State of Wyoming raises bar on education

Parents of students in Wyoming’s K-12 schools may notice that the homework their children bring home next year is a bit more challenging. This is due in part to the on-going effort by the state’s top education officials to keep Wyoming’s educational standards among the highest in the nation.

According to information released recently by the Wyoming Department of Education, the state re-evaluates its standards every five years and the state is proposing a new set of standards in schedule with that time period.

“Under Wyoming law, the state board of education is required to establish content standards for K-12 public school students in Wyoming,” explained Big Horn County School District No. 2 Supt. Dan Coe. “Those standards are the essential elements that indicate how the state expects students to perform in certain critical areas.”

According to Coe, this includes math, language arts, social studies, science, the fine arts and vocational education.

“There are Wyoming content standards for all of those areas,” said Coe, “and the State Board of Education is required by law to revise those standards every five years so that we stay up-to-date in regard to changing times and what students need to be prepared to go on to other things upon graduation.”

Wyoming is among a group of 45 states that have adopted a set of “common core standards” that were developed by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) to create uniform guidelines that prepare students for both career and college readiness.

“The common core initiative is not mandated by the federal government,” explained Coe. “There is a rumor out there that this is something the federal government is forcing us to and there will be a national test, etc. This is just not true. The NGA initiated the common core. The superintendent of public instruction for each state belongs to the organization.”

Coe went on to explain that the group (NGA) set a common core of standards about a year ago, which Wyoming adopted in June 2010.

“They basically presented us with a set of standards that are research based that would be common to students across America,” said Coe. “It tells us what students need to know to be successful in the future.”

Forty-five out of 50 states have adopted these core standards.

“The standards tell us not only the standard that should be taught but the grade level it should be taught,” said Coe.

The standards can be found at www.corestandard.org.

“The standards are very detailed and determine what will be assessed on the state’s assessment test (PAWS) and it is going to drive curriculum and what textbooks are used to teach the standards,” said Coe.

Coe expects the content standards as they currently exist to remain in place through this spring, but parents could see a change in the curriculum as soon as the fall of 2013 and the students will be tested based on the new standards in 2014. It will be up to individual school districts to select the materials and set the curriculum that will best teach the students according to the new standard. Coe is already working with curriculum director Nancy Cerroni to analyze what changes will need to be made to incorporate the new standards into the school’s curriculum.

Coe recommends that parents can best help their children during the transistion to the new standards by making sure they are able to do their homework, working with teachers and by keeping their students prepared for school. Those preparations include making sure the students get quality nutrition and plenty of rest. The school provides tutoring for students who need help in specific areas.

“I think there will be some adjustments,” said Coe, “but compared to what we are already doing in our district, they won’t be huge changes. If I put it on a scale of one to 10 with one being no change and 10 being massive change, I would put this at about a seven on that scale. The changes will be more along the lines of what grade level we teach the various standards, as opposed to what the actual standards are. There will be more detail in the standards and when they will be taught is where we will see the most change.”

An explanation about the new standards can be found at www://edu.wyoming.gov. The public is invited to make comments about the planned changes through Jan. 25.

By Patti Carpenter

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