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.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

Thanks to the Pope’s environmental encyclical, some Wyoming Catholics are studying big issues like global climate change for the first time. Laramie’s St. Paul’s Newman Center is hosting a 4-week course this summer to dig in to the document.

Wyoming Department of Education

Three years after Wyoming adopted the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and math, schools here are still struggling to teach to the new standards. That’s according to survey results released this week by the Wyoming Department of Education.

Only about 1,000 teachers, 54 principals and 28 curriculum directors responded to the department’s survey. WDE acknowledged the response rate was low, but the information is helpful.

Two pieces of legislation that could reform the controversial No Child Left Behind law are going to a conference committee. 

The Senate version of the bill allows states to determine how to use federally mandated tests for accountability purposes and lets states decide if they will allow parents to ask to opt out of standardized tests. The House version would just give parents that right. Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis hopes that stays in the bill.

Courtesy Annie E. Casey Foundation

Wyoming has improved in national child well-being rankings over the past year, but still ranks very low when it comes to child health. That’s according the Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday by the Annie. E Casey Foundation.

Wyoming saw improvements in economic well-being, education and family & community concerns—and rose from 19th to 16th place overall in the annual rankings. But the Cowboy State still ranks 45th in the nation for child health.

Wally Gobetz via Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. House and Senate will soon begin negotiations to reconcile two different bills that would rewrite the federal ‘No Child Left Behind’ education law.

The law has not been updated in 14 years. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—which was last revamped with NCLB in 2001. Last week, the House passed its own Republican-backed bill.

If Congress comes together on a bill that President Obama will sign, it would mean big changes for Wyoming.

Flickr Creative Commons

Results released Thursday by the Wyoming Department of Education show that students performed worse on this year’s standardized test than they did last year.

The Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students—or PAWS—measures students’ aptitude in math, reading and science.  The test is taken by students in grades 3 through 8.

Last year, 58 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient on reading. This year, less than 52 percent did. Math scores didn’t drop as sharply as reading—and actually rose slightly for some grade levels.

University of Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt has signed a contract extension through the 2019-2020 season. 

Shyatt will make a base salary of $210-thousand dollars this season, increasing to $230-thousand in the last year of the contract. Shyatt will also earn extra money if players meet academic goals and he meets performance incentives. The contract also includes extra money for his coaching staff. 

Shyatt says some friends wondered if he would leave Wyoming after appearing in the NCAA tourney last season.

Courtesy Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust

 

 

Kelly Matthews teaches special education at Jackson’s Colter Elementary School. She rents a studio apartment in town—above a garage workspace.

“It’s not an optimal place, but it’s a roof,” Matthews says.

Matthews makes $67,000 a year. That’s more than the $58,000 average for Wyoming teachers, but it’s not enough to get Matthews into a 2-bedroom place for her and her 8-year-old-son.

“He gets the bedroom, and mom gets the couch,” says Matthews. “I’ve been sleeping on the couch for two years.”

www.uwyo.edu

Future teachers studying at the University of Wyoming’s College of Education will have more help paying for school, thanks to a $1.8 million gift from Ray Kennedy.

Kennedy was a former teacher who retired in Laramie. He died May 1 at age 90. The Raymond D. Kennedy College of Education Scholarship fund represents his life’s savings. 

The College is still determining how exactly the scholarship will be disbursed, but John Stark with the UW Foundation says it will make a big difference for aspiring educators.

Ralph Alswang via Flickr Creative Commons

The White House says neither of the bills in Congress to rewrite the country’s chief federal K-12 education law would do enough to close the achievement gap nationwide.

In Wyoming’s lowest-performing schools, 48 percent of students score proficient in math, compared with 80 percent of students in other schools.

Nationwide, 29 percent of students at low-performing score proficient in math, compared with 65 percent at all other schools. A report released by the White House Monday shows similar gaps exist for reading and graduation rates—in Wyoming and around the country.

J. Stephen Conn via Flickr Creative Commons

Central Wyoming College is home to the state’s only Film & TV program. This summer, that program will become a full-fledged production company to put together a pilot for a crime drama set and shot on and around the Wind River Reservation.

The show will be called “Wind River,” and will star several professional actors from the Riverton area as well as Reservation locals.

Wyoming lawmakers met in Cody this week to continue their work updating the state’s school funding model. School funding is updated every five years in a process called recalibration. 

Members of the legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration spent much of this week’s meeting discussing teacher salaries.

Senator Chris Rothfuss of Laramie says lawmakers were presented data showing that Wyoming teacher pay remains above average.

Martin Schulz via Flickr Creative Commons

Pope Francis’ recent statements framing global climate change as a moral issue could be hard to swallow for some Catholics in Wyoming—where just 42 percent of residents say they believe climate change is caused by humans. 

University of Wyoming

Incoming freshman students at the University of Wyoming will soon have more access to top professors in their first semester. It’s part of the revamped University Studies Program, a core curriculum for all UW undergraduates.

Program coordinator Meg Flanigan Skinner says it aims to go beyond basic coursework.

via Jackson Hole Community School Facebook

The Teton County school board faces a decision about whether private schools will need to foot the bill for their students to participate in activities at Jackson Hole High School.

For years, the district has allowed students from the Journeys School and Jackson Hole Community School to join activities like sports teams and the drama department at the public school, but the state’s block grant does not provide funding for those students.

The school district’s Chief Operating Officer, Brad Barker, says this has cost the district about $96,000 a year.

UW

It’s been a tough year at the University of Wyoming. Several students there died, including two deaths by suicide in about a week. 

By the time UW students return from summer break, a new plaza will be built, commemorating all students whose lives were cut short while they were enrolled at the University.

The project was approved by the Associated Students of UW two years ago. The group’s vice president, Emily Kath, says it seems even more appropriate now, following this year’s tragedies.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming Education Association says fixing the federal education law No Child Left Behind is a top priority as the group heads to the National Education Association’s annual meeting this weekend.

There’s a bipartisan bill in Congress to revise No Child Left Behind—dubbed the Every Child Achieves Act. It would provide states more freedom and flexibility when it comes to accountability and testing than the existing law.

Teton County School District Superintendent Pam Shea will retire at the end of this month, after working in the district for more than 30 years.

Under her 9-year tenure as the district’s top administrator, student test scores and teacher salaries rose, and the district launched successful efforts like its dual immersion Spanish program.  

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

Aaron Schrank

Fort Washakie senior Keenen Large watches from the bleachers as his grade school counterparts parade through the school gym in traditional dress. This is what the school calls ‘Indian Days.’ Keenen remembers what it used to be.

“When I was a kid it was like five days,” says Large. “Man, every day was fun. They actually brought a buffalo here and they really performed a gutting ceremony—and then we ate it afterwards. It’s good.”

University of Wyoming

A University of Wyoming Board of Trustees initiative to boost the College of Education into national prominence in teacher preparation took a step forward Monday.

Trustees accepted a $500,000 dollar grant from The Daniels Fund, a Denver-based private foundation, which will be used to plan the first phase of the effort.

Angus Thuermer / WyoFile

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees approved a process and timeline Monday for recruiting and hiring UW’s next president.

That process will include hiring a search firm, forming two 14-member committees to select candidates and appointing a recruiter to oversee the entire process.

Wyoming’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction says the state needs to be doing a better job educating students to meet industry’s needs.

“You will hear me talk a lot about phasing out courses that are not of value to industry, and really scaling up those courses that are of value,” Jillian Balow told the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority at its summer meeting. She said the state’s infrastructure includes its students and that Wyoming needs to keep them in state with better science, technology, engineering and math education. 

Ben Ramsey

A Pinedale high school teacher used math to teach kids about the importance of sage grouse conservation last week. Cami Dudrey’s Algebra I class collaborated with the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation to solve real world math problems related to putting reflective tags along fences in a critical sage grouse breeding area outside Pinedale.

“Kids don’t see the application of math ever. The most common question I get is when are we ever going to use this?” Dudrey says. “Math’s everywhere. So just finding something to apply any type of math to helps the students connect.”

Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are taking a look at whether recreation mill levies create inequity for Wyoming students.

Under state law, communities can collect one mill from taxpayers—or one one-thousandth of the assessed property value of a school district—to pay for recreational facilities. Frequently districts use the mill levy to pay for such things as swimming pools and enhanced auditoriums. 

Wyoming lawmakers want more flexibility in how schools are assessed under the federal education law, No Child Left Behind.

Members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability met in Saratoga Wednesday to discuss how to reform Wyoming’s system for evaluating schools. A rework of the state’s accountability system is required by legislation passed this year.

The task force responsible for weighing in on the future of student testing in Wyoming held its kickoff meeting in Casper on Monday.

The assessment task force is made up of 26 teachers, administrators, school board members, parents and businesspeople from around the state.

Under state law, the group is charged with recommending an approach to assessment that fulfills accountability requirements –and furthers learning and achievement for Wyoming students.

Over the past few months, a set of proposed reading materials for students in Cody has led to more than 40 complaints from parents, the resignation of a school board trustee—and that board’s decision to form a group to address all the complaints before any resources are adopted.

But, on Monday, the group of teachers that recommended the contentious reading materials decided to pull back their recommendation until policies change.

Cody High School teacher Rick Stonehouse chairs the group—and says the process hasn’t been working well so far.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow was part of a delegation of U.S. state schools chiefs who visited China this month to discuss education issues.

The trip was paid for by the Council of State School Officers and was the third dialogue of its kind.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming school year recently came to a close and we asked UW President Dick McGinity to stop by and tell us about the state of the University. McGinity discusses stability, hiring, tuition, and enrollment in a wide-ranging interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck.  

Pages