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.

Caroline Ballard

When the Western Thunder Marching Band takes the field at War Memorial Stadium these days, it really takes the field. With 235 members, all 100 yards are practically filled with people in uniforms. It is the biggest band Wyoming has ever seen, it has a new director, and unlike other schools where you have to audition to be a part of the band UW accepts everyone, even those who have never marched in a band before.

School performance data released Tuesday by the Wyoming Department of Education shows a gap between how the state says its schools are doing and how the federal government says they’re doing under No Child Left Behind.

The majority of Wyoming schools at least partially met expectations under the state’s accountability system in the 2014-2015 school year. But only 17 percent of Wyoming schools met federal expectations—called ‘adequate yearly progress.’

Torbin Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons

As advocates gather signatures to put the question of medical marijuana legalization in Wyoming before voters next year, Campbell County school officials are ramping upping efforts to prevent use among students.

The school board has signed on to a campaign called “There is No Debate,” aimed at educating parents and students about the effects of marijuana on academic performance and brain development.

This week, the Board will finalize a resolution asking the Wyoming School Boards Association to take up the cause statewide. 

Caroline Ballard

The University of Wyoming football team is set to face off against North Dakota Saturday in the season opener. Along with fans and cheerleaders, the University’s bigger-than-ever marching band will be there to cheer the Cowboys on. 


A company that manufactures scientific and technical instruments will become the second-largest corporate donor in University of Wyoming history.

Oregon-based FEI announced Friday that it will give $12 million to create a new center in UW’s High Bay Research Facility—which is expected to open next year.

FEI will provide imaging equipment and software to support UW’s research into maximizing recovery of oil and gas from conventional and hard-to-reach reservoirs.


As 1,600 first-year students descend upon the University of Wyoming this weekend, administrators are working hard to make a good first impression.

New students attend an orientation program called “Cowboy Connect.” Events and info-sessions are designed to prepare them for the academic and social changes that come with college life.

Recently, UW has put more focus on trying to increase retention rates. That’s the number of freshman students who return their sophomore year.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

Wyoming students who graduated high school in 2015 scored slightly higher on the ACT exam than last year’s seniors.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the test’s developer, ACT, Inc. Wyoming uses the ACT college entrance exam to measure student achievement.

The average composite score for Wyoming students was 20.2 out of 36—which puts the state in sixth place out of the 13 states where all students are required the ACT.

Wyoming Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Brent Bacon says that’s a slight increase from last year.

via Facebook

Wyoming students are heading back to school—and many will be welcomed into brand new buildings. The state is kicking off the school year with about $70 million in new education facilities—from a new elementary school in Casper to a new high school in Rock Springs.

Since 2002, Wyoming has put more than $3.5 billion into building and maintaining schools

School Facilities Department Director Bill Panos says this is the highest level of spending on school construction in Wyoming’s history.

Aaron Schrank

Fiorella Lazarte is an early literacy coordinator with Jackson’s Teton Literacy Center. Today, she’s driving across town to the home of one her 5-year-old students. 

“We’re going to Camilo’s home,” says Lazarte. “They live in the Virginian Apartments. And the Virginian Apartments itself is an area where the working class lives.”

Alliance for Historic Wyoming via Flickr Creative Commons

Officials at Albany County School District One are considering a new policy to protect and support transgender and gender nonconforming students.

The proposed policy would prevent schools in Laramie and surrounding areas from requiring students to use restrooms or play on sports teams that conflict with the gender identity they express at school.

District assistant superintendent Mike Hamel says the policy lays a broad framework for supporting and protecting transgender students on a case-by case basis, stressing privacy.

The percentage of Wyoming high school students scoring proficient or advanced on this year’s ACT is slightly lower than last year--but only by a couple of percentage points. 

That’s according to statewide high school assessment data released Tuesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

"It is very stable," says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. "Not up, not down--from last year."

via Defiance Against Natrona County Dress Code Facebook page

The Natrona County School Board approved a new dress code policy in June.

Trustee Rita Walsh says the District wanted policies to be more consistent across its schools—and to encourage “professional dress.”

“Our goal is to make prepared graduates—to make—as you come to school—your focus is education and learning,” Walsh says.

As Wyoming lawmakers revamp the state’s school funding model, they are touting data that suggests money spent on schools has paid off when it comes to global competitiveness in science and math.

That data comes from a study that compared scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress—or NAEP—with those on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—or TIMMS.

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.”

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.


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.