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.

Abhi Sharma, Flickr Creative Commons

Hundreds of parents, students, and teachers showed up for a contentious school board meeting about reading curriculum in Cody Tuesday night. 

Cody teachers, administrators, and parents spent nearly three years selecting reading and language materials for the school district. They chose Houghton and Mifflin’s Journey curriculum books.

School Superintendent Ray Schulte says 8 or 9 people filed 40 complaints against the selection. Newly elected school board member Scott Weber had problems with some of the content.

“There’s junk science in there.”

This week a group of legislators will be deciding how much money Wyoming schools will receive over the next five years. The process is called re-calibration and it looks at all the elements of the school funding model. 

The review comes at a time when the state is looking at a possible financial downturn and Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says that will enter into their discussions. He says they may need to be more frugal than in the past.

Some parents in Cody are raising concerns about a reading curriculum that the local school board will vote to approve or deny next week.

The proposed resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and were suggested by a committee of educators in Park County School District 6 after years of discussion.

But critics don’t like the way some the reading materials address topics like war, slavery, global climate change and the treatment of indigenous people.

The state of Wyoming paid a school district in Montana $438,000 this year to educate 35 children who live on the Wyoming side of the border in Yellowstone National Park.

Administrators in both states say the arrangement has worked well.

The federal government had paid for these students for decades—but it stopped last year due to budget cuts.

Students in the Mammoth Hot Springs area previously did not belong to any school district. Now, they attend school in Gardiner, Montana, but live within the expanded boundary of Wyoming’s Park County School District One.

University of Wyoming

What qualities would you like to see in the next University of Wyoming President?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air.

Aaron Schrank

Life after high school looks a bit different for every Wyoming graduate. Some are set on college or a career. Others are more worried about making money this summer. In an effort to prepare students who are less interested in academic options, one high school started a program that trains some seniors to be commercial truckers.

For the final two weeks of his Douglas High School career, Garret Blackburn has been spending most of his time hanging out in the parking lot.  

“This is definitely a lot more interesting than sitting around the classroom,” Blackburn says.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees is gathering public input this week into its process to find a successor to President Dick McGinity.

McGinity announced he’ll step down when his contract expires next year—but only if the presidential search is successful.

The search is to be an open process—unlike the controversial closed search that produced President Robert Sternberg in a few years ago. Trustee Mel Baldwin of Afton is optimistic that this approach will be more successful.   

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the Wyoming Department of Education a $65,000 grant to boost local food programs at schools across the state.

So-called ‘farm to school’ programs have been on the uptick in Wyoming in the past few years. The Wyoming Department of Education says the grant money will be used to put on 5 regional conferences to get school districts and local producers into productive partnerships.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow says these partnerships benefit Wyoming students nutritionally—and educationally.

University of Wyoming

  

The University Of Wyoming Board Of Trustees has formed a committee that will figure out how to conduct the search for the next UW president.  

The decision comes less than two weeks after current President Dick McGinity announced he will be resigning in June of 2016. The board was criticized for holding a closed search when it hired Bob Sternberg who resigned after just a few months on the job.  Laramie Trustee Mike Massie will serve on the committee. He says they want input on how a search should be conducted, and what kind of candidates the board should target.

Courtesy University of Wyoming Institutional Communications

Dr. Ray Reutzel has been named dean of the College of Education at the University of Wyoming.

Reutzel is a professor of elementary and early childhood education at Utah State University. He will begin leading UW’s College of Education in July.

Reutzel takes the reigns amid increased attention on the College of Education. Last year, the University Board of Trustees launched an initiative to elevate the school to national prominence. Lawmakers on the education committee have made that their top interim priority.

Wyoming Department of Education

 A task force charged with improving distance education in Wyoming held its first of six meetings in Casper last week. The 14-member group will present findings to lawmakers in October.

“It went exceptionally well,” says Brent Bacon, chief academic officer at the Wyoming Department of Education. “We all worked together, did a lot of brainstorming, and came up with some great next steps.”

Casper College

Casper College has selected Dr. Darren Divine as its new president. The College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously for Divine out of four finalists.

The school’s current president Walter Nolte will be retiring at the end of June after eleven years in the job. Devine is currently is Vice President for academic affairs at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.

He says he has a background in agriculture, and that should be a good fit for the college.

The Wyoming Department of Education is asking Wyoming teachers, parents and science professionals to serve on a Science Standards Review Committee. A survey will be open until April 22 for citizens to express interest.

The committee will form science standards for Wyoming students, a process that was restarted by the State Board of Education after lawmakers voted this session to allow the Next Generation Science Standards to be considered.

Rebecca Huntington

Staying globally competitive by teaching future generations of workers how to innovate is a national concern. At Jackson Hole High School, a new program is teaching students the skills they will need to be innovators by assigning them real problems to solve.  

SAMMIE SMITH: So just watch for splinters, we're going to back out this way...

What can Wyoming schools do to prepare students for tech jobs?

Apr 13, 2015
Aaron Schrank

As Wyoming looks to the growing technology sector to help drive its economy, what can Wyoming schools do to prepare students for tech jobs?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air.

One way to tell how schools are doing with computer science is to look at how many students take the Advancement Placement exam for the subject. And, in the entire state of Wyoming, over the past four years, just one student took the AP computer science exam.

That one student was Casey Mueller—and the distinction is news to him.

“I was not aware of that, actually,” says Mueller. “I was kind of shocked in one sense. But, on the other hand, there was part of me that wasn’t surprised.”

Rebecca Martinez

The new dean of the University of Wyoming’s College of Engineering and Applied Science began his tenure last month. He took on the job amid a state and industry-backed push to boost the school’s status nationwide.

Dean Michael Pishko says the so-called ‘Tier 1’ Engineering Initiative—which was announced three years ago—is not simply looking to deliver a bump in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.

UW

The University of Wyoming is urging its community to pull together after a pair of apparent student suicides on campus over the past week.

Last Tuesday, the University says a freshman student from Ohio was found dead in a vehicle on campus.

This week, a 19-year-old freshman male student from Jackson, Wyoming was found dead inside a residence hall.

“The fact that two happened so closely together is absolutely a huge concern,” says University spokesman Chad Baldwin.

He says UW is offering counseling to students who have difficulty coping with the incidents.

University of Wyoming

The Hess Corporation announced a $15 million donation to the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources Thursday. Hess has now given a total of  $25 million to UW, making the oil and gas giant the largest corporate donor in the university’s history.

The funds will go towards construction of UW’s High Bay Research Facility—as well as equipment used in the facility and some proprietary research done there. Hess’s research will focus mostly on figuring out how to tap hard-to-reach oil and gas reservoirs.

Bob Beck

Five years ago the Wyoming legislature embarked on its latest attempt at reforming education in the state. Lawmakers said Wyoming was spending a lot  of money on education and students were underperforming. After rejecting drastic changes such as getting rid of teacher tenure, the legislature settled on coming up with a way to score school districts, schools, teacher leaders, and teachers themselves.

As kids across Wyoming take the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students—or PAWS—test this month, the State Board of Education is looking for input on the future of statewide testing.

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the state needs to decide what test it will use to gauge student learning down the line. Board member Sue Belish says lawmakers asked the State Board to play a role.

In the recent legislative session, Wyoming lawmakers voted to allow the State Board of Education to again consider the Next Generation Science Standards. In its first meeting since the session ended, the Board voted unanimously Tuesday to get back to work adopting science standards.

Last year, a committee of Wyoming science educators recommended the Next Generation Science Standards after 18 months of review. All members of that committee will be invited back to continue their work--and those who don’t return will be replaced.

Willow Belden

Some University of Wyoming professors have been traveling to fourth grade classrooms around the state in an effort to research and improve the teaching of Wyoming history.

The project combines history with art and hands-on activities. Education professors Allen Trent and Peter Moran plan to bring it to each of the state’s counties by the end of this school year.

The lesson plans and resources they use are all online for any Wyoming teacher to access. Trent says that’s important.

A Meeteetse High School science project is now a finalist in a national teaching contest. The teacher and some students are on their way to New York to try to win the 120,000 dollar prize.

Meeteetse’s high school science students based their project on the Pitchfork ranch. The students used math, science, engineering, and computer skills to perfect self cleaning gates to keep Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the  Greybull river, and out of irrigation ditches.where they often die.

Their teacher, Michael Power, says their project can affect the entire ecosystem.

Wyoming school districts say they are pleased that state lawmakers voted to approve inflation adjustments for school funding during the legislative session that wrapped up last week.

On Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead signed the legislation approving those cost of living adjustments for schools.

Sublette County School District One’s Superintendent Jay Harnack was part of a coalition that lobbied for the funding. State law requires these adjustments, but districts haven’t seen them in recent years. Harnack says this will allow his district to get back on track.

Funding for Wyoming afterschool programs could be on the federal chopping block.

Most afterschool programs in the state have been supported by more than $5 million in grants provided each year under the federal education law No Child Left Behind. But Congress’s current reauthorization proposals for the law would allow states to spend federal education funding however they want—with no specific money tied to afterschool programs.

Photo Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College via Facebook

Wyoming Catholic College in Lander has decided not to offer federal grants and loans to its students. It says doing so could threaten the school’s religious liberties.

Last year, the small, 8-year-old college took its first step toward accreditation. The move meant credits earned at W-C-C could be transferred to other schools—and made it eligible for federal loan programs.

But the college’s Board of Director’s voted unanimously last month not to participate in those programs—known as Title IV.

The House and Senate will convene a conference committee to try and iron out a piece of legislation that supporters say is key to education reform. 

The bill sets up the next phase of a school accountability program that grades educators and provides help if they aren't meeting expectations. The House voted to remove state oversight from the bill. Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers says it goes too far.

A greater percentage of Wyoming high school students graduated on time last year than the year before. That’s according to data released Wednesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

The four-year graduation rate for the 2013-2014 school year was 78.6 percent—up from 77.5 percent the year before—and compared with 81 percent nationwide. 

On Monday, Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that reopens the debate over teaching climate change science in schools. The Next Generation Science Standards, known as NGSS, include the concept that climate change is real and largely caused by man. In Wyoming, and a handful of other states, that’s controversial. So last year, the state legislature banned discussion to adopt them.  

Pete Gosar, Chairman of the Wyoming Board of Education, says the board now plans to begin debating the standards at their March meeting.  

Pages