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Working for school accountability

Jan 8, 2013 - By Cindy Hill

As I travel the highways of Wyoming, I find a great number of Wyoming educators and parents see their schools as models for the rest of the state and the nation. Residents of each community I visit are anxious to learn how their local school is performing.

An accountability system can provide this information. That is why I fully support the accountability effort in Wyoming and why I have spent much of the last year making sure my department has met every deadline for every task required by the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

An accountability system in education helps communities understand the progress and effectiveness of their local schools, teachers and school leaders such as superintendents and principals. It offers a standard measure for all the schools in Wyoming by creating a uniform list of objectives.

The accountability effort in Wyoming got started two years ago and was substantially modified last year when the Legislature passed what would be known as the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

At the Wyoming Department of Education, we are proud of the work we have done in the educational accountability effort.

There are roughly 25 different groups that have a hand in carrying out the work outlined in Wyoming Accountability in Education Act, including the Wyoming Department of Education, the State Board of Education, consultants to the Legislature, and even a new group made up of Wyoming educators tasked with setting measures for schools to use in the accountability process.

I am proud to say the Wyoming Department of Education has met every deadline mandated by the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act this year. The department has also worked to help other groups meet their goals under the act by providing them with data from schools, such as test scores and other measures of student achievement.

Recently, the Wyoming Department of Education developed a functioning accountability model which could be used to measure the effectiveness of schools in Wyoming. In the world of manufacturing, it would be known as a "proof of concept" -- basically a model that proves an accountability model can be developed. My team and I took the pilot model to several locations around the state to be viewed by legislators, superintendents, teachers and community members, who offered valuable feedback.

We will continue to seek the advice of stakeholders in this process.

The department is continuing to develop what are called Statewide Systems of Support. Through this program, we will develop a "toolbox" of sorts that can be used to help schools that find themselves in a performance slump as measured by the accountability model.

The best news of all is that we did this without any funding from the Legislature and without increasing the size of the department. These were complicated tasks demanding a great deal of expertise. Working together, we accomplished all of them.

While the headlines may focus on the differences between those working on the educational accountability effort, here is what you need to know:

- Everyone in this process agrees that an accountability system is good for Wyoming schools and Wyoming students. That includes me.

- Getting through the specifics of that process is not going to happen overnight. It will be an ongoing process, but one that will lead to a strong system that helps our students.

- The Wyoming Department of Education has done and will continue to do everything it is asked to do in this process and will do so in a fiscally prudent manner.

- We will do our best to ask for and incorporate as much input as we can from everyone around the state who has a stake in Wyoming schools.

In everything we do, I and the rest of my staff are personally committed to the children of Wyoming and make them our top priority.

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