On September 18, Senator Mike Enzi joined Secretary Arne Duncan for a stop at Grant Elementary School in Glenrock, Wyoming, as part of his NCLB Listening and Learning Tour. The discussion—which included Glenrock area teachers, administrators, parents and students, as well as state leaders—focused on education challenges facing rural communities and ideas for how the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should address rural needs.
Teachers and administrators testified to the difficulties in attracting and retaining talented educators in rural areas and asked about ways to incent qualified teachers. They expressed concerns about the emphasis on testing and current accountability measures under NCLB, as well as the unique challenge rural communities face in complying with the highly qualified teacher (HQT) regulations. The local high school principal likened the HQT challenge to fielding a basketball team where all the pool of available players are all undersized. “You field the team that you have available in rural communities,” he said.
There was agreement about expanding concepts like growth models, where schools are held accountable for individual student growth, and local control and flexibility. Parents spoke passionately about the need to challenge high performing students and provide funding for the arts and music, which, as one parent put it, stimulate “creative and intellectual pursuits and achievements.” Many agreed that parent involvement was essential to success, but challenges remain for how to effectively involve all parents.
Following Secretary Duncan’s stop in Glenrock, he traveled to Casper, Wyoming, for a roundtable discussion featuring state education leaders, legislators, Governor Dave Freudenthal, and Senators Enzi and Barrasso at Casper College. The conversation focused on rural education issues, graduation rates, and transitions between the state’s community colleges, the University of Wyoming and the workforce.