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.

Aaron Schrank

Six of the state’s seven family literacy centers expect to close their doors, after lawmakers voted to eliminate the statewide program’s $3.3-million budget.

Jim Rose is executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, which oversees the statewide family literacy program.

Rose says the centers pair early childhood learning with adult education, essentially helping multiple generations build literacy skills together.

Campbell County School District

The 2016 Legislative budget session wraps up this week. One of the big things lawmakers have been discussing over the past month is funding for Wyoming’s K-12 schools. The House and Senate have agreed to a budget that will cut about $36 million dollars from education in the next two school years.

A bill intended to keep school officials from requiring students to turn over their Facebook, Twitter, or phone passwords has passed the House of Representatives. The controversial bill has received mixed reviews from school officials and lawmakers who say it could put schools in danger. 

Bob Beck / Natrona County High School

A bill that would set up a student safety call center which people could use anonymously to give information about threats to school and student safety has passed the Wyoming House of Representatives.

Supporters say call centers in other states have been very successful, but some lawmakers are not convinced. Torrington Republican Cheri Steinmetz said there are plenty of hotlines and tip lines already in existence. 

But Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers said he believes this effort is necessary.

WEA

On Wednesday, March 9, from 5:00pm to 5:45pm, Aaron Schrank will be hosting a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He'll be posing 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?

Photo Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College via Facebook

Wyoming Catholic College in Lander is steadily growing, and administrators say it’s been difficult to find housing for new students. 

Wyoming Catholic College President Kevin Roberts says enrollment is currently at 150 students. That’s up from 110 a few years back.

"What we’ve seen in the last 3 years is record enrollment growth," says Roberts. "Each freshman class has been larger than the previous one."

Wyoming State Science Fair

This weekend, students in grades 6-12 will compete in the Wyoming State Science Fair. The Science Fair is a competition where students conduct original scientific research - and collect and analyze data. The students present their findings on a poster and are interviewed by judges in their respective fields. The earlier rounds include individual school competitions, followed by regionals. About 900 students enter in the earlier rounds, but only a third advance to the final round, the State Science Fair.

Courtesy Sherman Indian High School

This is part two of a series. Listen to part one here.

At the start of his senior year at Wyoming Indian High School, Tim O’Neal was struggling.

“I was just drinking, partying, trying to be cool,” says O’Neal. “It messed with my schoolwork. My whole class schedule—all seven classes—I was failing and there was no way I could make up the grades, so I just asked my parents if I would be able to go to a boarding school.”

Melodie Edwards

It’s standing room only in a large conference room in Riverton, Wyoming. Up front, people mill around a display of old photographs of Arapaho children sent to Carlisle Boarding School in the late 1880’s. One is a before-and-after photo of a boy in braids wearing feathers and jewelry; a second, same boy, now in a starched suit and short Ivy League haircut.

Miles Bryan

In a classroom at a Riverton activity center kids are sitting in a “connection circle.” They toss a ball around, and whoever has it has got to say what makes them happiest.

“I’m happiest when I am around my family,” one girl says before bouncing the ball to a boy. “I’m happiest when I’m riding my dirt bike,” he replies.

The idea is that if two kids are happy when they are doing the same thing, they make a connection. It wouldn’t feel out of place at an  alternative high school–it’s actually an alternative to juvenile detention.

Courtesy Wyoming Community College Commission

The Wyoming Community College Commission is considering changes to tuition policy for the state’s seven community colleges.

The discussion comes as lawmakers propose cuts to state funding for community colleges. The Commission decided last week to undergo a two-stage examination of tuition. Executive director Jim Rose says the first stage will be reacting to lawmakers’ likely budget cuts. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives added an eleventh hour amendment to the state budget that could be a big topic of discussion when the budget conference committee meets this week. 

The Senate voted down three amendments to restore some of the nearly 46 million dollars in budget cuts to education, but the House adjusted how the budget reductions will be handled. The plan was originally to take the money out of what school districts use to pay for rising classroom costs and teacher salaries, but the House restored those cuts and instead reduced funding for Transportation.  

Christopher Sessums via Flickr Creative Commons

As lawmakers debate Wyoming’s budget this week, a group of school superintendents is urging them to keep school funding intact.

The Joint Appropriations Committee cut school funding by $45 million over the next two years. The superintendents say lawmakers have not accounted for decreases within the school funding model.

“The amendment by the JAC would really exacerbate the problem caused by shrinking enrollment in the communities across our state and cut school funding much more severely than intended,” says Don Dihle, business manager at Campbell County School District.

Alvin Trusty via Flickr Creative Commons

A national survey of middle and high school science teachers has found that educators’ confusion about climate change leads to misinformation in the classroom.

The National Center for Science Education and Penn State University surveyed 1,500 teachers across the country on their views about climate change—and how they present the topic to students. The average teacher spent one or two hours per year on the topic.

USDA via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education is looking for local sponsors for a federal program that provides free meals to low-income students over the summer.

When school’s out, kids can get meals at 83 different sites across the state. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the sites are run by school districts or community groups like YMCAs.

WDE nutrition programs consultant Amanda Anderson says those sites alone can’t serve all of the state’s students who get free and reduced school lunches during the year.

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

Around 12,000 years ago, hunter gatherers began to settle in one place and farm the land. It’s widely thought to be the first time the human population began to grow at a faster rate. However, a recent study published in the scientific journal PNAS and funded by the National Science Foundation is challenging that idea.

tarapappasart.com

Laramie artist Tara Pappas is well known for colorful, whimsical art that looks like it’s lifted from the pages of a story book or fairy tale. The public has an opportunity to learn her style and techniques at a painting workshop in Laramie on February 19. Pappas is also an elementary school art teacher, and as she tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer, it was her students who inspired her to get back to work as a studio artist.

Wyoming State Historical Society

This spring, the Wyoming State Historical Society plans to launch a new online database of oral histories from around the state. 

The database will be a catalog of Wyoming’s oral histories, categorized by criteria such as historical events, as well as where to find the recordings. 

Project Director Barbara Bogart spent over a year tracking down the stories from the state’s museums, private collections and libraries.

As the nation celebrates “School Choice Week” this week, a Wyoming nonprofit is pushing a proposal to expand school choice in the state.

EdPref Wyoming has proposed an educational savings account and tax credit program that would give parents money for private school tuition or home school resources.

Yathin S Krishnappa, wikipedia.org

The Lander school district is serving up local beef to students from animals the students raised. 

Fremont County School District Food Director Denise Kinney grew up on a dairy farm and was a member of Future Farmers of America as a kid. With recent government interest in getting more locally-sourced foods into schools, she started thinking about what type of food that could be in Wyoming. This year, she partnered with the Lander FFA program.

University of Wyoming

Two University of Wyoming archeologists are co-authors on a new paper in the scientific journal PNAS that challenges the traditional understanding of human population growth.

Human population has soared in the last 200 years or so because of the industrial revolution and advances in medicine. Before that, it was thought that the first significant change in human population growth happened around 12,000 years ago, because of the agricultural revolution.

Jisc, Flickr Creative Commons

At Powell High School, students can blend their classroom learning with an online course or two.

“They could be taking a foreign language such as German that we don’t offer,” says Park County Superintendent Kevin Mitchell. “They could be taking science classes that we don’t offer.”

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

The Albany County School District #1 Board is considering a policy meant to protect the rights of transgender students. The Board has drafted two different proposals to that end.

Both policies would do many of the same things—like require school district staff to address students by the name and pronoun consistent with the gender identity they express at school.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees launched the first phase of an initiative to improve teacher preparation at the College of Education.

So far, the Denver-based Daniels Fund has donated $5 million dollars to the effort to be used over the next five years.

College of Ed Dean Ray Reutzel says the next step is a 2-year planning and evaluation phase. Teams of Wyoming educators plan to visit top teaching colleges across the country. 

Wyoming Department of Education

Representatives from Wyoming’s community colleges and its K-12 schools say those two systems need to improve their coordination to better educate students.

Right now, more than half of all students who graduate high school and go on to community college are still not deemed “college-ready”— and must take remedial classes.

At a Wyoming Department of Education policy summit last week, Laramie County Community College president Joe Schaffer said people tend to see remediation as a K-12 issue.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The Teton County School Board voted Wednesday to keep its dual-language immersion program in multiple schools, instead of moving it to its own magnet school.

About 63 percent of staff members who responded to a district survey had said they wanted to move the program to its own school.

sdstate.edu

  

Incoming University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has a lot to do prior to taking over her officials duties. She is already working with trustees and UW officials on a transition plan to get off to a fast start when she begins the job May 16th. Nichols plan to come to Laramie for a couple of days a month until that time and also plans to stop by the Wyoming legislative session. She tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that she’s working hard to make the transition smooth.

Aaron Schrank

In a kindergarten classroom at Jackson Elementary School, students sit in pairs swapping stories. Each pair includes a kid who speaks Spanish at home and one who speaks English. 

“I’m really passionate about this dual immersion program, because it’s an amazing opportunity for kids to come together,” says teacher Chris Bessonette.

In his classroom, these 20 kids speak and learn in English. But his partner teacher next door, Katie Schult, teaches in Spanish.

sdstate.edu

What should be the top priorities of the University of Wyoming's new president when she takes office later this year?

Comment on this topic on the Wyoming Public Media Facebook page.

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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

sdstate.edu

The incoming President of the University of Wyoming said she is busy setting the stage for a fast start when she begins her new job late this spring. 

Laurie Nichols has been working on hiring a new Provost and looking at the best ways to review degree programs on campus. 

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