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The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) partnered with REL Central to develop special education staffing guidelines to meet recent legislative requirements and ensure adequate special education staffing in districts. The guidelines are intended to provide districts with information to implement staffing practices that meet legislative requirements as well as the needs of students with disabilities.

Over several meetings, REL Central and WDE partners reviewed research-based information and data to inform the development of the guidelines. First, REL Central and WDE partners reviewed state-level guidance to learn how other states addressed special education staffing. WDE then launched a survey to gather district-level feedback to understand the existing challenges in special education staffing. REL Central met with WDE partners to review and co-interpret the survey data. Using the survey data and the guidance developed in other states, WDE met with a special education stakeholder group to create special education staffing guidelines appropriate for Wyoming’s context.

WDE released the Special Education Staffing Guidelines in January on the department’s website. WDE connected with district leaders to ensure they have access to the guidelines, encouraging them to review the guidelines and ask any questions. Next steps for WDE include identifying resources for districts to learn more about the staffing guidelines as well as internally developing reports to monitor state-level progress toward meeting the guidelines. Once WDE identifies resources for districts, the department will begin offering them during the 2019/20 school year.

Shelley Hamel, chief academic officer at WDE and leader in the development of the guidelines, shared that “the work around Special Education Staffing Guidelines was a heavy lift and on a very tight timeline for the WDE. Without the partnership with REL Central, the work would have suffered. Instead, the partnership allowed for our stakeholder group to participate in a thorough exploration of other guidelines and related topics, and to develop a quality guidance document that reflected Wyoming values and will support districts in their work in this critical area.”

WDE leaders and stakeholders decided to meet annually to review staffing challenges and needs across districts to continue to ensure adequate staffing for students with disabilities in Wyoming. With the support of REL Central, WDE partners plan to repeat these steps of supporting districts in understanding the guidelines and monitoring state-level progress for the next three years in order to ensure that the guidelines are appropriate and adequate for Wyoming.