Sweet! Honey Harvest Festival will be family-friendly

Mmm. Honey.

It’s good on toast and, mixed with hot water and cinnamon, it’s my go-to all-natural remedy for coughs and scratchy throats.

Next weekend, the first-ever Missoula Honey Harvest Festival will take place on the University of Montana Oval. It’s free, open to the community and best of all, family-friendly.

At the festival, local beekeepers and others in the bee business will have their wares on display and for sale. Festival-goers will also be treated to tastes, and will get to see live bees in a glass hive. They’ll get to learn about bees and can even try their hand at building a beehive.

There’s also going to be a honey auction for charity. And G. Wiz. (otherwise known as University of Montana chemistry professor Garon Smith) will offer his trademark educational entertainment for kids. Also, American Honey Princess (there really is such a thing!) Elena Huffman will travel all the way from Pennsylvania to be there. I look forward to seeing what she’s wearing. I hope it’s really princess-y and bee-themed.


Meanwhile, UM is hosting two “bee-related academic conferences,” according to a university news release: The 37th Annual Western Apicultural Society Conference and the second International Conference on Hive and Honeybee Monitoring. They will take place from Sept. 17-20.

“The conferences will provide great information to beekeepers and researchers, but the Honey Harvest Festival will be a fun celebration of the honey bee and local beekeepers,” Jerry Bromenshenk, a UM bee scientist and instructor of the UM School of Extended & Lifelong Learning’s Online Beekeeping Certificate Program, is quoted saying in the news release. “This is a great chance for those who are interested in beekeeping to meet folks who can help them get started.”

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New school year brings new round of federal grant funding

Three cheers for reading and writing!

Juneau and Tester Announce Extension

of $4.9 Million Striving Readers Grant

Forty-Two Schools and Pre-Kindergarten Centers

Able to Continue Literacy Efforts

Helena, MT – Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and U. S. Senator Jon Tester announced 42 Montana schools and pre-kindergarten centers will continue to receive federal grant funding for the next two school years to advance literacy skills, reading and writing for students from early childhood through grade 12. Montana will receive $4.9 million for the 2014-2015 school year. In 2012, the competitive grant was awarded to only six states. To date, more than 10,000 students and 850 teachers and staff members have benefited from the Striving Readers grant.

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Testing the test

This press release from the Montana Office of Public Instruction landed in my inbox yesterday. I meant to share it right away but ran out of time, and since I’m still short on time I’d better just get it up on the site so y’all can read what I read without further delay.

And here it is:

Practice of New Online Assessment

Helps Montana Educators Prepare for 2015

New Test will set a New Baseline for Student Achievement 

Helena, MT – This year, Montana schools maintained their AYP determinations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act from the 2013 school year due to a “double-testing waiver” obtained by Superintendent Denise Juneau. Montana students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 participated in the field test of the new, online Smarter Balanced Assessment aligned to the Montana Common Core Standards. A field test is a “test of the test”, not the students. Because questions may be revised or dropped after the field test, no scores will be reported for students, schools, or the state.

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How well are Montana kids?

Not sure how much weight to give this data considering that base-years and most-recent-years data used to complete the annual Kids Count Data Book vary, but the overall trend is that well-being of Montana kids is declining.

But Thale Dillon, who heads up Montana Kids Count, said not to put much weight on Montana’s three slot drop in the national report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We are working in the right direction in most areas,” she said. “I think making a big deal out of our three-spot drop in ranking is not necessarily meaningful because what we should look at is how we’re moving ahead in these areas – not necessarily how we’re moving in relation to other states.”

While Montana retained its rank of 14 in the family and community area and remained No. 50 for children’s health, the state also dropped from 15 to 25 for economic well-being and from 13 to 21 in education.

“Even though we didn’t do poorly necessarily, other states did much better,” Dillon said of the declines in economic well-being and education.

There were bright spots in the data, including that more high school students are graduating on time and that teen births and drug and alcohol abuse are down.

Also, more children also have access to health insurance. However, Montana remains last in state rankings for health.

Here’s how we stack up against the national data.

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Business Leaders’ Summit on Early Childhood Education


Apologies for the crumminess of this photo, which doesn’t do the venue justice at all. It was taken during a brief break between speakers who kept this amateur photographer too engaged to take photos while they were on stage.

This morning business and education leaders from all over Montana – about 200 in all, I’d say – gathered in Missoula at the Hilton Garden Inn to discuss the importance of early childhood education. The lineup included Gov. Steve Bullock, Phyllis Washington, Paul Tough, Mike Halligan, Larry Simkins.

The audience included noted named in the Montana business and education communities, including University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle, Montana Chamber of Commerce head Webb Brown … the list goes on.

And Alice and I were among them! She was there to cover the summit for the Missoulian and I was just noodling around for an editorial.

While Montana’s governor gave the keynote and Phyllis Washington (of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation) was among the first to speak, the standout speech of the summit was delivered by Paul Tough, a journalist, speaker and author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.” He talked at length about the different traits that drive success, and how they intersect with different approaches to early education.

Read all about it – and more – in Alice’s thorough report, which includes a link to the Montana Budget and Policy Center’s very interesting (no, really!) report on pre-kindergarten.

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New statewide student board includes one more Missoulian

So, today the state Superintendent of Public Instruction released the names of the 31 new members of her Student Advisory Board. The board “consists of 39 high school students from 34 Montana schools,” according to the press release.

Thirty-nine students! That is one big board!

Congratulations to Baylee Everett, a junior at Hellgate High School, who will join current board member Rafael Vega from Big Sky High School as the only students from Missoula.

Poor Bozeman appears to have only one student advisory board member.

For more info about the board, click here. And for the full list of student board members, read on:

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Juniors get to take ACT for free for second year in a row

Oh, the SAT, ACT and all those other tests. For many students, the only thing worse than being forced to take a test is having to pay for the privilege. The ACT alone can cost up to $50 bucks a pop.

Fortunately, Montana landed a grant that allows it to offer free ACT tests for four full years. This is the second year Montana’s public-school students in their junior year of high school get to take the test, fee-free.

Testing starts tomorrow! From the Montana Office of Public Instruction:

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Five Montana elementary schools attending ‘Veggie U’

Sustainable agriculture, healthy food choices, hands-on science.

It all adds up to “Veggie U,” which I learned yesterday is making its foray into fourth-grade classrooms in Arlee, the Gallatin Gateway, Helena, Lakeside and Wilsall. Students in the five-week program learn about growing food while tending their own gardens.

Read on for the full press release:

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Kindergarten registration starts tomorrow!

Kindergarten is the first step of an important journey. For many Missoula families, preparation for that journey begins tomorrow with the first day of kindergarten … registration, that is.

If your kiddo is going to be 5 years old before Sept. 10 this year, gather up those documents (birth certificate, proof of immunization, proof of residence) and get yourself to school ASAP. Kindergarten roundup starts next month, and you don’t want to miss it!

More information for Missoula County Public Schools district families here.

Details for Hellgate Elementary school district families here.

Not sure which district you live in? Look up the school attendance boundaries for MCPS here.

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Bozeman schools get longer day, shorter year. Should we?

Looks like Bozeman schools are going ahead with a new plan to add 10 minutes to each school day, meaning the overall school year will be six days shorter.

The biggest difference? Parents will no longer have to contend with weekly “early out” days. These days are the bane of parents who have to scramble to find kid care that covers these extra hours.

In Missoula, the early out days for Missoula County Public Schools are Thursdays. For elementary school kiddos (the ones who are young enough to absolutely require the presence of an adult outside of school hours), this means the school day ends at 2 p.m. each Thursday.

Which is actually kind of nice for some younger students, such as kindergartners, for whom the school day is already rather long.

Hmm. Should Missoula consider doing what Bozeman did? What do you think? What would be the pros and cons?

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