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.

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.

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.”

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