Wyoming Leaves Smarter Balanced

Wyoming State Capitol Building Photo credit: Alan Levine (CC-By-2.0)

Wyoming State Capitol Building
Photo credit: Alan Levine (CC-By-2.0)

The Wyoming Department of Education announced on Monday that they are leaving the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

They were an affiliate member of the Consortium having reverted to that status in 2014 after joining as a governing member, and the department said they are leaving so they can procure another test without the perception of having a conflict.

“Wyoming’s affiliation with SBAC raises red flags for me as we consider a new statewide assessment,” said Wyoming State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “Any real or perceived conflict, such as with SBAC, detracts from securing the most appropriate assessment for Wyoming students.”

“The Every Student Succeeds Act provides Wyoming with a unique opportunity. We expect a statewide assessment that is configurable, comparable, and affordable. Classroom and district assessments give us the best information about how students are succeeding from day to day, while a statewide or summative assessment is a broader look at how students are doing from year to year and how our state is doing compared to others,” Balow added.

Contracts with Wyoming’s current vendors for statewide assessments in grades 3-10 expire January 1, 2018. A Request for Proposals will be issued in the fall of 2016 for a vendor for statewide assessments in grades 3-10.

It is entirely possible that Wyoming could still end up with Smarter Balanced, or a vendor tied to Smarter Balanced. For instance Iowa had pulled out of the consortium only to have the assessment task force and the Iowa State Board of Education push Smarter Balanced. The Iowa Legislature has delayed the implementation of Smarter Balanced until July of 2017, but it could be addressed next legislative session as well.

You can read their letter to Smarter Balanced below:

No ESEA Waiver for Wyoming Until They Toe Federal Line

By Shane Vander Hart

state-flag-wyomingThe Casper Star Tribune released a document they received indicating that Wyoming would not receive an ESEA waiver.  In a memo from the Wyoming Department of Education that was sent to local school administration they outline several of the reasons:

Several challenges prevent Wyoming’s waiver approval. One is the state’s inability to develop a method to calculate graduation rates consistent with the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act but also conforming to federal requirements. According to the Governor’s education policy advisor: “[A]bsolutely no change to the Wyoming accountability model may be undertaken in order to satisfy the feds in exchange for a (sic) NCLB waiver.”

Another significant challenge is that state statutes do not allow for the administration of a uniform assessment tool such as those being developed by SBAC and PARCC as those tools include various item forms and writing assessment items in contravention of specific statutes.

How can this not be labeled federal coercion to force Wyoming, as well as, other states to get rid of those pesky state statutes that prevent them from implementing federally “sanctioned” education reforms?

Wyoming Test Scores Drop

Like New York, Wyoming student test scores drop as well, and like New York it was “expected.”   The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

Statewide scores for elementary and middle school students in the Performance Assessment for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, this spring declined in every subject and every grade level from 2012 numbers, according to data released Wednesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

The slump may be a result of the state’s ongoing transition from one set of learning standards to another, Wyoming Director of Assessment Deb Lindsey said.

“Knowing that every district is in a state of transition and, simultaneously, our assessments are in transition, it’s not surprising to me to see some declines,” Lindsey said. Wyoming asked its teachers to begin teaching to a national set of new learning goals called the Common Core State Standards in 2012. The 2013 PAWS test was the first standardized exam to incorporate test questions about the new standards.

“We know that implementation of new standards changes the practice of classroom teachers,” Lindsey said. “It takes time.”

Former Arizona state Sen. Richard Crandall, who started as Wyoming Department of Education director on Monday, said the results indicate there’s more work to be done to transition fully to the new Common Core standards, which administrators say are more challenging than Wyoming’s former content standards.

“The higher expectations that come with more rigorous standards will ultimately benefit all Wyoming students,” Crandall said in a department release.

Teachers were asked?  Try mandated to switch!

A Wyoming School’s Common Core Gag Order

wyoming flagI received this email from a 6th grade teacher in Wyoming whose school placed a gag order on her regarding her opposition to the Common Core State Standards.  I’m withholding her name to protect her privacy (and career).

I am currently a teacher in a smaller district in Wyoming. I attended a Wyoming Department of Education training for the ELA Common Core Standards in July, prior to starting the 2012/2013 school year. I came to this training knowing only that Wyoming, along with 45 others states were choosing to adopt the standards fully by 2015. The WDE presenters were suggesting we use some of the methods I had been trained to use in Utah, and had previously used when I taught there. Since our state and district benchmarks would not be fully aligned with textbooks, curriculum, and testing until 2015, I wanted to get a head start.

I looked into what my former colleagues were doing in Utah. This is when I discovered the movement that 2 Moms from Utah and Christel Swasey have been a HUGE part of. I was FLOORED! I had no idea that there was a different train of thought, let a lone a movement against the implementation of Common Core.

This piqued my curiosity and caused me to do some researching. I quickly realized how ignorant I really was about our country’s education system and how the Department of Education affects what happens in our schools. It was truly ignorance on my part, as I only saw how things happened on a local level and never really thought about the affects of national legislation affecting a small town in Wyoming.

The more I researched the more I become aware of how much I didn’t know! I also began forming my own opinions about how this could potentially limit local voices from parents, teachers, and administrators. I chose to share my research and opinions with my administrator and a few close colleagues privately. I emailed links to the research I’d done, along with my views on what is happening and how it could potentially affect us as parents, and teachers. After the email was sent I met one-on-one with my administrator, where we discussed common core and the research I had done and continue to do. Basically, I left that meeting knowing that he disagreed with what my opinion is. However, I left with the feeling that we would agree to disagree. He also pointed out the fact that our state and district would be moving forward with common core and I would need to be on board with it.

The next day I was approached by a fellow teacher whom I’d shared my concerns with. They asked if I would be comfortable sharing those same concerns during a grade level meeting, as others were curious. I agreed to do so. During the meeting I spoke of several movements in various states that are pushing to repeal the adoption of common core, or at lease give more time to consider it. I spoke of being shocked that I was ignorant of any controversy surrounding the Common Core. I shared my feelings, concerns and opinions. I suggested they become aware that there are two sides to this and to be prepared to have an opinion. I pointed out that questions could come from concerned parents or others in the community. I also shared that my main concern was with the changes to data privacy and losing local control. When I was finishing my administrator said that there would be no more emailing, or talking about the common core amongst the staff. There was a finality to his tone and the meeting was quickly over at that point. I then received an email from my administrator reminding me of our district policy of not using school resources to push political concerns or agendas. He also stated that there was to be no more discussion about common core unless it was on an “educational” basis between staff members.

Ironically, I had several teachers contact me outside of school that same day, to say they were shocked at my administrator’s tone. They feel I was being genuine in sharing information that was previously unknown and could potentially affect educators. Several staff member have also approached me saying that they are grateful for this information and are now researching it on their own.

The question being asked in my school now is…Why can’t educators do what they do best? Research, question, inform?? Isn’t it better to question and discuss things, even if we don’t agree on them as to find what is best for the children we have been entrusted with? Should we turn a blind eye, and be lead like sheep off the cliff?

What is wrong with forming an opinion, discussing it, whether we agree with each other or not? Why stifle this? I don’t think he realized that he just gave fuel to what was once a single voice!

At this point my union representatives are looking into this as a form of suppressing free speech. I also have an appointment set up to meet with our district’s superintendent. so that I may better understand the position our district is going to take on this. At this point the staff at my school believe they will be reprimanded if they speak with parents concerning common core for something other than it’s educational use.

If you have a story to share, email me at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.

Wyoming Proves that Common Core is a Federal-Led Initiative

Common Core State Standards advocates typically make an argument that the development of the Common Core was state-led since it came out of the National Governors Association and Council for Chief State School Officers.  They seem to neglect the fact that these are trade organizations not states and that state legislatures were bypassed as different state departments of education or state school boards said yes to the Common Core. 

Can we now agree that the Common Core has been at least federalized?  Case in point – Wyoming.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that the state of Wyoming is facing a fine from the Federal government:

A recent report on the Wyoming Department of Education’s work on a statewide educational accountability system noted delays and lack of compliance in preparing state assessment tests.

The department has been slow to complete contracts and work to align existing state assessments to new requirements, according to the report. The state also faces a fine because the state Education Department has made no progress to gain federal approval to replace the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students with the ACT for 11th-grade students…

… Notably, the department has struggled to establish a writing test, dubbed Students Assessment of Writing Skills. Problems with aligning SAWS with the national Common Core State Standards and accountability act requirements substantially delayed the test’s construction, liaisons said in the presentation. Wyoming adopted the Common Core standards in April.

The National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment, a firm the state hired to help with accountability work, and an LSO liaison had provided guidance in May for the SAWS alignment.

But in September, WDE officials sought to start the writing assessment one year later than the accountability act requires. WDE officials implied the delay was necessary because the act didn’t match Common Core standards for third-grade writing.

WDE officials eventually continued work on the fifth- and seventh-grade SAWS without further direction from the board or the consultant firm. Those tests, according to the report, do meet state and national requirements, but it questioned the availability of those tests in spring 2013.

The third-grade SAWS still does not include some required components, and WDE’s plans for the exam continue to be noncompliant, according to the report…

…Lack of progress to gain federal permission to switch the tests followed initial contract delays.

In July, the select committee authorized consultants to help the department “aggressively” pursue approval from the federal department, which called for alignment studies and a peer review after an initial request. The department has accomplished no tasks toward that goal, according to the report.

“It appears that WDE is almost working against approval of the ACT instead of vigorously trying to advocate for this system,” the consultant firm concluded.

That consultant, Scott Marion of the National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment, told legislators he’s seen few cases where states made changes without federal approval, and they were penalized about $60,000.

Let’s be clear that the Common Core is a federal-led, not a state-led effort.  If that were not the case Wyoming would not be facing a fine and they would not have to get approval from the Feds.  To continue to say the Common Core is a state-led effort is simply ridiculous.

Educrat Authority

Here is an example from Wyoming why a state’s department of education should have as little authority as possible.  Otherwise they think they can ignore the State Legislature.  The Casper Star-Tribune published an editorial, “Education Dept. must start cooperating with legislature.”  They wrote:

The fact that a legislative liaison was barred from a Wyoming Department of Education staff meeting is indicative of larger, systemic problems that have hamstrung accountability efforts and resulted in a deep lack of trust by lawmakers that educational funds are being properly spent.

The lack of progress the department is making in fulfilling the requirements of the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act is disturbing, and can’t be allowed to continue.

…Instead, the department continues to resist efforts by lawmakers of both parties to see that the money appropriated is used for the purposes it was intended.

One of the liaisons in the nonpartisan Legislative Service Office, Mike Flicek, was barred from attending a July 16 meeting of the DOE’s Technical Advisory Committee.

The panel includes experts on educational assessments who are required by the federal No Child Left Behind law to make sure states are fulfilling requirements concerning contracts.

That’s precisely the type of meeting lawmakers want their liaison to attend, so they can be aware of what’s happening. But Flicek said he was told that the meeting was for department staff members only, even though it had several items on the agenda related to the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

Heaven forbid, a legislative liason weighs in on concerns!  No he needed to shut up and let the adult educrats in the room do their thing.  In reality they should have as little authority as possible.