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.

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.”


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.


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.

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

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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.

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. 

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.