Willard Elementary

Students exit Willard Elementary School after the final bell rings in November. A new report ranked Wyoming seventh in the nation for education quality.

A historical emphasis on funding schools helped propel Wyoming to seventh nationally for education quality, according to a report released Wednesday.

Wyoming scored an 80.3, or a B-minus, on the annual Quality Counts evaluation, which graded states using three indices: chance for success, K-12 achievement and school finance. The national average for the report, which is conducted by Education Week, was 74.2. Last year, Wyoming ranked eighth.

“The 2017 Quality Counts report serves as a reminder that we are doing great things for kids in our state,” state Superintendent Jillian Balow said in a statement Wednesday.

The chance-for-success index measures the education’s role in a person’s life from “cradle to grave,” according to Education Week. Nationally, the average score was a C on this index. Wyoming earned an 80.3, with high marks for its early foundation work.

The second index, K-12 achievement, “assesses the performance of a state’s public schools against 18 indicators capturing current achievement levels, improvements over time, and poverty-based gaps,” according to Education Week. Wyoming scored a 71.2. Though it scored a D in the status and change subcategories, Wyoming received an 89.7 in equity.

Balow said she’s committed to improving the overall score, which was near the national average.

“While we are seeing progress on many achievement indicators, average is simply not where we need to be,” she said in the statement.

School finances, the third index, measures expenditure patterns and distribution. According to the report, Wyoming is first in the nation in this category, with a score of 89.5 overall and a subscore of 91.4 on spending.

“As this report shows, we have educators, students, families, and communities across our state who are dedicated and willing to see all students ready for success in school and life,” Balow said.

Of Wyoming’s neighbors, Nebraska had the highest score, a 76.0. Idaho had the fourth-lowest score of 67.6. Of the states west of Missouri, North Dakota comes the closest to Wyoming: The Roughrider State scored a 76.8.

The report comes during a critical time for Wyoming public education. The two-year energy decline has taken a toll: A report released in November estimated that public education would face a $1.8 billion shortfall by the end of the 2022 fiscal year. Lawmakers have said the education funding crisis is the No. 1 priority going into the coming legislative session, which begins Tuesday. Cuts loom on the horizon.

As district superintendents have before her, Balow addressed the massive elephant in the room and how tackling it may affect student success.

“While Wyoming policymakers and educators rightly address our impending financial challenges, it’s essential that we continue to improve student achievement,” she said.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann


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