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

Ted Dawson via Facebook.

Jackson Hole High School is getting some national attention for excluding something called “America day” from its homecoming festivities this year.

School administrators are defending and clarifying their decision—which drew protest from students and even garnered a reprimand from cable TV’s Fox & Friends.

“America day was never canceled,” says the school's activities director Mike Hansen. “It was never something that had been planned.”


Administrators from St. Stephens High School on the Wind River Reservation say their students’ rights may have been violated when a group of them were searched by University of Wyoming employees while browsing the campus bookstore.

UW officials say they are currently investigating the incident.

Ten seniors from the school visited UW last weekend as part of a program called “Campus Pass.” It allows high schoolers to check out the University’s resources and attend a Cowboys football game.

Wyoming Public Media

Tonight at 8:00 pm, Wyoming PBS will broadcast ‘Steps To Success For Wyoming’s Native American Students,’ a co-production with Wyoming Public Media.

For information on where to find Wyoming PBS in your area, click here. You can also be part of the discussion online. Share your questions and comments throughout the broadcast on Twitter, using the hashtag #WindRiverEducation.

Courtesy The Guild Charter School

The Natrona County School Board voted unanimously Monday to deny an application for a new Casper charter school.

The proposed Guild Charter School would focus on classical education and use individualized learning plans for all K-12 students. Co-founder Tiffany Leary says she started the application process last year.

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr Commons

It looks a bit like a game of musical chairs at Wyoming’s state agencies.

The office in charge of building schools is getting a new director. Del McOmie, the current interim director of the Department of Workforce Services, will begin leading the School Facilities Department next month.

John Cox, who currently runs the Wyoming Department of Transportation, will take over at Workforce Services. And current School Facilities Director Bill Panos will move to head WYDOT.

Panos has led the Department for two years, amid a school building boom. 

Wikimedia Commons

The Pros And Cons Of Not Listing The Greater Sage Grouse

You might have heard a strange sound this last Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. It was a sigh of relief from ranchers, oil and gas workers and miners all over the West at the announcement that the greater sage grouse won't be listed as an endangered species. But you probably also heard the slapping of foreheads from wildlife advocates who say the grouse needs full federal protections if it’s going to survive.

Aaron Schrank

Bright neon uniforms speckle a usually empty hay field in the sleepy town of Savery. Two soccer games are in full swing—and almost all of the players are guest workers—like Dante Bruno.

“We’re here to play sports today,” says Bruno, in Spanish. “We are Peruvians. The majority of us here are Peruvians.” 

Bruno, 38, and his teammates wear pink pullovers that read, “Sheehan Ranch.” He’s been working at the ranch--in Baggs, Wyoming—for the past 15 years. Bruno says the work is hard, but not complicated.

“It’s cows,” says Bruno. “Pretty much cows.”

Maria Elena via Flickr Creative Commons

A proposed bill from the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Digital Information Privacy would bar school district employees from requiring students to provide them access to social media accounts, smart phones or other personal digital information.

Thursday, the 8-member group put the finishing touches on the policy, which will be sent on to the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee.

Senator Chris Rothfuss says some school districts consider demanding a student’s Facebook login information an acceptable way to investigate bullying or other discipline issues.

Joanne Johnson via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming is waiting on federal approval for its plan to improve equal access to high-quality teachers across the state.

These plans are required under the No Child Left Behind education law. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education ordered all 50 states to revamp them.

Wyoming submitted its new proposal last month. Wyoming Department of Education Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor says the state’s equity planning committee found two major gaps to address.

U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr Creative Commons

Homelessness among Wyoming students grew 40 percent from the 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 school year, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.

That’s more than four times the average increase seen around the country—and means the number of homeless students in the Cowboy State has doubled since the recession.

Courtesy University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming and the state’s 7 community colleges are celebrating the success of the GEAR UP college access program with events around Wyoming this week—as part of national GEAR UP week.

GEAR UP—or ‘Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs’—is a federal program that provides low-income families with support and resources for college success.

University of Wyoming

This summer, the University of Wyoming’s College of Education welcomed a new dean. Dr. Ray Reutzel was hired amid a major effort by the University’s Board of Trustees to boost the College to national prominence in teacher training. Reutzel himself attended the College decades ago. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Reutzel—and began by asking him what impact his experience as a student at UW's College of Ed has on his approach as its dean.



Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr Creative Commons

Someone was sexually assaulted on the University of Wyoming campus on the very first day of classes this year. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Between 2011 and 2013, 27 sexual assaults were reported to campus authorities.

UW Police Chief Mike Samp says the problem is much worse than we know.

“According to FBI statistics, only about 1 in 10 victims ever report it to law enforcement, so although that number may seem high, we could actually have much higher number of victims out there,” Samp says.

School performance data released Tuesday by the Wyoming Department of Education shows a gap between how the state says its schools are doing and how the federal government says they’re doing under No Child Left Behind.

The majority of Wyoming schools at least partially met expectations under the state’s accountability system in the 2014-2015 school year. But only 17 percent of Wyoming schools met federal expectations—called ‘adequate yearly progress.’

Torbin Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons

As advocates gather signatures to put the question of medical marijuana legalization in Wyoming before voters next year, Campbell County school officials are ramping upping efforts to prevent use among students.

The school board has signed on to a campaign called “There is No Debate,” aimed at educating parents and students about the effects of marijuana on academic performance and brain development.

This week, the Board will finalize a resolution asking the Wyoming School Boards Association to take up the cause statewide. 


A company that manufactures scientific and technical instruments will become the second-largest corporate donor in University of Wyoming history.

Oregon-based FEI announced Friday that it will give $12 million to create a new center in UW’s High Bay Research Facility—which is expected to open next year.

FEI will provide imaging equipment and software to support UW’s research into maximizing recovery of oil and gas from conventional and hard-to-reach reservoirs.


As 1,600 first-year students descend upon the University of Wyoming this weekend, administrators are working hard to make a good first impression.

New students attend an orientation program called “Cowboy Connect.” Events and info-sessions are designed to prepare them for the academic and social changes that come with college life.

Recently, UW has put more focus on trying to increase retention rates. That’s the number of freshman students who return their sophomore year.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

Wyoming students who graduated high school in 2015 scored slightly higher on the ACT exam than last year’s seniors.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the test’s developer, ACT, Inc. Wyoming uses the ACT college entrance exam to measure student achievement.

The average composite score for Wyoming students was 20.2 out of 36—which puts the state in sixth place out of the 13 states where all students are required the ACT.

Wyoming Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Brent Bacon says that’s a slight increase from last year.

via Facebook

Wyoming students are heading back to school—and many will be welcomed into brand new buildings. The state is kicking off the school year with about $70 million in new education facilities—from a new elementary school in Casper to a new high school in Rock Springs.

Since 2002, Wyoming has put more than $3.5 billion into building and maintaining schools

School Facilities Department Director Bill Panos says this is the highest level of spending on school construction in Wyoming’s history.

Aaron Schrank

Fiorella Lazarte is an early literacy coordinator with Jackson’s Teton Literacy Center. Today, she’s driving across town to the home of one her 5-year-old students. 

“We’re going to Camilo’s home,” says Lazarte. “They live in the Virginian Apartments. And the Virginian Apartments itself is an area where the working class lives.”

Alliance for Historic Wyoming via Flickr Creative Commons

Officials at Albany County School District One are considering a new policy to protect and support transgender and gender nonconforming students.

The proposed policy would prevent schools in Laramie and surrounding areas from requiring students to use restrooms or play on sports teams that conflict with the gender identity they express at school.

District assistant superintendent Mike Hamel says the policy lays a broad framework for supporting and protecting transgender students on a case-by case basis, stressing privacy.

The percentage of Wyoming high school students scoring proficient or advanced on this year’s ACT is slightly lower than last year--but only by a couple of percentage points. 

That’s according to statewide high school assessment data released Tuesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

"It is very stable," says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. "Not up, not down--from last year."

Aaron Schrank

Pope's Environmental Message Can Be Challenging For Coal Country Catholics

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is getting a thorough reading here in Wyoming—the country’s top coal-producing state. The letter presents a moral framework for approaching issues like global climate change. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports, it’s a difficult subject for Catholics in the Cowboy State.   

via Defiance Against Natrona County Dress Code Facebook page

The Natrona County School Board approved a new dress code policy in June.

Trustee Rita Walsh says the District wanted policies to be more consistent across its schools—and to encourage “professional dress.”

“Our goal is to make prepared graduates—to make—as you come to school—your focus is education and learning,” Walsh says.

Aaron Schrank

Tonight’s class on the new papal encyclical at St. Paul’s Newman Center Catholic church in Laramie begins, well, in the beginning. Before parishioners dive into the Pope’s message, they read aloud from the creation story in Genesis.

The Pope’s letter began drawing a flurry of praise and condemnation before it was officially published. The teacher here, Father Rob Spaulding, points out that a draft was leaked to the press a few days early.

“So clearly it was something there was great interest about,” Spaulding says.

As Wyoming lawmakers revamp the state’s school funding model, they are touting data that suggests money spent on schools has paid off when it comes to global competitiveness in science and math.

That data comes from a study that compared scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress—or NAEP—with those on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—or TIMMS.


The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to finalize UW’s 2017-2018 state budget request.

The University is asking the state for about $155 million more dollars to pay for ongoing projects, one-time expenses and campus construction during the two-year period. That’s on top of the more than $200 million dollars UW receives in state appropriations each year.