District 25 to state: Not so fast on huge school reforms

Dec 16, 2012 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees has endorsed a proposal requesting the Wyoming Legislature "slow down" implementation of the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

The accountability law was passed this year in an effort to improve Wyoming's public school system.

It is meant to transform the state into a national educational leader by addressing several goals: to ensure all students leave high school career- or college-ready; to recognize student growth and increase the rate of that growth for all students; to recognize student achievement and minimize achievement gaps; to improve teacher, school and district leader quality; to maximize the efficiency of Wyoming education; and to increase credibility and support for Wyoming public schools.

"It's a redesign of the standards, and the development of the assessment to measure those standards," Riverton superintendent Terry Snyder said Tuesday during a District Board of Trustees meeting. "(It brings) into consideration the effectiveness of each teacher by having a portion of their evaluations tied to the success of the student."

Not 'quality'

He called the WAEA an "important initiative" that should undergo a slow, measured analysis before it is put into practice.

However, Snyder said the WAEA is being implemented through the Wyoming State Board of Education -- an agency that does not typically undertake that kind of work.

"One of the things (the state has) done is transfer what might have traditionally been a function of the Wyoming Department of Education over to the WSBA," Snyder said.

"The change has created, I'll say, a little bit of a difficulty in getting all the steps done properly. ... It created a need to look at the speed and way we're looking at the design on that."

Other districts agree

The NorthWest Superintendent's Association including school district administrators from Big Horn, Fremont, Park and Washakie counties drafted the proposal that FCSD25 board members endorsed this week requesting the WSBE take more time to look carefully at the accountability law.

"We're going to bring this to their attention (and ask them to) consider slowing it down," Snyder said. "Some timelines were just too fast. Things were taking place simultaneously that should've been done ... linearly. It wasn't creating a product that I and the administrators in the district believed was going to be quality."


FCSD25 board member Carl Manning said the state chose the WSBE for the implementation work because of a lack of trust between legislators and Wyoming school administrators.

"They've given us a lot of money, (and) they have a belief that now they should be getting more bang out of the buck they put out," Manning said of state leaders. "They haven't liked the results of the state test. But the state test is not the 'all' in what a student knows."

He said the new accountability system should measure the individual growth of each student in addition to "high-stakes" test results.

"It's one of the most important things that's happened to education in a long time," he said. "If they get it wrong, it'll take them years to fix it."

The WSBE has been "rushing headlong" into its own deadlines, Manning said, agreeing that the association should be advised to slow the process down.

"Change the (due) date," Manning said. "(They need to) give themselves an opportunity to make it the best for all of us, including them, so at the end of the day they trust it and we see it as a vehicle to get better and more transparent."

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