education

By Ermell - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42799634, Cropped by Tennessee Watson

The 2017 Solar Eclipse overlaps the beginning of the school year in Wyoming. The majority of districts will start classes just after — on the 22 or 23 of August — and two districts in the path of totality made sure students had the day off. Fremont #6 starts on the 17, but students will have the 21 off. The school board in Fremont #24 voted to move the first day of school back to August 23, out of concern for the influx of visitors to the area.

Wyoming School Boards Association

School board members and district superintendents gathered recently to discuss the changes underfoot in Wyoming’s education system with an eye toward reforms they would like to see during the 2018 legislative session.

 

Brian Farmer, Executive Director for the Wyoming School Boards Association, said his organization held a joint meeting with the Wyoming Association of School Administrators, and the topic of teacher accountability was high on everyone’s list.

 

Tennessee Watson

In the library of Sunflower Elementary school on Gillette’s southwest side, Dr. William Heineke is hard at work as a psychologist. He’s putting on two hats, with shorts over his pants, mismatched shoes, and instead of a pen, he tucks a toothbrush into his lapel. The Mardi Gras mask he’s putting on followed by his eye glasses might be deceiving, but this wild outfit is part of a serious effort to help troubled elementary school kids. They’ve been diagnosed with things like anxiety, depression, anger issues and are at risk for suicide.  

Rebecca Huntington

On the Wind River Reservation, students are learning how to use futuristic tools to stretch the bounds of what's possible in the classroom.

What if you could put a swimming pool in the middle of your classroom?

“Me, me, me, me...” students gleefully shout.

That's just what students at the Arapahoe Elementary School couldn't wait to do...

“Let's be careful to not stand on the swimming pool,” a teacher says. “So now we're going to push select. I think we probably want a really big swimming pool so everybody can fit in it, right?”

What do parents think about Wyoming’s K thru 12 education system? At a time when the state is adopting new guidelines laid out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and policymakers are considering major funding shortfalls, Sheila McGuire, president of the Wyoming Parent Teacher Association, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Tennessee Watson, about why the parent voice is so critical. 

Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Tennessee Watson

In 2015, No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Known as ESSA, it gives states more authority over K-12 education than they have had in nearly two decades. Now that the two-year transition period is over, ESSA will take effect this fall.

The transition has been met with enthusiasm from Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction. She said, “No Child Left Behind was very punitive in nature.” 

Photo by Tommy Wong. Thought bubble added by Tennessee Watson with use under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

School’s out for summer across Wyoming, but the state Department of Education is offering two free learning initiatives designed to help kids keep up math and reading skills over summer break.

Find a Book Wyoming helps students create custom reading lists to suit their abilities and interests, and set goals for the summer. Barb Marquer from the Wyoming Department of Education, said she doesn’t want kids to consider this school work.  

Photo by Aaron Gilson via Creative Commons 2.0

President Trump’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would save $1.2 billion. But across the country, this program is a primary source of support for after-school and summer programs that serve students in low-income communities.

There are over 50 programs in Wyoming that would be affected. Wyoming Public Radio’s Education Reporter Tennessee Watson spoke with Linda Barton, director of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance about why summer camp matters.

Caroline Ballard

When middle schoolers at the UW Lab School in Laramie first heard they were going to be studying garbage as part of the nation-wide initiative Project Citizen, which promotes democratic engagement, their reactions were about what you’d expect.

“Everyone in the class kind of shrugged their shoulders and went ‘okay.’ And we were all just mellowed out about it and not excited,” said Yousuf Abdel-Kader, an eighth grader at the lab school.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education is seeking public input on how the state should regulate and support school performance. A new federal policy called the Every Student Succeeds Act, which went into law in 2015 and goes into effect for the 2017-2018 school year, aims to ensure equity in education across the United States.

In contrast to No Child Left Behind, power in this act has shifted from the federal government to the states to decide how best to evaluate and improve school performance.

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. At the April 3rd meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration, there was only one thing that everyone could agree on.

While the legislature and the school system continue to work on the state’s $400 million deficit, Wyoming Public Radio’s education reporter, Tennessee Watson, sat down with Brian Farmer from the Wyoming School Boards Association. Farmer says local school boards offer a critical perspective on spending and educational outcomes, because it’s a conversation they are constantly having on the local level.

Central Wyoming College has a new Jackson center in the works, and it’s designed to support more students and fill gaps in the local workforce.

Currently, courses are offered in buildings across town, but if Teton County voters support a special excise tax ballot measure in May, plans for the proposed center will move forward. That funding would then go toward the projected $3.82 million needed to purchase land and produce architectural and engineering plans.

Tennessee Watson

Every superintendent will tell you the goal is to keep cuts far away from the classroom and to hang on to as many teachers as possible. During the last legislative session, Wyoming educators asked the legislature to use reserves to cover the deficit, but instead, they stuck them with a $34 million funding reduction. Meanwhile, contracts to teachers are due April 15th, so district school boards are in the midst of figuring out what else in their budgets can go.

Val Burgess

 

Sheridan resident Val Burgess has put a lot of miles on her car speaking to school children and others about the experiences of World War II vets and prisoners of war. Burgess is finishing up another round of talks next month and will be speaking in Northeast Wyoming next week. She tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck about her interest in the subject.

The Campbell County District School Board passed a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the state at their meeting Tuesday evening. While no legal action has been taken yet, the resolution gives the district the right to sue if budget cuts limit the district’s ability to provide a quality education to their students as guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution. 

University of Wyoming

K-12 education in Wyoming is facing immediate cuts on the state level and President Trump’s federal budget proposes cuts to education too. There’s even talk in Washington of dismantling the U.S. Department of Education. This got me wondering how University of Wyoming education students were feeling about their future in teaching. 

The question prompted a nice spring stroll across the University of Wyoming’s campus. Our studios are just across Prexy’s Pasture from the College of Education.

James Trosper

When University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols was hired, Wyoming’s Native American community was encouraged to see she had a strong record of advocating for tribal students. Earlier this month, Nichols made a visit to Wind River Reservation to visit schools and talk to the business councils about several new initiatives to recruit kids there to attend UW.

Wyoming Afterschool Alliance

14,000 kids in Wyoming participate in after-school programs, according to the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance. But if President Trump’s proposed budget is passed, up to 65 programs serving those students would be put at risk of closing unless they can find other sources of funding.  

Last week, Governor Matt Mead signed the Indian Education For All Act that requires the Wyoming Department of Education to teach the history and culture of Wyoming’s two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho.

University of Wyoming

Earlier this month, University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols made a second visit to the Wind River Reservation to continue discussions about how to improve Native American enrollment at UW.

During Nichols’ previous tenure as University of South Dakota provost she set a goal of increasing Native American enrollment to better reflect the percentage of the state’s native population. Now, she’s set a similar goal at UW.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to roll back Department of Education regulations issued last November by the Obama administration. The regulations laid out how states and districts should measure school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act — or ESSA — which replaced No Child Left Behind.

The U.S. House used the Congressional Review act to overturn the executive branch regulations. That resolution of disapproval passed the Senate and is now on its way to the president to be signed into law.

Senator Mike Enzi (R)

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming is calling for the Department of Education to audit the data it maintains on all student loan-related programs. Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, wrote a letter on February 23rd to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, drawing her attention to a coding error in the College Scorecard, a tool the feds created to help students explore college options.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Now that the Wyoming Legislature has passed House Bill 236, school districts are standing by to see if Governor Matt Mead will sign onto the $34 million in cuts to education funding for the upcoming school year. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the bill Friday in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

If Mead signs it, the hard work of figuring out what and who to cut will begin immediately for district school boards, administrators and business managers.

Melodie Edwards

The State Legislature, Thursday, was still in the process of passing a bill intended to better help social studies teachers in Wyoming include the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone in their curriculum.

The bill passed the Senate, but with amended language that caused concern for Lander Representative Jim Allen who sponsored the bill.

Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns, whose district neighbors the Crow and Cheyenne reservations, pushed the Senate to strike Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, and replace it with “tribes of the region.” 

Bob Beck

No conclusive action was taken Thursday on House Bill 236 – the last standing piece of legislation, which addresses the $400 million education budget deficit.

Legislators and lobbyists expected the bill to come up for a concurrence vote on Thursday, but Speaker of the House Steve Harshman said he delayed action on the bill because he wanted one more day to work on it.  

“I’m going to actually sleep on it, and I’m gonna' keep working tonight on it,” said Harshman. “We’re still working. Working like dogs.” He added a few barks as he walked off down the hall.

A Youth Radio Investigation Of Wyoming's Role In Climate Change

Feb 24, 2017
Melodie Edwards

Now that Wyoming’s Science Standards are encouraging kids to make up their own minds about climate change, a group of Laramie middle schoolers tackled the issue of the environmental impacts of energy development in Wyoming. We handed off the microphone to young reporters Zeren Homer and Sam Alexander.

 

Hagerty Ryan, USFWS

In 2014, Wyoming's science standards hadn't been updated in ten years and it was time to adopt new ones. Like most other states at the time, Wyoming was poised to pass the Next Generation Science Standards. Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss was a big fan of Next Generation, but he remembered a lot of grumbling from his fellow lawmakers.

“There’s generally been a concern with national standards that the feds are trying to tell us what to learn,” Rothfuss said. “And so there was a general backlash I think towards that.”

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming Senate Education Committee voted to remove a tax measure from a comprehensive education bill and added some more cuts.

The bill is the House solution to a projected $400 million shortfall in education funding. It originally imposed a half percent sales tax after the legislature’s reserve account dropped below $500 million.

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