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Education overhaul signed by governor

Mar 21, 2012 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead signed into law a bill advancing Wyoming's effort to help make its public school students better prepared for college and careers.

"We will all continue to work on creating an education system that is second to none, and there will be growing pains as we continue," Mead said in a statement after he signed the measure Wednesday.

Results questioned

The law begins the first phase of implementing an education overhaul process initiated by the 2011 Legislature after some questioned whether Wyoming was getting adequate results in education despite its $1 billion-a-year investment in its public schools. Lawmakers say the effort will require additional work by the Legislature next year.

The law establishes a system to measure progress of student academic growth and grade public schools on how well they are educating their students. School administrators would be held accountable for underperforming schools.

The Wyoming Department of Education would intervene to help individual schools that fail to meet performance standards that have yet to be established. If a school fails to show improvement for two consecutive years, the law states the principal can be fired.

Testing and evaluating

Mark Higdon, executive director of the Wyoming School Boards Association, said the law won't be a burden on schools because the goal is to provide the state's students with the best education possible for them to succeed in life.

"There's still a lot of work to be done, but it's, I think, our one best chance to have an accountability system that people in the state can be proud of, and the Legislature can be proud of and the school district can be proud of," Higdon said.

The law details the tests Wyoming students will be taking through high school. It sets up a process for measuring the academic progress of students in reading, math, science, writing and language over their school careers, and for evaluating whether the students are meeting academic expectations and are ready for college and careers after high school.

Committee to form

A committee made up of

educators, school administrators, parents and others will decide what standards schools must meet to be evaluated on whether they are doing a good job of educating students.

Mark Stock, superintendent of Laramie County District 1 in Cheyenne, said his district should have no problem meeting the law's mandates.

Stock said the law sends a strong message about holding schools accountable.

"I think that the message the legislators intended to send to the public is that we want your schools to be accountable for the growth of their students and if you feel like the job is not getting done then you just change leaders," he said.

Stock said his main concern about the law is that each school potentially will be given a single score on how well they meet standards, allowing people to compare one school to another.

"One single numerical score doesn't tell the whole, rich picture of how the school is doing," he said.

For instance, a school with a low score may actually be helping struggling students improve markedly, Stock said.

"The problem is that if the kids come into school so far behind the school has a lot of work to do," he said.

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Legislature, Wyoming