Wyoming State Superintendent Jillian Balow submitted Wyoming’s consolidated state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) in August 2017. The USED approved the plan in January.
ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaces No Child Left Behind as the principal federal law affecting K-12 education. To meet the requirements of ESSA, the plan includes achievement and graduation rate goals for schools, measures for how well schools are doing, and priorities for the use of federal funds to support schools, students, and educators.
Balow said the state places extra emphasis on opportunities for students as they prepare for college and careers, the workforce, and the military. Stakeholder input was gathered through listening sessions, town halls, public meetings, individual stakeholder meetings, and online feedback opportunities before the plan was submitted.
In the approval letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, she said the following: “In its consolidated State Plan, a State must describe how low-income and minority children enrolled in schools assisted with Title I, Part A funds are not served disproportionate rates by ineffective, out-of-field or inexperienced teachers … Wyoming describes a plan to collect the data necessary to meet his requirement during the 2017-2018 school year.” Earlier this week, DeVos delivered a 40-minute speech pointing fingers at state chiefs who submitted ESSA plans that lacked ambition and innovation and failed to take “full advantage of the law’s flexibilities” (Burnette, 2018). None of these shortcomings are outlined in Wyoming’s approval letter.
The Devos’ initial response aligns with NCTE’s beliefs about quality teaching. In 2006, NCTE’s Standing Committee on Teacher Preparation and Certification compiled an 89-page document to “…attempt to articulate what English language arts teachers should believe, value, know, and perform in their classrooms as they work with an increasingly diverse student body.” Specifically, the document addresses that “diversity — of our students, our communities, our schools and teaching situations — is important, especially as students move into a world that is becoming more and more heterogeneous.” The 2006 Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts stemmed from numerous prior NCTE publications, including a 1996 version in which the council determined “that the National Council of Teachers of English continue to oppose the hiring or assigning of teachers to teach English language arts who have not completed the recognized guidelines for teacher preparation in English language arts as specified by the credentialing requirements of their states, in spite of the need to address the realities of teacher shortages in some states and districts;
· that NCTE and its affiliates continue to educate legislators, school officials, and the public about the complexities of teaching English language arts; and
· that NCTE publicize and promote its resources (conferences, publications, and networks) as professional development services to help all teachers.”
Among its 28 position statements on teacher quality, NCTE also provides resolutions on Preparing Teachers on the Literature of Minorities, a resolution dating back to 1972. Wyoming’s long-term school goals are outlined here:
· The long-term goals are based on schools that performed among the 65th percentile of all public schools in Wyoming. In the 2015-16 school year, the top 35% of schools had a graduation rate of at least 88%. The goal is for all schools to perform at the same level within 15 years.
· The long-term goals for reading and math are also based on schools that performed among the 65th percentile in 2015-16, but these goals will be revisited once baseline data is available from the new statewide assessment, Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP), which will be given for the first time in the 2017-18 school year. The current goals were set using PAWS results for Grades 3-8 and ACT results for Grade 11.
· Stakeholder consultation will continue through the Advisory Committee, which developed the method for setting goals.
Accountability measures and supports for schools, teachers, and students are also outlined in the document.