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:, and

Aaron Schrank

University of Wyoming senior Ashlee Enos is in a crowded campus ballroom, watching a hip-hop artist from the Crow Nation who goes by the name ‘Supaman’ do his thing.

“I think it’s awesome that we have someone who’s so into the culture, and wants to give cultural awareness to the public,” Enos says.

Enos is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. She says there aren’t many others at UW.

“It’s a very small number,” she says. “Maybe less than five.”

Less than one percent of total students here identify solely as American Indian—just 91 of more than 13,000.

via Clear Creek Facebook

A substitute teacher in Johnson County School District claims administrators at Buffalo’s Clear Creek Middle School mishandled an offensive student project.

According to a news release written by teacher John Egan and published on social media this week, the 7th grade social studies project was a cereal box decorated with a picture of a stereotyped Mexican man with a cardboard knife sticking into him. The box was captioned “Can you pin the knife in the Mexican?”

Micah Baldwin, Flickr Creative Commons


Last year, when Tongue River High School students Taylor Holiday and Kylee Knobloch were asked to come up with a project for their leadership club, they decided to tackle a real-world problem.

“There was a few kids in our school that seemed to be struggling with drugs a little bit,” says Holiday. “So we thought, ‘what if we could make the change in this school that helped kids get away from issues like that?’”

Tom Kelly via Flickr Creative Commons

UPDATE: Carbon County School District One Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to close Sinclair Elementary.

The Carbon County District One school board will decide Thursday whether or not to close Sinclair Elementary School. 

Superintendent Fletcher Turcato recommended closing the school, which would save the district about $100,000 a year, due to legislative cuts to school funding.

Turcato says it’s not an easy recommendation to make, but it’s necessary after lawmakers cut funding by 1.2 percent over the next two years.

Wyoming Public Media

On Wednesday, March 9, Aaron Schrank hosted a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He posed questions about the 2016’s legislative session’s impact on education in the state—including school funding cuts and education-related bills that passed and failed this year.

WEA has been monitoring the session closely. How will the Legislature’s 2016 decisions impact Wyoming’s K-12 education in the years ahead?

The hashtag #WPREdTalk and #wyoedchat allowed for anyone to tweet questions.


On Wednesday, March 9, from 5:00pm to 5:45pm, Aaron Schrank will be hosting a live Twitter chat with Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. He'll be posing questions about the 2016’s legislative session’s impact on education in the state—including school funding cuts and education-related bills that passed and failed this year.

WEA has been monitoring the session closely. How will the Legislature’s 2016 decisions impact Wyoming’s K-12 education in the years ahead?

Wyoming State Science Fair

This weekend, students in grades 6-12 will compete in the Wyoming State Science Fair. The Science Fair is a competition where students conduct original scientific research - and collect and analyze data. The students present their findings on a poster and are interviewed by judges in their respective fields. The earlier rounds include individual school competitions, followed by regionals. About 900 students enter in the earlier rounds, but only a third advance to the final round, the State Science Fair.

Courtesy Sherman Indian High School

This is part two of a series. Listen to part one here.

At the start of his senior year at Wyoming Indian High School, Tim O’Neal was struggling.

“I was just drinking, partying, trying to be cool,” says O’Neal. “It messed with my schoolwork. My whole class schedule—all seven classes—I was failing and there was no way I could make up the grades, so I just asked my parents if I would be able to go to a boarding school.”

Miles Bryan

In a classroom at a Riverton activity center kids are sitting in a “connection circle.” They toss a ball around, and whoever has it has got to say what makes them happiest.

“I’m happiest when I am around my family,” one girl says before bouncing the ball to a boy. “I’m happiest when I’m riding my dirt bike,” he replies.

The idea is that if two kids are happy when they are doing the same thing, they make a connection. It wouldn’t feel out of place at an  alternative high school–it’s actually an alternative to juvenile detention.

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.

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.

Willow Belden

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

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.   

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.

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.  

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 Public Media

On November 18, Aaron Schrank hosted a live Twitter chat with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. He posed questions about career readiness, as WDE recently created its Wyoming Career Readiness Council and is working to create a strategic plan to improve career readiness in Wyoming schools. The hashtag #WPREdTalk allowed for anyone to tweet questions.

Read through the Twitter chat below.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

After months of work, a legislative committee decided Tuesday not to make any changes to the way schools are funded. 

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration voted not to draft a new school funding bill, but to stick with the model the state has used for the past decade.

Department of Education

This Wednesday, November 18, from 5:45pm to 6:30pm, Aaron Schrank will be hosting a live Twitter chat with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. He'll be posing questions about career readiness, as WDE recently created its Wyoming Career Readiness Council and is working to create a strategic plan to improve career readiness in Wyoming schools.

On Twitter, use the hashtag #WPREdTalk. Anyone can tweet questions using that hashtag, and Aaron will be picking some of those questions to pose to the Superintendent.

Photo by Ikhlasul Amal, Flickr Creative Commons


Inside the home of the Williams family, in Centennial, Wyoming, it looks like a cross between a classroom and a call center. Five children, ages six through 16 are wearing headsets and staring at computer screens.

“Mom, what are we doing next?” yells 6-year-old Selah Williams.

“I think we’ll do reading,” says Liz Williams. “Do you want to get your storybook out?”

The Williams kids are full-time students at Wyoming Virtual Academy—or WYVA—one of two statewide virtual public schools in Wyoming. Liz says WYVA allows her to be more hands-on with their learning.

Wyoming Arts Council

A national arts education organization has selected Wyoming to be part of a three-year program to strengthen the arts in schools. Americans for the Arts has awarded grants to ten states for pilot programs to improve arts education policies.

The Wyoming Arts Council’s Michael Shay says the first step is a survey to evaluate what resources art educators have and need.

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Campbell County School officials are considering whether junior high and high school students should start their school days later.

Many parents spoke out at a public meeting this week, saying the change would disrupt family routines.

Those students currently start their day at about 7:40 in Campbell County. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on schools to push that back until 8:30 or later.

The District’s public relations director Jeff Wasserburger says the local school board is still in the discussion phase.

Aaron Schrank

What do you think about raising the state property tax to pay for new schools?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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

Results for the nationwide assessment known as the Nation’s Report Card were released Wednesday. Wyoming’s scores are consistent with how students here have done in years past.

The National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) is a federal program that tests a sample of fourth and eighth graders in reading and math every two years.

Flickr Creative Commons via Jacob Edward

Wyoming does not do a great job teaching students how to manage their money, according to an annual report card released this month by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy.

Wyoming earned a ‘D’ grade on its efforts to produce high school graduates with financial literacy skills. Wyoming does not require any specific personal finance classes for graduation and the state’s content standards don’t address the area much either.

Aaron Schrank

Most people on the Wind River Reservation have seen Craig Ferris on the sidelines of the basketball court at Wyoming Indian High School. As head coach, he’s led the Chiefs to four state championships. But most days, Ferris can be found driving around and knocking on doors—putting the full-court press on a major problem for reservation schools: attendance. Ferris works for Wyoming Indian Elementary. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank spent a day on the job with him, and has this report.


A State Board of Education task force report is calling for a standardized testing system that better aligns with Wyoming’s content standards. It also recommends that Wyoming adopt a test that is used by more than one state, to allow for more comparison.

Wyoming is looking at replacing its current year-end test, PAWS, with something new. The task force has met 7 times since June to study testing needs.

The group wants a unified testing system for third through 10th grade, rather than PAWS for grade-schoolers and the ACT in 11th grade.

Aaron Schrank

Inside a Casper art gallery, a few dozen teachers are seated in a circle, listening to a presentation chock-full of teambuilding buzzwords.

This is a “design camp” for Natrona County’s new academy-based learning center. These educators get together weekly to plot a reinvention of the high school experience for kids in Casper.


“When we open our school, it’s going to be the first time for a whole new way of learning,” says Bryan Aivazian, a coach at one of four career academies that will be housed in the new center, which opens in one year.

Wyoming Public Media

Tonight at 8:00 pm, Wyoming PBS will broadcast ‘Steps To Success For Wyoming’s Native American Students,’ a co-production with Wyoming Public Media.

For information on where to find Wyoming PBS in your area, click here. You can also be part of the discussion online. Share your questions and comments throughout the broadcast on Twitter, using the hashtag #WindRiverEducation.

Courtesy The Guild Charter School

The Natrona County School Board voted unanimously Monday to deny an application for a new Casper charter school.

The proposed Guild Charter School would focus on classical education and use individualized learning plans for all K-12 students. Co-founder Tiffany Leary says she started the application process last year.