- Total Enrollment 94,258
- Schools 369
- Economically Disadvantaged Students 37.1%
- Students with Disabilities 16.5%
- English Language Learners 3%
- Students Attending Urban Schools 25%
- Students Attending Rural Schools 28.9%
- 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 March 2020 – April 2021
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.
The Wyoming Department of Education released their "Smart Start Guidance" in July 2020, developed by a group of Wyoming education and health experts.
- 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).
What Comes Next
- Focus on staying the course.
- Prepare to address eminent budget shortfalls.
- Build a “New Normal.”
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.
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.