Education

WPM is committed to covering education issues in Wyoming in a thoughtful and thorough way. We dedicated a page to capture news and information that educates us about education! 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.

After months of discussion about how Wyoming’s K-12 education system should be run, the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee released its final report on statewide education governance Wednesday.

The report offers suggestions for how Wyoming might change the structure education leadership in the state in the wake of Senate File 104, a failed legislative attempt to strip powers from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

Aaron Schrank

The number of students experiencing homelessness in Wyoming has gone way up in recent years, but there are few resources for homeless Wyomingites—and almost none specific to youth. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports, public schools are on the front lines of identifying and advocating for these vulnerable young people.

University of Wyoming

For kids who have grown up using smartphones, navigating apps like google maps is second nature to them. But a new initiative from the University of Wyoming is trying to get 5-thousand tangible, paper atlases into the hands of students in every Wyoming school district. Jeff Hamerlinck is the director of the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center and was one of the co-editors on the atlas project. He joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to discuss the project.

Angus Thuermer / WyoFile

Last week, the Board of Trustees at the University of Wyoming approved a 5 percent tuition hike for the next academic year—and 4 percent increases for each year after that. Most of that extra revenue will be used to fund employee salary increases.

Some employees and students question the move.

Faculty Senate Chair Ed Janak says the raises are much-needed, but he isn’t sure tuition hikes are the right idea.

University of Wyoming

Last year, the University of Wyoming saw many of its top-performing faculty leave the school to take jobs elsewhere. Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile.com. He wrote a story recently looking at this faculty exodus, its potential causes, its impacts—and what efforts UW is making to keep faculty around. Nickerson spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank.

Grade inflation is a problem at teacher training programs around the country, but not so much at the University of Wyoming’s College of Education.

That’s according to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality—a think tank that pushes for tougher evaluations of classroom teachers—called “Easy A’s And What’s Behind Them.”

The report looked at more than 500 institutions across the country and found that teacher candidates are much more likely to earn high grades and receive honors than the broad student population.

State lawmakers this week will hear proposals to add an individual right to privacy to the Wyoming Constitution.

The Digital Information Privacy Task Force is made up of lawmakers and Wyoming citizens. Task Force Chairman Senator Chris Rothfuss says the proposed amendment would limit what information Wyoming could compile about its citizens. The goal is to ensure privacy rights aren’t ignored in service of other state interests.

Next year, state officials will visit every school building in the state to determine what safety and security upgrades need to be made. It’s part of a school safety initiative pushed by the Governor and Legislature in the wake of high-profile school shootings in other parts of the country.

The assessments will be conducted by the School Facilities Department—the state agency responsible for school construction in Wyoming. The Department’s Director, Bill Panos says the school visits will take place between January and June of 2015.

The race for Wyoming’s schools chief was expected to be a close one, but it wasn't. Republican Jillian Balow defeated Democrat Mike Ceballos in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tuesday night with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Despite his party affiliation, Ceballos earned credibility in deep-red Wyoming with his business leadership experience. He racked up a string of key endorsements, and outspent Balow during the campaign, but Ceballos says he didn’t make his case to enough people.

A political action committee representing Wyoming teachers announced Monday it has pulled its endorsement of Jillian Balow the Republican candidate for Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The Wyoming Education Association’s Political Action Committee for Education—known as WEA-PACE—endorsed both Balow and her Democratic opponent Mike Ceballos before this year’s primaries.

But Balow’s rhetoric about organized labor in a recent fundraising letter caused concern among the group of educators. In the letter, Balow criticized her opponent for receiving union support.  

Leigh Paterson

Climate change is a controversial topic in this election cycle, especially when it comes to teaching it in school.  So far only 12 states have adopted a new set of science education standards that include the human impacts on global warming  - and Wyoming is not one of them.

Natalia Macker, who is running to represent District 22 in the Wyoming State House, said something shocking during our recent interview:

The Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee voted 10 to three Thursday to support providing adjustments to school funding based on inflation.

The state is supposed to account for annual fluctuations in the costs of goods and labor when funding schools, but these inflation adjustments haven’t been made for the past four years. A coalition of school districts who spoke before the Committee Thursday say this has cost Wyoming’s school districts more than $150 million—and led to salary freezes, layoffs and program cuts.

Yellowstone Gate via Flickr Creative Commons

In a report on the status of Wyoming’s schools released last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill says that the Legislature has overstepped its authority when it comes to education issues in the state.

Hill says lawmakers have used their responsibility for funding K-12 education as an excuse to manage it.

“The legislature has the power of the purs

  e,” says Hill. “Yes, they’re responsible for funding, but not all of the decisions that are related.”

Charles Cook via Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $4.2 million grant to the University of Wyoming for wind energy research.

Six different University departments will collaborate on the project.

UW professor Jonathan Naughton is the director of the Wind Energy Research Center and the principal investigator for the grant. He says the goal is to address barriers to rolling out renewable energy in the state—and research will focus on three key aspects.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

Educators from across Wyoming gathered in Sheridan over the weekend to discuss the future of early childhood education in the state.  

Wyoming is one of 10 states with no state-funded preschool, but early learning is available—mostly to low-income families—through programs like Head Start—and special education preschools.

The group heard presentations about the latest science on early brain development and looked at studies showing that spending on early education has more impact on learning outcomes than spending later in life.

Test results released Monday by the Wyoming Department of Education show huge drops across the board in the percentage of Wyoming students meeting proficiency for end-of-year state assessments.

For example, just 46 percent of third graders scored “proficient or advanced” on the math portion of the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students—or PAWS test. That’s compared to 84 percent in the previous school year.

Screenshot via YouTube

Dean Kelly, the principal at Natrona County High School in Casper resigned Wednesday. The announcement of his resignation followed the news that several staff members were placed on leave for their participation in an inappropriate skit performed at the school.

The Natrona County School District released a video of the incident in question on Tuesday after a records request from the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper. The video and accompanying transcript were redacted to protect privacy.

Most Wyomingites would like to see the State Superintendent of Public Instruction become an appointed position, rather than an elected one. That’s according to a consulting group hired by lawmakers to conduct a statewide survey on education governance.

The Maryland-based consulting group, Cross & Joftus conducted in-depth interviews with education stakeholders and launched an online survey for public input. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents and 75 percent of interviewees believed a shift to an appointed schools chief would be a good move.

Tonight, Wyoming Public Radio and Wyoming PBS will host a panel forum at UW exploring the Common Core State Standards for education. WPR Education Reporter Aaron Schrank will moderate the event, and he joined Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard to talk Common Core and what to expect from the forum.

Wyoming Education Forum

Sep 8, 2014
Diana Denison

Listen Online! AIRS ON WPR: September 12 at 3:00pm, Repeats September 14 at 12pm. Listen online at wyomingpublicmedia.org.

AIRS ON Wyoming PBS: September 29 at 8:00pm, Repeats Tuesday 30 at 1:00pm and October 5 at 11:00am. wyomingpbs.org

Getting to the Core of the Common Core:

The Wyoming Board of Education supports making the state’s schools chief an appointed position instead of an elected one, as the Wyoming Constitution currently requires.

After hours of deliberation Thursday, all but one Board member voiced support for making such changes to the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Board was split on whether the Governor or the Board itself should be responsible for appointing a state Superintendent.

Via Tsuji via Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday was the first day of school for students in Wyoming’s largest school district—Laramie County School District One. But rapid population growth in parts of Cheyenne means some students can’t attend the schools in their neighborhoods. 

Wyoming high school students who graduated in 2014 did slightly better on the ACT, on average, than those who graduated last year. Performance results released Wednesday by the Wyoming Department of Education show an average ACT score of 20.1 for this year’s test-takers, compared to 19.8 in 2013.

The Legislature’s Joint Education Committee has extended the deadline for public input in its study of education governance in Wyoming after receiving almost 1,300 responses.

Under direction from the Legislature’s Management Council, the Committee hired a consulting group in June to survey Wyomingites on what changes should be made to how the state runs its public schools. The firm has interviewed stakeholders and solicited input from the public with an online survey.

Jimmy Emerson via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education will hold its fifth annual Native American Education Conference this week in Riverton. The goals of the conference including boosting communication between schools and the Native American families they serve—and integrating tribal culture into curriculum.

Last year, the high school graduation rate for Native American students in Wyoming was 42 percent, compared to 78 percent for all students. Conference coordinator Keja Whiteman says that gap signals the need for this event.

There was disagreement during a Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction debate concerning the administration of Cindy Hill. 

Sheryl Lain, who currently works for Hill, defended the Superintendent and says education has improved and test scores have gone up. But Jillian Balow says the state can’t have four more years of a Hill/Lain administration. 

Two of the three Republican candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction say it should be left up to local school boards to determine if teachers or others can have guns in schools. Bill Winney was adamant that the issue should be decided locally.

“There’s something in me that says a teacher shouldn’t be standing in front of a classroom with a pistol on their hip…I got that. But that’s not the real point…the real point is the authority and local control of our school boards.” 

wypols.com

This summer there's been a big push by the nation's powerful teacher unions to completely revamp the nation's standardized tests mandated under No Child Left Behind and then revamped with the new Common Core standards. Wyoming Public Radio’s congressional reporter, Matt Laslo, has the story on how the state’s congressional delegation is fighting for the state’s interests on the issue.

Wyoming_Jackrabbit via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming is working to update its preservation plan for historic buildings on campus. The current preservation plan was written in 1999 and is now out of date since many buildings now qualify as historic that once did not.

With lots of construction and renovation taking place on campus, UW's Interim Director of Facilities Planning Larry Blake says new guidelines are necessary.

Sheryl Lain has been a classroom teacher and has spent the last several years training teachers as an instructional leader. Lain is one of three Republicans seeking the party nomination for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Lain has spent the last three years working side by side with current Superintendent Cindy Hill. 

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