Aaron Schrank

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: aschran1@uwyo.edu

Before joining WPR, Aaron worked as a freelance reporter in Los Angeles, where he earned a master’s degree in audio journalism from the University of Southern California. His radio work has aired on programs including NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Public Radio International’s The World. Aaron has roots in Phoenix, Arizona, Southern Illinois and New Jersey. When not reporting, he spends time hiking, camping, traveling and exploring film, music and food.

Ways to Connect

Aaron Schrank

Director Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, “The Hateful Eight,” is set in a Wyoming blizzard, sometime after the Civil War. But the movie wasn’t shot here.

Tarantino’s production team did consider filming in Wyoming, though. Rick Young is the director of the Fort Caspar Museum, which includes an 1860’s era fort.

USDA via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education is looking for local sponsors for a federal program that provides free meals to low-income students over the summer.

When school’s out, kids can get meals at 83 different sites across the state. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the sites are run by school districts or community groups like YMCAs.

WDE nutrition programs consultant Amanda Anderson says those sites alone can’t serve all of the state’s students who get free and reduced school lunches during the year.

As the nation celebrates “School Choice Week” this week, a Wyoming nonprofit is pushing a proposal to expand school choice in the state.

EdPref Wyoming has proposed an educational savings account and tax credit program that would give parents money for private school tuition or home school resources.

Jisc, Flickr Creative Commons

At Powell High School, students can blend their classroom learning with an online course or two.

“They could be taking a foreign language such as German that we don’t offer,” says Park County Superintendent Kevin Mitchell. “They could be taking science classes that we don’t offer.”

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

The Albany County School District #1 Board is considering a policy meant to protect the rights of transgender students. The Board has drafted two different proposals to that end.

Both policies would do many of the same things—like require school district staff to address students by the name and pronoun consistent with the gender identity they express at school.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees launched the first phase of an initiative to improve teacher preparation at the College of Education.

So far, the Denver-based Daniels Fund has donated $5 million dollars to the effort to be used over the next five years.

College of Ed Dean Ray Reutzel says the next step is a 2-year planning and evaluation phase. Teams of Wyoming educators plan to visit top teaching colleges across the country. 

Wyoming Department of Education

Representatives from Wyoming’s community colleges and its K-12 schools say those two systems need to improve their coordination to better educate students.

Right now, more than half of all students who graduate high school and go on to community college are still not deemed “college-ready”— and must take remedial classes.

At a Wyoming Department of Education policy summit last week, Laramie County Community College president Joe Schaffer said people tend to see remediation as a K-12 issue.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The Teton County School Board voted Wednesday to keep its dual-language immersion program in multiple schools, instead of moving it to its own magnet school.

About 63 percent of staff members who responded to a district survey had said they wanted to move the program to its own school.

The man who shot two Northern Arapaho men inside a Riverton detox center last year has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. The victims’ families say they are still searching for justice and healing.

On Thursday, a judge sentenced 32-year-old Roy Clyde—a white city parks worker—to life in prison without parole for the murder of 29-year-old Stallone Trosper.

Stallone’s uncle, James Trosper, says his family has felt it important to turn to the values they’ve been taught as Native Americans.

Aaron Schrank

In a kindergarten classroom at Jackson Elementary School, students sit in pairs swapping stories. Each pair includes a kid who speaks Spanish at home and one who speaks English. 

“I’m really passionate about this dual immersion program, because it’s an amazing opportunity for kids to come together,” says teacher Chris Bessonette.

In his classroom, these 20 kids speak and learn in English. But his partner teacher next door, Katie Schult, teaches in Spanish.

William Brawley via Flickr Creative Commons

Teton County has seen a big uptick recently in cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Health officials have confirmed eight cases in the county this year, which represents one third of those in Wyoming.

Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that’s easily transmitted from person to person. Teton County Public Health Officer Travis Riddell says it’s hard to diagnose and especially dangerous for infants.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming College of Education has received a $4.5-million-dollar grant to improve its preparation of K-12 educators.

The grant comes from nonprofit The Daniels Fund, which gave the college $500,000 earlier this year to plan its initiative to achieve national prominence in teacher prep.

UW Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee says that initiative began after trustees met with legislative leadership last year.

Credit Zach Montes

A visit by immigration officials to Jackson this month put many in the town’s immigrant community on edge.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to Jackson to find and arrest five undocumented men that met the federal government’s enforcement priorities.

David Amsler via Flickr Creative Commons

Platte County School District is affirming students’ right to pray in school after an incident this year drew the attention of a national Christian legal advocacy group.

In October, some students formed a prayer circle in Glendo High School’s cafeteria. Administrators say a parent lunch monitor and the school principal told the students to pray elsewhere because of concerns about separation of church and state.

sdstate.edu

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees unanimously selected Laurie Nichols Friday to be UW’s next president.

Nichols is a provost and vice president of academic affairs at South Dakota State University. She will be the first female president in the University’s 130-year history.

The trustees have been searching for a new president since March. Nichols and two other finalists visited campus this month to interview for the position. Board President Dave Palmerlee says public input played a large role in the hiring decision.

Rebecca Martinez

A legislative committee has approved a bill that would increase the dollar amounts provided to students through Hathaway scholarships by 10 percent.

The full legislature will consider the proposal in February’s budget session.

The Joint Education Committee had asked its staff to draft a bill that would have increased the scholarships by about 19 percent, but lawmakers amended it down on Tuesday.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss was among those who wanted to keep the proposed increase higher.

First Hattiesburg Church via Flickr Creative Commons

In its last meeting before the upcoming budget session, the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee forwarded a bill that could expand early childhood education in some school districts.

Districts apply for grant money through a program called BRIDGES—and are allowed to spend that money on afterschool and summer programming. The new legislation would also allow districts to spend that money on early learning, if they choose.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says it’s a step in the right direction.

Aaron Schrank

A legislative committee voted Monday to draft a bill that would exempt Wyoming’s alternative schools from the state’s accountability act.

Under the proposed law, alternative school performance would be evaluated by a different standard than that used to assess traditional schools.

Proponents of the bill say the general accountability model can’t make valid conclusions about alternative school performance.

Republican Representative Mike Madden of Buffalo voted against the bill. He says holding alternative schools to a different standard could cause problems. 

Wyoming lawmakers are joining the state’s schools chief in praising the new federal education law that returns to the states the responsibility of measuring school performance.

The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed by President Obama last week. 

Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe has worked to put a state system in place to keep schools accountable. In a news conference Coe said the state is prepared for the new federal law.

Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers voted Monday to draft a bill that would make some changes to K-12 testing in Wyoming.

The bill—sponsored by the Legislature’s select committee on statewide education accountability—would enact most of the recommendations of a recent state testing task force.

The legislation proposes that students would be tested in third through tenth grade at the end of the year. Wyoming's test would be offered in more than one state, to allow for comparison. The test would be offered online, and test preparation would have to account for less than 1 percent of classroom time.

How to evaluate Wyoming’s teachers and superintendents continues to challenge legislators. 

Earlier this year lawmakers approved an updated accountability measure. They call it ‘phase one,’ and it deals with measuring performance of schools and students. Back in March, they decided to put “phase two”—the part dealing with teacher evaluation—on hold. 

Senator Hank Coe says the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability continues to struggle with that piece. He says they will continue to work on it. 

Bob Beck

Listen to the full show here.   

Wyo. Lawmakers Send Power Over Education To State

It took Congress eight years and countless hours of listening to angry teachers and parents, but No Child Left Behind is soon to be a thing of the past. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Congress and the White House agreed to scrap the hated Bush-era law.

Department of Education

  

This week, President Obama signed the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’. It passed through Congress with bipartisan support and now replaces ‘No Child Left Behind’ as the latest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In Wyoming, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow is praising the federal education overhaul. She spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank about what the new law means for the state. 

Aaron Schrank/WPR

The second of three candidates for the University of Wyoming presidency visited campus Wednesday to interview for the job.

Laurie Stenberg Nichols has served as a provost at South Dakota State University for the past 7 years. She also earned her degree there as a first-generation college student. Nichols told students, faculty, staff and others at a public forum that she connects with UW’s land grant mission.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr Creative Commons

As the number of people taking the GED exam in Colorado drops, more are traveling to Wyoming to take alternatives to the test.

The GED exam was revamped, computerized and privatized last year. Wyoming offers another test for those seeking an equivalent to a high school diploma—called the HiSET—while Colorado does not.

Kelly Willmarth is program manager of the adult career and education system at Laramie County Community College. She says, so far this year, 30 percent of her HiSET test-takers in Cheyenne were from Colorado. That’s up from 11 percent last year.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The first of three finalist candidates for the University of Wyoming presidency visited campus Monday to meet with faculty, staff, students and others.

Duane Nellis has been the President of Texas Tech University in Lubbock since 2013. Nellis says serving under a chancellor in the Texas Tech system can be a challenge—with no clear line of authority.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has chosen three finalists to be considered for the University presidency.

They released the names Friday, after nearly eighth months of planning and executing the search.

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