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Wyoming SBE adopts changes to student-teacher contact time requirements; new rules await governor’s review

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CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming State Board of Education (SBE) voted during its November 19 meeting to adopt proposed changes to rules governing school schedules. If the new rules are signed by the governor, a new definition of teacher-student contact time will be implemented in the state.

“The new definition provides continuity in the calculation of instructional time for school schedules and a standard to determine if instruction outside the physical classroom is appropriate to be counted as pupil-teacher contact time — such as the virtual learning time experienced during the recent pandemic,” the SBE said in a press release Tuesday. “The new definition of instructional time also creates consistency across districts by excluding passing times, lunch, and recess time from the pupil-teacher time calculation.”

The SBE said that counting things like passing periods, lunch and recess time as student-teacher contact time can add up to 175 hours of non-instructional time throughout the course of a school year.

“To offset the impact of the more narrow calculation of instructional time, the board decided an adjustment of the minimum instructional hours at the secondary levels would be appropriate,” the SBE adds. “Under the proposed changes, a minimum of 950 instructional hours for middle/junior high schools and 1,000 instructional hours for high schools would be required.”

The SBE said that the board’s approval of the proposed rule change came after a 45-day public comment period. With the SBE approving the proposed change, the proposal now goes to Governor Mark Gordon for consideration.

“If signed by the governor, K-12 schools will operate under a new definition of pupil-teacher contact time,” the SBE said.

During its November 19 meeting, the SBE also:

  • Approved a waiver from Fremont County School District #38, which is a K-8 school district, to allow the district to operate a grade 9-12 charter school in Arapahoe, Wyoming.
  • Approved teacher evaluation systems for 23 school districts in the state.
  • Approved the promulgation of Chapter 47 rules for School Accountability, with the proposed rules now set to go out for a 45-day public comment period.
    • “Per state statute, the school accountability system provides a School Performance Rating for every public school in Wyoming,” the SBE said. “The performance ratings for schools are based on a calculation of student academic achievement, growth, and equity. Post-secondary readiness and graduation rates are also included as part of high school performance ratings.”
  • Tabled a request to promulgate Chapter 10 Rules on Standards pending further input from educators on proposed changes to Fine and Performing Arts standards.

The board also heard from 2021 Wyoming Teacher of the Year Alexis Barney, a teacher at Evansville Elementary.

“Barney spoke of a vision for a joyous and just education system in Wyoming while reminding the board of the stress teachers are facing and the compounding impact of the pandemic on the mental health of students,” the SBE said. “The board also heard about the innovative collaboration between Worland High School and Wyoming Sugar Company. Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructor Casey Lewis shared information with the board regarding work-based learning opportunities being provided to students.”

“The board then heard from CTE instructor Troy Reichert from Guernsey-Sunrise High School. Reichert shared his journey in creating a Skilled Trades Camp in Wyoming. The first year of the camp was provided through collaboration with the University of Wyoming and local businesses. The Skilled Trades Camp was open to students across the state and nation. Plans are already underway to replicate the success of the program with another camp to be offered during the summer of 2022.”

SBE Chairman Ryan Fuhrman praised the work of Barney, Lewis and Reichert in the press release.

“Each of these educators exemplify what makes our education system so strong,” Fuhrman said. “Each one is going above and beyond what the system demands of them because they see a need to make learning more relevant and are working tirelessly to meet it. The State Board is working to do the same through our Profile of a Graduate work. We will continue to shine a light on innovations as we hope to adjust the system to make them commonplace.”

The SBE’s next regularly scheduled meeting will take place on January 20, 2022: “Meeting minutes and materials may be viewed through the board’s website. Follow the SBE on Facebook and Twitter.”

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