Panel in Wyoming Offers Package of School Reforms
The Wyoming Blue Ribbon Committee on Quality Education this month recommended a school-reform package that includes increased high-school graduation requirements, higher salaries and professional standards for teachers, and more efficient use of classroom time.
"As this committee studied reports, sifted through evidence, and heard from 125 citizens across the state, it became clear that recommendations for change were in order," members of the panel said in its report, "Quality Education in the Equality State."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lynn Simons established the 29-member panel last year to examine the condition of public education in Wyoming. The committee includes educators, parents, public officials, and representatives of the state's business community.
The panel recommended that requirements for high-school graduation include four years of language arts, two years of mathematics, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Graduation requirements in the state currently vary from district to district.
"These requirements should consist of a core for all students," said the report. "And as core requirements are met, alternatives should be available that broaden the students' perspectives and prepare them for later life."
For college-bound students, the committee suggested even stricter requirements, calling for an additional year of mathematics, at least one laboratory-science course, and two years of foreign-language study.
The committee also recognized vocational education as "an integral part" of the educational system but suggested that training be shifted from preparing students for an industrial society to preparing them for a technological society.
In recommending more rigorous graduation requirements, the panel called on the state legislature to adopt a law authorizing the state education department to ensure that the recommended graduation requirements are met by all school districts.
The superintendent's committee suggested that funding for elementary and secondary education be increased to levels that would allow teachers' salaries to compete with those of professionals in private industry. But it also called for "verifiable criteria for determining [teacher] competencies."
Such criteria, the committee proposed, should include a requirement that all prospective teachers be graduates of teacher-training programs approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and that a temporary, one-year teaching certificate be issued for new teachers. The certificate would be renewed only if a thorough evaluation of the teacher's performance during the first year proved satisfactory.
Use of Time
Another primary concern of the panel was the need to make better use of the school day.
"To deal with this issue," committee members said in the report, "we recommend that attention be given to reducing absenteeism, time lost to out-of-school work, time off of school tasks, and to regular class time devoted to extracurricular activities."
School districts should stress time-management techniques in each school building to ensure that time spent at school is as productive as possible, the report states.
Limiting Student Employment
The committee recommended limiting student employment to a maximum of 20 hours per week. "Legislation may be necessary toel30llimit child labor," the report added.
Superintendent Simons said that the education department will seek legislative support for those recommendations that require additional funds or new laws, and that her agency will continue its current efforts at educational reform.
The department has not arrived at a final estimate of how much additional money would be required to put the committee's proposals into effect, education officials said last week. But according to Ms. Simons, "Many of the recommendations are, in fact, projects that the department has already undertaken and we will continue with renewed vigor our school improvements under way."