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Education advisory board seeks public input for draft report to the legislature

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Governor Mark Gordon's Reimagining and Innovating the Delivery of Education (RIDE) advisory board is seeking input from the public. RIDE was formed last year to determine what Wyomingites want from public education. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska chatted with RIDE Chair John Masters about how the group is looking to potentially change the education system.

John Masters: The education system, and this is typical of the United States really, is following a model that's hundreds of years old, sometimes called the Industrial Model, where you take a child, and then within 12 years, you hope that this child essentially has a body of knowledge that prepares the child for life, and probably looks very much like every other child. That tends to diminish the individual abilities and skills and talents of each child. But it does a pretty good job of giving everybody basic information.

And so we're looking at, is there a better way of doing this? And can we help, especially children, realize their full potential. And in that respect, what we're doing right now is a survey, seeking input from members of the community who have their observations about Wyoming's educational system, and their suggestions of how it can be changed and improved.

Kamila Kudelska: I've looked over the survey, but if you could maybe summarize what the survey is asking?

JM: What I hope we gathered from the survey are some really good ideas that might otherwise be missed. Not everything has been tried across the globe. There are other systems and other countries that are potential models for improving educational systems. But I always hold the belief that people of Wyoming have good ideas, too. And maybe some of those will surface in that regard. There's always the risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. So what is it that's good about our system? We don't want to lose that as well.

KK: Earlier on, you were mentioning that the way that the United States school system works is just funneling, maybe funneling isn't the right word to use, but like taking a group of students and just getting them through the education system, it's not very individualized. So I'm just wondering, is that something that you as RIDE, as the advisory group is thinking about?

JM: We haven't come to any conclusions. But there are systems in the world that really strive to develop the individual skills of each child, and maybe through individualized learning plans, and individualized assessment of progress and all sorts of things that nature creates a set of difficulties too.

For example, you might have two very competent people at age 18. And they have vastly different bodies of knowledge and skills, did one succeed and one fail? It's hard to compare. And so if you are, let's use the example of University of Wyoming, and you want to admit only the best of students, or if you want to limit which students can go into which programs, how do you evaluate which of these two students is more likely to succeed? So it will create…it's a different way of looking at things, you can't simply look at GPA, and say, 'Well, this is a successful student that probably will have to be reconsidered in some fashion.'

KK: Do you think that education needs to be at all looked at differently in Wyoming? Since it's much more of a rural state than other states?

JM: The answer is yes. And what I told our group at our first meeting, is Wyoming has about 95,000 K through 12 students. Now, there are districts in other states that are larger than the entire student population of Wyoming. We find our education system pretty well, all things considered. We have some unique challenges, given the distances between schools and some very small schools, what might be considered medium schools that are large in Wyoming standards.

But overall, I think Wyoming can be nimble, we can start if we need to, we can change direction. And I think because of that we can become an educational leader, we can demonstrate to the rest of the country a pathway. Now, I don't want to diminish the work that's being done elsewhere, because other states are trying these things as well. But there's no reason other than that because of this ability to be nimble, that we jump to the lead or close to the lead, in my view. And I hope that it helps Wyoming's economy and its people be happier. Education is the key to many things, I believe,

KK: I know that the state has worked on similar projects like this before. So I wonder how you think or hope that this one could potentially make a change or impact the education system?

JM: I guess what we all hope for is that young adults enter the society in a productive way. That means being able to start businesses or enter the workforce, or go into higher education, or the military or whatever that is. That's the choice of the young person. We just like to have them as well prepared for whatever their future is, as we can possibly do. My personal belief is that we are all lifelong learners. And by that, I mean, in my lifetime, I would never have guessed the things that I have done. And the reason is because the world changes, and it's changing very rapidly, and, and people need to be able to adapt to those changes. That means we're all going to learn as we move along. If that occurs, I think the folks of Wyoming will be well served in the future. And right now, for that matter.

KK: That's what I was going to ask actually is like, do we feel that that's not happening right now, in the education system in the state?

JM: Well, that's what I think we're going to find out from our survey. Right now, probably the most interesting group to me are the young adults, let's say 18 to 40. Ones who have been in our educational system, maybe are themselves raising families and experiencing it as a parent now, and may have a pretty good idea of what they felt were the successes or the deficiencies of the existing system, and what they would have liked to see changed.

But it's not to say that older folks like me don't have some ideas as well. And certainly, I observed what went on for my sons [and] to some extent, remember my own educational experience. So I think we all have an interest in this and I hope we can make some significant changes that will help everyone

In addition to reporting daily on the happenings in Northwest Wyoming, Kamila is also the producer of the Kids Ask WhY Podcast and the History Unloaded Podcast.Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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