New academic standards discussed at board meeting

The Big Horn County School District No. 2 held its regular board of directors meeting on Oct. 8 in the district’s administrative boardroom.

Curriculum Director Nancy Cerroni outlined a “common core standards” transition plan that she and other staff members are developing. Full implementation of the standards is expected to take place in the school year 2014-15. The new standards will affect standardized tests taken by students.

“One of the things we are grappling with right now is how to transition to the new standards,” explained Cerroni.

Her team is currently working on building an understanding of what the standards mean. The challenge is to plan for how the standards will affect student testing when the state has not yet revealed that information yet.

Under Wyoming law, the state board of education is required to establish content standards for K-12 public school students. Those standards are the essential elements that indicate how the state expects students to perform in certain subject areas like math, language arts, social studies and science, fine arts and vocational education.

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 to create uniform guidelines that prepare students for both career and college readiness. The standards are very detailed and determine what will be assessed on the state’s assessment test (PAWS). They will also determine the curriculum and textbooks used. The standards can be found online at

According to Cerroni, the state plans to “field test” students on certain aspects of the standards as early as this school year, but the testing will not count toward proficiency ratings. ACT Plus Writing will replace the PAWS test at grade 11 and grades 9, 10 and 12 will begin ACT Suite testing.

Student tests in the school year 2013-14 will include even more common core based questions, which will be used to evaluate student proficiency. ACT Plus Writing testing will continue for grade 11 in place of PAWS and the other tests within the ACT Suite will continue as well. Full implementation of the standards will take place in the school year 2014-15.

Cerroni said that she and other staff are participating in professional development courses to build their understanding of the common core state standards. To that end, Cerroni is in the process of getting a “Common Core Black Belt Certification.” A group of 10 educators, including teachers and principals, are currently participating in a yearlong professional development program to gain a better understanding of the standards. The group will then pass on that knowledge to other staff members. She said she expects much of the district’s professional development for staff to evolve around the standards over the next few years.

“This just sets the stage for the kind of professional development we have planned for this year,” said Cerroni.

Parents should expect to see homework get progressively more advanced for their children as the new academic standards are implemented, added District No. 2 Supt. Dan Coe. He noted that the standards are more challenging in all areas of proficiency.

“It is important for parents to see the shift because it raises the bar up,” said Cerroni. “Parents will notice the difference in the level of work their children will be doing.”

Busing issue

Next on the agenda, parent Rosalie Patina Garcia expressed her concern about a bus stop located at Quebec Avenue and Second Street that was recently discontinued on short notice. Garcia had previously submitted a letter to the board outlining her concern for the safety of the children who have grown accustomed to boarding the bus at that location. She asked for the stop to be reinstated.

“The stop has been in existence for at least 17 years,” explained Garcia. “I got on the bus at that location when I was 12 years old.”

She expressed her concern that the children now have to walk on a street that has no sidewalks in order to catch the bus at the next stop. She was also concerned about the children walking so far in the cold during the winter months.

Supt. Coe explained that the stop is governed by rules dictated by the Wyoming Dept. of Education. One rule is that students who live outside of city limits or students who live in excess of certain distances to their school must be riding the bus in order for the stop to qualify according to the rules. Once the stop qualifies, other students from within the city limits can board the bus as space permits. He indicated that a change in the demographics of students catching the bus at that location this year disqualified the stop. The stop straddles city limits.

“There are no longer rural students taking the bus,” he said. “Therefore, we can’t provide the stop according to the WDE rules.”

He agreed to investigate further to see if any middle school students are riding the bus on a regular basis, since the distance from the stop to the middle school would qualify the location.

Editor’s note: The issue was resolved earlier this week when it was determined that middle school students were boarding the bus at that location. The bus stop was reinstated on Tuesday.

In other matters, Jessica Riley was named student of the month. Riley headed up activities at Lovell High School during suicide prevention week.

Chelsey Ellis, Coach Doug Hazen and the Lovell High School football team were acknowledged for good sportsmanship awards they received from the Wyoming High School Activities Association recently.

Student Body President Dino Collins updated the board on students’ homecoming activities that took place during the month, a planned blood drive and volleyball tournament.

The next school board meeting will be held on Nov. 12. School board meetings are open to the public.

By Patti Carpenter