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New WDE boss: Reform efforts are worthwhile

Sep 6, 2013 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Wyoming is on the right track in its effort to hold schools and educators accountable for the academic performance of their K-12 students, according to Richard Crandall, the new director of the state Education Department.

"I do think we need a common vision of where we want to be five years from now so that everybody can play a key role in it," Crandall said. "I think we'll be able to agree on that and then it's just a matter of implementing the plan."

With the amount of money Wyoming spends on education -- the state is among the highest nationally in education spending per capita -- it's proper to ask why students aren't among the top five performers nationally in the classroom, Crandall said.

The state Legislature has been working for several years on establishing the best ways to test and measure student academic performance and how to hold individual schools, administrators and teachers responsible for students not being prepared for college or careers. The effort has included requiring all 11th grade students take the ACT test and requiring a 16-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grades.

While some education reform measures have been implemented, others, such as how to evaluate teachers, are still being worked out by lawmakers.

The Education Department is a key player in implementing the reforms. It is one of the reasons why the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead decided to enact a law replacing the statewide superintendent of public instruction with a director appointed by the governor. The idea was to take the agency out of the hands of politicians and place it in the hands of an administrator who has a better understanding of complicated education issues.

Crandall, who took over the agency Aug. 5, said in a recent interview that implementing Wyoming's education reform will be challenging because it will take time to see results.

However, the state is uniquely positioned to undertake such an effort in part because of its small population and strong support from the Legislature, governor, educators and others, he said.

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