Education

WPM is committed to covering education issues in Wyoming in a thoughtful and thorough way. This page captures all education-related stories we've aired and updates you on broad issues.

Sheridan.edu

Tribal leaders, national policymakers and educators came together last week at Sheridan College to talk about how to decrease racial tensions on their campus. Back in September, racial slurs were written on a whiteboard on the dorm door of two Native American students there, prompting a series of discussions about how to prevent future attacks.

Northern Arapaho Chairman Roy Brown participated in the roundtable and said he commends the college for taking action.

Ten months and $800,000 later, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has completed its in-depth look at how Wyoming finances education. Members of APA Consulting, who were tasked with examining the equity and adequacy of the school funding model, told lawmakers the state’s current approach works but pointed out areas for improvement. Despite a recommendation to spend more, lawmakers are opting to spend less.

Adelphi University

In the world of Paleontology, there’s debate whether or not dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded, and just how quickly they grew up. Dr. Michael D’Emic is a Paleontologist at Adelphi University in New York. He spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen in anticipation of a talk he will give on the University of Wyoming’s campus about his research and some of the contentious debates surrounding dinosaurs.

Dr. D’Emic’s talk is February 6 at 5:30 p.m. on the University of Wyoming’s Campus in room 216 of the S.H. Knight Geology Building.

Kamila Kudelska

As lawmakers are discussing whether to add computer science and computational thinking to the state educational curriculum, they are looking to Powell as an example. Powell is one of only five school districts teaching computer science. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska takes a deeper dive into how their curriculum has developed and persisted throughout the years.

Tennessee Watson

Despite 10 months of work, a legislative committee has rejected changes to the school funding model. After examination, APA Consulting produced a similar price tag for funding K-12 education as what the state was spending before the last round of cuts.

 

In its last meeting before the legislative session, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration refused to adopt the new model suggested by APA.

 

Tennessee Watson

During the upcoming budget session, lawmakers want to take a closer look at transportation and special education funding, as a part of a larger effort to reform and possibly reduce spending in the K-12 finance model.

 

Most of what school districts spend on education is covered in a block grant they receive from the state. But transportation and special education are outside that model, and districts instead bill the state for a 100 percent reimbursement.

 

APA Consulting

Small changes in enrollment can mean big changes in funding for Wyoming’s smaller K-12 schools.

 

The difference in funding resulting from the loss of one student has the biggest impact on middle and high schools. Currently, a drop in enrollment from 50 down to 49 students, means a school can lose funding for an entire teacher and a reduction in resources. Instead of using fixed cut-offs, state-hired consultants are recommending using a mathematical curve to smooth out funding.

 

Huron Consulting

The University of Wyoming wants to increase its student body. To do that, the trustees are looking at attracting more out-of-state students by decreasing their tuition. But does that mean the university has exhausted efforts to get more students from Wyoming to enroll?

Wyoming Department of Education

Top heavy school districts are a concern for lawmakers looking for improved efficiencies in school finance. According to the latest data from the Wyoming Department of Education, in 2015-2016, there were more administrators statewide than what’s recommended in the school funding model, but that’s not a reflection of all districts’ employment practices.

 

David Joyce / Flickr.com

As more and more students across Wyoming enroll in classes online, it can make calculating attendance at a public school a little more tricky. And homeschool students may come to school for just a portion of the day, while other students might leave school early.

In 2017 the legislature passed a policy changing how the school finance model calculates attendance — or what’s called average daily membership.

The amount of time students spend in school impacts the amount of money districts get in their block grant from the state.

Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming high school graduation rates saw a slight increase in 2017 from the previous year, according to data released by the Wyoming Department of Education. That continues a four-year trend of improvement, bringing the statewide rate up to 80.2 percent.

 

As policymakers head into the 2018 Budget Session, education is a topic many will be watching. Wyoming Public Radio's Tennessee Watson joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to examine what might be in store after education consultants hired by the state recommended giving more money to education instead of implementing cuts.

APA Consulting

Education is underfunded in Wyoming, according to a new report from consultants contracted by the Select Committee on School Finance to take an in-depth look at the state’s educational program.

 

Wyoming Department of Education

In the final hours of the 120 day review period, the U.S. Department of Education notified Wyoming officials that the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan had been approved.

commons.wikimedia.org

A proposal to increase the recommended average class size in Wyoming schools is part of what lawmakers are reviewing in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Budget Session. Increasing class size has been discussed by policy makers as way to reduce costs.

 

The Park County School District #6 school board in Cody voted Tuesday to table the first reading of a policy which would allow employees to carry firearms. The decision to postpone further action comes with the condition that the board send out a survey to teachers and the community within the next month.

During the meeting, board members expressed concern that budget and insurance questions posed by the public were still unanswered.

Tennessee Watson

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act was one of the bipartisan triumphs of 2017. Referred to as the “Forever GI Bill,” it makes significant changes to education benefits for service members and veterans, like no longer requiring them to use their benefits within 15 years of active-duty service. But supporting veterans in higher education is more complicated than just giving them more time.

 

Marty Martinez spent 29 years in the military before coming to the University of Wyoming.

 

University of Wyoming

After years of going without one, the University of Wyoming has hired a new Native American Program Advisor. President Laurie Nichols has said the goal is to try to increase the Native student enrollment so that it better reflects the Native population in the state.

Tennessee Watson

As Wyoming policymakers prepare for the 2018 Budget Session, in which education will be a big topic, teachers are stepping up efforts to make their voices heard.

On Thursday evening, teachers and community members gathered in the backroom of a Laramie restaurant for a postcard writing party.

 

Graphics from SANS. Altered by Tennessee Watson

Jobs in cybersecurity are in high demand, and Governor Matt Mead is encouraging young people in Wyoming to explore the field, especially young women.

 

The governor has announced Wyoming will now participate in the “High School Girls CyberStart Challenge” — a cybersecurity competition for junior and seniors in the form of an online game. In the simulation, players are cyber agents responsible for protecting a base. The idea is to get girls interested in the cybersecurity field, where women are generally underrepresented.

 

Kamila Kudelska

Most of those who spoke at a public hearing Monday night in Cody told the Park County District #6 school board that they did not support a proposal to allow armed personnel in public schools.

Two-thirds of those testifying said that guns should be the last, not first security measure. Instead, money should go into introducing smarter security technologies in school buildings. Yetzi Daren Jobaner said even in Wyoming there are places guns don't belong.

Graphic by Tennessee Watson

Students are required to do fire drills and tornado drills, yet Wyoming does not require public schools to do sexual assault prevention. Young people are more likely to be impacted by sexual violence than they are by any of those dangers. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

 

University of Wyoming

At the end of last semester, the University of Wyoming hired Wind River tribal member Reinette Tendore to recruit Native American students and help them feel more welcome on campus.

Kamila Kudelska

Shannon Hill shuffled into the gymnasium of her middle school, thinking it was just another school assembly. But instead, the teacher got the surprise of her lifetime.

Hill, a middle school physical education and health teacher in Thermopolis, was presented with what has been dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” award, which comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000. Hill is the only winner of the Milken Educator Award for 2017-2018 from Wyoming out of 44 honorees throughout the nation.

 

Wyoming Sexual Violence Prevention Council

Most states have existing laws or pending legislation requiring public schools to teach sexual violence prevention. That leaves Wyoming as one of the few states with absolutely nothing on the books. The Wyoming Sexual Violence Prevention Council is working to fill that gap by supporting a growing network of local projects; among them is a program that works with K-12 student athletes.

Tennessee Watson

Small schools offer an educational experience that many students appreciate for the close-knit community. But those students can also miss out on the diversity of academic offerings available in larger schools.

NASA

The University of Wyoming’s Physics and Astronomy Department has received two grants for research related to finding exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars. Dr. Michael Pierce and Dr. Hannah Jang-Condell received grants from Indiana University and NASA worth almost $1 million. The funds will primarily be used to build a spectrograph, an instrument that can gather detailed information about star movement near planets.

Wyoming Department of Education

The Every Student Succeeds Act -- or ESSA -- shifted education authority from the federal government to states and local districts, leaving behind the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. But under ESSA, states are still required to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Education all students have access to an adequate education.

 

The Wyoming Department of Education submitted its ESSA plan in September. Last week, it received a letter from the federal government asking for more information on several points before approval can be given.

Screenshot from the APA Consulting survey

Leading up to the 2018 budget session, Wyoming lawmakers hired education consultants to study the school funding model.

 

The idea was to find ways the state can save money while still meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with a proper education. The consultants have released a 552-page draft of their recommendations and they’re taking public feedback through an online survey.

 

Associated Students University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming’s student government is ramping up accountability for groups on campus. A new policy implemented this fall suspends registered student organizations from ASUW funding if found in violation of financial policies.

 

The first group to be suspended under the new policy was the UW chapter of Turning Point USA. The group brought Dennis Prager, conservative radio personality, to speak on campus this fall.

 

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