Education

WPM is committed to covering education issues in Wyoming in a thoughtful and thorough way. This main page captures all education-related stories we've aired, and updates you on broad issues.

Check out our Strengthening Education Reporting page for stories focused primarily on graduation rates and how to encourage an upward trend in education.

Caroline Ballard

  

The Cathedral Home for Children just north of Laramie is a boarding school for teens that have had traumatic experiences. Besides providing a safe space, the home helps the kids deal with their emotions. This summer they’re trying something new – drumming circles.

Bob Beck

Bob Jensen has spent most of his time in Wyoming thinking about improving the economy. For ten years he led the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development arm. Several months ago during a meeting of some Cheyenne entrepreneurs the idea of developing a coding school was pitched. And that discussion led to the development of Array, School of Technology and Design in downtown Cheyenne.

“It is a grassroots effort to try and effect workforce quickly for a growing tech industry in Wyoming,” said Jensen.

Casper College's Facebook

Casper College will open a student-run kitchen this fall in order to provide meals to local residents who are food insecure. That means, they don’t always know where their next meal will come from. The college’s nutrition students plan to make healthy meals from food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Lance Madzey

Natrona County High School’s film and television program, NCTV, is hoping to raise about $15,000 to cover the costs of equipment for a new studio space in the high school’s renovated building.

Recent renovations of the school did not include a new studio space, so Lance Madzey, who has taught the program for twenty-years and his students, began fundraising in order to retrofit a classroom into a studio with editing bays. He says he is hoping his students will be able to continue to produce their usual weekly live television show.

Sheridan.edu

Gillette College officials are considering offering 4-year bachelor's degrees and master’s degrees programs in the upcoming future.

A task force formed by the Energy Capital Economic Development corporation will hire a consultant to see what funds are needed expand programs and enhanced degrees.

Liam Niemeyer

Teachers from across Wyoming took part in programming and robotics workshops on the University of Wyoming’s campus this month to learn about new ways to teach students.

During the two-week long event called “UW RAMPED,” 30 teachers learned about miniature computers that can be used in the classroom and how to program robots of different sizes. Teachers also got to interact with a human-sized robot named Baxter.

University of Wyoming

 

Wyoming President Laurie Nichols started her job on a Monday, the Monday after the Friday when Governor Matt Mead told the UW trustees that they must whack an additional $35 million from the University budget. The state’s fiscal downturn has led to a $41 million cut from the UW budget.

State Farm

The Wyoming Board of Education has changed a number of graduation requirements for Wyoming high school students. One change will allow students to prove they are competent in a subject without receiving a traditional grade.

Another will tweak the requirement for how long a student must be in a classroom, which is known as seat time. State Board member Sue Belish said that takes into account new ways of learning. 

Wyoming Education Association

  

  

Educators from across the country are meeting in Washington D.C. this week for the annual National Education conference. Kathy Vetter is the Wyoming Education Association President. While some states still struggle with funding, others have restored education money to pre-2008 levels. That’s not the case in Wyoming, where a downturn in the energy economy has led to cuts in education funding for the first time in many years. Vetter told Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that the cuts came faster than educators thought they would. 

Sheridan.edu

Sheridan Community College is considering building a new dorm after seeing demand for on-campus housing rise the past three years.

The college was up 51 applications in April compared to last year in April, and now, all rooms at the college are booked for the fall semester. 20 students are on a wait list to live on-campus. Currently, the college can house 450 students overall.

Director of Housing and Campus Life Larissa Bonnett said a big reason why there’s more people wanting to live on-campus is for the experience.

Wikimedia Commons

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols brought together faculty and staff Wednesday to discuss the financial crisis she declared last week at the university.

At the meeting, President Nichols detailed how the university plans to cut about $30 million over the next two years. In her plan, Nichols said the university will raise tuition by 4 percent—and eliminate 70 vacancies throughout campus. Around 50 faculty and staff will also have to voluntarily retire for the university to save enough money.

Eric Lewis via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming ranks 12th in the nation in child well-being, according to data released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Wyoming rose four places from last year’s report—one of the biggest improvements in the nation.

But while Wyoming ranked first for economic well-being, it came in 48th place in health in this year’s Kids Count profile, which is based on 2014 data.

University of Wyoming Facebook

Wyoming is facing difficult economic times. Last year, the state lost 6,500 jobs, mostly in oil and gas, and things haven’t much better this year. The state government is making major reductions and even Wyoming Medical Center in Casper cut 58 positions. For that reason, right now is a tough time for University of Wyoming’s graduates to enter the job force, particularly if they want to stay in the state.

Aaron Schrank

As more schools make safety and security a priority, School Resource Officers—or SROs—have become the fastest growing job in law enforcement. External threats are rare—and most research suggests that putting cops in schools actually has a negative impact on education. But proponents say, the good officers do for schools and communities can’t always be measured. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank spent a day with some SROs and has this report.

First Hattiesburg via Flickr Creative Commons

A report released this week by the U.S. Department of Education shows it doesn’t pay to be an early childhood teacher.

Wyoming is one of 13 states where preschool teachers earn, on average, less than half of the $56,000 annual salary earned by kindergarten teachers.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says preschool teachers need more than $26,000 a year.  

Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to draft legislation that would change the way virtual education works in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Education’s Distance Education Task Force met last year and came up with recommendations to expand and improve virtual or online learning in the state. The Joint Education Interim Committee voted to support those recommendations, specifically addressing those that require a change in state law.

Green River Representative John Freeman served on the task force. He says there’s a definite need for classes to be available online.

Credit: AARON SCHRANK/WPR

The Legislature’s Joint Education Committee met on Tuesday to discuss ways Wyoming can save money on K-12 education amid revenue decline.

Last year, lawmakers went through the school finance recalibration process, which happens every five years. They decided to continue funding education at the same levels they had been, instead of adopting a less costly model that would provide what consultants say are the basics needed to improve educational outcomes in Wyoming.

Wyoming Schools Chief Jillian Balow testified before a U.S. Congressional committee Tuesday in favor of a bill that would end the federal suspension on coal leases.

The Certainty for States and Tribes Act would also reinstate the Interior Department’s Royalty Policy Committee, which proponents say would ensure that states relying on revenue from federal land are treated fairly.

K-12 leaders from 28 different school districts are urging lawmakers to roll back recent cuts to education funding—and to follow Wyoming’s statutory school funding model.

They’ll meet with the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee this week and ask those lawmakers to sponsor legislation restoring $36 million dollars in cuts to school funding over the next two years.

But Committee Chairman Senator Hank Coe says that’s unlikely.

“We’ll be lucky if we’re able to fund K-12 at the levels we're funding it right now,” Coe says.

Aaron Schrank

In the 2011-2012 school year, Wyoming ranked fourth in the country for sending students to cops and courts. Cheyenne’s Johnson Junior High School referred students to law enforcement at a rate 15 times the national average.  

“I started at Johnson in the fall of 2011,” says Manny Fardella, a School Resource Officer, or SRO, with the Cheyenne Police Department. 

“Johnson was a busy school,” says Fardella. “They did have a lot disturbances and fights. There was some drug activity. There was a whole bunch of things going on.”

This weekend, a Wyoming homeschooling group will hold its annual conference in Powell.

Homeschoolers of Wyoming is a loose-knit, faith-based organization of homeschooling families in the state. There are more than 2,000 home-schooled students in the state, according to some estimates.

“We hold this event annually to encourage the parents who are doing this day-to-day at home, and also to help equip them and answer any questions that they might have,” says Homeschoolers of Wyoming co-president Heather Hager.  

An energy company has not yet found the source of a gas-like odor that shut down a school near its oil field in Natrona County.

Students and staff at Midwest School first smelled what they thought was natural gas last Wednesday. The school was closed on Thursday. Fleur De Lis Energy, which runs the nearby Salt Creek oil field, says employees have been working around the clock trying to find the source of the smell since.

WPR/AARON SCHRANK

Just one week before Laurie Nichols took over as the University of Wyoming’s new president, Governor Matt Mead cut UW’s budget by 8 percent. On Wednesday, Nichols announced her plan to cut $19 million for the 2017 fiscal year, beginning July 1.

“It’s not ideal,” said Nichols. “But is it doable? Yes, it is. And I think we’ve actually put together a pretty solid plan."

Speaking to more than 600 members of the campus community at a town hall, Nichols led with the good news.

gosarforgovernor.com

The Wyoming State Board of Education reviewed and approved new science standards at their meeting in Laramie last week. The vote was unanimous. The standards will be sent to Governor Matt Mead for a 10-day review. 

The last time the Wyoming State Board of Education revised science standards was in 2003. Board Chairman, Pete Gosar, says since the standards haven't been revised in so long, Wyoming is behind, but he imagines that the new standards will help Wyoming students better compete with others.

Caroline Ballard

  

At the Women in STEM conference, more than 500 middle and high school girls descended on the University of Wyoming campus to learn more about STEM careers. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  

The girls get to attend three workshops out of a possible 25 options, and choices range from animal husbandry to chemistry and robotics.

Holly Ramseier is a senior in Chemical Engineering at UW, and is helping out today. She says the conference is all about getting your feet wet and seeing what you like. 

Jennifer Becker

At a recent school board meeting, Laramie High School senior Rihanna Kelver showed up to tonight’s school board meeting with a call to action.

“I am asking that the Board take initiative now to protect these students,” Kelver says. “As soon as we lose a student by the 50 percent rate suicide that transgender youth face, the blood will be on our hands.”

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

The University of Wyoming will host a two-day symposium on drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Jeff Hamerlinck is the director of UW’s Geographic Information Science Center. He says the symposium will be the first of its kind and he is hoping it will be an opportunity to raise awareness in the state about drones. Hamerlinck says drones’ data-collecting abilities are unmatched. The data collection is timelier, the quality of the data is much higher, and the cost of drones is relatively affordable.

MDV via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming Police Department reported 14 campus sexual assaults in 2015. That’s up from nine sexual assaults the year before.

Police Chief Mike Samp says this year’s number is just shy of a record 15 sexual assaults at the University in 2013.

“It’s consistent with some of our higher years that we’ve ever had reported,” says Samp. “We think the vast majority of those are possibly due to increased reporting options—making sure that students are aware it’s okay to come forward. We hope that we’re not seeing an increase in the actual number of sexual assaults.”

Caroline Ballard

When University of Wyoming Computer Science Freshman Catherine Clennan sent an email to her professor explaining what she hoped to get out of an upcoming internship, she didn’t think much of it.

“It took about 20 minutes. I sat down and just, you know, word vomited onto the page and I sent it to him. And he was so moved by it that he responded to me saying we should do a blog for the internship, and I was like yeah ok let’s do it. And so I set it up and published it and it just went viral,” says Clennan.

Courtesy Tall Truth

A few weeks back, an email landed in parent Annie Band’s inbox asking if she wanted to opt her child out of a presentation.

“My stomach kind of dropped,” Band says.

That’s because she’d heard the speaker’s name—Shelly Donahue—before, and knew she had a controversial way of talking about sex.  

“I’d already watched enough of her videos to know that her message contained a lot of misinformation, outright falsehoods, shaming, damaging language, gender stereotyping,” Band says.

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