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.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming House of Representatives added an eleventh hour amendment to the state budget that could be a big topic of discussion when the budget conference committee meets this week. 

The Senate voted down three amendments to restore some of the nearly 46 million dollars in budget cuts to education, but the House adjusted how the budget reductions will be handled. The plan was originally to take the money out of what school districts use to pay for rising classroom costs and teacher salaries, but the House restored those cuts and instead reduced funding for Transportation.  

Christopher Sessums via Flickr Creative Commons

As lawmakers debate Wyoming’s budget this week, a group of school superintendents is urging them to keep school funding intact.

The Joint Appropriations Committee cut school funding by $45 million over the next two years. The superintendents say lawmakers have not accounted for decreases within the school funding model.

“The amendment by the JAC would really exacerbate the problem caused by shrinking enrollment in the communities across our state and cut school funding much more severely than intended,” says Don Dihle, business manager at Campbell County School District.

Alvin Trusty via Flickr Creative Commons

A national survey of middle and high school science teachers has found that educators’ confusion about climate change leads to misinformation in the classroom.

The National Center for Science Education and Penn State University surveyed 1,500 teachers across the country on their views about climate change—and how they present the topic to students. The average teacher spent one or two hours per year on the topic.

USDA via Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Department of Education is looking for local sponsors for a federal program that provides free meals to low-income students over the summer.

When school’s out, kids can get meals at 83 different sites across the state. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the sites are run by school districts or community groups like YMCAs.

WDE nutrition programs consultant Amanda Anderson says those sites alone can’t serve all of the state’s students who get free and reduced school lunches during the year.

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

Around 12,000 years ago, hunter gatherers began to settle in one place and farm the land. It’s widely thought to be the first time the human population began to grow at a faster rate. However, a recent study published in the scientific journal PNAS and funded by the National Science Foundation is challenging that idea.

tarapappasart.com

Laramie artist Tara Pappas is well known for colorful, whimsical art that looks like it’s lifted from the pages of a story book or fairy tale. The public has an opportunity to learn her style and techniques at a painting workshop in Laramie on February 19. Pappas is also an elementary school art teacher, and as she tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer, it was her students who inspired her to get back to work as a studio artist.

Wyoming State Historical Society

This spring, the Wyoming State Historical Society plans to launch a new online database of oral histories from around the state. 

The database will be a catalog of Wyoming’s oral histories, categorized by criteria such as historical events, as well as where to find the recordings. 

Project Director Barbara Bogart spent over a year tracking down the stories from the state’s museums, private collections and libraries.

As the nation celebrates “School Choice Week” this week, a Wyoming nonprofit is pushing a proposal to expand school choice in the state.

EdPref Wyoming has proposed an educational savings account and tax credit program that would give parents money for private school tuition or home school resources.

Yathin S Krishnappa, wikipedia.org

The Lander school district is serving up local beef to students from animals the students raised. 

Fremont County School District Food Director Denise Kinney grew up on a dairy farm and was a member of Future Farmers of America as a kid. With recent government interest in getting more locally-sourced foods into schools, she started thinking about what type of food that could be in Wyoming. This year, she partnered with the Lander FFA program.

University of Wyoming

Two University of Wyoming archeologists are co-authors on a new paper in the scientific journal PNAS that challenges the traditional understanding of human population growth.

Human population has soared in the last 200 years or so because of the industrial revolution and advances in medicine. Before that, it was thought that the first significant change in human population growth happened around 12,000 years ago, because of the agricultural revolution.

Jisc, Flickr Creative Commons

At Powell High School, students can blend their classroom learning with an online course or two.

“They could be taking a foreign language such as German that we don’t offer,” says Park County Superintendent Kevin Mitchell. “They could be taking science classes that we don’t offer.”

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

The Albany County School District #1 Board is considering a policy meant to protect the rights of transgender students. The Board has drafted two different proposals to that end.

Both policies would do many of the same things—like require school district staff to address students by the name and pronoun consistent with the gender identity they express at school.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees launched the first phase of an initiative to improve teacher preparation at the College of Education.

So far, the Denver-based Daniels Fund has donated $5 million dollars to the effort to be used over the next five years.

College of Ed Dean Ray Reutzel says the next step is a 2-year planning and evaluation phase. Teams of Wyoming educators plan to visit top teaching colleges across the country. 

Wyoming Department of Education

Representatives from Wyoming’s community colleges and its K-12 schools say those two systems need to improve their coordination to better educate students.

Right now, more than half of all students who graduate high school and go on to community college are still not deemed “college-ready”— and must take remedial classes.

At a Wyoming Department of Education policy summit last week, Laramie County Community College president Joe Schaffer said people tend to see remediation as a K-12 issue.

WPR/Aaron Schrank

The Teton County School Board voted Wednesday to keep its dual-language immersion program in multiple schools, instead of moving it to its own magnet school.

About 63 percent of staff members who responded to a district survey had said they wanted to move the program to its own school.

sdstate.edu

  

Incoming University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has a lot to do prior to taking over her officials duties. She is already working with trustees and UW officials on a transition plan to get off to a fast start when she begins the job May 16th. Nichols plan to come to Laramie for a couple of days a month until that time and also plans to stop by the Wyoming legislative session. She tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that she’s working hard to make the transition smooth.

Aaron Schrank

In a kindergarten classroom at Jackson Elementary School, students sit in pairs swapping stories. Each pair includes a kid who speaks Spanish at home and one who speaks English. 

“I’m really passionate about this dual immersion program, because it’s an amazing opportunity for kids to come together,” says teacher Chris Bessonette.

In his classroom, these 20 kids speak and learn in English. But his partner teacher next door, Katie Schult, teaches in Spanish.

sdstate.edu

What should be the top priorities of the University of Wyoming's new president when she takes office later this year?

Comment on this topic on the Wyoming Public Media Facebook page.

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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

sdstate.edu

The incoming President of the University of Wyoming said she is busy setting the stage for a fast start when she begins her new job late this spring. 

Laurie Nichols has been working on hiring a new Provost and looking at the best ways to review degree programs on campus. 

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming College of Education has received a $4.5-million-dollar grant to improve its preparation of K-12 educators.

The grant comes from nonprofit The Daniels Fund, which gave the college $500,000 earlier this year to plan its initiative to achieve national prominence in teacher prep.

UW Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee says that initiative began after trustees met with legislative leadership last year.

Credit Zach Montes

A visit by immigration officials to Jackson this month put many in the town’s immigrant community on edge.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to Jackson to find and arrest five undocumented men that met the federal government’s enforcement priorities.

David Amsler via Flickr Creative Commons

Platte County School District is affirming students’ right to pray in school after an incident this year drew the attention of a national Christian legal advocacy group.

In October, some students formed a prayer circle in Glendo High School’s cafeteria. Administrators say a parent lunch monitor and the school principal told the students to pray elsewhere because of concerns about separation of church and state.

Rebecca Martinez

A legislative committee has approved a bill that would increase the dollar amounts provided to students through Hathaway scholarships by 10 percent.

The full legislature will consider the proposal in February’s budget session.

The Joint Education Committee had asked its staff to draft a bill that would have increased the scholarships by about 19 percent, but lawmakers amended it down on Tuesday.

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss was among those who wanted to keep the proposed increase higher.

First Hattiesburg Church via Flickr Creative Commons

In its last meeting before the upcoming budget session, the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee forwarded a bill that could expand early childhood education in some school districts.

Districts apply for grant money through a program called BRIDGES—and are allowed to spend that money on afterschool and summer programming. The new legislation would also allow districts to spend that money on early learning, if they choose.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says it’s a step in the right direction.

Aaron Schrank

A legislative committee voted Monday to draft a bill that would exempt Wyoming’s alternative schools from the state’s accountability act.

Under the proposed law, alternative school performance would be evaluated by a different standard than that used to assess traditional schools.

Proponents of the bill say the general accountability model can’t make valid conclusions about alternative school performance.

Republican Representative Mike Madden of Buffalo voted against the bill. He says holding alternative schools to a different standard could cause problems. 

Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers voted Monday to draft a bill that would make some changes to K-12 testing in Wyoming.

The bill—sponsored by the Legislature’s select committee on statewide education accountability—would enact most of the recommendations of a recent state testing task force.

The legislation proposes that students would be tested in third through tenth grade at the end of the year. Wyoming's test would be offered in more than one state, to allow for comparison. The test would be offered online, and test preparation would have to account for less than 1 percent of classroom time.

uwyo.edu

The third and final candidate for the University of Wyoming presidency visited the Laramie campus Monday.

Jeremy Haefner is Provost at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The next President may need to cut the U.W budget by as much as $5 million. When Haefner was the Dean of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs he was faced with a 20% budget cut. He says his approach was to brainstorm with faculty and staff about what could be done. Haefner says he’d take a similar approach at Wyoming.

Willow Belden

How might Wyoming benefit now that No Child Left Behind has been replaced?  

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Bob Beck

 

It took Congress eight years and countless hours of listening to angry teachers and parents, but 'No Child Left Behind' is soon to be a thing of the past.

Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is now the Budget Chairman, but once upon a time he was the top Republican on the Education Committee. So he’s been calling for this education overhaul for some time. But Enzi said he wasn’t surprised that it took so long to scrap the law.

“Actually, we’ve got bills whose authorization expired as early as 1983 so seven years on something as important as education is not a surprise.”

Wyoming Legislature

The legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee has wrapped up its first week of budget hearings. The committee heard from the governor early in the week and has started reviewing agency budgets. The governor wants to eventually divert money going into the state’s permanent mineral trust fund in an effort to keep the state budget where it is. While lawmakers have mixed thoughts on that idea, but they are more concerned that the governor has not given more thought to a major budget threat. 

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