Board right to revisit standards

By: 
Buffalo Bulletin

Late last year, the governor’s Reimagining and Innovating the Delivery of Education advisory group delivered its final recommendations to Gov. Mark Gordon. Its recommendations aren’t policies or prescriptions, but guiding principles for elevating the state’s K-12 education system.  

Those recommendations came on the heels of the release of the state’s draft “Profile of a Graduate” — seven “competencies” drafted by the State Board of Education and meant to address what parents, educators and communities believe Wyoming students need to know to be ready for life after high school. The profile includes academic, career,
community and life goals for Wyoming graduates.

In addition to the RIDE recommendations and Profile of a Graduate, the state has adopted content and performance standards in each of the following 10 content areas: reading/language arts; social studies; mathematics; science; fine arts and performing arts; physical education, health and safety; humanities; career/vocational education; foreign cultures and languages; government and civics including state and federal constitutions; and computer science.

And by all accounts, the standards are broad and deep. The state’s science standards number more than 250 pages. Wyoming has more than 1,800 K-12 content standards across subject areas, according to a news release from the State Board of Education.

But rather than having the desired effect of providing clear direction to districts and educators, teachers and administrators increasingly say that the many different boxes they must tick has become onerous — forcing teachers to pick and choose what content to cover or to cover material in a cursory manner rather than engaging and exploring content deeply. And it’s created an unwieldy amount of paperwork that takes teachers away from
actually teaching.  

In October, the State Board of Education registered those concerns, voting to address the concerns “raised by educators, citizens and policymakers regarding the instructional and learning load of the current Wyoming Content and Performance Standards.”

The intent of the resolution is to reduce the load of state standards to provide time for classroom innovation and meaningful learning experiences, a need heard through both Gordon’s RIDE Advisory Group and the Profile of a Graduate
listening sessions.

“In anticipation of the establishment of Wyoming
graduation standards and the implementation of the Profile of a Graduate, we recognize the need for schools to have greater flexibility and time to pursue innovation and
community collaboration in response to the voices of Wyoming stakeholders,” the resolution stated. “We resolve to reduce the standards load by adopting performance standards as the state standards and to embark on the rule promulgation no later than February 2023.”

The review marks the first step as the board attempts to convert the profile of the graduate into action — to map those seven core competencies onto the standards teachers are supposed to be teaching.  

It also marks the recognition that some of the present standards amount to burdensome red-tape and
micromanagement. More isn’t always better. In this case, the educational community has spoken — teachers need time to teach.  

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