MCPS wins Trailblazer Award, has lowest dropout rates in Montana

Yesterday state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau unveiled the Graduation and Dropout Report, and its conclusions are something to celebrate.

Especially in Missoula, where the whole Graduation Matters thing got started, and which is leading the way with the lowest dropout rates in Montana.

In fact, Missoula won the Trailblazer Award for exactly that reason.

The report says that the statewide graduation rate is nearly 85 percent now. Five years ago, when the Graduation Matters initiative first got rolling in Missoula, the statewide rate was was below 81 percent.

In 2009, the dropout rate was 5 percent. It was 3.6 percent in the latest report.

In Missoula, the news is even better:

Missoula now has the highest graduation rate of any Class AA school district, at 88.3 percent, and has increased the graduation rate of Native American students from 56 percent in 2007 to 82.8 percent last year.

Read the entire announcement here:

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Tune in tomorrow for state graduation and dropout report, plus an award for MCPS!

Tomorrow morning in Helena State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will officially release the latest Graduation and Dropout Report for Montana.

Her office will also use the occasion to celebrate the Graduation Matters program and the progress made by various Graduation Matters efforts around the state. Five communities and one “community partner” will be recognized with an award.

Here’s a no-brainer preview: Graduation rates in Montana have gone up, dropout rates have gone down – and Missoula’s Graduation Matters effort, which started the whole statewide program, will be among the communities getting an award.

Here’s the official statement from Juneau:

“Through the work of local Graduation Matters communities, hundreds of students’ lives have been changed for the better. When you take a statewide view of the efforts to raise graduation rates and improve college and career readiness, you can see that the economic future of Montana will be forever impacted as a result of local communities and schools working to make graduation matter.”

Details to follow tomorrow!

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Montana kids remain free to drop out at 16

If you’re unhappy with this week’s news that the state Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee tied on a 5-5 vote over whether to raise the age of compulsory education from 16 to 18 or upon completion of graduation requirements, you have company.

Here’s a letter scheduled to run in the Missoulian this Sunday:

It was one of those “are you kidding me” days. I picked up a daily paper to read that a bill to require students to stay in school till they were 18 or graduated didn’t make it out of committee (Missoulian, Jan. 19). One of the reasons was that it could cost the state over a million dollars if those kids stay in school. Are you kidding me! Somebody should have been embarrassed that was even said out loud. We don’t want them to stay in school because it costs too much?

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Mountain Home is one of several great resources for teen parents in Missoula

As the discussion about how best to ensure that pregnant teens and teenage parents meet their graduation requirements continues into the new year, I wanted to be sure to post these recent comments from the head of Mountain Home Montana, a resource and home for young moms in Missoula.

Gypsy Ray actually wrote this a while back but due to some technical glitches I haven’t been able to post it until now. Sorry about the delay, readers, but I’m sure you’ll agree these issues aren’t going away any time soon.

– MM

As a 17 year veteran in the field of social work, specializing in teenage pregnancy, I must say that the closure of the Young Family Program after 25 years was such a disappointment.

Missoula was ahead of the norm with a program like this and now we will behind the times without any childcare programs for parenting high school students. Although the Young Family Program was located at Sentinel High School, it actually served all Missoula County High School students.

Teen parents have so many barriers to completing high school that this is just another reason for teen parents to drop out of high school and get their GED.

Luckily, Missoula has other great programs to help teen parents, just none that provide the childcare and parenting component while teen parents remain in high school.

Teen parents can go to Willard Alternative High School, however there is no childcare available. The EvenStart Program at Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center provides a GED preparation program combined with a parenting program that provides some childcare. However, this is not a high school program, it is a GED program.

Other programs like Futures provide support your teen parents who are pursuing their education including advocacy, support group and case management.

Mountain Home provides housing and support for young mothers and children and require all residents to attend school, however, high school is rarely an option because of the childcare barrier. One of the recent graduates of Mountain Home actually graduated high school last June despite the closure of the Young Family Program, only because she had a reliable vehicle to drive her child to a private daycare and extended family who provided help and support.

In a community where Graduation Matters, I am surprised that Young Families are not a priority. This seems like an easy dropout prevention solution, but the same school system that created Graduation Matters also voted to close the Young Family Program.

Gypsy Ray is executive director of Mountain Home in Missoula.

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Montana to consider raising high school dropout age to 18

Right now, the state of Montana requires children to receive an education until the age of 16. Denise Juneau, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, plans to ask the next legislature – which convenes on Jan. 3 – to raise the age to 18. She asked state Sen. Taylor Brown to introduce a bill, and he obliged with Senate Bill 44.

In a meeting with the governor yesterday, Juneau said she plans to ask legislators to dedicate more money for K-12 education. And speaking of money, a state fiscal analyst predicts raising the compulsory age from 16 to 18 or “upon graduation” could keep about 1,000 more kids in school – and cost about $1 million.

Juneau’s office, on the other hand, says that some three-fourths of prison inmates are high school dropouts. Recognizing that correlation is not causation and all that, I wonder how much we might save by keeping 1,000 more inmates out of Montana prisons.

Something to ponder, perhaps, as this discussion moves into the legislative session. Here’s a link to Senate Bill 44. Read Juneau’s case for raising the age requirement on the Office of Public Instruction website.

– MM

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