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.

Department of Education

  

This week, President Obama signed the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’. It passed through Congress with bipartisan support and now replaces ‘No Child Left Behind’ as the latest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In Wyoming, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow is praising the federal education overhaul. She spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank about what the new law means for the state. 

Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi is thrilled with legislation that will revamp the No Child Left Behind education law.

Enzi sat on the conference committee that came up with the final version of the bill. He said it returns the responsibility of educating students back to states and school districts. 

Aaron Schrank/WPR

The second of three candidates for the University of Wyoming presidency visited campus Wednesday to interview for the job.

Laurie Stenberg Nichols has served as a provost at South Dakota State University for the past 7 years. She also earned her degree there as a first-generation college student. Nichols told students, faculty, staff and others at a public forum that she connects with UW’s land grant mission.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr Creative Commons

As the number of people taking the GED exam in Colorado drops, more are traveling to Wyoming to take alternatives to the test.

The GED exam was revamped, computerized and privatized last year. Wyoming offers another test for those seeking an equivalent to a high school diploma—called the HiSET—while Colorado does not.

Kelly Willmarth is program manager of the adult career and education system at Laramie County Community College. She says, so far this year, 30 percent of her HiSET test-takers in Cheyenne were from Colorado. That’s up from 11 percent last year.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The first of three finalist candidates for the University of Wyoming presidency visited campus Monday to meet with faculty, staff, students and others.

Duane Nellis has been the President of Texas Tech University in Lubbock since 2013. Nellis says serving under a chancellor in the Texas Tech system can be a challenge—with no clear line of authority.

Aaron Schrank

With about 600 students, Wyoming Virtual Academy—or WYVA—is the largest online learning program in the state. But the only physical trace of it is a nondescript 3-person office building in Lusk.

“This office here, we have our registrar here, our compliancy coordinator, and myself the operations manager,” says Kristen Stauffer.

She points out a map of Wyoming hanging in the office lobby. It’s dotted with pushpins—each representing a recent WYVA graduate.  

A change in accreditation requirements could be bad news for many of Wyoming’s college professors.

The Higher Learning Commission accredits the University of Wyoming and the state’s 7 community colleges. The agency released new guidelines in October.

They say that professors teaching courses where credits will be transferred to four-year colleges must have a master’s degree and 18 graduate-level credit hours in their subject areas.

Craig Ferris begins his morning with an unscheduled stop in his black suburban.

"I usually have to come get these guys at least once a week," Ferris says, honking his horn.

Ferris is best known around here as the basketball coach who's led Wyoming Indian High School to four state championships. But he also works for the elementary school as what's called a "home-school coordinator."

The job seems to be equal parts mailman, social worker and taxi driver.

Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming’s plan to improve equal access to quality teachers has received federal approval.

The U.S. Department of Education mandated all states to identify equity gaps and develop plans to fix them.

Wyoming’s equity planning committee found two major gaps. Students in “high poverty” and “high minority” schools were more likely to have high teacher turnover in their schools. They were also less likely to learn from high-quality special educators.

WSBA via Facebook

School board members from across Wyoming met last week to vote on legislative priorities for the years ahead.

Wyoming School Board Association considered 22 resolutions. Many of those that passed addressed school accountability and funding.

Other resolutions include support for early childhood education efforts and stricter attendance policies. Association Executive Director Brian Farmer says the group’s calling to raise the mandatory school attendance age.

Since coal companies are no longer buying coal leases, Wyoming may need to find a new way to fund school construction.

Friday the legislature’s joint revenue committee was asked to support legislation that would increase either property or sales taxes to pay for school construction.  But several legislators say it’s too early to consider a tax.  Revenue Committee member Tom Reeder has voted against the last several budgets and he’s calling for lawmakers to stop spending first. 

“I have heard nobody talk about…we could make government more efficient by doing XYZ.”

Wyoming Legislature

  

This week, the Legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration recommended that the state stick with the same school funding model it’s been using for the past decade. That means school districts would get basically the same amount of money they have been getting.

UW

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted Friday to raise student tuition by 4 percent next school year. The move is in line with a policy adopted by the Board last year to review a possible increase like this annually.  

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin says the approved hike will generate $2 million in revenue.

Wyoming Public Media

On November 18, Aaron Schrank hosted a live Twitter chat with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. He posed questions about career readiness, as WDE recently created its Wyoming Career Readiness Council and is working to create a strategic plan to improve career readiness in Wyoming schools. The hashtag #WPREdTalk allowed for anyone to tweet questions.

Read through the Twitter chat below.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

After months of work, a legislative committee decided Tuesday not to make any changes to the way schools are funded. 

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration voted not to draft a new school funding bill, but to stick with the model the state has used for the past decade.

Department of Education

This Wednesday, November 18, from 5:45pm to 6:30pm, Aaron Schrank will be hosting a live Twitter chat with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. He'll be posing questions about career readiness, as WDE recently created its Wyoming Career Readiness Council and is working to create a strategic plan to improve career readiness in Wyoming schools.

On Twitter, use the hashtag #WPREdTalk. Anyone can tweet questions using that hashtag, and Aaron will be picking some of those questions to pose to the Superintendent.

Photo by Ikhlasul Amal, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Inside the home of the Williams family, in Centennial, Wyoming, it looks like a cross between a classroom and a call center. Five children, ages six through 16 are wearing headsets and staring at computer screens.

“Mom, what are we doing next?” yells 6-year-old Selah Williams.

“I think we’ll do reading,” says Liz Williams. “Do you want to get your storybook out?”

The Williams kids are full-time students at Wyoming Virtual Academy—or WYVA—one of two statewide virtual public schools in Wyoming. Liz says WYVA allows her to be more hands-on with their learning.

Wyoming Arts Council

A national arts education organization has selected Wyoming to be part of a three-year program to strengthen the arts in schools. Americans for the Arts has awarded grants to ten states for pilot programs to improve arts education policies.

The Wyoming Arts Council’s Michael Shay says the first step is a survey to evaluate what resources art educators have and need.

Flickr Creative Commons, Photo by 401kcalculator.org

Some community colleges in Wyoming are anticipating drops in state and local revenue, amid an oil and gas downturn.

Wyoming’s 7 community colleges receive about 60 percent of their funding from the state, 20 percent from local property taxes, and the other 20 from tuition.

While some colleges will see their local revenue impacted, Wyoming Community College Executive Director Jim Rose says the state has not announced it will cut any funding for community colleges.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is a step closer to finding a new President. The first committee involved in the search has approved a list of semifinalists for the job.

UW Trustees are keeping the names on that list private for now. They also would not share how many names are on it, but the original plan called for about 15 candidates.  

Trustee Jeff Marsh chaired the committee. He says they came up with a diverse pool, but there’s more work ahead.

Aaron Schrank

On September 26, six Native American high schoolers from the Wind River Reservation were visiting UW with 600 other prospective students for a weekend event called ‘Campus Pass.’ They planned to tour campus and watch a Cowboy football game.

“We got there in the morning, and we had some free time to go walk around and check things out, so we went to the campus bookstore,” says Kaleb Groesbeck.

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Campbell County School officials are considering whether junior high and high school students should start their school days later.

Many parents spoke out at a public meeting this week, saying the change would disrupt family routines.

Those students currently start their day at about 7:40 in Campbell County. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on schools to push that back until 8:30 or later.

The District’s public relations director Jeff Wasserburger says the local school board is still in the discussion phase.

Aaron Schrank

What do you think about raising the state property tax to pay for new schools?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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

Wyoming wants to replace its standardized tests with something new, and lawmakers met in Casper Thursday to hear recommendations from a statewide testing task force.

The group presented before the Legislature’s Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability. The final task force report calls for end-of-year testing in third through 10th grade that takes up no more than one percent of class time. They want a test that can be taken online and is offered in more than one state.

Results for the nationwide assessment known as the Nation’s Report Card were released Wednesday. Wyoming’s scores are consistent with how students here have done in years past.

The National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) is a federal program that tests a sample of fourth and eighth graders in reading and math every two years.

Flickr Creative Commons via Jacob Edward

Wyoming does not do a great job teaching students how to manage their money, according to an annual report card released this month by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy.

Wyoming earned a ‘D’ grade on its efforts to produce high school graduates with financial literacy skills. Wyoming does not require any specific personal finance classes for graduation and the state’s content standards don’t address the area much either.

Aaron Schrank

Most people on the Wind River Reservation have seen Craig Ferris on the sidelines of the basketball court at Wyoming Indian High School. As head coach, he’s led the Chiefs to four state championships. But most days, Ferris can be found driving around and knocking on doors—putting the full-court press on a major problem for reservation schools: attendance. Ferris works for Wyoming Indian Elementary. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank spent a day on the job with him, and has this report.

FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

A State Board of Education task force report is calling for a standardized testing system that better aligns with Wyoming’s content standards. It also recommends that Wyoming adopt a test that is used by more than one state, to allow for more comparison.

Wyoming is looking at replacing its current year-end test, PAWS, with something new. The task force has met 7 times since June to study testing needs.

The group wants a unified testing system for third through 10th grade, rather than PAWS for grade-schoolers and the ACT in 11th grade.

Aaron Schrank

Inside a Casper art gallery, a few dozen teachers are seated in a circle, listening to a presentation chock-full of teambuilding buzzwords.

This is a “design camp” for Natrona County’s new academy-based learning center. These educators get together weekly to plot a reinvention of the high school experience for kids in Casper.

 

“When we open our school, it’s going to be the first time for a whole new way of learning,” says Bryan Aivazian, a coach at one of four career academies that will be housed in the new center, which opens in one year.

 

As Wyoming faces declining revenue, lawmakers revising the funding model for the state’s K-12 schools are facing some tough decisions. The model determines how much money each school district will get.

Wyoming’s per-student funding is among the highest in the country. Lawmakers on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration Committee say dwindling funds may cause the state to hold the line on education spending.

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