Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Wyoming’s standards are clear and specific for all grade spans solely in mathematics, according to ratings by the American Federation of Teachers. More than anything else, the lack of clear and specific standards in other core subjects reduces the state’s grade in this category.
The state has math and English tests aligned with its standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Those tests use a variety of items to assess student knowledge.
The state is one of only 19 to make use of multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response items in every grade span.
Wyoming lacks a strong state accountability system for schools. The state holds schools accountable for student performance by publishing test data on school report cards and using test results to help rate schools. But the state does not provide help or impose sanctions for all consistently low-performing or failing schools, including non-Title I schools.
Wyoming also does not give monetary rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Wyoming scores in the bottom segment of states in this category. The state does not ensure that its teachers demonstrate full knowledge of their subjects by requiring them to pass teacher-certification tests.
Wyoming also does not require future teachers to complete majors or even minors in the subjects they plan to teach. Instead, the state outlines standards and competencies that teacher-candidates must demonstrate before they complete their programs. Wyoming requires only eight weeks of student teaching, which does not earn it full credit for that indicator.
The state does not require and pay for mentoring for all new teachers in the state. On the plus side, the state publishes professional-development guidelines and finances professional development across districts. School and district report cards also include some teacher-qualification information, such as the percentage of teachers who are “highly qualified,” and the percentage with emergency certificates. But the state does not hold its teacher-preparation programs accountable for the performance of their graduates in the classroom.
School Climate: Wyoming’s strength in school climate lies partly in its low average class size. The average elementary-class size, based on data from the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, is 18.1 pupils, one of the lowest in the nation. The national average is 21.2 students.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey show 8th graders in Wyoming are more likely than their peers in other states to attend schools where classroom misbehavior is not deemed a problem. As part of the Every Student Counts online data system, the state reports attendance rates at parent-teacher conferences for every school and district. That practice may help account for the higher-than-average percentage of students in Wyoming who attend schools where more than half of all parents attend such conferences.
Wyoming loses points because it provides families with only a modicum of public school choice. The state has a limited open-enrollment policy, and its charter school law is considered weak by the Center for Education Reform.
Equity: The state has one of the best wealth-neutrality scores of the 50 states, ranking fourth on that indicator. In fact, Wyoming is one of only 10 states with a negative score, which means that when state and local funding is considered, districts with less property wealth actually have more money on average than affluent districts do.
Wyoming ranks 41st on the coefficient of variation, however, which shows there are still wide disparities in spending across districts, even if they aren’t accounted for by differences in property wealth.
Spending: Wyoming shares the first-place ranking with New York state and the District of Columbia on the spending index, scoring a perfect 100 percent. That means all students in Wyoming are in districts spending at least the national average. The state ranks fifth nationally in per-pupil spending for the 2001-02 school year, at $9,439 per pupil. This marks an increase from the 2000-01 school year of more than 10 percent. Wyoming allocates 4.1 percent of its total taxable resources to education; the national average is 3.8 percent.
The state also made a concerted effort to consistently increase funding from 1992 through 2002. Wyoming posted an average annual funding increase of 2.4 percent—compared with a national average of 1.8 percent—during that time.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 137