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Legislators tour district facilities

By KARLA POMEROY

Editor

Big Horn County School District No. 4 hosted two of the three state legislators that represent the district last Tuesday in a pre-legislative visit.

Superintendent Mary Fisher said, “I wanted them to know what our challenges are but also what we do well before they get into session and start talking about education.”

Touring some classrooms and then sitting down to see the new data tracking program Mileposts and how it works with the district were Sen. Gerald Geis (R-SD20, Worland) and representative-elect Nathan Winters who will represent House District 28 in Cheyenne in the 2013 session.

Fisher said she plans on inviting House District 27 Rep. Mike Greear, who now represents Manderson and Hyattville after redistricting earlier this year, for a similar visit.

Fisher said she wanted the legislators to view work in classrooms at Cloud Peak, Riverside High School and Laura Irwin Elementary to “show that we do have strong teachers and that all teachers are highly qualified.”

The visit was also an opportunity to let the legislators know how previous legislation has impacted the district.

Fisher presented a handout to the legislators outlining five items where she feels the legislators can assist the district:

•Supporting the district in its efforts to consolidate the district and build new school facilities in Basin.

•Encourage the Select Education Committee and other legislators to work closely with the Accountability Advisory Committee “to ensure that the requirements in the law are in the best interest of the students.”

•Encourage or support revisions in the current accountability law that allows time for pilot studies or thorough investigation and development of accountability designs. Fisher said, “There are so may variables in each school and each school has unique issues that may affect the outcomes that it is somewhat impossible to measure success through one uniform assessment.”

She added that she wants the focus to be on teaching students and not on taking tests.

•She would like to see better communication between the Department of Education, State Board of Education, Advisory Committee, Professional Judgment Panel and the Select Committee on Education.

•Encourage the legislators to look at research-based evaluation systems that build on professional strengths and hold teachers accountable for improvement in the areas in which they are lacking.

Winters said some of the talking points from Fisher are common issues he has heard around the state.

The two legislators were also treated to a demonstration of the Mileposts System, which is a  a student educational support system that sets achievement standards and accountability roles of students, parents, and staff. It provides teachers and administrators with a tool for guiding instruction, measuring results, and documenting the entire process.

LIE Principal Jared Moretti said the system tracks grades, assessments, absences and behavior. It also provides resources for teachers based on the common core subjects.

He said they tried other systems but this interfaced with the district programs.

The data is used for interventions, to see if the student is ready to advance to the next level on a subject or where the student may be struggling.

He said tracking behavior is a big factor since there “is a huge correlation between behavior and academics.”

The entire system “helps us determine where a student’s learning issues are for each subject. It gives us a snapshot of what the student has accomplished and what they need to improve on.”

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