Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill is creating a report on the state’s public schools, which she and legislators say is intended to help guide education policy.
The same piece of legislation that in January stripped the superintendent position of state Department of Education administrative duties also added this task: An annual report to the Legislature on “the general status of all public schools.”
Hill said guidance for the report is minimal as outlined in Senate File 104. But what the legislation does say could yield a lengthy read, according to John Masters, deputy superintendent of public instruction.
“Given the structure outlined and that it will touch on roughly 350 public schools in the state, the report could potentially be several thousands of pages in length,” Masters wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune.
For example, the report is to include, “as necessary,” school district fiscal reports, which are often more than 20 pages for each of the 48 districts, Masters wrote.
The report is due Oct. 15. Masters said in an interview that legislators are seeking information on topics that include the quality of education, professional development for educators, and the general health of schools, among others.
State Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said the intention is to provide an objective evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses from which the Legislature can develop ways to improve the education system.
Among other things, such a critical assessment could include examination of what’s proven to work in other places, he added.
“I think it provides a great opportunity which is consistent with the original constitutional intent of the superintendent position to evaluate and assess the state of education in Wyoming,” Rothfuss said.
What it won’t be is a “gotcha” report, Hill said. Nor will it be about micromanaging or assessing schools, she added.
“This is not a report about our schools, this is a report to inform legislators on their policies,” Hill said, adding that she believes the intention is to inform lawmakers about how policies can help or how they are harming schools.
Hill and Masters said the report will gather input through surveys from educators and the public.
Masters said Hill and her staff also plan to visit schools and districts, as limited resources allow.
Some of the report will be based on data, including information about achievement. Other topics will be more expansive, such as innovation, Masters said.
“Much has been presented to the legislative committees by experts from outside of the state,” Masters wrote in the email. “We believe this report will be an opportunity for expert and lay opinions to come forth from within the state.”
Hill said the legislation will guide the report.
“You have to guess a lot,” Hill said. “And so we’re going to go with what they’ve given us. We’re going to follow that statute, as general and nonspecific as it is. We’ll just do our best to address what they’re seemingly requiring of us.”
Hill is suing Gov. Matt Mead for signing SF104 into law, but not because of the report. Her lawsuit says the legislation violates the Wyoming Constitution by creating an appointed director position to oversee the Wyoming Department of Education and transferring many duties of the elected superintendent to that person.
Shortly after SF104 took effect, the superintendent also announced she’ll run for governor in 2014.