A national education reform group gave a failing grade to Wyoming's efforts to improve education in the state.
State educators said such reports should be viewed in their proper context.
StudentsFirst gave Wyoming an “F” and a ranking of 46th among states. The reform group’s “State Policy Report Card,” graded states' policies on how well they meet its criteria to “elevate teaching,” “empower parents” and “spend wisely and govern well.”
StudentsFirst is a nonprofit organization led by Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public school system, according to its website.
The report is about the state’s legislative policies rather than schools, student performance or the Wyoming Department of Education, a WDE press release said.
“This is yet another example of those outside Wyoming who are not familiar with the conscientious work of our legislators who ensure educational policies reflect Wyoming values,” it said.
For an average parent, the critique might be interesting, said John Metcalfe, assistant superintendent of instruction for Fremont County School District 1. But it doesn't tell them much about the authors' experience with a local school or district.
The report says Wyoming should grade schools from A to F based on how well students perform and give parents information about teacher performance.
It also says Wyoming should create more options, such as charter schools and scholarships for private schools, for children trapped in low-performing public schools.
Wyoming also didn’t measure up on elevating teachers. The report said student achievement should play a larger role in educator evaluations, and that currently there are no consequences for being ineffective.
Other failings in this category include not making personnel decisions based on performance, nor rewarding effective educators.
In the spending and governing category, the report criticized Wyoming for leaving decision-making and implementation authority to local school districts. Wyoming should allow for mayoral control of school districts that aren’t doing well, along with state control of low-performing districts and schools, it says. Wyoming received a B in a subcategory for spending taxpayer funds well for not mandating regulations on class sizes past third grade -- a burden which is less beneficial in later grades, it says.
Metcalfe said organizations like StudentsFirst set criteria based on their preferred solutions.
“Then they simply judge the state -- in this case -- relative to their preconceived solutions and how well you’re implementing their solutions,” Metcalfe said.
He thinks some of the report's solutions are common sense, and there is useful information in some subcategories. In other areas, evaluators seem to use a template that doesn’t apply. For instance, private schools don’t exist in many Wyoming communities, yet that figures into the report.
The report said nearly every state has a long way to go to in reforming its policies. More than two-thirds received a D or F. None received an A.