Wyoming lawmakers have thrown their support behind proposed state standards based on national standards adopted by 45 other states and the District of Columbia.
Legislators on the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability agreed Tuesday to send a letter approving new standards in math and language arts to the State Board of Education, which ultimately decides state content standards. Committee members questioned the standards earlier this year, worried that adopting standards would come with federal strings and unknown ramifications.
Their endorsement comes with a caveat against any federal obligations that may result from adopting the standards.
Language arts and mathematics standards were developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, an effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
About 70 educators and parents around the state reviewed the national standards and generally said they were more rigorous than existing Wyoming content standards.
The Board of Education approved revised Wyoming content standards Sept. 23, and public comment will be accepted through Jan. 25 on the Wyoming Department of Education website, edu.wyoming.gov. The board also plans to hold public hearings on the standards.
The common core standards, if officially adopted, would be the basis for the 2013 Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, which drives most of the school accountability system being planned by the select committee. One of the goals of the proposed system is to ensure “all students leave Wyoming schools career or college ready.”
Scott Marion, associate director for the Center for Assessment, told committee members the common core would strengthen that goal.
“If you want kids to be college and career ready, you have to have standards that articulate what it means to be college and career ready,” Marion said. “And if you want to be compared — favorably I hope — to other states, you have to have a basis for that comparison.”
Test questions, textbooks and curriculum materials will be planned for the common core, Marion said.
“A company is not going to write a textbook aligned to just Wyoming standards,” Marion said. “They’re going to write to common core standards, and you want to have materials that represent what your teachers are teaching.”
Lawmakers said that among all the complaints they heard about the common core from constituents, none said current Wyoming standards were better.
“I’m not hearing a defense of the Wyoming content standards by anybody,” said Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie.
An advisory committee comprising several educators also supported the common core in its recommendations for a statewide accountability system — a method of measuring and holding accountable schools for the increased and sustained level of state funding.
Lawmakers discussed the advisory committee’s recommendations and reviewed a draft bill outlining the proposed accountability system Monday and Tuesday in Casper.
Under the proposed system, schools would be designated exceeding expectations, partially meeting expectations or not meeting expectations in academic growth in math, reading, writing and science and college and career readiness. Schools would receive support from and make an improvement plan with Wyoming Department of Education staff members.
The committee did not finish reviewing the bill and plans to resume discussion in January.