Strengthening Education In Wyoming

Strengthening Education Reporting is a reporting initiative that focuses on critical problems and successes in Wyoming ‘s education system. 

Wyoming Public Media received a Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant to strengthen education reporting in Wyoming as part of the national American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen program. This long term national public media commitment, supported by the CPB, assists public broadcasting stations in reporting on a wide array of education issues that impact on graduation rates in their communities.  

Building a strong education culture in communities starts with public awareness and involvement. Public radio reaches thousands of listeners, and can play a significant role in building awareness and focusing public attention on issues that shape education in Wyoming.

WPM’s long term goal to make this position a permanent part of the network’s reporting team. WPM is looking for support from individuals and entities who have a passion for education, and who want to make a difference in Wyoming’s future. 

Support comes from:

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and from these Wyoming Foundations:

  • Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation
  • John P. Ellbogen Foundation
  • B.F and Rose H. Perkins Foundation
  • Seidler Foundation / Sam and Carol Mavrakis
  • Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation

View information on NPR State Impact Education programs from the following links:
Florida, Indiana, Ohio.

We welcome ideas about stories we can cover.  We also would like to hear your education success stories as well as failures.  If you’d like to share information, please email: aschran1@uwyo.edu, btwo@uwyo.edu and ckuzmych@uwyo.edu

Rebecca Huntington

After years of controversy, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has signed into law a new set of K-12 science standards. In 2014, state legislators passed a bill blocking adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards because they acknowledged man-made climate change as fact. 

State Superintendent Jillian Balow says, since then, her staff has reviewed a dozen other standards, and taken public input on what Wyoming standards should say.

Melodie Edwards

  

Look around Lynette St. Clair's Shoshone language and culture classroom at Wyoming Indian Middle School, and you’ll see this isn’t the usual Wyoming social studies class. There’s vintage photos of famous Shoshone people, a miniature tepee, and the white board is scribbled with Shoshone words and translations. And what the kids are learning is unusual too. The students are reading a speech by Shoshone chief Washakie from the 19th century. St. Clair teaches them key words from the speech in Shoshone.

Wikimedia Commons

The University of Wyoming will break ground on the new Engineering Education and Research Building Friday in Laramie. The facility is set to be the largest and most expensive project in the in university’s history, with an estimated cost of around $105 million. Michael Pishko, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, said all kinds of students will be welcomed in the building, not just those in engineering.

NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON SCHOOLS PROGRAM

Three Wyoming elementary schools have received the National Blue Ribbon Recognition for exemplary high performance. Fort Casper Academy in Natrona County, Wilson Elementary in Teton County and South Side Elementary in Worland were amongst 330 public and private schools in the U.S. selected to receive this award.

Capture Queen

Sheridan's Center for a Vital Community is hosting a symposium this week to discuss what communities can do to set children on a path toward success. The event is titled "Building Communities where Children and Families Thrive", and is focused on the science of childhood development and the practices that support lifelong wellbeing.

Pete Gosar For Governor

The Wyoming Board of Education decided on Friday to recommend new science standards to Governor Matt Mead. If approved, school districts will develop new curriculum to follow the standards by the fall of 2020. 

The State Board of Education's vote to approve the new standards was unanimous. It has been 13 years since Wyoming updated science standards. Board Chairman Pete Gosar said he expects the potential change in standards to encourage districts to adopt more experience-based or hands-on curriculum when it comes to science in the classroom. 

Bob Beck

Earlier this year the Wyoming legislature cut $36 million from money they provide to school districts. Since that time districts have been trying to get that money back and convince lawmakers that additional cuts would hurt their ability to adequately teach students.  

Todd Guenther

It’s late afternoon at the base of Dinwoody Glacier, and its creek is roaring with melted ice nearby. It's been a long day of digging for archeology students Crystal Reynolds, Morgan Robins and Nico Holt. 

“We love digging holes!” they say, laughing. “We love playing in the dirt.”

“It's like playing hide and seek with people you never met,” says Holt.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming says it is considering the elimination of six bachelor’s degrees, eight master’s degrees, and two doctoral degrees as part of its mandated budget cuts. 

Bachelor’s degrees recommended for elimination are: American Studies, Russian, energy systems engineering, art education, modern language education, and technical education.  

Melodie Edwards

The Journey In

It’s a hard 23 mile hike into the Wind River Range to one of the state’s largest glaciers. It’s called Dinwoody, and every step is a study in the powerful impact this glacier has had on these mountains in the last 1.5 million years.

Department of Education

Over the last several weeks we’ve gotten lots of information concerning testing of students. Some were more positive than others. To get a full assessment of how students are doing we turn to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Wyoming Department of Education

The number of Wyoming schools meeting or exceeding performance expectations increased last year. The 2016 Wyoming School Performance Ratings were released Tuesday. They show 21 more schools met state benchmarks in the 2015-2016 academic year than in the previous year.

Expectation ratings for elementary and middle schools are based on proficiency on standardized tests and grading, as well as on fairness and inclusion in the classroom. High schools are additionally rated on graduation rates and how many students are eligible for the Hathaway Scholarship.

Arizona State University

    

School districts across the country are looking to reform how schools work. One of those places is in Teton County where the Jackson Hole Institute is looking at innovative ways to teach students.

Last week the institute invited Arizona State University President Doctor Michael Crow who is recognized as a leader in innovative education to speak to them. Dr. Crow told Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that a couple of reforms could make a big difference.

A New Way To Learn

Aug 29, 2016
COURTESY: KALEIDOSCOPE PRESCHOOL SYSTEMS

A new approach to preschool education has appeared in Wyoming, this one involving classical music and yoga mats. The Kaleidoscope Preschool Systems (KPS) will teach classes by integrating music and arts with more traditional lessons. KPS Education Director Patti Whetstone says, it's an attempt to teach children in a way that inspires creativity and a new way of thinking.

"It's an exciting adventure for all of us. The students and interacting and engaged, they're moving and singing and dancing and using instruments, and I think that's wonderful," said Whetstone.

Courtesy: University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming has been working with a number of school districts across the state in an effort to change the way science is being taught in K-12 schools. Just this week ACT test scores show that Wyoming students still have a ways to go in being prepared to take college level science. With the roll out of the Next Generation Science Standards, UW has been working with districts to find new ways of teaching to those standards. 

Caroline Ballard

  

The Cathedral Home for Children just north of Laramie is a boarding school for teens that have had traumatic experiences. Besides providing a safe space, the home helps the kids deal with their emotions. This summer they’re trying something new – drumming circles.

Bob Beck

Bob Jensen has spent most of his time in Wyoming thinking about improving the economy. For ten years he led the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development arm. Several months ago during a meeting of some Cheyenne entrepreneurs the idea of developing a coding school was pitched. And that discussion led to the development of Array, School of Technology and Design in downtown Cheyenne.

“It is a grassroots effort to try and effect workforce quickly for a growing tech industry in Wyoming,” said Jensen.

Lance Madzey

Natrona County High School’s film and television program, NCTV, is hoping to raise about $15,000 to cover the costs of equipment for a new studio space in the high school’s renovated building.

Recent renovations of the school did not include a new studio space, so Lance Madzey, who has taught the program for twenty-years and his students, began fundraising in order to retrofit a classroom into a studio with editing bays. He says he is hoping his students will be able to continue to produce their usual weekly live television show.

Liam Niemeyer

Teachers from across Wyoming took part in programming and robotics workshops on the University of Wyoming’s campus this month to learn about new ways to teach students.

During the two-week long event called “UW RAMPED,” 30 teachers learned about miniature computers that can be used in the classroom and how to program robots of different sizes. Teachers also got to interact with a human-sized robot named Baxter.

State Farm

The Wyoming Board of Education has changed a number of graduation requirements for Wyoming high school students. One change will allow students to prove they are competent in a subject without receiving a traditional grade.

Another will tweak the requirement for how long a student must be in a classroom, which is known as seat time. State Board member Sue Belish said that takes into account new ways of learning. 

Wyoming Education Association

  

  

Educators from across the country are meeting in Washington D.C. this week for the annual National Education conference. Kathy Vetter is the Wyoming Education Association President. While some states still struggle with funding, others have restored education money to pre-2008 levels. That’s not the case in Wyoming, where a downturn in the energy economy has led to cuts in education funding for the first time in many years. Vetter told Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that the cuts came faster than educators thought they would. 

Eric Lewis via Flickr Creative Commons

Wyoming ranks 12th in the nation in child well-being, according to data released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Wyoming rose four places from last year’s report—one of the biggest improvements in the nation.

But while Wyoming ranked first for economic well-being, it came in 48th place in health in this year’s Kids Count profile, which is based on 2014 data.

Aaron Schrank

As more schools make safety and security a priority, School Resource Officers—or SROs—have become the fastest growing job in law enforcement. External threats are rare—and most research suggests that putting cops in schools actually has a negative impact on education. But proponents say, the good officers do for schools and communities can’t always be measured. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank spent a day with some SROs and has this report.

Aaron Schrank

In the 2011-2012 school year, Wyoming ranked fourth in the country for sending students to cops and courts. Cheyenne’s Johnson Junior High School referred students to law enforcement at a rate 15 times the national average.  

“I started at Johnson in the fall of 2011,” says Manny Fardella, a School Resource Officer, or SRO, with the Cheyenne Police Department. 

“Johnson was a busy school,” says Fardella. “They did have a lot disturbances and fights. There was some drug activity. There was a whole bunch of things going on.”

This weekend, a Wyoming homeschooling group will hold its annual conference in Powell.

Homeschoolers of Wyoming is a loose-knit, faith-based organization of homeschooling families in the state. There are more than 2,000 home-schooled students in the state, according to some estimates.

“We hold this event annually to encourage the parents who are doing this day-to-day at home, and also to help equip them and answer any questions that they might have,” says Homeschoolers of Wyoming co-president Heather Hager.  

gosarforgovernor.com

The Wyoming State Board of Education reviewed and approved new science standards at their meeting in Laramie last week. The vote was unanimous. The standards will be sent to Governor Matt Mead for a 10-day review. 

The last time the Wyoming State Board of Education revised science standards was in 2003. Board Chairman, Pete Gosar, says since the standards haven't been revised in so long, Wyoming is behind, but he imagines that the new standards will help Wyoming students better compete with others.

Caroline Ballard

  

At the Women in STEM conference, more than 500 middle and high school girls descended on the University of Wyoming campus to learn more about STEM careers. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  

The girls get to attend three workshops out of a possible 25 options, and choices range from animal husbandry to chemistry and robotics.

Holly Ramseier is a senior in Chemical Engineering at UW, and is helping out today. She says the conference is all about getting your feet wet and seeing what you like. 

Jennifer Becker

At a recent school board meeting, Laramie High School senior Rihanna Kelver showed up to tonight’s school board meeting with a call to action.

“I am asking that the Board take initiative now to protect these students,” Kelver says. “As soon as we lose a student by the 50 percent rate suicide that transgender youth face, the blood will be on our hands.”

Courtesy Tall Truth

A few weeks back, an email landed in parent Annie Band’s inbox asking if she wanted to opt her child out of a presentation.

“My stomach kind of dropped,” Band says.

That’s because she’d heard the speaker’s name—Shelly Donahue—before, and knew she had a controversial way of talking about sex.  

“I’d already watched enough of her videos to know that her message contained a lot of misinformation, outright falsehoods, shaming, damaging language, gender stereotyping,” Band says.

  

A group of Wyoming school districts is requesting to meet with lawmakers this summer to resolve concerns about funding.

In March, the Legislature passed a budget cutting $36 million in K-12 funding over the next two years. That’s a cut of more than one percent.

The decrease was taken out of an adjustment for inflation known as the ‘external cost adjustment.’

Campbell County Superintendent Boyd Brown is one of 28 superintendents who signed a letter asking to be allowed to make their case before the Joint Education Interim Committee.

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