By Aedan Hannon
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — The Wyoming State Board of Education led its first audit of subject standards this month, paving the way for the wholesale reconsideration of educational benchmarks in the state as it seeks to build on its Profile of a Graduate initiative.
The State Board of Education convened a group of curriculum directors and educators from across Wyoming in Casper in the middle of December to examine the state’s math and science standards and look for ways to streamline the requirements for school districts, educators and students.
During the two-day meeting, school district curriculum directors and educators specializing in math and science considered a slew of factors, including state law and the State Board of Education’s Profile of a Graduate — which outlines the competencies each Wyoming student should meet — in updating and trimming down the state’s math and science requirements.
“What the auditors did is they said, ‘Okay, going through the lens of math and science which of these standards lend themselves to this Profile — the voices of the people of Wyoming — and what Wyoming statute says,” said Diana Clapp, the coordinator for the Wyoming State Board of Education and a former principal, curriculum director and district superintendent.
Wyoming’s educational standards dictate how students are measured and what students learn, from multiplication with whole numbers to Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
By all accounts, they are robust. The state’s current math and science standards combined number more than 250 pages. Wyoming has more than 1,800 K-12 content
standards across 10 subject areas, according to a news release from the State Board of Education.
Following a 2018 bill requiring computer science education in K-12 in Wyoming, the State Board of Education and Walt Wilcox, the chairman at the time, asked Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill about the obligations of the board in setting standards for students and school districts.
In her 2019 opinion, Hill concluded that the State Board of Education needed to set graduation standards to meet the requirement of Wyoming’s constitution for a “complete and uniform system of public instruction.”
With the directive, the State Board of Education initiated its Profile of a Graduate to first define what Wyomingites wanted to see from the state’s K-12 graduates.
The board held dozens of listening sessions and collected hundreds of surveys in 2021, asking respondents to share their views on the skills students should learn and the role of K-12 education in preparing students for the future.
Throughout the process, the State Board of Education consistently heard concerns from parents, former students and educators about the volume of standards students and teachers were required to meet, Clapp said.
“The board was openly told, ‘We can’t do all this. We literally cannot cover this in the time that we have to do it, so we’ve got to pick and choose,’” she said.
Those concerns helped to trigger the board’s audit of math and science standards and a broader effort to reduce and reshape the state’s educational standards.
During its October meeting, the State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution declaring its intent to reduce the load of standards.
“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 board wrote.
Ryan Fuhrman, the chairman of the State Board of Education, referenced the findings of the Profile of a Graduate and the input the board received in announcing the review of math and science standards.
“The board is committed to honoring the voices of Wyoming stakeholders that were captured in our work to develop a Profile of a Graduate,” he said in a news release. “We believe that by working to create a more focused, cohesive set of standards, we will provide better clarity and capacity for Wyoming educators to meet the needs of Wyoming students, and Wyoming’s future, alike.”
In its final Profile of a Graduate released this year, the State Board of Education outlined seven competencies Wyoming’s graduates must meet and which will guide the new graduation standards it sets, including problem solving and creative thinking, and mastering and applying foundational knowledge and skills.
The ability to apply knowledge was one of the areas that the auditors were asked to consider in refining math and science standards, Clapp said.
The recommendations of the math and science standard review group will now go to the State Board of Education, which will initiate a public input process, Clapp said. The board will also use the group’s recommendations to refine future audits of other subject areas as it seeks to reduce the load of standards on students and teachers.
Though it may seem insignificant, the review marks a significant step for the board. It represents the first time the board has converted the Profile of Graduate into action, Clapp said.
“First and foremost, the intent of the board is to respond to the voices of the people they heard,” she said.