Wyoming schools ranked C; local superintendents disagree

Wyoming’s schools received a low rating of C-plus last week in a report released by Education Week, a nationally recognized publication. The grade was based on information gathered through surveys that measured statewide policies, but did not take into account individual district programs.

Big Horn County School District No. 2 Supt. Dan Coe disagrees with the rating because of the way the information was gathered in the report.

“In Wyoming many decisions such as curriculum, textbooks, teacher professional development, teacher evaluation tools, etc., are decided at a local school district level,” said Coe. “National studies do not take this into account and look at what is done at a state level, and if they do not see that component in the scoring formula at a state level they score that state low. For example, in this study they score states on teacher mentor programs. In Wyoming, that is done on a local level but not on state level, therefore the study scores Wyoming low in this area since there is not a teacher mentor program run by the state. Big Horn No. 2 has a teacher-mentoring program, but that is not scored in this national study. Wyoming school districts are doing much better than a C-plus in K-12 education, but it is not reflected in these studies.”

Supt. Shon Hocker of Big Horn County School District No. 1 agreed with Coe that any study that does not take into account the programs in place at the local levels is not an accurate reflection of how schools operate in the state of Wyoming, where policies are not necessarily “standardized” and where individual districts are allowed to be somewhat “autonomous” in terms of determining certain policies.

“I personally don’t give credence to any report that does not take local information into account, which appears that this study does not,” said Hocker. “Our kids score high on national tests like the nationwide NAEP, which shows the kind of education they are getting.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results are considered a “yard stick” for measuring and comparing students on a national level.

According to the Education Week report, known as “Quality Counts” Wyoming ranked 26th against other states with scores of B-minus in the “chance for success” category, D-plus in “K-12 achievement,” C-plus in “standards, assessments and accountability,” a C in “transitions and alignment,” a C in “teaching profession” and an A-minus in “school finance.”

The group gave an overall grade of C to U.S. schools based on the average of a 50-state survey and makes the claim that “the study is the most comprehensive ongoing assessment of the state of American education.”

It ranked Maryland schools at the top of the heap with schools in New York and Massachusetts not far behind. New Mexico and Nevada received the lowest scores, with grades of D-plus and D respectively. With an overall score of 76.3, the Wyoming score was in keeping with the national average. The majority of states received a score of C-plus or lower in the study.

By Patti Carpenter