By Victor Skinner
EAGnews.org

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming officials are working to create a more performance-based education system, and it will start by holding schools and teachers more accountable.

accountableTwo bills recently passed by the state legislature would establish accountability measures for public schools and base teacher employment reviews, in part, on student growth, the Wyoming News reports.

“We fund schools better than probably anybody in the country, and (we) don’t think we’re getting the results,” Sen. Hank Coe, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee told the news site. “We’d like to have the best (kindergarten-12th grade) system in the country.”

Education officials told the news site that students likely will not notice the bulk of the changes, with the exception of different assessment tests. The changes focus mostly on how schools and educators are evaluated, although many of the details have yet to be finalized.

The changes will come in two phases. The first addresses school performance and will categorize each with one of four possible scores: exceeds expectation, meets expectation, partially meets expectation or doesn’t meet expectation, the Wyoming News reports.

The accountability system will utilize what’s referred to as the “Colorado Growth Model,” which compares the growth of students with similar test scores.

“Schools that don’t meet expectations have to create an improvement plan to address the areas that need more help,” the news site reports.

Phase two of the reforms focus on evaluations for teachers and administrators, which will be based on professional practice and student academic performance, although the exact process hasn’t  been finalized, state officials told the Wyoming News.

Surprisingly, the state teachers association, the Wyoming Education Association, seems open to the evaluations.

“(We) strongly support the concept of accountable schools and education,” WEA President Kathy Vetter told the Wyoming News. “(We) look at accountability as a way to help everyone improve so we’re not just looking at a good education system but a great education system.”

That’s certainly a refreshing perspective from a teacher union official.  Union officials in most other states have opposed evaluations that are based on student performance.

It will be interesting to see how the WEA influences the debate as state officials work to implement the details of the reforms over the next couple of school years.

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