Accountability alone won’t get lawmakers the results they want from the state’s well-funded public school system, educators told a select committee tasked with creating a state school accountability system on Monday.
The proposed system of evaluating schools on test scores and graduation rate does not provide schools the support necessary to improve in the areas measured, according to members of an advisory committee to the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability. A 2011 law requires the committee to recommend or draft legislation outlining how schools will be measured and held accountable for the Legislature’s large monetary investment in education.
The lack of support and consequences for not meeting standards closely makes the system resemble the federal No Child Left Behind Act, said Diana Clapp, superintendent of Fremont County School District 6. Clapp said the state system should avoid mirroring the federal law unpopular with parents and educators, and instead generate plans for improvement that work together.
The proposed system relies heavily on the Wyoming Department of Education to track improvement plans and help schools and districts implement new programs and strategies to turn around struggling schools. About one-third of department employees left their jobs in the past year, according to payroll information from the Department of Administration and Information.
“With the changeover in personnel, it’s hard to know who to rely on, who has that expertise,” said James Bailey, superintendent of Uinta County School District 1.
Bailey said his district contracted a group from the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington, and lawmakers need to think about if and how similar support can be offered within the state.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, agreed, noting the state’s mix of rural and city schools creates equity issues.
“A lot is put on the Department of Education and state board,” Harshman said. “Do they have that capacity to turn around schools? I’m not sure anyone in our state has that knowledge and expertise.”
Belish said lawmakers should develop a system that links sensitive information to instructional practices but allows educators to focus on instructional practice, aligning accountability, assessment, school and district accreditation, teacher evaluations, graduation requirements, a support system and a rigorous, clear set of learning targets.
“We have an opportunity to accomplish something grand for Wyoming students, educators and citizens by creating a comprehensive, cohesive framework of education — not just accountability,” Belish said.
Lawmakers will discuss the advisory committee’s suggestions and begin working through a draft bill today in Casper.
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