Wyoming Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is When It Comes to Special Education
Wyoming has long been known as a state committed to its youth. Case in point: Wyoming spends an average of $17,513 on each student, ranking it among the top-five states in the nation for student spending. The national average is just $11,841 per child.
Thanks to a recent energy boom, Wyoming has also spent more than $3 billion on building new schools in recent years.
Special education and the 13,000 students it served during the 2015-16 school year has also benefited from this increase in funding. The total amount of state financial support made available for special education and related services for children with disabilities has steadily increased in the past four years:
- SFY2012 $228,220,465
- SFY2013 $231,344,380
- SFY2014 $237,439,366
- SFY2015 $245,644,831
Wyoming Special Education Programs and Services
The Student Services Department of the Wyoming Public Schools provides special education services for students from preschool all the way up to age 26. Special education in the Cowboy State is about more than just classroom accommodations. The overarching domain encompasses teacher consultancy, general education, resource rooms, categorical programs for students with different needs, and regional programs.
Wyoming Public Schools even retains a staff of applied behavioral analysts to conduct evaluations to determine the need and nature of services to be made available to families, students, and teachers.
Wyoming is home to a variety of programs that serve students with more intensive learning, physical, emotional, and/or cognitive impairments:
- Cognitively Impaired (CI) Classrooms: Offers a continuum of services for students with mild cognitive impairments
- Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE): Meets the needs of Wyoming’s children (3-5 years old) with developmental delays
- Resource/Cross Categorical Classrooms: Offers a full continuum of support services for students with mild to moderate learning difficulties
During the 2015-16 school year, the following disabilities accounted for the largest number of special education students:
- Learning disabled: 4,247 students
- Speech language: 3,884
- Other health impairments: 2,014
- Autism: 894
- Emotionally disabled: 563
- Cognitive disability: 509
Master’s-Prepared Special Education Teachers Awarded for Reducing the Achievement Gap in Wyoming
Spring Creek Elementary in Laramie was named a National Blue Ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015—the first school in the Albany County District to receive the accolade. The distinction is awarded to schools that achieve academic excellence or substantially reduce achievement gaps among subgroups of students.
Just three schools in Wyoming are nominated for the award each year. In 2014, the winners included Glenn Livingston Elementary School in Cody, Highland Park Elementary School in Sheridan, and Southside Elementary School in Powell.
To be nominated for the Blue Ribbon award, a school must rank among the top 15 percent of schools in the state in reading and mathematics. Student subgroups, including special education students and students on free and reduced lunches, must place in the top 40 percent for the state in reading and math.
Just two of the factors that earned Spring Creek Elementary the National Blue Ribbon award are its gifted and talented program and the Response to Intervention model.
According to State Superintendent Jillian Balow, the staff at Spring Creek “use data and best practices to meet the needs of every learner.”