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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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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More Montana seniors taking AP courses

How many more?

Well, according to the latest report by the College Board, as trumpeted by the Motnana Superintendent’s Office, the AP participate rate is up by 38 percent over the last 10 years.

Read on:

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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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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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Franklin School teacher to get a little money for going the extra mile

This afternoon, at 4 o’clock, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is going to hand over a check for $3,000 to Franklin Elementary School teacher Kathleen Devlin.
Devin’s stipend comes as an award of sorts on top of her recent recognition for achieving National Board Certification. She is now one of 85 teachers in the state who have attained this certification, which requires “an extensive series of performance-based assessments that includes teaching portfolios, student work samples, videotapes, and analyses of the teacher’s classroom teaching and student learning,” according to the state Office of Public Instruction.
Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle, and executive regional directors Mark Thane, Roberta Stengel and Karen Allen are also expected to attend the presenting of the check.
“We are proud to recognize this educator for her hard work and dedication to furthing excellence in education,” Juneau said in a prepared statement.
And Eric Feaver, president of the state teachers’ and public employees’ union, gave his congratulations to the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers:
“Research shows that Nationally Board Certified teachers make a huge difference in the education of the children they serve. That’s why MEA-MFT and our Montana Professional Teaching Foundation (MPTF) help make it possible for teachers to undergo the certification process. We provide subsidy scholarships to defray the high cost of applying. We sponsor workshops  designed to help candidates navigate the certification process. We lobby the legislature to provide successful candidates a one-time-only cash award. And we urge our local teacher bargaining units to negotiate locally funded salary enhancements for teachers who achieve National Board Certification. Many MEA-MFT local affiliates have done just that.
“MEA-MFT and the foundation have been proud to support National Board Certification in Montana since 1997.”
Congratulations, Kathleen Devlin, and kudos to all the other Montana teachers who have taken the extra time and made the extra effort to attain National Board Certification!
UPDATE: Here’s the link to Jamie Kelly’s awesome story about Devlin’s certification in the Missoulian. It notes that she’s only the third teacher in the Missoula County Public Schools district to receive it.
– MM

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Early education news ping-pong

I get regular, always positive news releases on the state of K-12 education in Montana from the state Office of Public Instruction. Often, I dutifully post the releases on this blog for readers.

Naturally, I didn’t hear a peep from OPI about this latest news, which is based on a national study that dealt Montana a failing grade for our math and English standards:

“Montana’s English language arts standards ’are among the worst in the country,’ the study’s three authors wrote.

Findings on Montana’s math standards were equally woeful.”

Ai yi yi.

Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau shrugged off the findings, pointing out that the study failed to include a key portion of the state’s standards, and noting how well Montana has done in other national studies.

So it’s the battle of the studies, apparently.

Meanwhile, the OPI broke some more positive news: Montana is set to take in $11.5 million in Department of Education grants to improve some of our worst-performing schools. Here’s the release, below.

– MM

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