No one ever claimed the federal No Child Left Behind law was easy to understand.
That’s one reason why the Wyoming Department of Education and Wyoming Public Television stepped in to bridge the gap between the densely worded federal policy and the people it affects.
The two organizations recently wrapped up a two-year partnership that used half-hour TV programs to explain the No Child Left Behind law and how it would affect Wyoming’s schools.
“Grade A: No Child Left Behind in Wyoming” aired 14 installments during the 2003-04 school year. Another 14 aired during the 2004-05 school year. The last new show was broadcast in May.
Ruby Calvert, the director of programming and educational services for Wyoming Public Television as well as a member of the state board of education, is hoping for funding to continue the program. The state education department paid about $80,000 each school year for the program. WPTV contributed about $90,000 each school year in in-kind services.
Each installment was watched in about 5,000 to 6,000 households, Ms. Calvert said. “That’s a pretty significant number for the department of education to reach,” she said.
Ms. Calvert described the creation of “Grade A” as an “alignment of the stars.” And, as an education official, Ms. Calvert said, she had heard from people who just didn’t understand all the intricacies of the No Child Left Behind law.
State schools Superintendent Trent Blankenship said he wanted to reach out to Wyoming residents to explain the policy. In sparsely populated Wyoming, which has about 85,000 K-12 students spread over nearly 98,000 square miles, districts found it hard to learn best practices from one another.
Ben Gose, a former editor with The Chronicle of Higher Education and a Wyoming native, hosted the program. He crisscrossed the state to find schools that illustrated particular topics. Though the education department helped by providing sources, it did not interfere with content, he said.
Mr. Blankenship said the show received a lot of praise. “I try to make a tour of every county in the state every year, and one of the things I would hear is, we really do like that show,” he said.
Craig Dougherty, the superintendent of the 3,000-student Sheridan County schools, was profiled three times on “Grade A.”
“Ben’s been able to go around the state and look at the things that schools are doing right,” Mr. Dougherty said of the program’s host.