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Cody schools pilot state-led curriculum transparency initiative

Park Co. 6
Posted at 10:57 AM, Jan 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 13:01:51-05

CODY — A new initiative in Wyoming would give the public a different view of what's being taught in the classroom. While some districts have been quick to jump on board, some parents have expressed concerns.

Park County School District 6, comprised of 2,000 students and 400 employees in the Cody area, is one of eight districts across Wyoming that is a pilot group for a curriculum transparency website.

The initiative is part of Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder's four-year strategic plan.

Now on the Wyoming Department of Education's website is a set of documents where the public can see the primary text being taught in each subject for each grade.

“It's a resource that's out there that parents can access and which can create positive conversations," said Park County School District 6 Superintendent Vernon Orndorff. “I think parents are more involved now than they ever been before and they want to know what's being taught within the classrooms. We strongly believe in that collaboration in Park Six with our parents.”

Asstistant Superintendent Tim Foley, who works closely with curriculum and instruction, says the list shows primary texts, but other materials are still used in classrooms.

"Right now this is just primary resource because there are supplemental resources that teachers do use," Foley said. "Social studies is a great example. If they have current events, that's not necessarily something you can plan what you want to talk about, but you're going to be able to look at different news medias and pick different articles and things like that. So there are supplemental resources that teachers do use."

But across Wyoming other parents are paying attention and see the initiative as something more complicated.

"I think the curriculum transparency is just another way to push the narrative that our teachers, our educators, librarians are pushing politics on our kids or teaching inappropriate materials," said Mandy Weaver.

Weaver lives in Worland and has two kids in Washington County District 1. The new transparency initiative has not yet been launched in this district and Weaver says she doesn't think it's necessary.

“I’ve had kids in school for a long time and I’ve never had issues finding out what’s going on by calling the school and speaking with the teachers. They are transparent. They want to do a good job. They want to be transparent," Weaver said.

RJ Lennox, a former teacher who lives in Cheyenne, shares Weaver's concerns.

"This is already available for parents, so then I thought why are we doing this, and to me it's just the politicizing of the process," Lennox said.

One criticism of curriculum transparency is that it is burdensome for educators to maintain.

“We really tried not to burden our teachers at all," Foley said. "So in our process, anyway, we did reach out just to clarify and make sure that is this still the resource that they're using and so it really wasn't anything more than that."

Orndorff argues transparency is never a bad thing, especially in a case like this where it comes at no cost to the district.

"Wyoming is unique. We have a strong belief in local control," Orndorff said.