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.

pixabay.com

State law requires 85 percent of Wyoming students to read at or above “proficient” by the time they are in third grade – that’s the ability to comprehend and analyze a text.

 

The way educators determine if they are making progress and meeting students’ needs is by giving annual assessments and looking an individual student data. And beginning this year, the tests given to students in kindergarten through tenth grade will be part of one integrated system, replacing the three different assessments used previously.

 

Associated Press

450 people gathered at the Native American Education Conference to celebrate the passing of a bill that mandates all Wyoming school’s to begin teaching the history and culture of the state’s tribes. 

Wyoming Department of Education’s Rob Black said, the Indian Education For All Act sailed through legislature on the first try. State Senator Cale Case, Northern Arapaho Chairman Roy Brown, and Eastern Shoshone Chairman Shakespeare discussed the benefits of the bill at the conference. Chairman Brown said he is in favor of the bill.

Wyoming Department of Corrections

This fall, prisoners at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington will be able to earn college credits through a program called Wyoming Pathways from Prison.

This is just one of the many educational opportunities this unique partnership between the Department of Corrections and the University of Wyoming is offering incarcerated Wyomingites.

Wyoming Department of Education

Educators, community leaders and students gathered this week for the 8th annual Native American Education Conference at the St. Stephen’s Indian School outside Riverton. The two-day event focused on promoting understanding, building relationships and generating ideas about how to best support Native American students.

 

Rob Black is the Native American liaison for the Wyoming Department of Education, and he helped organize the conference. He said while the conference focuses on solutions, it doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.

 

Google Maps. Stars added by Tennessee Watson

Natrona County, Laramie County School District #1 and Albany County Schools are all under federal investigation for their handling of sexual violence. The districts are three of 137 nationwide under review by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for Title Nine compliance issues.  

Title Nine is the federal act that prohibits sex discrimination and obligates all federally funded educational institutions to protect students from gender-based violence.  

School district superintendents across Wyoming are encouraging families to make their voices heard during the school finance recalibration process between now and January.

In a letter sent out by Campbell County School District One Superintendent Boyd Brown, he asked families to consider: “Should today’s student get the same or a lesser education than previous graduates due to energy market fluctuations?”

He also wanted them to think through, what would happen if fewer subject areas were offered, or if class size increased, to save money?

With energy revenue down, Wyoming state finances are tight and that has lawmakers looking for ways to streamline spending. Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is responsible for figuring out how that works. One place they are looking is K-12 education. Senator Dave Kinskey serves on the committee. He said he wants to be sure Wyoming is getting the most bang for its buck. 

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming spends significantly more on education than most states. The national average is around $12,000 per student each year, while Wyoming spends over $19,000. But Wyoming’s funding deficit has caused policy makers to question what exactly the state is paying for, and if the high price tag is required to provide a quality education. 

On Tuesday, legislators on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration met for the first time with APA Consulting — a firm contracted to help re-evaluate the state’s educational program and funding model.

By Ermell - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42799634, Cropped by Tennessee Watson

The 2017 Solar Eclipse overlaps the beginning of the school year in Wyoming. The majority of districts will start classes just after — on the 22 or 23 of August — and two districts in the path of totality made sure students had the day off. Fremont #6 starts on the 17, but students will have the 21 off. The school board in Fremont #24 voted to move the first day of school back to August 23, out of concern for the influx of visitors to the area.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

The accounts that fund education saw an unexpected revenue boost, which brought the predicted education shortfall from $400 million down to $250 million, according to Governor Matt Mead.

 

Mead said coal is coming back — along with oil and gas — but he cautioned the state is still running short on funds. He added that means the legislature will have some hard work to do during the 2018 Budget Session, as they consider further budget reductions or alternate revenue through new taxes.

 

Wyoming School Boards Association

School board members and district superintendents gathered recently to discuss the changes underfoot in Wyoming’s education system with an eye toward reforms they would like to see during the 2018 legislative session.

 

Brian Farmer, Executive Director for the Wyoming School Boards Association, said his organization held a joint meeting with the Wyoming Association of School Administrators, and the topic of teacher accountability was high on everyone’s list.

 

State of Wyoming Legislature

As a part of the state’s efforts to confront a funding deficit brought on by the downturn in the energy industry, the 2017 Legislature established the Wyoming Government Spending and Efficiency Commission.

One of its first actions was to request that all major agency heads report on their work to reduce spending and improve efficiency.

Alanna Elder

The oranges are a hit at Feeding Laramie Valley, where Sandy Moody serves lunch to a steady stream of eaters. By the end of the hour, it’ll add up to more than 60 people from daycares, preschools, and the local neighborhood. Moody said they’ll serve anyone – kids for free and adults for a dollar fifty. 

Gayle Woodsum is the founder of Feeding Laramie Valley, a nonprofit that grows and distributes local produce at no cost.

Tennessee Watson

In the library of Sunflower Elementary school on Gillette’s southwest side, Dr. William Heineke is hard at work as a psychologist. He’s putting on two hats, with shorts over his pants, mismatched shoes, and instead of a pen, he tucks a toothbrush into his lapel. The Mardi Gras mask he’s putting on followed by his eye glasses might be deceiving, but this wild outfit is part of a serious effort to help troubled elementary school kids. They’ve been diagnosed with things like anxiety, depression, anger issues and are at risk for suicide.  

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education reported Thursday that student scores on statewide assessments have seen some improvements. The Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students — known as PAWS — tests students in grades 3-8 in reading and math, and grades 4-8 in science.

Logos courtesy of APA and the Wyoming State Legislature

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration—charged with looking for ways to reduce spending in the face of funding shortfalls—announced they will be working with APA Consulting to assess the current school funding model.

Rebecca Huntington

Do young people in your community have access to engaging summer programming? Is it affordable?

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Wyoming Department of Education

In response to the current state funding crisis, the Wyoming Department of Education surveyed school districts to see how cuts were impacting their annual budgets. The results confirm the budget crisis is impacting summer programming.

 

Of Wyoming’s 48 districts, Big Horn School District #2 in Lovell and Teton County School District #1 in Jackson, were the only two districts not included in the survey results.

 

Chair and umbrella from Pixabay. Design by Tennessee Watson

Summer school might sound like a punishment, but according to Karen Bierhaus from the Wyoming Department of Education, it often provides opportunities for students to learn in more creative and engaging ways.

However, due to changes in the school funding model during the 2017 Wyoming Legislative session, funding through the Wyoming Bridges Program for summer and extended day programs no longer exists.

University of Wyoming Staff Senate

Representatives from the University of Wyoming Staff Senate met with President Laurie Nichols Friday to ask for what they say is a much needed overhaul to the staff compensation system.

 

Staff Senate President Rachel Stevens said base level salaries have not increased since 2008 and UW staff earn less than their counterparts at other state agencies.

Tennessee Watson

The State Board of Education approved full accreditation for 46 of Wyoming’s 48 school districts, and all 13 institutional schools for the coming school year.

Tom Sasche, the board’s coordinator, said the annual process helps ensure districts are meeting established standards and showing improvement.

“In addition to the statewide assessment system and the accountability system, Wyoming participates in something called the Advanc-Ed Accreditation Process,” said Sasche.  

Wyoming Education Association

Issues facing students, schools and the teaching profession are being addressed this week at the National Education Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston. Kathy Vetter, President of the Wyoming Education Association, has joined close to 8,000 educators from every state to exchange ideas about how to improve education.

 

Aaron Schrank

A funding crisis brought on by a downturn in the coal industry has left policy makers struggling to figure out how to fund education. This year school districts took a hit of $34 million to their operating budgets.

 

That’s primarily money for teachers and staff, as well as materials and supplies. But the funding for school construction and maintenance is also running out.

 

Native American Student Summit

Historically, many say the University of Wyoming has not been a supportive place for Native American students. In 2015, the UW Bookstore falsely accused several visiting Native American high schoolers of shoplifting during a recruitment visit. And a general lack of support has caused some tribal students like UW senior Mia Holt to feel unwelcome.  

 

Rebecca Huntington

On the Wind River Reservation, students are learning how to use futuristic tools to stretch the bounds of what's possible in the classroom.

What if you could put a swimming pool in the middle of your classroom?

“Me, me, me, me...” students gleefully shout.

That's just what students at the Arapahoe Elementary School couldn't wait to do...

“Let's be careful to not stand on the swimming pool,” a teacher says. “So now we're going to push select. I think we probably want a really big swimming pool so everybody can fit in it, right?”

What do parents think about Wyoming’s K thru 12 education system? At a time when the state is adopting new guidelines laid out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and policymakers are considering major funding shortfalls, Sheila McGuire, president of the Wyoming Parent Teacher Association, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson, about why the parent voice is so critical. 

Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Tennessee Watson

In 2015, No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Known as ESSA, it gives states more authority over K-12 education than they have had in nearly two decades. Now that the two-year transition period is over, ESSA will take effect this fall.

The transition has been met with enthusiasm from Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction. She said, “No Child Left Behind was very punitive in nature.” 

Tennessee Watson

A $462 million operating budget has been approved by the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees for the coming year, which incorporates the most recent $21.8 million reductions in state funding. With uncertainty about whether more cuts are to come, the trustees took measures to transition the university to a more centralized financial system, designed to give officials more control of revenues and expenditures.

 

University of Wyoming Extension

If you’re looking for a way to spice up your summer road trips here in Wyoming, there’s a new tool to enjoy landmarks you might otherwise miss.

ExploreWYO is a map-based website — optimized for smartphones — featuring close to 400 videos produced by the University of Wyoming Extension. These 90-second stories dive into little-known-facts about Wyoming’s landscape and culture from wildlife and geology to cattle grazing and energy production.

 

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