LOVELL – The Reimagining and Innovating the Delivery of Education (RIDE) advisory group, formed by Governor Mark Gordon to assess Wyoming’s approach to education, released a report Dec. 12 calling for more fluid, centered education on the student, less focused on progressing through rigid grade levels and more on student mastery.
Big Horn County School Districts Nos. 1 and 2 officials say while they support the report’s findings, it remains largely unclear how districts are expected to implement the changes.
“The State Board of Education-sponsored graduate profile and the Governor’s RIDE program both appear to be about how Wyoming schools can help prepare young people to navigate the changing world they will live, work and will contribute,” Matt Davidson, superintendent of School District No. 1, said. “However, to date, there have only been references to information collected by the two initiatives and summarized ideas with few concrete details on how the concepts should be implemented. Districts are eager to know how it translates into action.
The report was created by an 11-person committee appointed by Gordon and based on survey responses from 7,705 residents across the state, followed by a series of listening sessions in Star Valley, Rock Springs, Powell, Riverton, Gillette, Casper and Cheyenne.
The main recommendation made by the report was that student progress should be based on demonstration of mastery and not just time spent in a classroom.
“The RIDE Advisory Group envisions a radical, systemic change in which student-centered learning becomes the norm rather than the exception,” the report says. “The advisory group views it as critical to the future of Wyoming’s education system.”
The report argues that focusing student growth specifically on student understanding of topics and not based on a timetable will better equip students with the tools they need to succeed in the modern world.
“The vast majority of students will move at varying speeds in each of their subjects, not to mention the variance each student may have from subject to subject,” the report says. “The individualization of the speed of progression – as well as the intensity of support focused on accelerating learning to fill gaps – will fundamentally change the way students interact with schools, the way schools interact with students and how students establish lifelong learning habits.”
The report also identified a need for career-related education from strength to strength, calling on the state to create a series of career clusters, such as “health sciences”, “manufacturing” or “agriculture, food and natural resources”. give students the opportunity to consider and work towards careers at an earlier age and base their education on this pursuit.
This new priority also places additional emphasis on providing increased vocational technical training to students and expanding support for students choosing career paths outside of four-year colleges.
The report also identified two secondary priorities, calling on the state to expand support for student mental health and also calling for increased support for pre-kindergarten education.
Outgoing Senator RJ Kost, a member of the RIDE committee, said the most common concern expressed by Wyoming residents with Wyoming’s current approach to education is that they feel their child is not receiving not the individualized education he needed.
“A lot of people thought the kids were being held back amid the band’s success,” Kost said. “If you score better than the group, you have to work to improve on your own, and if you score lower, you have to work hard to catch up. We are not hitting education in our state in any way. We have a great process and even better teachers. But in the future, education must change.
Kost said a more individualized journey for students will not only give them a deeper connection to what they’re learning, but more effectively teach them the broader skills needed to succeed.
“What standards are essential for people to be effective in the world we live in? I would say problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and communication standards,” Kost said. “Think of a situation you experienced last week, say your car won’t start. Did you learn to deal with it as a ninth grader in school? Probably not. You need to know how to identify the problem, fix it, and find the right solution that works for you.
School District No. 2 Superintendent Doug Hazen said the concept isn’t new to those in Big Horn County, but even the standards set by the state are too rigid for schools to fully embrace. .
“What we need is more guidance,” Hazen said. “We’ve been wrestling with this idea for a long time, and we’ve advised against simply measuring students on seat time. But there are certain criteria that we must meet as a district. If we didn’t have to, we could be more creative. The State of Wyoming has some work to do before our school districts are able to fully implement a system that meets the criteria of this report.