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.

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Lawmakers are taking a look at whether recreation mill levies create inequity for Wyoming students.

Under state law, communities can collect one mill from taxpayers—or one one-thousandth of the assessed property value of a school district—to pay for recreational facilities. Frequently districts use the mill levy to pay for such things as swimming pools and enhanced auditoriums. 

Wyoming lawmakers want more flexibility in how schools are assessed under the federal education law, No Child Left Behind.

Members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability met in Saratoga Wednesday to discuss how to reform Wyoming’s system for evaluating schools. A rework of the state’s accountability system is required by legislation passed this year.

The task force responsible for weighing in on the future of student testing in Wyoming held its kickoff meeting in Casper on Monday.

The assessment task force is made up of 26 teachers, administrators, school board members, parents and businesspeople from around the state.

Under state law, the group is charged with recommending an approach to assessment that fulfills accountability requirements –and furthers learning and achievement for Wyoming students.

Over the past few months, a set of proposed reading materials for students in Cody has led to more than 40 complaints from parents, the resignation of a school board trustee—and that board’s decision to form a group to address all the complaints before any resources are adopted.

But, on Monday, the group of teachers that recommended the contentious reading materials decided to pull back their recommendation until policies change.

Cody High School teacher Rick Stonehouse chairs the group—and says the process hasn’t been working well so far.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow was part of a delegation of U.S. state schools chiefs who visited China this month to discuss education issues.

The trip was paid for by the Council of State School Officers and was the third dialogue of its kind.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming school year recently came to a close and we asked UW President Dick McGinity to stop by and tell us about the state of the University. McGinity discusses stability, hiring, tuition, and enrollment in a wide-ranging interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck.  

Aaron Schrank

Fort Washakie High School is a small, struggling school on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The students there have been pushing towards one major goal: graduation. And, today, as part of our series on the school, we’ll hear some of those students cross the finish line. 

As family and friends file into the Fort Washakie gymnasium, the class of 2015 is outside posing for a final group photo. English teacher Mike Read offers a quick pep talk as he snaps his camera shutter.

Antoine Cully/UPMC.

 A University of Wyoming professor is part of a research team that has come with a groundbreaking way for damaged robots to adapt and continue to function.

The study was published Thursday in the science journal Nature—and is titled ‘Robots That Can Adapt Like Animals.’

What is the impact of removing controversial subjects from the K through 12 curriculum? 

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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?

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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?

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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.

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