CORRECTION: The original version of the "thumbs down" item below incorrectly said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow encouraged people not to compare 2020-21 standardized test results with the 2017-18 baseline test. In fact, Superintendent Balow did encourage people to make that comparison, rather than to the prior set of test results, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

UP to Laramie County Community College and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services for offering evening classes and grant programs to help get local workers into high-demand careers.

LCCC is offering an evening welding fabrication course for students who have no prior welding experience, but are interested in learning the skill. Through the design and fabrication of a project from beginning to end, they will learn how to develop a working blueprint, generate project cost estimates and timelines, and generate the materials needed to complete a project.

For those interested in this line of work, this course could be the entry point for a career that is needed by a variety of industries in Wyoming. (For more information, visit lccc.wy.edu or call 307-778-1212.)

At the same time, DWS is offering nearly $775,000 in grants to help 160 job seekers offset the cost of obtaining a Commercial Driver's License in Wyoming. The grant recipients are existing programs in Casper, Gillette and right here at LCCC in Cheyenne.

DWS data show that during the past month, there were 368 job openings for CDL drivers in Wyoming and the surrounding area. The goal is to use the money to help those who want to get their CDL certification do so at no cost.

And these aren't just long-haul truck drivers, either. There is also a need for delivery drivers, and drivers in sanitation and water, construction, manufacturing, mining and in the oil and gas industries. (For more information about local CDL training programs, email cdl@lccc.wy.edu or call 307-432-1637.)

We're glad to see both the state and LCCC working hard to get Wyoming job seekers the training they need at no cost or the time that works best for them. Both the employees and the state as a whole will benefit from this important work.

DOWN to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and some local K-12 school district leaders for celebrating mediocrity in the form of results from the 2021 WY-TOPP and WY-ALT standardized tests.

During an Aug. 24 news conference, Superintendent Balow called the results “overwhelmingly normal,” and encouraged people to compare them to the 2017-18 baseline tests because the COVID-19 pandemic created unusual circumstances last year. While that's certainly true, it's unacceptable to use it as an excuse for such poor performance.

She went on to say, "Given the challenges of this year, we will take normal and unremarkable as the best context for looking at these."

For more than two decades, large numbers of Wyoming K-12 students have performed poorly on nearly every standardized test the state put in front of them – PAWS, WyCAS, WY-TOPP, etc. And throughout that time, there's always been some excuse for why so many students have failed to achieve basic proficiency – vendor issues, online vs. paper tests, lack of preparation time, just to name a few.

There are even adults outside of the education system who argue these tests aren't that important because "some kids just don't test well." But how else are we to determine whether children are meeting the basic levels of proficiency set up by the State Board of Education?

Sure, the 2020-21 school year brought many challenges, including temporary shutdowns, quarantines, virtual learning and masks/social distancing. But the same education leaders who are downplaying these test results have been trumpeting the fact that Wyoming was one of the few places to maintain in-person learning throughout the school year.

So what's it going to be, folks? More spin and excuse making, or is it time to admit we're failing many of our children and find ways to do better?

UP to Wyoming first lady Jennie Gordon and leaders at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming for teaming up to tackle hunger at today's season-opening game for the University of Wyoming football team in Laramie.

Fans attending today's contest with Montana State should take nonperishable food items to a designated donation site at the indoor practice facility or the tailgate parking lot. If you prefer to buy items to donate once you arrive at the stadium, FFA members in official dress will be selling them there.

For every pound of food donated during the game, Blue Cross Blue Shield will donate a dollar to Mrs. Gordon's Wyoming Hunger Initiative, up to $50,000. Created in 2019, WHI's mission is to support families that are unable to afford a consistent, and balanced, food source. Feeding America estimates more than 87,000 Wyoming residents – 28,000 of which are children – suffer from such food insecurity, part of the nearly 40 million Americans who live in food insecure households.

So if you're headed to the game, which kicks off at 2 p.m., be sure to take some nonperishable food items with you (and make sure they're heavy!).

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

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