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.

Pages

News
1:55 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

School Districts Request Inflation-Adjusted Funding

Teacher in classroom
Credit Audio Luci Store via Flickr Creative Commons

Seven school districts in Wyoming are arguing that the state has underfunded K-12 schools in the past several years by failing to adjust for inflation.

The coalition says the state owes Wyoming’s school districts $151 million dollars for the last three years.

State Representative Tim Stubson of Casper is on the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee. He says the Legislature does account for inflation in school funding—and granted an external cost adjustment—or ECA—this year.

Read more
News
9:56 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Wyoming Falls In Child Well-Being Rankings

Young girl at school
Credit Elizabeth Albert via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming has dropped several spots in its ranking in a national report on children’s well-being.

The 2014 Kids Count Index ranked Wyoming 19th in the country, down from 15th last year. The report weighs several factors. Wyoming earned a sixth place ranking for children’s economic well-being, but ranked 45th in health.

Some of the factors contributing to that low ranking include rates of teen alcohol abuse, the number of children without health insurance, and the number of babies born underweight.

Read more
News
10:30 am
Tue July 22, 2014

UW College Of Education Responds To Criticism

Credit MDV via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming’s College of Education is taking issue with complaints made about the quality of its graduates.

Last week, at a UW Trustees’ meeting, Governor Mead’s education policy adviser Mary Kay Hill said that the most qualified K-12 teachers in the state “are not coming from UW.”

She pointed to a 2011 report that shows nearly 70 percent of new school district hires in Wyoming came from institutions outside of the state. That’s up from 50 percent in 2000.

Read more
Open Spaces
5:38 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

July 18th, 2014

Governor Mead Seeks Second Term

Governor Matt Mead is seeking his second term in office. The governor is facing Cheyenne Businessman and Doctor Taylor Haynes and Superintendent Cindy Hill in the Republican primary. Mead spoke with Bob Beck. They begin by discussing some of the challenges facing the state.

Read more
Open Spaces
4:49 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Wyoming Music Teachers Find Community At UW Summer Program

Professor Rod Garnett leads his group of graduate students in a gamelan session.
Aaron Schrank

It’s before 8 o’ clock in the morning, and there’s a surprising amount of noise coming from a basement classroom in UW’s library.

Inside is a group of about 25 sitting in a circle, playing instruments or humming along. For most of the year, these people are music educators teaching in schools all over Wyoming. But in the summer, they’re students themselves—in a UW summer master’s program. Today, they’re learning a melody by ear.

Read more
News
2:10 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

State Lawmakers Want More Dialogue With UW

University of Wyoming Department of Agriculture
Credit Wyoming_Jackrabbit via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming state legislators want more communication and coordination with the University of Wyoming.

The UW Board of Trustees met with several House and Senate members in Casper this week to discuss the relationship between the Legislature and the school. Senate President Tony Ross says the meeting was a good first step, but lawmakers need to play a bigger role in the future.

Read more
News
9:25 am
Wed July 16, 2014

UW Professor Publishes Research On Creative Thinking In Robots

Jeff Clune, a UW associate professor of computer science, and Jingyu Li, a recent Laramie High School graduate, pose with a copy of the paper they wrote that was published in the Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference.
Credit Courtesy UW

University of Wyoming Computer Science Professor Jeff Clune saw his research published this week showing that robots’ problem-solving skills can be improved by encouraging ‘creative thinking’ in artificial intelligence.

The research was accepted in ‘Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference,’ a peer-reviewed publication.

The robots Clune and his team experimented with were rewarded when they ‘had ideas’ they never had before—basically when their simulated neurons displayed new patterns.

Read more
News
6:00 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Wyoming School Discipline Data Shows Racial Disparities

Credit Emory Maiden via Flickr Creative Commons

Students who identified as racial minorities received a greater number of the state’s out-of-school suspensions in the last school year, according to Wyoming Department of Education data.

Read more
News
5:09 pm
Sun July 13, 2014

National Groups Push For Climate Science In Classroom

A coalition of science advocacy groups have launched what they’re calling a Climate Science Bill of Rights to push for climate change to be taught in schools around the country. The campaign says all students deserve to explore the causes and consequences of climate change, free from political interference.

The groups behind the bill include Climate Parents, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Center for Science Education and the Alliance for Climate Education. 

Read more
Open Spaces
6:50 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

July 11th, 2014

Federal Highway Money Remains At Risk

The federal pot of money that’s supposed to keep local roads and bridges intact may soon be empty, yet lawmakers on Capitol Hill are miles apart from each other. It remains unclear if they’ll be able to bridge the gulf. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on how the Wyoming delegation is weighing in on the debate that’s sucking the air out of Washington this summer.

Read more
Open Spaces
5:28 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

School Construction Faces Current Labor Shortage, Future Revenue Decline

Aaron Schrank

It’s a tense public meeting in Rawlins. School District officials here recently learned that the latest contractor bid to build a new Rawlins High School is $7 million dollars over budget. Carbon County School District 1 Superintendent Fletcher Turcato says Rawlins isn’t interested in making cuts.

“Four months ago, we were within budget—and because of a bidding climate, now they want us to continue to take money out of this project,” Turcato said. “That’s not going to happen. The Board said it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to do that to the people of Rawlins.”

Read more
News
10:56 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Rawlins High School Construction Over Budget

Rawlins High School
Credit Aaron Schrank/WPR

The construction of a new Rawlins High School is delayed—and some in the community are angry—after recent bids by subcontractors put the project $7 million dollars over budget.

The State’s School Facilities Department oversees school construction projects in the state. The Department says the high bid is the result of construction labor shortages and adds that it will work with Rawlins to cut costs.

Read more
News
4:37 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Sheridan College Receives $25 Million Donation

A map showing the planned updates to Sheridan College.
Credit Courtesy Sheridan College

Sheridan College announced Tuesday that it has received the largest gift in the history of the school—a $25.3 million commitment from educational foundation Whitney Benefits.

The college says $16 million of the donation will be used to renovate and expand the fine and performing arts wing of Sheridan’s Whitney Academic Center. The funds will also help improve parking and renovate the Technical Education Center.

Whitney Benefits President Tom Kinnison says the updates at Sheridan College are much-needed and have been on the school’s to-do list for decades.

Read more
News
5:45 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Forest Fire Burning Near Lake Owen

Fire crews are responding to reports of a forest fire burning in the Southern Snowy Range area near Lake Owen.

Aaron Voos with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest says little is known at the moment, but many members of the public called to report smoke in the area.

“We’re just trying to figure out an exact location and do a size-up on it," said Voos. "We do have both County and Forest Service crews that are en route as well as a type 3 helicopter.”

Read more
News
5:39 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Teton County To Build Affordable Housing For Teachers

Downtown Jackson Wyoming at dusk.
Credit Alan English CPA via Flickr Creative Commons

Teton County is planning to build affordable housing for local teachers.

The development in Wilson will include 11 homes. Each will have 3 bedrooms and cost no more than $422,500. The median sales price for residential properties in Jackson Hole last year was more than $550,000.

Commissioner Ben Ellis says he hopes the development will keep top teaching talent in Teton County.

Read more
News
5:23 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Wyoming Among Best States For Job-Seeking Grads

Wyoming ranks among the best states for recent college graduates to live and work. That’s according to a recent analysis of changes in four-year college tuition rates, median household income and unemployment rates since the start of the financial crisis.

Read more
News
4:37 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Superintendent Hill Fires Back At Critical Report

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction CIndy Hill waves to the crowd during the July 3 parade in Cody, Wyo.
Credit Yellowstone Gate via Flickr Creative Commons

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill is firing back at a legislative report released yesterday alleging she misused public funds and established a culture of fear and intimidation at Wyoming Department of Education.

Hill says the allegations in the report are untrue—and describes the report as a political attack.

"There’s no foundation," said Hill. "There are no facts. This is all hearsay—rewound, republished—for political end. The Governor is hoping to win an election. He’s desperate. And I just smile and say, ‘Really?’"

Read more
Education
6:10 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Board Of Education Votes To Suspend Science Standards Review

Credit Dennis Wilkinson via Flickr Creative Commons

The State Board of Education is asking the Wyoming Department of Education to stop work on development of a new set of science standards.

The Department recently formed a science standards review committee of about 50 teachers, administrators, higher education representatives and businesspeople to develop new science standards. That group was supposed to meet several times this summer before presenting suggestions to the Board and public in the fall.

Read more
Open Spaces
6:15 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

June 27th, 2014

Wyoming Coal Versus The Courts

This week’s Supreme Court ruling on the EPA and its ability to regulate carbon is a mixed bag for Wyoming officials and energy producers. It sets the stakes even higher for Republicans in the state who are determined to derail a pending EPA rule on climate change.

Wyoming Does Not Officially Track Health Impacts From Energy

Read more
Open Spaces
5:16 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Privacy Concerns Swirl Around Statewide Student Database

A second grade student gets right to work as classes start at Greenwood Elementary School in Des Moines, IA.
Credit Phil Roeder via Flickr Creative Commons

Nationwide, including Wyoming, states are working to build huge databases that can track students from preschool all the way into the workforce. In the brave new world of big data, the thought is—more information means smarter education policy decisions and improved learning. But some parents worry that these systems will go too far.

At Laramie County Community College, a classroom full of people is talking about control groups and independent variables. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but it is important.

Read more
Legislative
8:06 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Lawmakers Latest Effort To Change Ed Management Will Go Slowly

The Legislature's Joint Education Committee is moving forward with an effort to study alternative ways to manage the Wyoming Department of Education and will seek input from education stakeholders and the public in that process.

Read more
News
4:32 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Wheatland Tornado Shelter Project Wins National Prize

Christian Moody, Jacob Stafford, Joey Madsen, and Haiden Moody present their project in Washington, D.C.

A group of 8th graders from Wheatland Middle School who built a tornado shelter for a school competition won the top national prize for their efforts last week.

Haiden Moody, Christian Moody, Joey Madsen and Jacob Stafford spent the past few months engineering a tornado safety shelter converted from an old set of school lockers. It was part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math competition put on by the U.S. Army called eCYBERMISSION.

Read more
News
5:20 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Laramie's WyoTech Faces Uncertain Future

WyoTech West Campus
Credit JohnAndAlynda via Flickr Creative Commons

Laramie’s WyoTech automotive trade school will remain operational, but faces an uncertain future.

WyoTech’s parent company—Corinthian Colleges—is clashing with regulators, who accuse the for-profit company of falsifying job placement rates and misleading students about financial aid.

Monday, Corinthian reached an agreement with the Department of Education which will keep federal aid flowing—and the doors on its 90 campuses nationwide open—while a long-term operational plan is developed.

Read more
News
4:57 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Report Shows UW's Economic Footprint On State

University of Wyoming
Credit MDV via Flickr Creative Commons

A University of Wyoming report says that UW brings $130 million dollars in external funding into the state each year, spurs $129 million in other economic activity, and is responsible for creating more than 2,200 jobs.

The report sought to quantify economic impacts that would not occur in Wyoming if the University wasn’t in the state, including spending by non-resident students and visitors, and startup businesses stemming from UW research.

Read more
News
8:04 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Sheridan College Gets Donation For New Ag Center

Sheridan, Wyoming
Credit Jacdupree via Flickr Creative Commons

Sheridan College has received a $4 million dollar donation to help build a new agriculture center on campus.

The donation, announced Friday, is from longtime benefactor Forrest Mars, Jr. of Big Horn. The new center will cost $8 million, and $2.7 million has already been allocated by the state.

College President Paul Young says the 15,000-sqaure foot building will bring a much-needed impact to the school’s agriculture programs.

Read more
News
8:37 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Wyoming Senator John Schiffer Remembered For Service, Dedication

Senator John Schiffer

Longtime Wyoming state senator John Schiffer passed away Wednesday at the age of 68. Schiffer, a Republican, had represented District 22 in Sheridan and Johnson counties since 1993. He was diagnosed with liver cancer last month.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon was Schiffer’s long-time friend and business partner. He says the state lost one its best advocates.

“Completely selfless, wanted to make sure the best thing for Wyoming would happen," Gordon says. "It didn’t matter if he got the credit.”

Read more
News
7:11 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Lummis Introduces Bill To Boost Forest Trail Access

Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis speaking at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada
Credit Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced a bill Wednesday to address the backlog of trail maintenance in the National Forest Trail system.

One year ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released the results of a study showing that just one-fourth of Forest Service trails were maintained to the agency’s standards, and that the trail maintenance backlog exceeded $314 million—plus $210 million in annual maintenance.

Read more
News
8:00 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Study Gives UW And Most Teaching Colleges Bad Marks

University of Wyoming
Credit Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming’s undergraduate elementary education program has work to do to meet standards for effective teacher training. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality—a think tank that pushes for tougher evaluations of classroom teachers. 

The report includes a ranking of U.S. teaching colleges, and found that the vast majority of programs failed to prepare teachers for the classroom.

Read more
News
7:28 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Wyoming Students Are Smoking Less, Texting While Driving More

Young man texting behind the wheel.
Credit Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons

Cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped significantly in recent decades—in Wyoming and the rest of the country. That’s according to the results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey released last week. 

Last year, 17 percent of Wyoming high-schoolers reported regularly smoking cigarettes. That’s slightly above the national average, but down from 40 percent in 1991, when the survey began.

Read more

Pages