County educators, lawmakers wary of rushed ed initiatives

Jan 10, 2013 By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Legislature is expected to re-evaluate a timeline it approved two years ago regarding the state's education accountability system. The possibility of an extension has local school officials crossing their fingers.

Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education trustee Bruce Palmer voiced support for accountability last month but expressed concern about districts being required to undertake several new initiatives.

"I am in favor of accountability," Palmer said at a meeting Dec. 20 in Arapahoe. "Our kids deserve for us to be real accountable."

The Legislature in 2011 passed the Accountability in Education Act that requires implementing and enforcing a new accountability system to measure student achievement by rating teachers, schools, districts and administrators. Components of the legislation are supposed to be phased in this year. However, the Select Committee on Statewide Education filed a proposed bill that, if approved, pushes everything back a year or more.

In addition to the sweeping overhaul of the state school superintendent's position (see related story above), there are at least two bills being proposed regarding the statewide education accountability system.

The first bill would extend the dates as specified in previous legislation and modify the State Board of Education's responsibilities in the first phase of the accountability system.

The second bill pertains to teacher and leadership accountability, and under this proposal, the system would be further studied and developed by an advisory committee and select committee during the 2013 interim, with recommendations to be submitted to the Legislature next year.

Palmer said legislators, when discussing holding educators accountable, need to realize teachers are "incredibly important."

Palmer asked lawmakers to consider districts being asked to revamp the accountability system at a time when they are also implementing new Common Core Standards.

"Schools need to have the ability to take care of these things," Palmer said.

He said districts need flexibility because each is different.

"It seems like we are going very quickly," he continued. "We want it to be high quality, not the fastest. ... We want it to be precise because our kids' education depends on it."

Several school boards, including those in Fremont County, have endorsed a letter from districts statewide asking lawmakers to slow down the process.

At least one local legislator supports the effort.

"I'd be perfectly happy to slow it down," Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said in a recent interview.

Case used the analogy of growing a plant and how the water amount, temperature and light can't all be tweaked at the same time.

"We meddle so much. There is too much dictatorship from Cheyenne and school districts haven't caught up to the bills two years ago," Case said.

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