Government education panel calls for self-paced learning, support for mental health | Wyoming
Measuring student progress based on subject matter mastery, rather than the amount of instructional time, will be key to the future of Wyoming’s education system. The state should also redouble efforts to address behavioral and mental health challenges affecting students and educators.
Those are some of the findings of the final report of Governor Mark Gordon’s Advisory Group on Reimagining and Innovating Education Delivery, released Monday.
The effectiveness of government-funded studies has long been scrutinized, and it remains to be seen how the recommendations will translate into policy or changes in the classroom. The RIDE Advisory Group recommends that the governor work with the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education to develop implementation plans, which it recognizes will “require relatively fundamental changes to the state’s educational system.”
“Those plans are expected to address definitions of jurisdiction across the state; provide guidance to school districts; support education professionals in the delivery of student-centred learning; and clearly communicate to families and the public what the change means,” said a news release from Gordon’s office.
Gordon established RIDE in May 2021 to study and develop recommendations to elevate Wyoming’s K-12 education system. The 11-person committee consisted of three state legislators, two Gordon staff members, two business owners, an educator, a school board trustee/parent, an education advocate/parent, and the Laramie County attorney. , John Masters, who served as president.
The group surveyed more than 7,000 stakeholders and conducted 17 listening sessions to gather feedback from the state. The majority of respondents identified themselves as parents or guardians. Nearly 60% of respondents said they do not believe children are adequately prepared for the future, and topics for improving child readiness identified by the majority of respondents included “learning outcomes and expectations” and “content and class structure.
Based on the information it collected, RIDE offered two main recommendations in its Monday report:
Students must be able to progress through academic content as soon as they are ready; advancement must be the product of mastery, not of sitting time. This shift toward student-centered learning, the report said, “should allow children more freedom and control of their educational experience.”
Students should have more opportunities for career and technical education, regardless of whether they want to attend a four-year university. “A strong focus on pathways that lead to high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs will benefit students and the state’s economy,” the report read.
Other key priorities for the education system include improving mental health supports and increasing kindergarten readiness, according to the report.
Student-Centered Learning breaks with the familiar model in which students are assigned a grade based primarily on their age and spend set amounts of time completing required class material before progressing. However, the report states that “it is well known that students learn at different speeds.”
What if, the report posits, “each student could progress at their own pace, advancing when they have mastered the material and getting additional time and support in areas of need?”
More than any other issue, the report states, this issue energized the stakeholders involved in the process, “and the Advisory Group considers it critical to the future of Wyoming’s education system.”
The group also heard stories about students and education professionals across the state struggling with mental illness, according to the report, and more support for these resources can be transformational for Wyoming.
“Simply put, this is a capacity challenge, and more capacity will be needed for schools to succeed,” the report says. “Real resources will be needed to attract and retain professionals in roles that make a difference in students’ lives.”
While moving toward student-centered learning is a years-long process, according to the report, “addressing the mental health crisis and disruptive behaviors demands urgent action.” RIDE suggested that the Governor and Legislature make sure schools have the resources they need to address the crisis.
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