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Wyoming education reform may take longer - Gillette News Record: Wyoming

Wyoming education reform may take longer

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Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:00 am

CHEYENNE - Wyoming's effort to make its public school students better prepared for college and careers may take up to two years longer to fully implement, members of the Wyoming Board of Education said.

The state and school districts lack the resources to get some of the state's ambitious education reform components in place in the time originally planned by lawmakers, said Paige Fenton Hughes, coordinator of the board.

"The state board is very worried about the accountability model being operational in 2013-14 because that would just be next fall," she said Tuesday.

In a report to the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability on Tuesday the board suggested a new timeline of 2015-16 instead.

Lawmakers have worked the past three years to overhaul the state's K-12 public schools after some questioned whether Wyoming was getting adequate results in education despite its $1 billion-a-year investment in public education.

They have passed laws to establish a system measuring progress of student academic growth and grade public schools on how well they are educating their students. The state Education Department would intervene to help individual schools that fail to meet performance standards.

Several panels have been working over the summer to establish the nuts and bolts of what the laws require.

"It's getting more involved and it will continue to get more involved and it may be more arduous, but I think personally that we're doing OK," Senate President Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, said.

Sen. Hank Coe, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he believes lawmakers would be receptive to allowing more time because they recognize the challenges being faced.

"This is a big apple and we've just taken a small bite out of it," Coe, R-Cody, said.

The board also expressed concern about the amount of testing that will be required in schools and about parents in making sure their children attend school.

"We believe that it's important that parents are responsible for their student's attendance," said Sue Belish, a member of the education board.

Teachers and schools can't be held accountable for a lack of performance by students who miss a lot of class time, Belish said.

The select committee is scheduled to continue its meeting Wednesday when it will hear a staff report critical of the Wyoming Department of Education's performance in carrying out its duties on seeing the reforms implemented.

Coe and state Schools Superintendent Cindy Hill had a brief confrontation over public meetings Hill and some of her staff held one day last month in Rock Springs, Cody and Casper on the education reform effort.

Coe questioned the use of a state airplane to fly Hill and her staff around the state for meetings that should have been conducted by the state education board and the implication that he had suggested Hill under take the public meetings.

Hill said she wouldn't apologize for seeking public comment on such an important issue and the plane was necessary in order to reach all three meeting sites in one day.

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