEM related areas is something we should be proud of, understand, and be able to translate into the greater context of our culture and identity.

Teaching our students to be excellent consumers of science is vitally important. Science is a dynamic subject and whether students choose STEM or another field, in or out of Wyoming, they deserve to have the skills and knowledge to think about science topics in ways that will keep our state and country leading the pack.

Science Standards Review CommitteeWyoming Science Standards Writing and Review Team, June 2015

Other Updates
Strategic Planning: I’m excited to report that the WDE is fully staffed. We will continue to experience the occasional vacancies and churn and we are running at full capacity. It is a pleasure to lead an organization full of talented new and existing WDE staff. We are committed to providing timely, excellent customer service and expert technical assistance.

The WDE strategic planning process is in full swing. We are focused on career, college and military readiness with the guiding statement, Creating Opportunities for Students to Keep Wyoming Strong. The evolution from online surveys and conversations during my transition into office to a full capacity review and strategic planning has been exciting to witness. I thank you all for taking part in the process and look forward to a more official roll out in the coming months. We all recognize that strategic planning is never “done” and will look to you and others to help determine how we will move the needle to better prepare students for careers, college and the military.

Rules: The WDE and State Board are in the process of writing rules for various education programs. Rules act as one conduit between statute and practice. The writing of rules is difficult and takes time because legislative intent and subject matter nuance and practice have to be captured within a single document that passes the legal “sniff” test. Rule making is also a very public process. Please watch for the release of rules for comment and create pathways for you or others to comment. Your comments are taken very seriously and can reveal something we inadvertently missed during our process. Last week, rules for reading assessment and intervention were released and we have received feedback from educators that will likely result in changes before final promulgation. We truly appreciate your scrutiny! I’ll liken rule making to having a good set of tires: You can drive on bad tires for awhile and as long as there aren’t any storms, but why take the chance?

Superintendents’ Memo to be released June 22, 2015:

Have a great weekend!
Jillian


June 12, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Hello!

Over the past month, I’ve had opportunities to take part in several national conversations about education. Last week in Omaha, I presented Wyoming strategies that address inequities in rural education to colleagues from across the nation. The travel is arduous at times, but well worth it as Wyoming finds its place and voice around the table during essential national conversations. It’s an honor to represent our state and all of our great work going on in education! Here are a few highlights from the conversation in Omaha:

  • There is significant disconnect between DC policymakers’ understanding of rural issues and actual needs.
  • Policy designed to promote rural education does not adequately address rural needs. It’s often an afterthought as urban policy is implemented and gaps in rural states become clear.
  • The most useful federal funding for rural states is formula grant funding because of the flexibility.
  • Diversity in rural America is on the rise with growing Latino and Native American population.
  • The Bureau of Indian Education educates only 7% of Native Students.
  • Nationally, students in rural schools perform better on assessments but are less likely to go to college.

I’ve included a links to a couple of research articles. UVA professor and author of the article below, Daniel Player, and I participated on a panel together.

http://www.rociidaho.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ROCI_2015_RuralTeachers_FINAL.pdf

http://www.rociidaho.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ROCI_2014FedEdPolicy_Final.pdf

Other Updates
This week is Wyoming Boys and Girls State. What an outstanding opportunity for students to learn about state government. Thank you for sharing some of your best and brightest!

boys state
Tony from SW#1 is the 2016 State Superintendent

The interim legislative meetings and task force work are moving along swiftly. Thanks to all of you who are participating or have representatives from your districts. It’s never too late to be heard!

There is just one Superintendents’ Memo to be released on June 15, 2015:

Have a great weekend!
Jillian


June 5, 2015

From: Kari Eakins, WDE Communications Director
To: District Superintendents

Hello and Happy Friday!

With meetings of the Joint Education Committee and State Board of Education in Saratoga today, Superintendent Balow asked me to send out this week’s update and Superintendent’s Memos.

We are headed into summer with a full slate of events. The WDE Calendar is being updated to include all meetings, conferences, and anything else of statewide education interest. I actually just returned from one of those events, the 2015 Homeless Education Workshop, where folks from across the state were able to meet and engage in significant conversations.

Some sobering stats from the WDE’s Kenya Haynes:

  • The number of homeless children in Wyoming increased 40% between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year.
  • The number of homeless children identified by Wyoming school districts has increased 294% since the recession.
  • Nationwide the number of homeless youth in K-12 has increased 85% during that same time period.
  • The number of homeless children in Wyoming enrolled in Head Start increased 81% between 2011 and 2013.
  • 10% of Wyoming school districts receive funding specifically for students experiencing homelessness.
  • Wyoming receives about $160,000 in federal funds to assist homeless education programs each year.

Other Updates
The last two community meetings for the Science Standards Review Committee will take place on Monday and Tuesday. For those unable to make it to the meetings, we have the presentation given available for download on the WDE homepage and have an online survey posted which can be used to give input to the committee. The survey will be open thru June 12th. Please share the survey link: http://goo.gl/forms/LYNCWIaGJO.

Of course, as Communications Director, I encourage you to follow the WDE on Social Media with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition, if something exciting is going on in your district, we would love to know about it. Feel free to send me pictures and information about any social media accounts your school district has so we can follow you back.

Superintendent’s Memos to be released on June 8, 2015

Kari Eakins


May 29, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good evening,

Last week, several of us had the opportunity to talk to Wyoming PBS about early childhood education. Here is the link to the program in case you missed it when it aired: http://video.wyomingpbs.org/video/2365495355/.

I’ve had a lot of “ah-ha” moments as an educator, non more so than when a few things dawned on me about early childhood education. Here are a few thoughts:

  • As a K-12 educator, I thought the best approach to early childhood education was a backwards map from Kindergarten. This way, we could fill academic gaps before school entry. What I know now is that K readiness goes far beyond academic readiness. Early education needs to be framed in the context of growing into Kindergarten, not filling gaps to be ready for Kindergarten.
  • All Kindergartners are ready to learn. The real question related to readiness is whether or not the adults are ready to meet their needs. The best assurance for this occurs when school districts are closely connected to community resources, including families, so that K teachers know their incoming students personally before the first day of school.
  • There are so many examples of great early education in Wyoming. In some communities the school district takes the lead, in others they are a partner.
  • In early education more than perhaps any other area, we are learning from each other. Coordinated, effective efforts are growing in more and more communities across Wyoming. It’s exciting!
  • Strong early education efforts pay big dividends. While this is no surprise to anyone and the research is conducive, we need to be conscientious about our efforts and outcomes and continue to do it right.

I ran across this article earlier in the week from Indiana Public Media and wanted to share it.

Pre-K Pilot Improving Quality of Programs Statewide

May 26, 2015 by Claire McInerny

When Gov. Mike Pence signed On My Way Pre-K, the state’s first preschool pilot program, into law last year, the goal was to get more low-income children enrolled in high quality preschool programs to help their overall education over time. But another result of creating a program like this means more high-quality programming will emerge, and that’s exactly what the state is seeing happen.

The five counties participating in the pilot program are seeing more providers move into Level 3 or 4 on the state’s voluntary Paths to QUALITY ranking system. This doesn’t surprise Melanie Brizzi, head of early learning for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. Brizzi says her office has seen a steady increase of providers trying to get on the ranking system since it was created in 2009, but the creation of the pilot program changed that slightly.

“We’re always seeing growth, this has just accelerated that growth,” Brizzi says.

There are four levels on the Paths to QUALITY system, and for a preschool provider to qualify for On My Way Pre-K or a similar program in Indianapolis run through the mayor’s office, the provider must be a Level 3 or 4, meaning either that they have a planned curriculum for students or are nationally accredited. Getting up to that level involves site visits from the state over time.

But because of the new programs catering to low-income three- and four-year olds, the FSSA is allowing providers in these counties to expedite the process to get to at least a Level 3 status so they can serve as many students as possible.

One of those centers is a brand new preschool set to open in August on the east side of Indianapolis, run through Early Learning Indiana. Ted Maple heads the group and says without this expedited process to get on Paths to QUALITY, the center would not be able to serve up to 80 kids under the two programs.

“They’re providing a provisional Level 3 [status] for the On My Way Pre-K and the Indy Preschool program so that we can build enough capacity in the community,” Maple says. “There’s only about 50 eligible programs right now in Marion County – we need way more than that to serve the 1,300 children.”

Even though On My Way Pre-K is a pilot program with no sustainable funding, Brizzi says the process is good for preschool in the state even if the pilot doesn’t continue.

“What makes that difference there is the information getting out to parents, so parents know how to select a high quality program,” Brizzi says. “So the sustainability isn’t just from the funding, it’s from the family and community awareness, recognizing all children deserve these high quality environments.”

Superintendents Memos going out June 1, 2015

My Best,
Jillian


May 22, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Morning, Superintendents,

As you are well aware, Recalibration, Joint Education, State Board, and Select Accountability (to name a few) are in full swing. My “call to action” across the State is to be involved, be heard. This is an important time in Wyoming education.

Special project of program teams are also meeting including the distance education task force, the assessment task force, and the science standards review committee. Again, be involved and encourage others to do so.

SCIENCE STANDARDS
Prior to beginning work on the science standards, a series of five community meetings will be held around the state. Again, this round of meetings is taking place before the standards work begins. Wyoming will have an opportunity to give input about standards and/or the process. Debate about standards and the meaningful engagement of the public is healthy and will lead to better standards for Wyoming students. Feeling left out of the process or not having ample opportunity to be heard is not productive. Please send community members, parents, educators, and elected board members to the community meetings to hear and/or be heard. All meetings will be facilitated by Chief Policy Officer Brent Young and the WDE standards team. A brief video message from Dr. Ewers, Botany professor at UW, SBE Board Chair Pete Gosar, and myself will open each meeting. In it, we each talk about why excellent science standards are important for Wyoming.

Link to media release about community meetings:
http://edu.wyoming.gov/downloads/communications/pr/2015/Community-Meetings-on-SSRC.pdf

Community meeting dates:

  • May 26, Powell High School Cafeteria, 1151 E. 7th Street, Powell
  • May 27, Gillette College, Tec136 Flex Space, 300 W. Sinclair, Gillette
  • May 28, Natrona #1 Central Services Facility, Jefferson East Room, 970 N. Glenn Rd, Casper
  • June 8, Storey Gym Board Room, 2811 House Avenue, Cheyenne
  • June 9, Evanston High School, Seminar Room, 701 W. Cheyenne Drive, Evanston

Superintendents Memos going out May 26, 2015

Remember our troops on Memorial Day and every day – past, present, future, fallen, wounded – America continues to thrive because of their service!

My Best,
Jillian


May 15, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Afternoon,  Nǐ hǎo:

I wasn’t sure if I’d be back in time this week to provide an update. After nearly 28 hours of travel from hotel to home, I am blessed to be home safely. I had a busy and amazing week in Shanghai, China visiting schools and engaging in dialogue with the Chinese Education Ministry. I’m still processing the experience but here are a few takeaways:

  • Inequities in Chinese education are immense. This includes students, teachers and opportunities. The Chinese have a number of initiatives in place to address student opportunities, rural inequalities, teacher professional development, sharing best practices, and more.
  • The Chinese put all of their compulsory education assessment “capital” into a high school entrance exam. It is a big, one-shot exam that all students take after 8th grade. Results drive students’ next steps–academic or trade training. Formative and other summative assessments are teacher, team, or school driven and don’t factor into any type of accountability system. The college entrance exam also has high stakes, but not everyone takes it.
  • There was VERY little technology in the classrooms we visited. During the dialogue, officials acknowledged the infrastructure and concept of technology as a learning tool are at least ten years behind the U.S.
  • All students learn to speak and write in English. This is a fairly new movement in China so many of the older teachers and administrators are not bilingual. Aside: Students were very in touch with American pop culture.
  • We had the opportunity to visit schools and it’s refreshing to know that no matter the cultural and governmental differences, kids are kids and great instruction is great instruction. The kids were both engaged in learning and nervous to have strangers in the room.
  • We observed a Teacher Research Group (TRG) which is the equivalent of a PLC. Many school collaborate in TRG’s up to three hours per week.
  • The Chinese are going through educational growing pains in similar ways to the U.S. We learned a lot from one another and will continue to do so.

All in all, I was intrigued by all that we saw. The experience causes me to look at our own system with new depth; new eyes. I went to China with many perceptions and will continue to think carefully about how that deepens my own knowledge about education in Wyoming. Mostly, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to travel. I must admit, I am even more grateful to be home and to be an American. We live in the greatest country on this earth and we are doing amazing things in education in Wyoming!

US Delegation

U.S. Delegation of State School Chiefs

translators

Our translators were teachers from across China, most are coming to the U.S. for their master’s degrees

TRG meeting

Science teachers discuss data at their weekly TRG meeting

calligraphy

Calligraphy is a junior high elective

Other Updates
The State Board of Education met this week on the Wind River Indian Reservation. We are moving forward after great discussions on the State System of Supports, the assessment task force, science standards review and adoption, and more. There was also a lot of information shared about the need for stronger Native American education across our state with support by WDE and State Board. The State Board heard presentations about school restructuring from district superintendents, principals, and instructional facilitators. The presentations reaffirmed that systemic change will move us forward in ways that compliance-driven directives cannot. Thank you for your great work!

Upcoming community meetings about science standards are coming to a community near you! Please encourage school board members, parents, business folks and others to attend. This is an opportunity to provide input on the process and desired outcomes before the review committee begins its work. Here is a link to the media release: edu.wyoming.gov/downloads/communications/pr/2015/Community-Meetings-on-SSRC.pdf.

The UW Board of Trustees also met this week for three days. The weekend is UW graduation.l Here is a neat story about our basketball team: http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/mens_basketball/photos-wyoming-men-s-basketball-graduates-five/article_0e8985c8-fa57-11e4-871e-9f54ecaefd4b.html.

Superintendents Memos going out May 18, 2015

Have a great weekend!
Jillian


May 8, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Morning,
Thanks to Riverton, Rawlins, Casper, Douglas, Gillette and Laramie! I had an opportunity to visit schools in all these communities over the past week or so and I thank you for your willingness and hospitality. I loved reading out loud, celebrating with staff and students, touring construction zones, and visiting about district successes and challenges.

Balow reading to Douglas students
Reading to elementary students at Douglas Primary
Balow Special Olympics
Opening ceremony for Special Olympics Summer Games

Other Updates
While I was in Rawlins last Friday, I had the honor of visiting their Carbon County Higher Education Center. It was a treat to visit with K-12 and higher ed faculty/administrators as well as students. It reaffirmed my belief that communities have the very best solutions to our most significant education challenges. They are doing amazing work to blur the lines between K-12 and higher education and education and industry. Their facility is also magnificent and I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already.

As school wraps up for the year, I want to share information about an exciting summer opportunity for families. I know our family will be participating in the WY Outside Challenge. Here is a link to share with students and families: http://www.wyoutside.com/2015WYOutsideChallenge.aspx and here is a short video my family and I had a lot of fun making: https://youtu.be/Ycah7T2W64c.

I leave for China tomorrow morning and you will be hearing from Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor in my absence. Here’s a little about my trip: http://trib.com/news/local/education/wyoming-state-education-chief-to-travel-to-china-next-week/article_f1590fc7-9614-5e2b-864e-9df2f51c4021.html.

Superintendent’s Memos to be released on May 11, 2015

Always my best,
Jillian


May 1, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Good Day, Wyoming Superintendents,

This update comes from the road, Riverton to be exact. I am spending the morning with your curriculum directors.

Thank you for two wonderful opportunities to discuss student achievement and education improvement over the past two weeks. We appreciated the opportunity to have meaningful dialogue with superintendents from across the state at your annual WASA meetings. On Wednesday, my Chief Policy Officer Brent Young and I joined a dozen or so superintendents in a meeting with Governor Mead to discuss the bright future for Wyoming education. Here are a few takeaways:

  • We will all continue to communicate frequently and openly. Written communication and face to face conversations are the beginning.
  • Education is on the precipice of great change due to unprecedented engagement at all levels. It’s time to take advantage of a rare window of opportunity and strive to be the best we can be!
  • WDE identified areas where we can streamline work for districts and provide better technical assistance.

Other Updates
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award recipients. Congratulations to the teachers! Children across Wyoming benefit from their fabulous instruction. I am honored to serve our state and champion excellence.

2015 Arch Coal
2015 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award recipients – April 30, 2015 – Gillette, Wyo.

Superintendent’s Memos to go out May 4, 2015
Since 2011, I have had the privilege of working with First Lady Carol Mead on several initiatives related to children and families. Included in this week’s Superintendent’s memos is a letter from First Lady Carol Mead. In it, she encourages your cooperation with the distribution of a booklet where parents can find helpful tips on how to talk to their child about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abstinence. To that end, I ask that you work with the Prevention Management Organization’s local community prevention professional (CPP) to help get books delivered in your district. Your CPP will be in touch to determine how many booklets are needed in both English and Spanish as well as where and when it would be best to have them delivered.

There is flexibility in how booklets are distributed, e.g. have them available at school or send them home. With the end of the school year nearing, it may be best to wait to include the booklet in parent orientation materials at the beginning of next year.

Have a great weekend,
Jill


April 24, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Dear Colleagues:
It was a pleasure to visit with local superintendents from across the state at your gathering in Casper. Thank you for giving the WDE the opportunity to update you on all that is happening. Congratulations to Shon Hocker, Superintendent of the year!

This week we “softly” rolled our the WDE mission statement, “Creating opportunities for students to keep Wyoming strong.” Over the next few months, we will develop and release our strategic plan with the overarching goal that 80% of graduates will be college, career and military ready by 2020. Wyoming will stay informed about our progress using a variety of metrics that will be tracked on the website, “Wyoming Measures Up.”

Superintendent’s Memos that will be released to the public on Monday, April 27

My Best,
Jillian


April 17, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Dear Colleagues:
One of the best parts of my job is being able to speak to groups, especially kids. Last week, I had the honor of welcoming 1,200 FFA students to their 88th convention in Cheyenne.

If we’ve spent more than a few minutes visiting, I’ve likely found a way to mention career and technical education (CTE). While I haven’t officially hung my hat on any one initiative, this is one area where I hope to lead Wyoming further than it’s ever been. See recent article here.

The Problem:
There is a perpetual stigma attached to “school to career” or “school to training other than college” that needs to change in America, especially in Wyoming. The top three sectors in our state: energy, tourism, and agriculture (with technology catching up) depend on a ready workforce that Wyoming doesn’t currently have.

The Horizon:
Community colleges, industry and school districts across the state are making inroads through innovation. We need to take note of the successes and figure out how to grow great efforts statewide. I’m excited to lead this charge and will focus on a few key areas:

  • Policy that expands scholarship opportunities after high school graduation
  • Strong partnerships with industry, higher education, school districts, and communities so we identify valuable jobs, skills, and certificates needed for a strong Wyoming workforce now and in the future
  • A phase out of CTE courses that do not lead to valuable opportunities (certifications, job skills, successive courses) after graduation
  • A scaling up of CTE courses that are relevant to Wyoming’s job and training opportunities

This spring and summer I have accepted several invitations to speak at CTE conferences and workshops around our state and nation. I will also be visiting several beacon CTE programs in community colleges, school, and industry.

Included in this week’s memos is information about CTE mini-grants. I’ve heard from many how useful these grants are to CTE programs in our state. I encourage all districts, large and small, to evaluate how the mini-grants can help K-12, higher education, and industry partners to create CTE opportunities.

Other Updates

1. We continue to ramp up our social media presence and communications. If you haven’t looked at the website in awhile, please visit us at edu.wyoming.gov. We are also sharing education successes from around the state on social media, via Facebook and Twitter.

2.  The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee convened a marathon executive session to mark up the rewrite of NCLB. It passed unanimously out of committee. If you have followed legislation before, you know we are a long way from the finish line. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.

Superintendent’s Memos that will be released to the public on Monday, April 20

My Best,
Jillian


April 10, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Dear Colleagues:
Thank you for the feedback on last week’s update. I want to talk a little about writing this week. I think most of us are still saying, “No more SAWS.” It’s time to ask, “Now what?”

I supported House Bill 159 that was signed into law and eliminated the statewide writing test for several reasons:

  1. We are on the cusp of having meaningful conversation and taking action toward ensuring Wyoming has a statewide assessment system that gives us information about student performance and the health of our education system. Adding assessments is not the answer. However, neither is taking away assessments arbitrarily. My support for HB159 was not to take an assessment off the table but, rather, to eliminate an assessment that did not provide meaningful information.
  2. As a former secondary English teacher, I understand there is great value in assessing writing locally and regionally. My students received immediate and relevant feedback about their writing when my English colleagues and I annually calibrated our writing instruction/test preparation, scoring, and analysis. I have a hunch this is still happening in many, if not all, districts. Independent scoring and delayed results, as were the case with SAWS, did little to improve student outcomes.
  3. A state-administered writing assessment, such as SAWS, is not a requirement of NCLB.  This is one area where federal legislation has given flexibility to states. In Wyoming, leaving this largely to districts makes the most sense.

Now What?

I assured the Wyoming Legislature that great writing instruction and assessment is, indeed, happening across our state. I also shared my commitment to ensuring that a proficient writer in Afton looks the same as a proficient writer in Newcastle. Included in this week’s update is a memo about planned “range-finding” writing assessment trainings. Recognizing that educators need to plan summer professional development, I felt that it was essential to get the cart out a little ahead of the horse. The trainings are part of a larger plan to keep writing assessment local and regional while staying calibrated as a state. That plan will roll out in due time. Meanwhile, please know that WDE has a bank of bias-free, leveled writing prompts that we will provide to school districts so you can continue to assess writing in a meaningful way. We are providing summer training for teachers and others on range-finding and will continue to support districts with a framework for scoring and reporting.

I want to report to our legislature that our kids are growing as writers and that the assessment and data are meaningful and drive instruction.

Other Updates

As State Superintendent, I sit on the Board of Trustees at the University of Wyoming. This is a distinct honor as a UW alumnae and lover of all things Wyoming. One way I hope to add value is by serving on a special board created to fulfill the Trustees’ Education Initiative that was launched this week:

“The Education Initiative recognizes the UW College of Education’s responsibility to prepare K-12 teachers, administrators and counselors to work in Wyoming’s public school system. The resolution launching this initiative calls for developing a plan to elevate the College of Education to ‘a pre-eminent college’ in pursuing that mission, while acknowledging it will be a complex, long-term undertaking involving the governor, the Legislature, the entire K-12 community, the current and future leadership of the college, and resources of the university.”

The news release from UW can be found
here.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I travel to Sheridan this weekend to mark the passing of a statesman, advocate for education, and my good friend, Representative John Patton.  As the sitting chairman of the House Education Committee, Representative Patton brought forth the legislation that lifted the footnote banning the State Board of Education from considering the Next Generation Science Standards. He was also a leader in the effort to reduce the number of school districts from 102 to 48. He fell ill during the recent legislative session and passed away last Sunday at the age of 84. While I wasn’t finished learning from him, his work as a legislator will positively impact our state for generations.

Superintendent’s Memos that will be released to the public on Monday, April 13

My Best,
Jillian


April 3, 2015

From: Superintendent Jillian Balow
To: District Superintendents

Dear Colleagues:
Happy Friday! In an effort to enhance direct communication between us, this will be the first installment of a personal weekly update from me on behalf of the WDE. While much of our customary district communication will remain intact, we intend to reshape our communications operations in the coming months. But regardless of how those operations change, this Friday communication to you will remain constant and keep you apprised of all relevant WDE business.

I anticipate these weekly updates to include:

  • A personal note from me or one of the Chiefs:
    • Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff;
    • Brent Young, Chief Policy Officer;
    • Brent Bacon, Chief Academic Officer;
    • Dianne Bailey, Chief Finance Officer;
  • Superintendent’s Memos in advance of public release the following Monday; and
  • Other updates and briefs affecting Wyoming education.

Update from Me

Last week, a team of four from WDE traveled to Washington, DC for the annual legislative conference of the Counsel of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Brent Young, Dicky Shanor, Kari Eakins (Communications Director), and I were among participants from 48 states. The number one topic on our minds was the reauthorization of ESEA.

Over the course of four days, our team met with President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, six members of Congress who hold positions on education committees in the House and Senate, and members of our own Wyoming delegation. All agree that ESEA needs to be reauthorized and two bills are moving through Congress. Both bills are slated for debate in the next two weeks. The trick will be crafting a bi-partisan bill that will pass through both chambers of Congress and that the President will sign.

At this point, reauthorization is far from certain but I will continue to advocate on behalf of Wyoming for reauthorization that places more ownership of accountability, assessment, and teacher/leader evaluation in the hands of states, not the federal government. Additionally, I feel strongly that Wyoming, and all states, need to have greater authority and flexibility over federally allocated funds. My sentiments were shared by many of the other State School Chiefs present.

I, along with about thirty other State Chiefs, met with President Barack Obama at the White House. The Chiefs asked questions of the President for about an hour and quickly drilled down to the heart of concerns in education:

  • Ineffective education governance at the federal level with the use of waivers, burdensome reporting, and inflexibility with federal funds;
  • Native American challenges;
  • Early education; and
  • Higher education.

The Wyoming team returned feeling supported by our delegation and cautiously optimistic about the reauthorization of ESEA. We also renewed some great networking relationships with CCSSO and other states and took home valuable information regarding the tasks in front of us in Wyoming.

One other “hot” topic while we were in Washington, DC came on the heels of a report and divisive comments from Secretary Duncan about adequate funding for high poverty students.

Read more here and here.

As Wyoming enhances its State System of Support and accountability system, WDE is committed to supporting systemic and significant district interventions that target the lowest-performing schools.  We think we are on the right track and will be sharing more information on the SSOS with you all in the coming months and at your conference on April 23.

Chiefs at Dirksen

State Chiefs at the Dirksen Senate Building on Capitol Hill

Frontier Chiefs

Frontier State Chiefs, L to R: Kirsten Baesler (ND), Denise Juneau (MT), Jillian Balow (WY), Melody Schopp (SD) at the White House

Superintendent’s Memos that will be released to the public on Monday, April 6

Other Updates
Along with CCSSO, we are proactively reengaging in many areas and leveraging the numerous resources available to state education agencies (SEAs) across the country.  It is through these resources that we will be able to serve as a better partner with you and provide information on best practices to help you achieve your district goals.

Have a great weekend!
Jillian