GOSHEN COUNTY – The State Board of Education will provide districts with more flexibility in state accountability requirements and will not issue School Performance Ratings for the 2020-21 school year in response to COVID-19.
Recommendations regarding state accountability were received from the Wyoming Department of Education and its Assessment Technical Advisory Committee, who recommended assessing students to the greatest extent possible but not rate school performance based on results, according to a Sept. 30 SBE press release.
The WDE will bring emergency Chapter 3 Rules for the board’s consideration in October which will allow the SBE to grant an exception to the state accountability requirements. The recommendation was based on uncertainty of the ability to assess 95 percent of students in the spring of 2021, and the impact of missing assessment data from the 2019-20 school year on accountability indicators, including Growth and Equity, according to the release.
“The state board is ready to be responsive to the needs of districts as they navigate this unique school year and extends a hearty thank you to all of the educators who are working so hard to ensure that learning continues and students receive the world class education that they deserve.” said Ryan Fuhrman, SBE Chairman in the press release.
Goshen County School District No. 1 Superintendent Ryan Kramer said School Performance Ratings allow him to compare Goshen County schools’ performance to those of Wyoming’s 47 other districts. Still, GCSD can gather its own data based on state and district tests, which gives them a good indication of student learning, he said.
“It just alleviates that concern for the ‘what if,’” Kramer said. “What if a school district in the state is remote right now, what if a school district is hybrid, is that fair to require that state assessment at that time and I think the realization that no, that wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Kramer said GCSD prefers to measure performance on the student level, so suspension of statewide WY-TOPP exams last spring due to COVID-19 “makes things a little bit more difficult.”
Kramer said the district is implementing problem solving teams at every grade level to provide support for students who might have fallen behind during remote learning at the end of last year, and they plan to continue with assessments, even with children learning virtually or remotely. To accommodate these learners, the district will schedule time slots to complete them at central office or in other district buildings, he said.
Grady Hutcherson, president of the Wyoming Education Association, an organization representing over 6,300 of the state’s public education professionals, said he “applauds” the SBE for deciding not to use potentially skewed or missing student data to determine accountability ratings.
With COVID-19, it’s likely that schools would receive lower ratings due to missed assessments or for interruptions in education. In a typical year, these reports help districts target problem areas, Hutcherson said.
“That information is typically used at the district level to then make decisions about what teachers are going to do, so they can make improvements moving forward, if they’re not meeting those expectations,” Hutcherson said.
“The Board of Education is understanding of what schools are facing and adapting to what those needs are at this time,” Kramer said. “The goal is really looking at the individual scores, looking at how we can adapt learning for each individual as opposed to a district wide score.”