2010 Policy Impact

Wyoming – 2005-2010

Wyoming 2005: Wyoming is widely regarded as a leader in the current movement to define the resources needed to provide a cost-based funding formula so that all schools can educate students to the state’s proficiency standards. We worked in Wyoming from 2005 to 2010.  In March 2005, the Wyoming Legislature employed Picus Odden and Associates to work with the Select Legislative Committee on School Funding to conduct a recalibration of the state’s funding system. That work concluded in March 2006 when the Legislature enacted, and the governor signed into law, a new school-funding formula based on our Evidence-Based model.

Throughout 2005, we participated in monthly meetings with the Select Legislative Committee to define the resources needed for the recalibrated prototype school designs.  We also met with a series of Professional Judgment Panels to seek input on the relevance of the prototypes to actual school conditions in Wyoming.  We conducted a statewide public hearing on the mechanics of the school funding model before it was considered by the Legislature and worked hand in hand with Legislative staff as the legislation was considered during the Legislative session in 2006.

Wyoming now distributes funding to school districts using an Excel-based spreadsheet model developed by our firm.  The model incorporates the findings from the 2005-06 Evidence-Based study and professional judgment panel review we conducted for Wyoming.  The Wyoming funding model also includes an extensive set of small school and small district adjustments designed to ensure small and rural schools have the capacity to improve student learning.

Wyoming 2006: Since that time we have worked with the Wyoming Department of Education and the Wyoming Legislature to provide technical support for the model, including the development of an extensive handbook that documents every component of the funding model and its operation.  Moreover, we worked closely with Department and Legislative staff to ensure the state has the capacity to monitor, modify and adapt the model as laws change over time –without the need to employ our firm to do the work.  We believe that an important component of our work is to help create the capacity to continue the review, modification and implementation of the model using state personnel.

Wyoming 2007-09:  We also conducted two major, multi-year studies, one ending in 2008  and the second concluding in 2009, to help the Legislature and school districts better understand how the resources allocated through the funding model are used in schools.  A unique aspect of this work was our partnership with the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Wyoming.  Much of the fieldwork for this project was conducted by advanced doctoral students at the University as part of their dissertation work.  We believe that establishing the capacity to evaluate the use of educational resources within our client states strengthens the ability of all schools and districts to focus their resources on strategies that lead to improved student learning.

During the two years of this study we visited 334 of Wyoming’s 363 schools to understand how they were using the resources they received through the new Evidence-Based model.  The first report assessed resource use in about half of the state’s schools.   The second study report covered nearly all schools and also included a much more in-depth analysis of a small sample of improving schools in both large and small districts to more fully understand the strategies schools use to improve performance, the resource needs of those strategies and the alignment of the state funding system to those resource needs.

Wyoming 2010: In 2010, our firm worked closely with the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee to recalibrate components of the Wyoming Funding model. We prepared a number of memos on issues related to specific aspects of school funding in Wyoming.  We also began working on establishment of a benchmarking system to ascertain whether or not the funding appropriated by the Legislature met the standard of adequacy as determined by the State Supreme Court.  We identified several areas where funding appeared higher than required to meet the adequacy standard, and helped school district business officials identify a number of cost efficiencies.

In addition, we also worked with the Interim Committee on the development of a new accountability system for Wyoming schools.  The recommendations developed by the committee with our support were forwarded to the 2011 session of the Wyoming Legislature.  Moreover, a number of Interim studies were conducted in 2011 and referred to the 2012 Legislature for appropriate action.

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