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.

By Ermell - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42799634, Cropped by Tennessee Watson

The 2017 Solar Eclipse overlaps the beginning of the school year in Wyoming. The majority of districts will start classes just after — on the 22 or 23 of August — and two districts in the path of totality made sure students had the day off. Fremont #6 starts on the 17, but students will have the 21 off. The school board in Fremont #24 voted to move the first day of school back to August 23, out of concern for the influx of visitors to the area.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

The accounts that fund education saw an unexpected revenue boost, which brought the predicted education shortfall from $400 million down to $250 million, according to Governor Matt Mead.

 

Mead said coal is coming back — along with oil and gas — but he cautioned the state is still running short on funds. He added that means the legislature will have some hard work to do during the 2018 Budget Session, as they consider further budget reductions or alternate revenue through new taxes.

 

Wyoming School Boards Association

School board members and district superintendents gathered recently to discuss the changes underfoot in Wyoming’s education system with an eye toward reforms they would like to see during the 2018 legislative session.

 

Brian Farmer, Executive Director for the Wyoming School Boards Association, said his organization held a joint meeting with the Wyoming Association of School Administrators, and the topic of teacher accountability was high on everyone’s list.

 

State of Wyoming Legislature

As a part of the state’s efforts to confront a funding deficit brought on by the downturn in the energy industry, the 2017 Legislature established the Wyoming Government Spending and Efficiency Commission.

One of its first actions was to request that all major agency heads report on their work to reduce spending and improve efficiency.

Alanna Elder

The oranges are a hit at Feeding Laramie Valley, where Sandy Moody serves lunch to a steady stream of eaters. By the end of the hour, it’ll add up to more than 60 people from daycares, preschools, and the local neighborhood. Moody said they’ll serve anyone – kids for free and adults for a dollar fifty. 

Gayle Woodsum is the founder of Feeding Laramie Valley, a nonprofit that grows and distributes local produce at no cost.

Tennessee Watson

In the library of Sunflower Elementary school on Gillette’s southwest side, Dr. William Heineke is hard at work as a psychologist. He’s putting on two hats, with shorts over his pants, mismatched shoes, and instead of a pen, he tucks a toothbrush into his lapel. The Mardi Gras mask he’s putting on followed by his eye glasses might be deceiving, but this wild outfit is part of a serious effort to help troubled elementary school kids. They’ve been diagnosed with things like anxiety, depression, anger issues and are at risk for suicide.  

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education reported Thursday that student scores on statewide assessments have seen some improvements. The Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students — known as PAWS — tests students in grades 3-8 in reading and math, and grades 4-8 in science.

Logos courtesy of APA and the Wyoming State Legislature

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration—charged with looking for ways to reduce spending in the face of funding shortfalls—announced they will be working with APA Consulting to assess the current school funding model.

Rebecca Huntington

Do young people in your community have access to engaging summer programming? Is it affordable?

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Wyoming Department of Education

In response to the current state funding crisis, the Wyoming Department of Education surveyed school districts to see how cuts were impacting their annual budgets. The results confirm the budget crisis is impacting summer programming.

 

Of Wyoming’s 48 districts, Big Horn School District #2 in Lovell and Teton County School District #1 in Jackson, were the only two districts not included in the survey results.

 

Chair and umbrella from Pixabay. Design by Tennessee Watson

Summer school might sound like a punishment, but according to Karen Bierhaus from the Wyoming Department of Education, it often provides opportunities for students to learn in more creative and engaging ways.

However, due to changes in the school funding model during the 2017 Wyoming Legislative session, funding through the Wyoming Bridges Program for summer and extended day programs no longer exists.

University of Wyoming Staff Senate

Representatives from the University of Wyoming Staff Senate met with President Laurie Nichols Friday to ask for what they say is a much needed overhaul to the staff compensation system.

 

Staff Senate President Rachel Stevens said base level salaries have not increased since 2008 and UW staff earn less than their counterparts at other state agencies.

Tennessee Watson

The State Board of Education approved full accreditation for 46 of Wyoming’s 48 school districts, and all 13 institutional schools for the coming school year.

Tom Sasche, the board’s coordinator, said the annual process helps ensure districts are meeting established standards and showing improvement.

“In addition to the statewide assessment system and the accountability system, Wyoming participates in something called the Advanc-Ed Accreditation Process,” said Sasche.  

Wyoming Education Association

Issues facing students, schools and the teaching profession are being addressed this week at the National Education Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston. Kathy Vetter, President of the Wyoming Education Association, has joined close to 8,000 educators from every state to exchange ideas about how to improve education.

 

Aaron Schrank

A funding crisis brought on by a downturn in the coal industry has left policy makers struggling to figure out how to fund education. This year school districts took a hit of $34 million to their operating budgets.

 

That’s primarily money for teachers and staff, as well as materials and supplies. But the funding for school construction and maintenance is also running out.

 

Native American Student Summit

Historically, many say the University of Wyoming has not been a supportive place for Native American students. In 2015, the UW Bookstore falsely accused several visiting Native American high schoolers of shoplifting during a recruitment visit. And a general lack of support has caused some tribal students like UW senior Mia Holt to feel unwelcome.  

 

Rebecca Huntington

On the Wind River Reservation, students are learning how to use futuristic tools to stretch the bounds of what's possible in the classroom.

What if you could put a swimming pool in the middle of your classroom?

“Me, me, me, me...” students gleefully shout.

That's just what students at the Arapahoe Elementary School couldn't wait to do...

“Let's be careful to not stand on the swimming pool,” a teacher says. “So now we're going to push select. I think we probably want a really big swimming pool so everybody can fit in it, right?”

What do parents think about Wyoming’s K thru 12 education system? At a time when the state is adopting new guidelines laid out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and policymakers are considering major funding shortfalls, Sheila McGuire, president of the Wyoming Parent Teacher Association, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson, about why the parent voice is so critical. 

Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Tennessee Watson

In 2015, No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Known as ESSA, it gives states more authority over K-12 education than they have had in nearly two decades. Now that the two-year transition period is over, ESSA will take effect this fall.

The transition has been met with enthusiasm from Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction. She said, “No Child Left Behind was very punitive in nature.” 

Tennessee Watson

A $462 million operating budget has been approved by the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees for the coming year, which incorporates the most recent $21.8 million reductions in state funding. With uncertainty about whether more cuts are to come, the trustees took measures to transition the university to a more centralized financial system, designed to give officials more control of revenues and expenditures.

 

University of Wyoming Extension

If you’re looking for a way to spice up your summer road trips here in Wyoming, there’s a new tool to enjoy landmarks you might otherwise miss.

ExploreWYO is a map-based website — optimized for smartphones — featuring close to 400 videos produced by the University of Wyoming Extension. These 90-second stories dive into little-known-facts about Wyoming’s landscape and culture from wildlife and geology to cattle grazing and energy production.

 

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

Rural Americans are increasingly educated, but compared with urban areas, they lag behind in the number of adults with college degrees, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But in Wyoming, a local researcher has released an online tool to help workers follow educational paths to local employment.

 

Photo by Tommy Wong. Thought bubble added by Tennessee Watson with use under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

School’s out for summer across Wyoming, but the state Department of Education is offering two free learning initiatives designed to help kids keep up math and reading skills over summer break.

Find a Book Wyoming helps students create custom reading lists to suit their abilities and interests, and set goals for the summer. Barb Marquer from the Wyoming Department of Education, said she doesn’t want kids to consider this school work.  

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction is concerned that Governor Mead’s executive council focused on diversifying Wyoming’s economy, known as ENDOW, is leaving out K-12 education.

 

Superintendent Jillian Balow made that point recently in a letter to the governor. She said schools should be a part of the economic diversification discussion because public education is one of the largest employers in the state.

 

Photo by Aaron Gilson via Creative Commons 2.0

President Trump’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would save $1.2 billion. But across the country, this program is a primary source of support for after-school and summer programs that serve students in low-income communities.

There are over 50 programs in Wyoming that would be affected. Wyoming Public Radio’s Education Reporter Tennessee Watson spoke with Linda Barton, director of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance about why summer camp matters.

Cooper Mckim

It’s a sunny day outside Midwest School in northeast Natrona County as mud-swept trucks pull into a gas station across the street. Sue Green serves food inside the Big D convenience store. She’s the mother of three students from the school.

She said, “The one just turned about 15, the other one about ready to turn 12 and the other’s one 5 and a half.”

Caroline Ballard

When middle schoolers at the UW Lab School in Laramie first heard they were going to be studying garbage as part of the nation-wide initiative Project Citizen, which promotes democratic engagement, their reactions were about what you’d expect.

“Everyone in the class kind of shrugged their shoulders and went ‘okay.’ And we were all just mellowed out about it and not excited,” said Yousuf Abdel-Kader, an eighth grader at the lab school.

Wyoming Public Media

While budget reductions have many concerned about the University of Wyoming’s decline, the school’s elementary education program was recently ranked number six in the nation by College Choice.

 

The independent online publication placed UW on its list of the "35 Best Elementary Education Degrees for 2017." Scott Chamberlin, head of the UW Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, said the study in part looked at the reputation of the school and affordability.

The University of Wyoming will now have a representative on the State Board of Education. The Wyoming legislature passed a bill during its last session, granting the University of Wyoming president the power to appoint a nonvoting member to the State Board of Education. The first to serve in this new role is College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel.

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