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

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

Is Common Core good for Wyoming Education?

Apr 28, 2014

Is Common Core good for Wyoming Education?

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(View the Common Core Standards by clicking here.)

Bob Beck

For years parents and educators have been looking at ways to improve elementary education. Recently many states, including Wyoming, adopted common core standards that supporters believe will give students and schools goals to shoot for in Math and Language Arts. 

The state is also in the process of adopting other state standards, including a set of controversial science standards.  But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports there is a growing movement against any standards that are not developed by local school boards. 

It’s been a few months since we’ve had Governor Matt Mead on the program.  He joins Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck to discuss a dispute over boundaries in Riverton and Education.

What are your views on the proposed Next Generation Science Standards for Wyoming students?

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The state Board of Education met in Casper today to adopt some state standards, including a controversial set of national Next Generation Science Standards. The legislature prohibited the Board from adopting those standards. Bob Beck joins us to talk about what happened at the meeting.

courtesy UW

Last month the University of Wyoming opened a Literacy Research Center and clinic that should enhance literacy at all levels across the state.  It will allow face to face tutoring, train tutors and teachers, and use technology in interesting new ways.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.  

VICKI GILLIS:  “I see this as being on the cutting edge of work in literacy, K-12, and beyond.

A recent report assessing policies on charter schools throughout the nation says Wyoming has a lot of work to do to make charter schools more accessible and successful. The Executive Director of the Wyoming Association of Public Charter Schools is not surprised.  Kari Cline says Wyoming’s rules are bad and stagnant. 

Uinta County parents and teachers say they were left out of the decision making process when the school superintendent announced he would scale back art classes in elementary schools to make more time for science.  Superintendent James Bailey says students were only getting about 1 or 2 days of science a week, which wasn’t enough since state assessments will soon be testing kids in science.  But last week, Bailey met with teachers and came up with a possible plan to integrate the two subjects.  He says the plan could actually improve the district’s curriculum.

Many parent groups across the nation are expressing concern about the data school districts collect on students and how it’s used. 

Wyoming’s House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring the development of a plan that would help keep data confidential.  Laramie Democrat Cathy Connolly said that parents have expressed a number of concerns.

The Wyoming Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would place cameras on school buses. The idea is to capture motorists who illegally pass buses while they are stopped.  The bill allocates $5 million to purchase and install the cameras, an expense the Senate Appropriations Committee opposed.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout suggested that money be spent on prevention and not enforcement.  Education Chairman Hank Coe, of Cody, says prevention hasn't worked.

A bill that would make it easier for alternative schools to be created across the state has received final approval by the Wyoming Senate.  Alternative schools, such as charter schools, attempt to address the special needs of students that may not be successful in more traditional schools.  Under current Wyoming law, it is very difficult to create alternative schools.  The bill will change that.

The Wyoming House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require school buses in the state to carry video cameras on the outside.

The cameras would help catch motorists who illegally drive by stopped buses, also known as fly-by's.  Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau opposed the bill, saying that using cameras to spy on people would make him uncomfortable.  Other opponents complained that it should be a local control issue and not something that the state should mandate.

What education reforms would you like to see from the Wyoming Legislature?

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What are your thoughts on the Wyoming Early Childhood Education Bill?

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Wyoming Public Media received a CPB 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 Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), assists public broadcasting stations in reporting on a wide array of education issues that impact graduation rates in their communities.  The grant provides partial support for a full-time education reporter for WPM and encourages WPM to build partnerships with education stakeholders in the state. 

Do you think your schools prepared you for your life or your job?

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Over the years the legislature has not been overly supportive of efforts to fund early childhood education in Wyoming, mostly because of concerns that the state could interfere with private business.  But members of the Joint Education Committee hope that a new proposal can overcome those concerns.  The committee has drafted a bill that will coordinate all the early childhood efforts that currently exist and provide money to improve services.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.                     

Wyoming lawmakers will be asked to continue to fine tune Wyoming’s new school accountability law and develop ways for the state to help school districts improve learning. 

Districts and schools are now receiving accountability scores and under-performers will work with the state to find ways to improve.  State Education Director Rich Crandall says it will allow the state to look at data and work very closely with school districts and help them meet goals.

Wyoming has the fifth lowest average debt in the nation for students who graduated from college in 2012. That’s according to a recently published study by the Institute for College Access and Success. In Wyoming the average debt was just over $21,000.

Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wyoming, Joanna Carter, says there are several things that keep borrowing relatively low at UW.

According to the US Department of Education, US students’ rankings in math and science have slipped.  What can be done to correct this?

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This month Jackson Hole High School will host the annual Teton County Model United Nations conference. Student participants from across Wyoming and Idaho will research and debate pressing global issues, including security and human rights.

Sheridan High School social studies teacher, Andrew Metcalf, says that the model UN not only helps deepen students’ education, but might also open doors for them in the future.

What are your thoughts on bilingual education in Wyoming schools?

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The Wyoming Department of Education is putting together a board of teachers to offer advice on several education issues. They’re looking for feedback on teacher training options, classroom needs and potential policy changes.

Chief Strategy Officer for the Department of Education, Leighton Thomas says teachers have valuable firsthand knowledge of the conditions, strengths and needs of the state’s schools.

Wyoming’s fourth and eighth grade students outperformed the national average in reading and mathscores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAPE scores.

The test is administered every two years. Wyoming did especially well in 4th grade math where it improved by three points from 2011 and five points from 2009.   State Education Director Rich Crandall is pleased.

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has introduced a bill to create a Commission on Native Children. The Commission’s goal is to investigate problems specific to Native children and make recommendations for improving them.

Mortality has increased for Native children since 2000, and they're overrepresented in foster care, have high suicide rates, and lower graduation rates than white students. On the Wind River Indian Reservation the graduation rate for students is around 50 percent. The statewide graduation for all students is closer to 80 percent.  

The recent Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, or CREG, report indicated some positive things for Wyoming's revenue picture, but within the report there are also concerns. 

Campbell County Representative Sue Wallis says one serious concern stands out.

"There's a very strong potential of a time...not very far out...when we've got a real problem with our education funding."

http://townmapsusa.com/d/map-of-buffalo-wyoming-wy/buffalo_wy

After a lengthy discussion, the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee voted to support a two-percent external cost adjustment for public schools. 

The external cost adjustment would address inflation issues within the school funding model, and is used by most districts to pay for salary increases.  Lawmakers have been reluctant to support an ECA over the last several years due to budget concerns, and the appropriations committee was told that spending for education in Wyoming remains among the top 10 in the country. 

As schools look at new ways to improve education, in Thermopolis they are hoping that new technology and the access it brings to data bases, videos, and better access to the outside world will improve learning and teaching.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has more. 

Willow Belden

A school in Casper has started teaching some of its classes in Chinese. The idea is that the students in those classes will grow up bilingual. This is the first Chinese immersion program in a Wyoming school, but data from other states that have similar programs show a wide range of benefits. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

The results of Adequate Yearly Progress for the last school year have been released and fewer schools met the required standard. 

A-Y-P is a federal measure of achievement that's determined through A-C-T data and the Wyoming Proficiency Assessment.  Schools that score poorly on A-Y-P can lose the ability to decide how they spend federal funds. 

David Holbrook of the Wyoming Department of Education says that those interested in how their schools fared can look at the Department’s website.

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