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.

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

Albany County School District was on its way to becoming the first in Wyoming to pass a policy protecting transgender students. Now, amid national debate, school officials are dragging their feet. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports, one transgender high-schooler who helped draft that policy is now running for a seat on the school board to try to salvage it.

These reports are part of ‘The American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen’—a public media initiative to address the dropout crisis. Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution via Flickr Creative Commons

The remains of Northern Arapahoe children who died more than a century ago at a boarding school in Pennsylvania can finally return home. That’s what Army officials told tribal representatives at a meeting Tuesday in South Dakota.

More than 200 Native American children from various tribes—including at least three Northern Arapahoe—are buried at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School. Today, the land belongs to the U.S. Army War College.

  

The Board of Trustees at Northwest College in Powell voted Monday night to eliminate the college’s journalism program, along with two other programs.

Trustees voted 4 to 2 to cut the journalism program. Northwest President Stefani Hicswa had recommended the cut amid a $2 million budget shortfall.

A spokesperson for the college said the recommendation was made after a thorough cost-benefit analysis. 

Journalism professor Rob Breeding is disappointed that the decades-old program is going away.

Northwest College

As Northwest College in Powell faces a $2 million budget crunch, its president is recommending cutting a handful of programs to save some money. One is the school’s journalism program, which supports its student newspaper.

Professor Rob Breeding is the entire journalism department at Northwest, and advisor to The Northwest Trail student paper. He says the move to cut journalism is about more than cost-savings.

“There are ulterior motives,” says Breeding. “It relates to silencing the first amendment rights of this student newspaper.”

  

A group of Wyoming school districts is requesting to meet with lawmakers this summer to resolve concerns about funding.

In March, the Legislature passed a budget cutting $36 million in K-12 funding over the next two years. That’s a cut of more than one percent.

The decrease was taken out of an adjustment for inflation known as the ‘external cost adjustment.’

Campbell County Superintendent Boyd Brown is one of 28 superintendents who signed a letter asking to be allowed to make their case before the Joint Education Interim Committee.

Wyoming is replacing its current statewide standardized test, and is cutting ties to a testing group in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest as it selects a new vendor. 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the main providers of multi-state tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Wyoming has been a member of the consortium since 2010. While it doesn't currently use the SBAC test, the state will likely consider it, among other options, in the coming months.  

Aaron Schrank

This story is part of the NPR reporting project School Money, a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

Nine years ago, Mark Shrum moved his family to remote Gillette, Wyoming for two reasons: a coal mine job and good schools.

This March, Shrum was laid off from the Powder River Basin’s Buckskin coal mine, but he’s not leaving.

Park Elementary School via Facebook

The Natrona County School District is looking at student safety protocols after a man allegedly exposed himself to a third-grader walking home from school last week.

The girl’s mother, Amanda Huckabay, says the Casper Police Department had previously warned Park Elementary School’s principal about a possible predator in the neighborhood, but that information was not passed on to parents.

“The first responsibility of educators, beyond educating is to keep children safe,” Huckabay says.

istockphoto.com

A viral essay written by a University of Wyoming computer science student is inspiring real change at the university.

HARVEY BARRISON VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

The Teton County School District canceled presentations by a Christian abstinence speaker this week after some in the community objected. Shelly Donahue was scheduled to speak with 8th to 12th graders in Jackson. Donahue identifies as Christian and promotes abstinence in her approach to sex education. That upset some students and parents.

Turning Point Pregnancy Resource Center in Jackson approached the school district with the opportunity to have Donahue speak with students.

Aaron Schrank

University of Wyoming senior Ashlee Enos is in a crowded campus ballroom, watching a hip-hop artist from the Crow Nation who goes by the name ‘Supaman’ do his thing.

“I think it’s awesome that we have someone who’s so into the culture, and wants to give cultural awareness to the public,” Enos says.

Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. She says there aren’t many others at UW.

“It’s a very small number,” she says. “Maybe less than five.”

Less than one percent of total students here identify solely as American Indian—just 91 of more than 13,000.

PHOTO CREDIT NORTHWEST COLLEGE VIA FACEBOOK

 

There’s a lot going on at Wyoming’s 7 community colleges. Tuition hikes, a new funding formula, and a budget crunch. The colleges are also poised to play a big role in the state’s economic recovery. Wyoming lost more than 2 percent of its jobs last year. And just last week, nearly 500 coal workers were laid off in the Powder River Basin.

Jim Rose is the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Dr. Rose—and started by asking how community colleges will help retrain workers amid the downturn. 

via Clear Creek Facebook

A substitute teacher in Johnson County School District claims administrators at Buffalo’s Clear Creek Middle School mishandled an offensive student project.

According to a news release written by teacher John Egan and published on social media this week, the 7th grade social studies project was a cereal box decorated with a picture of a stereotyped Mexican man with a cardboard knife sticking into him. The box was captioned “Can you pin the knife in the Mexican?”

J. Stephen Conn via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead mobilized state agencies to respond to layoffs of nearly 500 coal workers in the Powder River Basin.

Two community college campuses served as sites to connect dislocated miners with services, Gillette College and the Eastern Wyoming Community College Campus in Douglas.

But Wyoming Community College Commission executive director Jim Rose says the state’s 7 community colleges will continue to be a long-term resource for displaced workers amid the downturn.

The energy industry downturn is sure to have ripple effects throughout many Wyoming communities. Campbell County School District was bracing for large enrollment declines even before this week’s layoffs of nearly 500 area coal workers.

The district’s business manager, Don Dihle, predicts a three percent drop in students next school year.

Pasco County Schools via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming’s four-year high school graduation rate saw a slight increase last year, according to data released Monday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

In the 2014-2015 school year, 79.4 percent of Wyoming high schoolers graduated on time. That’s up from 78.6 percent the previous year, but the state still trails the most recent record-high national average of 82 percent.

gosarforgovernor.com

The State Board of Education voted Friday to put a set of proposed science standards out for public comment.

The standards were developed by a committee of teachers, parents and others over the past year. They are based on the controversial Next Generation Science Standards, whose treatment of climate change raised the ire of lawmakers.

State Board Chairman Pete Gosar says the committee tweaked the standards to be less explicit about human-caused climate change.

Micah Baldwin, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Last year, when Tongue River High School students Taylor Holiday and Kylee Knobloch were asked to come up with a project for their leadership club, they decided to tackle a real-world problem.

“There was a few kids in our school that seemed to be struggling with drugs a little bit,” says Holiday. “So we thought, ‘what if we could make the change in this school that helped kids get away from issues like that?’”

Miles Bryan

Sandra Cuadrado spends most of her time studying dentistry at a university in Peru. But right now it is the 21-year-olds’ summer vacation, and Cuadrado has spent these last few months living and working the winter season  in Jackson on a J-1 Exchange Visitor student visa.  

“The idea of traveling here in the United States was to know more about this culture,” Cuadrado said. “And improve [my] English.”

Tom Kelly via Flickr Creative Commons

UPDATE: Carbon County School District One Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to close Sinclair Elementary.

The Carbon County District One school board will decide Thursday whether or not to close Sinclair Elementary School. 

Superintendent Fletcher Turcato recommended closing the school, which would save the district about $100,000 a year, due to legislative cuts to school funding.

Turcato says it’s not an easy recommendation to make, but it’s necessary after lawmakers cut funding by 1.2 percent over the next two years.

Jeremy Wilburn via Flickr Creative Commons

A state committee made up of parents, teachers and community members has proposed a new set of science standards for Wyoming.

UW

The University of Wyoming received funding for some major initiatives in the recently approved state budget, but administrators say cuts to UW’s block grant will put a strain on existing programs.

Lawmakers cut that funding by about $5.8 million for 2017 and 2018, and did not approve funding for UW employee pay raises.

Wyoming Public Media

On Wednesday, March 9, Aaron Schrank hosted a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He posed questions about the 2016’s legislative session’s impact on education in the state—including school funding cuts and education-related bills that passed and failed this year.

WEA has been monitoring the session closely. How will the Legislature’s 2016 decisions impact Wyoming’s K-12 education in the years ahead?

The hashtag #WPREdTalk and #wyoedchat allowed for anyone to tweet questions.

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