For many teachers, their college days are far behind them. But where they studied, what they studied and how well they did will be collected by the Wyoming Department of Education beginning this year.
School districts were asked to provide names of colleges attended, majors, grade point averages and scores from the Praxis II teaching test for all principals, assistant principals, teachers, tutors and instructional facilitators. The information will be used in a market labor study for a legislative committee examining school funding.
The study will evaluate whether salary and benefits are attracting highly qualified professionals to work in schools, said Dave Nelson, school finance specialist in the Legislative Service Office.
The factors were recommended by national economists who specialize in education. The study will be paid for from the budget for the Legislature's "recalibration" studies for the school funding model. Every five years, the Legislature recalibrates, or assesses and modifies, if necessary, how much money is allocated to school districts for staffing and operational costs.
The last recalibration in 2006 boosted teacher salaries. Since then, average teacher salaries have increased more than 26 percent. From 1998 to 2008, the average teacher salary in Wyoming increased 66 percent, the most of any state in the nation. The average teacher salary in Wyoming in 2008 was $55,696 -- the 15th highest in the U.S. and second after cost adjustments.
"The idea is to look at the candidates that we’re getting," said Laurel Ballard, chief information and data officer for the Department of Education. "Are we getting more teachers? Teachers with higher GPAs? Are we getting a better pool of candidates coming in?"
Some school employees were concerned with the information being collected, but an individuals' information won't be reported outside of the department, Ballard said.
"We are not looking at teacher performance at all," Ballard said. "This is not to rate a teacher in any way."
School district superintendents were a little annoyed with the addition to the above-average data reporting duties for the recalibration committee. The department waived the reporting requirement this year because the information can be obtained from the state Professional Teaching Standards Board.
The department will collect information on new employees from districts in the future, every year, to lessen the amount of paperwork required by districts, Ballard said.
"Instead of going back to teachers, we're going to take that burden on at the state level," Ballard said.
The information still won't be easy to get -- more than 25,000 records are kept on paper, many organized by first name. Time is short -- the recalibration committee will meet several times this year and make a recommendation to the Legislature next year.