Local graduation efforts to get more than $200K in grants

Today, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will be in town to announce 35 grants to area schools totaling more than $200,000. The grants are all aimed at promoting higher graduation rates.

Read on for more:

Juneau to Announce Grant Awards with

Missoula-Area Graduation Matters Schools

$203,000 Granted to Improve Graduation Rates

and College and Career Readiness

Missoula, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau will be joined by six Missoula-area schools for the announcement of 35 grants awarded to Montana schools and United Ways to increase the number of Montana students who graduate from high school prepared for college and careers, for a total of $203,000 to support local Graduation Matters initiatives across the state. This is up from 25 grants totaling $165,000 in 2013.

Juneau will be joined by school and community members from Arlee, Hamilton, Hot Springs, Missoula, St. Ignatius, and Thompson Falls.

“We are very pleased to see the impact that Graduation Matters Montana is having on communities across the state,” said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “Since its launch in 2010, local GMM teams have helped hundreds more students graduate, leading to millions of dollars in savings and added boosts to our state’s economy. We have invested in the Graduation Matters Montana program because the strategy and implementation plan targets resources to schools that want to make a difference in the lives of the youth of our state.”

Since the launch of Graduation Matters Montana, the statewide dropout rate has been on the decline, and the graduation rate has gone up. Montana’s high school dropout rate has decreased from 5.0 percent in 2009 to 3.6 percent in 2013, and the graduation rate has increased from 80.7 percent in 2009 to 84.4 percent in 2013. This means that 772 fewer students dropped out in 2013 than in 2009.

WHO: Superintendent Juneau, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Mike Halligan, school leaders, students, and community members from Arlee, Hamilton, Hot Springs, Missoula, St. Ignatius and Thompson Falls.

WHAT: Announcement of $203,000 in grants to Graduation Matters communities and a preview of community plans in 2014-2015.

WHERE: Northern Pacific Depot, Lobby, Railroad Street and N. Higgins (by the X’s), Missoula

WHEN: Wednesday, March 12, 2:00 pm

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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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New challenge funds pouring into Graduation Matters

Graduation Matters was the brainchild of Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle, but it’s sweeping across all of Montana now.

And picking up steam as it goes. Here’s the latest news:

New Donors Invest in

Graduation Matters Challenge Fund

$190,000 Available to Support Graduation Matters Communities

Helena, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau announced the availability of $190,000 in grants from the Graduation Matters Challenge Fund to support new and existing Graduation Matters initiatives.  This year, AT&T has added $20,000 to the Challenge Fund with a portion focused on raising American Indian graduation rates, and the Steele Reese Foundation has invested $20,000 to support rural community efforts. Each grantee will be awarded up to $10,000 to replicate successful dropout prevention strategies. Successful Challenge Fund grantees will be announced in March.

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Last chance to earn a GED before new exam launches

Montana is doing away with its old GED diploma program and, starting next year, will use the new Montana High School Equivalency Exam (HiSET) program instead.

This means that the very last time to take a GED test in Montana and earn that diploma will be Dec. 21. Start studying now!

Back in March, the Montana Board of Public Education approved the development of HiSET. The contract is with the nonprofit Educational Testing Services, and Montana Superintendent of Public Schools Denise Juneau was the one who recommended making the switch.

In a news release announcing the change, Juneau said that, “Montanans who are looking to better their economic circumstances with a high school equivalency diploma are going to have a high quality, affordable option with the new HiSET exam. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for test takers, which is why it was important to allow them to combine their completed portions of the GED with the new HiSET exam.”

Starting next year, those who started but did not complete the GED test (it has five sections, after all) can add their GED test scores to their HiSET scores to avoid having to start all over. This only applies to scores from 2002 or later, however.

A few other new things to note: The HiSET exam costs $50, compared to the old GED test cost of $55. Further, up to two re-tests can be taken for free, provided they are taken in the same calendar year.

And unlike the GED test, which is completely computer-based, the HiSET test can be taken either by computer or by pencil and paper.

Montana joins eight other states – Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Wyoming – using the HiSET system.

ETS has information for Montana test-takers, including materials to help prepare for the tests, on its website.


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The education-themed editorial cartoons continue

These may not be the cheeriest cartoons to share on Christmas Eve – but editorial cartoons are almost always punchy rather than cheery. In any case, hope you’re enjoying them!

– MM




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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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What resources are available for teen parents in Missoula schools?

I was reading this article in today’s Daily Inter Lake about a class for young parents offered at alternative high schools in Kalispell, and it got me wondering what sorts of  resources are currently available for teen parents in Missoula’s high schools.

A while back there used to be a day care in a Missoula high school. It was called the Young Families Program, and it allowed teenage moms to take their babies to school with them and receive great care while they attended classes at Sentinel High School. Not only did the program act as a daycare for these infants, it also provided a meeting place for teenage parents to get together and talk about their experiences and share information about community resources. The employees who ran the program also helped these students connect with other forms of assistance – all with the goal of helping them stay in school and graduate.

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Weekend news story roundup

Here’s a sweet story about two longtime educators retiring from Missoula County Public Schools. Caroline Pockolick is leaving Washington Middle School after 41 years in the Missoula school system, and George Sendon is leaving his post as Willard Alternative High School’s principal.

Also on Sunday, a report from the American Enterprise Institute gave Montana’s universities poor marks for graduation rates. According to the story, the study lists the University of Montana’s grad rate at a measly 42 percent, and Montana State University’s at 48 percent.

I also want to point out this opinion piece from U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell, urging folks to get their kids involved in National Get Outdoors Day this past Saturday. I can say we participated – the whole family went camping Saturday night, and we had a blast. Willow and the dogs played in the dirt, played in the water – heck, they even played with salmon flies – and got eaten by mosquitos despite the gallons of bug spray we used. Can’t wait to do it again!

– Tyler Christensen

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