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Pinedale Online > News > April 2013 > Concern over education

Cindy Hill in Pinedale. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Cindy Hill in Pinedale

Wyoming test design changes. Photo by Wyoming Department of Education.
Wyoming test design changes
Test design changes Wyoming is transitioning to fully incorporate into Common Core Standards by 2015. Graphic from Building Coordinator Training, Wyoming Department of Education PowerPoint, PAWS, SAWS, PAWS-ALT, SAWS-ALT, January 24, 2013. (Additional information - Not shown at this public meeting)

Test Schedule - Grades 3-8 . Photo by Wyoming Department of Education.
Test Schedule - Grades 3-8
Wyoming schools. Slide from a Wyoming Department of Education PowerPoint on PAWS, SAWS, PAWS-ALT, SAWS-ALT, January 24, 2013. (Additional information - Not shown at this public meeting)

High School Test Schedule. Photo by Wyoming Department of Education.
High School Test Schedule
High School test schedule Wyoming schools. Slide from a Wyoming Department of Education PowerPoint on PAWS, SAWS, PAWS-ALT, SAWS-ALT, January 24, 2013. (Additional information - Not shown at this public meeting)
Concern over education
Cindy Hill discusses SF104 and Common Core in Wyoming at Pinedale public meeting
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Onlne!
April 30, 2013

A full house of people showed up for a public meeting in the Lovatt Room of the Sublette County Library in Pinedale on Monday evening (April 29th) to hear information about SF104 and Common Core. Special guest speaker was Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill.

She spoke on two controversial topics: SF104, the legislation in January, 2013 which stripped away many of her duties as an elected official and put them into the hands of a much higher paid person appointed by the Governor; and Common Core, the movement by the federal government to effectively standardize what children learn from grades K-12 in nearly every state across the country.

SF104 means taxpayers are now essentially paying double to have two people doing what she used to do and what the public elected her to do, because the legislature voted to take away most of her duties and put them into the hands of a new position called Director of Education, appointed by the Governor. She said she earns $92,000 per year and the new Director earns from $180,000 to $220,000 per year (Editorís note: In addition to salary and benefits, cost to Wyoming taxpayers for the new education director includes an additional $10,000 for a member of the Wyoming Board of Education to find the search company, plus the $30,000 fee, plus associated costs and travel expenses cost for the search company, Ray and Associates of Iowa, to do the national search to find the candidate).

When asked why the Legislature did that to her and any issues they have a problem with, Hill gave numerous stories of how her leadership direction differs from the education establishment and political leadership. She said their focus has been on compliance; hers has been on literacy. She said Governor Mead has made it clear he believes that education in Wyoming is controlled by the Legislature. "The Wyoming Legislature is an oligarchy," she said. (Oligarchy: meaning "to rule or to command) is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.)

Hill has challenged SF104 and the Wyoming Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. She is paying for her side of the case out of her own pocket. Taxpayers are funding the other side of the court case.

SF104 stripped away the Superintendent of Educationís voting voice on the Wyoming State Board of Education. Hill said that there have been times when she has been in the audience at those meetings with her hand raised for 10 minutes before the board recognizes her to be able to speak on topics they are discussing.

Hill said states are being lured by federal dollars to focus on compliance over instruction. Hill said the Governor had a sense of urgency to urge the adoption of Common Core because of the requirement that the education standards must be revised every five years, and the last revision of the assessment to measure standards was in 2003. Teacher evaluations, and ultimately school funding, are now directly linked to student performance on the tests. She has a concern over who is making the decisions on the assessment, and the introduction of outside influences on the Wyoming education system, alluding to cozy relationships between certain education contractors and government. Wyoming stateís accountability now matches the federal accountability, she said.

Wyoming citizens who disagree with SF104, and how it was done without a vote of the people to gut the duties of an elected official, are arguing that the new law goes against the Wyoming Constitution. They are doing a grass-roots movement to circulate a petition around the state to gather enough signatures of legal voters for a referendum on the legislatorís action. The petition was available at the meeting and garnered new signatures. The due date for the petition to gather enough signatures is May 28, 2013. The Wyoming Constitution Party and Wyoming Republican Party have endorsed the petition.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, one person asked, if the court appeal case goes the way of the state, "Whatís to prevent the Governor from appointing people into other key governmental elected positions?"

The other main topic of the meeting centered on Common Core, the shift of the education system across the nation to standardization of learning. The shift has been encouraged by the federal government tying federal education program dollars requiring states to agree to implement portions of the desired federal outcomes in their programs. Hill said Wyoming leadership is aligning themselves with the federal government regarding education. "We donít need to do it for the funding." She added, "You are going to see more testing coming and more consultants." It costs Wyoming millions of dollars to hire contracting companies to create the assessment tests and for the state to implement them. "Education is big business," she said.

An audience member asked about rumors of data mining and collection of information about students and their families as a part of Common Core. Hill said, "There is a lot of data being collected."

In response to another question about how much control and flexibility local school boards would still retain to design curriculums the way they see fit around the Common Core Standards, Hill said she believed the curriculums would ultimately be aligned to the tests. "What gets measured gets done. Teacherís evaluations are linked to student performance on the tests."

Anyone who wishes to contact Cindy Hill with more questions about education in Wyoming can call her at 307-286-0479.

House District Representative #22, Marti Halvorson, and HD#20 Representative Albert Sommers were in attendance for this meeting. Most school board members and administration were noticeably absent. (Board member Robin Schamber was present.)

Related Links
  • Comments of Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill on SF104 - Pinedale Online, January 30, 2013
  • Governor Mead signs Senate File 104 - Pinedale Online, January 30, 2013
  • Public forum on SF104 and Common Core Curriculum April 29
  • Wyoming Students PAWS transition plan - Wyoming Department of Education (3 page PDF)
  • Wyoming Statewide Assessment System - PAWS, SAWS, EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT Plus Writing, COMPASS, PAWS-ALT, SAWS-ALT, (Includes a 17 minute video from WDE Director of Assessment Deb Lindsey on the future of assessments in Wyoming in 2015 and beyond)
  • Implementing Common Core Standards
  • Wyoming school superintendents outearn governor - Dec. 12, 2012, Billings Gazette
  • Common Core Ė education savior or global indoctrination of students? - Pinedale Online, April 14, 2013
  • Have standardized tests really helped kids learn more? - Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, April 30, 2013
  • Pinedale Online > News > April 2013 > Concern over education

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