Super Candidates, Public Weigh Wyoming Education Standards

Wyoming is in the process of revamping its education standards as those vying for the state’s education leadership are laying bare their visions for reform.

Content and performance standards are reviewed in the state every five years, with any revisions approved by the State Board of Education.  On July 1, the board agreed to allow for public comments on standards in areas such as social studies, physical education, language arts, and math.

Public comment is open until September 11, with a public hearing scheduled for September 10 where all comments will be recorded verbatim.

Candidates for the position of state superintendent are currently in disagreement over what has happened to the state’s education system in the past few years, although each agrees more local control is needed.

The Joint Interim Education Committee is looking for public input on new standards.

“It is a preliminary look at what are the roles, responsibilities and duties of state agencies and bodies in education in the state,” said Rep. Cathy Connolly.

A survey is available on the state’s website, which will remain up until August 15 for public comment.

“Anyone who has an interest in education should offer their opinions,” said Senator Jim Anderson. “We’d encourage as many people in the state to respond as possible.”

The committee is also seeking advice from state education groups including the Wyoming Education Association and the Wyoming School Boards Association.

The committee plans on using the collective thoughts to put together a system that will provide the best education for students.

Findings are expected to be announced in November, with action beginning to take place in December.

The superintendent candidates also agree students in Wyoming are over-tested.  Each plan on looking for ways to reduce the number of standardized tests required.

Students currently are required to take the Performance Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS) every year from grades 3-8.  The results are used to report educational progress for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Over the next few years, Wyoming will spend $18.6 million for three tests to be written and two years of administering them.

If the state switched over to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a test that measures progress with Common Core standards, testing costs could be cut in half, reports Leah Todd for The Casper Star Tribune.

“It’s like no one at the state level is sitting back and asking the simple question: ‘How much time testing are our students actually enduring?’” republican candidate Bill Winney said. “And does that amount of time detract from the classroom education they’re getting?”

While not all candidates are in agreement over how much testing should take place, or even which test to use, they all agree that too much testing takes away from class time.

“Testing imposes huge costs on our education system, both in dollars and lost classroom time,” Republican candidate Sheryl Lain wrote. “As policy makers and leaders, we must look beyond the simple numbers and ratings of test scores and ask ourselves how we will define success.”