Tennessee Watson

Education Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5064
Email: twatso17@uwyo.edu

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-­producing Wage/Working (a jukebox­-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

Ways to Connect

David Joyce / Flickr.com

As more and more students across Wyoming enroll in classes online, it can make calculating attendance at a public school a little more tricky. And homeschool students may come to school for just a portion of the day, while other students might leave school early.

In 2017 the legislature passed a policy changing how the school finance model calculates attendance — or what’s called average daily membership.

The amount of time students spend in school impacts the amount of money districts get in their block grant from the state.

Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming high school graduation rates saw a slight increase in 2017 from the previous year, according to data released by the Wyoming Department of Education. That continues a four-year trend of improvement, bringing the statewide rate up to 80.2 percent.

 

As policymakers head into the 2018 Budget Session, education is a topic many will be watching. Wyoming Public Radio's Tennessee Watson joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to examine what might be in store after education consultants hired by the state recommended giving more money to education instead of implementing cuts.

Graphics from Education Week. Layout by Tennessee Watson

Wyoming was given a B-minus score for its education quality, according to recently released data in Education Week’s report Quality Counts 2018. That puts it above the national average of a C, and the seventh best in the nation.

 

The grades are based on three criteria: chance for success, K-12 achievement, and school finance.

APA Consulting

Education is underfunded in Wyoming, according to a new report from consultants contracted by the Select Committee on School Finance to take an in-depth look at the state’s educational program.

 

Wyoming Department of Education

In the final hours of the 120 day review period, the U.S. Department of Education notified Wyoming officials that the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan had been approved.

commons.wikimedia.org

A proposal to increase the recommended average class size in Wyoming schools is part of what lawmakers are reviewing in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Budget Session. Increasing class size has been discussed by policy makers as way to reduce costs.

 

Tennessee Watson

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act was one of the bipartisan triumphs of 2017. Referred to as the “Forever GI Bill,” it makes significant changes to education benefits for service members and veterans, like no longer requiring them to use their benefits within 15 years of active-duty service. But supporting veterans in higher education is more complicated than just giving them more time.

 

Marty Martinez spent 29 years in the military before coming to the University of Wyoming.

 

Tennessee Watson

As Wyoming policymakers prepare for the 2018 Budget Session, in which education will be a big topic, teachers are stepping up efforts to make their voices heard.

On Thursday evening, teachers and community members gathered in the backroom of a Laramie restaurant for a postcard writing party.

 

Graphics from SANS. Altered by Tennessee Watson

Jobs in cybersecurity are in high demand, and Governor Matt Mead is encouraging young people in Wyoming to explore the field, especially young women.

 

The governor has announced Wyoming will now participate in the “High School Girls CyberStart Challenge” — a cybersecurity competition for junior and seniors in the form of an online game. In the simulation, players are cyber agents responsible for protecting a base. The idea is to get girls interested in the cybersecurity field, where women are generally underrepresented.

 

Wyoming Humanities

The artwork of 31 of the Middle East's premier contemporary women artists is coming to Jackson. “I AM” is an international traveling exhibit focusing on the contributions that Middle Eastern women make to local and global culture, and movements for peace and harmony.  

It’s already made stops in Jordan, London and Washington DC, and will open at the Center for the Arts in Jackson on Friday evening.

 

Ryan Stanley

Quick recovery is key to avalanche survival. Experts say that 93 percent of avalanche victims can be recovered alive if they are dug out within the first 15 minutes, but after that, the likelihood of survival declines drastically. That’s why wearing avalanche beacons and knowing how to use them is an absolute must for backcountry enthusiasts.

 

Graphic by Tennessee Watson

Students are required to do fire drills and tornado drills, yet Wyoming does not require public schools to do sexual assault prevention. Young people are more likely to be impacted by sexual violence than they are by any of those dangers. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

 

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

Listen to the full show here. 

Tax Reform's Impact On Western Energy

The debate over tax reform has finally come to an end. Congress has passed its bill and President Trump has signed it. But what’s it all mean for western energy? Wyoming Public Radio’s Cooper McKim helps deconstruct tax reform’s impact. 

Wyoming Sexual Violence Prevention Council

Most states have existing laws or pending legislation requiring public schools to teach sexual violence prevention. That leaves Wyoming as one of the few states with absolutely nothing on the books. The Wyoming Sexual Violence Prevention Council is working to fill that gap by supporting a growing network of local projects; among them is a program that works with K-12 student athletes.

Tennessee Watson

Small schools offer an educational experience that many students appreciate for the close-knit community. But those students can also miss out on the diversity of academic offerings available in larger schools.

Albany Community Health Clinic

Healthcare providers in Laramie say they’re seeing an increase in addiction. In response, the Albany Community Health Clinic -- which serves patients regardless of their ability to pay -- is adding mental health and substance abuse services to the comprehensive primary-care it offers. With a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the clinic is now able to hire additional mental health providers.

 

pixabay.com

Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley said in his first 30 years in law enforcement he encountered heroin only twice, but now illicit drugs -- including meth and cocaine -- are something his department deals with all the time.

 

For those individuals struggling with addiction who end up in the Albany County Detention Center, the immediate shift to sobriety can bring on intense physical and emotional stress, according to O’Malley. That’s why he wants to start offering inmates acupuncture to relieve the side effects of withdrawal.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Every Student Succeeds Act -- or ESSA -- shifted education authority from the federal government to states and local districts, leaving behind the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. But under ESSA, states are still required to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Education all students have access to an adequate education.

 

The Wyoming Department of Education submitted its ESSA plan in September. Last week, it received a letter from the federal government asking for more information on several points before approval can be given.

Tennessee Watson

 

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them. For education reporter Tennessee Watson, Christmas is a story about the birth of a baby into tenuous and uncertain circumstances. But it’s also about how another kind of world is possible. At least that’s what she figured out one memorable Christmas, over a decade ago, in Mexico.

Screenshot from the APA Consulting survey

Leading up to the 2018 budget session, Wyoming lawmakers hired education consultants to study the school funding model.

 

The idea was to find ways the state can save money while still meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with a proper education. The consultants have released a 552-page draft of their recommendations and they’re taking public feedback through an online survey.

 

Wyoming Department of Health

Nearly 3,000 kids in Wyoming have access to a highly subsidized health insurance through a program called Kid Care CHIP operated by the Wyoming Department of Health. Those kids could lose that coverage as soon as April, if Congress does not re-authorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

 

Associated Students University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming’s student government is ramping up accountability for groups on campus. A new policy implemented this fall suspends registered student organizations from ASUW funding if found in violation of financial policies.

 

The first group to be suspended under the new policy was the UW chapter of Turning Point USA. The group brought Dennis Prager, conservative radio personality, to speak on campus this fall.

 

Map from pixabay.com Image by Tennessee Watson

Consultants hired by the state legislature to help Wyoming bring efficiencies to the school funding model are asking lawmakers to consider adding a voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds.

The consultants found that investing in early childhood education could reduce K-12 resource needs in the long run, like more expensive interventions required for closing achievement gaps with older students. Wyoming is one of seven states without a statewide preschool program.

www.flickr.com/photos/mujitra/5232270530

Parents are only slightly more comfortable talking with their kids about money than about the birds and the bees. That’s according to John Pelletier, who directs Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy.

He said kids need to learn financial skills somewhere, but “the reality is for 80 percent of adults and 80 percent of students who are in high school, they are going to learn through the school of hard knocks.”

wikipedia.org

Five classrooms in Wyoming are being recognized nationally for inspiring change in their local communities through the creative use of STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

 

Tennessee Watson

Nicole Rapp is the principal at Crest Hill Elementary School in Casper. Last February, she took a road trip with some of her staff to Sheridan to see one of the state’s highest-performing districts in action.

“Our excitement when we got back in that car that day to drive back to Casper was just wow. It is different," Rapp said.   

She said that’s because Sheridan School District #2 uses the Professional Learning Community model—or PLC—where teachers and administrators work in collaborative teams to support student learning.

Content from the Branding Iron. Layout by Tennessee Watson

An interaction between the UW Police Department and the UW student newspaper has prompted the university to clarify its policy regarding the rights and obligations of student journalists.

 

In a November 3 article, Branding Iron reporter Destiny Irwin reported on allegations that an unnamed resident assistant sexually assaulted women in a dorm. Irwin quoted Resident Assistant Rachel MacDonald, who said the incidents caused Residence Life to change its hiring practices.

 

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