- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Department of Education is allowing 19 school districts to exceed the state mandated student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade during the 2014-15 school year.

A lack of classroom space was cited by 13 districts as one of the reasons they couldn’t meet the requirement to have one teacher for every 16 students.

Other districts that received waivers had online education programs that skewed the number of students, or were doing so well academically that the ratio wasn’t judged to be necessary. Most of the districts cited multiple reasons for failing to meet the ratio.

The numbers indicate that districts are working to meet the requirement, Julie Magee, director of Standards and Accountability with the Education Department, said Tuesday.

Last year, 22 districts received waivers, she said.

“For the most part, when we look at the ratio of some of the same districts that applied for a waiver last year, overall their ratio went down from last year to this year,” Magee said. “So it appears that the districts are working to address the 16-1 issue if they’re over.”

Natrona County School District 1 hasn’t met the ratio in the past two years, although it improved from 17.26-1 two years ago to 17.01 this year.

“For us it’s a matter of space. We’re a growing school district. We have increasing enrollment, and so it’s a matter of finding a seat, physical space, for every one of those students,” Superintendent Steve Hopkins said.

The district has been working to build additional space for more classrooms, Hopkins said.

“We’re lowering our class sizes each year as those seats become available,” he said.

The 16-1 student-teacher ratio was set by the 2011 Legislature as part an ongoing, comprehensive education reform initiative. Education experts said students generally perform better academically in smaller class sizes.

State law allows districts to seek a waiver from the Education Department if they show good reason why they can’t meet the standard.

Districts that don’t meet the ratio and don’t get a waiver risk losing their state financial aid. In the three years the requirement has been in effect, all the districts seeking a waiver have been granted one.

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