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.

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.


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.  

Aaron Schrank

There’s a nationwide push to get more students involved in STEM education. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But, despite enthusiasm—and Wyoming’s above average school funding— few K-12 schools in the state have been able to build the STEM programs they’d like. Many of those that have—have done so not with funding and support from the state—but from the energy industry. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports.

The fate of the Next Generation Science Standards will soon be back in the hands of the State Board of Education.

Last year, the Legislature, through a budget amendment, blocked the state board from adopting the standards because of concerns about how they addressed climate change. 

A bill removing the budget footnote passed the House easily this year, but got hung up when Senator Eli Bebout added a last second amendment that instructed the board to adopt standards unique to Wyoming. 

Bebout says after a conference committee they came up with new language.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill that would have removed gun free zones from Wyoming schools, athletic events, and government meetings has been substantially changed by the Senate Education Committee. 

The committee voted 3 to 2 to approve an amended bill that lets local school boards, college boards of trustees, and local government officials to decide if guns will be allowed within their facilities. 

Senator Hank Coe of Cody says local officials can better decide whether guns should be allowed in their jurisdiction.

What role should the state play in keeping schools and teachers accountable for properly educating students? 

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Education Accountability Debated By House Committee

After several amendments the House Education Committee approved a bill that is intended to move forward with Wyoming’s education accountability system. 

After a series of amendments by Pinedale Republican Albert Sommers the committee pushed back the next phase of the accountability process. 

Sommers says he wanted to take another look at the accountability model and give the committee addressing accountability more time.  

Stephanie Joyce

A year ago, a petroleum engineering degree seemed like the ticket to a bright and well-paid future. With six-figure starting salaries for a bachelor’s degree and endless optimism about the shale revolution, enrollment climbed rapidly in petroleum engineering programs across the country. But now that the oil price slide has turned to an oil price slump, the luster is wearing off.

When Evan Lowry first enrolled at the University of Wyoming, his plan was to be a chemical engineer, like his dad, but the oil industry was booming and he quickly changed his mind.

Over the past year, The Next Generation Science Standards have stirred debate in Wyoming—which continues today. Lawmakers have taken issue with what the standards say about climate change. Laramie Democrat Pete Gosar has something of a front row seat for this discussion. He’s recently been named chairman of the State Board of Education—after serving for four years on that body, which is responsible for reviewing and adopting education standards. Wyoming Public Radio's Aaron Schrank spoke with Pete Gosar to get his take on the standards—and the controversy around them.​ 

The Wyoming Senate has voted to give teachers a pay increase. The external cost adjustment will be the first that teachers have received since 2009. Senator Stan Cooper says a lack of cost of living adjustments has caused problems for rural school districts who are trying to hire new teachers. 

Glenrock Republican Jim Anderson adds that the energy boom in Converse County has driven up local rent and other costs. He says that has forced teachers to relocate.


Courtesy The Guild Charter School

A group of Casper parents is looking to launch a new charter school for high-achieving kids. They're planning to submit their application to the Natrona County School District on Monday.

The proposed K-8 school is called The Guild Charter School. Backers say the school would offer individualized learning plans for each student and be more academically rigorous.

Bob Beck / Natrona County High School

This year, a University of Wyoming program that helps low-income high school students plan for college will run out of funding, but backers hope to keep it going.

The Wyoming College Advising Corps is funded by a federal grant. Last year, the program provided resources to about 400 Wyoming students.

Project Director Teresa Nealon says there are 10 full-time advisors in schools around the state, counseling students about how to prepare for college.