State Demographics

  • Schools
    Total Enrollment 94,258
  • Total Enrollment
    Schools 369
  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
    Economically Disadvantaged Students 37.1%
  • Students with Disabilities
    Students with Disabilities 16.5%
  • English Language Learners
    English Language Learners 3%
  • Students attending Urban Schools
    Students Attending Urban Schools 25%
  • Students attending Rural Schools
    Students Attending Rural Schools 28.9%
  • Graduation Rate
    Graduation Rate 86.2%

Data source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Common Core of Data (CCD). Graduation Rate data are from 2016/17; all other data are from 2017/18.

State Story
District Stories

State Story : March 2020 – April 2021

March 2020

School Closures

Jillian Balow was serving in her second term as Wyoming’s elected State Superintendent when the COVID-19 pandemic forced her and Governor Gordon to announce a sudden closure of all schools in March 2020.

Initial Decisions and Approach
  • Balanced urgency to act with the need to be thoughtful and strategic
  • Placed decisions in the hands of local leaders.
  • Focused on student well-being and serving the most at-risk kids as a “guiding north star.”
SEA and LEA Role Delineation
  • Understood that decentralized approaches may take more time but can produce better local results.
  • Opened the pathway for local leaders to make decisions by setting up structures for LEAs to act.
  • LEA autonomy worked well for Balow as “an elected official who serves people not schools.”
Supportive Partners or Resources
  • The Governor created five task forces that provided key support to K-12 Education.
  • CCSSO and the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows provided timely and practical resources and support.
Jillian Balow
Jillian Balow Wyoming Superintendent of Instruction

"[We can] look at decentralized education governance and say, ‘Wow, this is something that we can leverage. There are people who are much smarter than I am in the teeniest, tiniest communities in our state, both in the health care realm and in the education realm, and if we can set up a structure and set up guidance for those groups to work together with their community to make decisions about re-opening safely and understand and be okay with the fact that it's going to look different in every community across the state, then that's the way that we need to go forward.’"

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

July 2020

School Re-Opening

The Wyoming Department of Education released their "Smart Start Guidance" in July 2020, developed by a group of Wyoming education and health experts.

Re-opening Approach
  • Created a blue ribbon panel of health, education, and business professionals to develop the “Smart Start Guidance” re-opening plan.
  • Included four critical areas of guidance: communications; safety and wellness; school operations; and instruction and technology.
  • Focused on three re-opening models: open, hybrid, or closed (remote learning).

"Communities know best how to address their unique challenges. Wyoming schools should be prepared to quickly and efficiently adapt school operations in response to their challenges."

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

What Comes Next

Next Steps
  • Focus on staying the course.
  • Prepare to address eminent budget shortfalls.
  • Build a “New Normal.”

"Opening schools with a really great plan document is the easy part. Keeping schools open with a much deeper plan and continued planning and collaboration is going to be the challenge for all of us."

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

August 2020 – December 2020

Re-Opening Plan Implementation

According to Superintendent Balow, most Wyoming schools provided in-person instruction since the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The choice was made by LEAs who followed health metrics and applied virus mitigation practices as needed.

Status of School Models
  • LEAs chose their models based on local health metrics, with most holding school in-person.
  • The SEA helped schools mitigate COVID-19 spread by providing them guidance, local decision-making authority, and policies that would support their needs.
  • Schools took on new roles, like contact tracing.
  • Parents were offered options for school model choices.
A group of kids stand in a row holding backpacks

"I think especially for state chiefs, we were a bit shell-shocked from everything happening in our states, homes, families, and workplace. I think that was when we realized that this is the disruption that we've been waiting for. We are foolish and naive not to take advantage of what this is; a disruption and opportunity to improve education in ways that we don't yet know."

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

"It's not been easy. Contact tracing, [including] the new roles that our school secretaries, nurses, teachers, and principals have taken on has been extraordinary. The partnerships at the local level, with county help, have been extraordinary. Our sports look different. Our classrooms look different. But what doesn't look different is that school remains a really safe place for kids to come and learn."

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction
Cover of the Wyoming Department of Education Smart Start Guidance

"We, like every other state, have been fearful at times of our local statistics. We've seen staff quarantines, school quarantines, and schools that have moved temporarily to hybrid instruction. That's all driven by local statistics, and it's driven by the reality that we've been able to manage the risk."

— Jillian Balow , Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

January 2021

Recover and Rebuild

Superintendent Balow believes that local decisionmaking is important as needs across the state can vary by context. When it comes to the pandemic, Balow asserts that priorities in Wyoming schools are similar to other schools across the country; teachers need resources to provide academic, social-emotional, and trauma-based supports to students, students need academic support and acceleration, and the SEA’s role is to provide support and resources to LEAs as needed.

Recover and Rebuild Section Two

Priorities (January 2021)
  • Focusing on slow, steady, progress brought about by consistent LEA systems and practices.
  • Empowering schools to make decisions based on local data, needs, and capacities.
  • Addressing student learning loss and trauma.
Rethinking Professional Development
  • Moved to online professional development.
  • Refocused professional development to enhance teacher’s abilities to use instructional technology.