What is Graduation Matters Montana?
Superintendent Juneau launched a statewide effort in the spring of 2010 to ensure Montana's public schools graduate more students prepared for college and careers.
Objectives of Graduation Matters Montana:
- Increase the rate of Montana students graduating from high school college- and career-ready.
- Establish a support network between schools, businesses and community organizations for student success.
- Create school-based and community-based opportunities for student success.
Local Graduation Matters Initiatives
Superintendent Juneau supports the implementation of locally-designed Graduation Matters initiatives that engage schools, communities, businesses and families in a focused effort to increase the number of students who graduate prepared for college and careers. Thirty-three communities have joined Graduation Matters, including all AA schools, smaller, more rural schools, and schools on or near our state's Indian Reservations. Seventy percent of high school students attend a Graduation Matters school, and nearly 8,500 students have taken the pledge to graduate.
In March of 2012, the Office of Public Instruction received a three-year grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation for $450,000 to allow more communities to work to lower their dropout rates. Communities that applied for the challenge fund received up to $10,000 to implement successful dropout prevention strategies. This year twenty five communities received the challenge fund to assist them in achieving higher goals, and if these communities are successful in reaching their goals, Graduation Matters will be able to cut the statewide dropout rate in half by 2014.
Oftentimes, adults plan and discuss educational policy, but rarely talk to the people who will be most directly affected by those plans and discussions: the students. To include student ideas and voices in state-level policies, Superintendent Juneau created the Superintendent's Student Advisory Board.
Twice each year, forty students gather to discuss ways to improve educational opportunities for all students, raise the graduation rate and encourage more students to pursue education and training after graduation. The Student Advisory Board consistently reports that they seek relevant coursework and real-world experiences, clear and consistent rules, a positive school climate and meaningful relationships at their schools. There have now been four Student Advisory Board Summits. To see reports from each Summit, click here.
Superintendent Juneau proposed covering the cost of the ACT for every high school junior in the Office of Public Instruction's budget at the 2011 Legislature. Funding to cover the cost of the ACT for every junior has been secured through a seven-year grant under the Commissioner of Higher Education's GEAR UP program. This partnership between OPI and OCHE will provide a complete picture of how well our K-12 public education system is preparing all students for life after high school and provide every Montana junior the opportunity to assess their college-readiness. The 2012-13 school year was the first year of every Montana junior taking the ACT.
Superintendent Juneau recommended the Board of Public Education approve more rigorous English and math standards. The new English and math standards adopted by the Board of Public Education are higher and clearer than Montana’s previous standards and will prepare our students for college and to compete in today’s global economy. She also convened a task force to review Montana’s accreditation standards to make them more performance-based and to provide school districts needed flexibility to focus on results.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, Superintendent Juneau championed Graduation Matters Montana bills to raise the legal dropout age to “age 18 or upon graduation,” to provide schools with funding to educate 19-year-old students, to increase funding for career and technical education student organizations (CTSOs) and for the Montana Digital Academy. Funding requests for CTSOs and the Montana Digital Academy were successful, and thousands of students will reap the benefits from these expanded services. Superintendent Juneau will continue to support legislation and administrative policies that set high expectations for students, provide career exploration opportunities, and create safe learning environments.
Relevant Coursework and Career Preparation
In Montana, all high school students take at least one career and technical education course, and over half take three or more. Discussions with students make it clear they desire classes that relate to real-world experiences, career preparation and include hands-on learning. Superintendent Juneau supports the expansion of Big Sky Pathways, a partnership with the Montana University System that links students to career coursework paths so they earn college credits and explore careers while they are in high school.
Workforce projections by the U.S. Department of Labor show that by 2018, nine of the 10 fastest-growing occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree will also require significant scientific or mathematical training. Superintendent Juneau is convening education stakeholders and business partners to create a pipeline for students to be prepared for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through OPI’s statewide STEM initiative.
Business and Community Partnerships
Montana employers want an educated and innovative workforce, and schools understand they need to develop new strategies to achieve the goal of preparing educated, work-ready graduates. Superintendent Juneau and local Graduation Matters initiatives are working with statewide and local business partners to engage business and community leaders who are committed to helping students graduate prepared for college and careers and to ensuring Montana communities thrive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. To assist in these efforts, the OPI has developed a business and school partnership toolkit.
I Pledge to Graduate Campaign
Research shows that students are more likely to reach a goal if they identify their own motivations when committing to meet it. Superintendent Juneau, in partnership with local school districts and the Student Advisory Board, launched an "I Pledge to Graduate" initiative in the 2011-2012 school year. Since then, nearly 8,500 students have taken the pledge.
Students pledge to a significant adult that they will graduate and identify specific reasons why graduation is important to them. This high-profile campaign focuses statewide attention on Graduation Matters Montana, engages community and business partners, involves social networking and highlights student voices and ideas.
For more information on Graduation Matters Montana email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 406-444-5643.
Graduation Matters Montana Communities
Is there a Graduation Matters initiative in your community?
As of April 2013
Click on the community to find your local Graduation Matters contact. Don't see your community on the list? If you are interested in starting a Graduation Matters initiative in your community, contact us at email@example.com.
|Columbia Falls||Scott Gaiser|
|St. Ignatius||Jason Sargent|
|Thompson Falls||Jodi Morgan|
Community Schools & Contacts
|Columbia Falls||Scott Gaiser|
|Great Falls||Tom Moore|
|Heart Butte||Laurie Smith|
|Box Elder||Kevin Barsotti|
|Wolf Point||Meryl Zilkowski|
|Miles City||Traci Duffin|
|Lame Deer||Jill Henzie|
Graduation Matters Montana Parters
GMM welcomes corporate, community, and foundation partnerships. Click here for our Local Partnership Agreement.
Current GMM partners include:
The Graduation Matters Montana Legislative Agenda
Senate Bill 13, Raise the Legal Dropout Age to "age 18 or upon graduation"
Currently, Montana students can drop out of high school at age 16, making a decision that will impact them for the rest of their lives. SB 13 would have set a statewide expectation that Montana students should graduate from high school while also providing flexibility for students to pursue other educational options. The last time this law was changed was 90 years ago. In today's global economy, a high school diploma, at minimum, is necessary for students to have a chance at being successful adults. (OPI estimates an additional 244 students each year will stay in school, $2.1M)
This bill failed in the Montana Senate Committee on Education and Cultural Resources.
Want to know more? Download OPI's fact sheet on SB 13
Funding for the Montana Digital Academy to Meet Increased Demand
The MTDA is providing classes to 3,500 students enrolled in 5,500 courses annually. In Montana's rural schools, the MTDA is providing students with access to elective courses that have never before been available, including world languages and AP courses. In our urban schools, the credit recovery classes are allowing students who lack the necessary credits to graduate catch up with their peers, increasing graduation rates in our largest school districts. With the increasing demand for these courses from Montana students, it is expected the MTDA will grow to 10,000 course enrollments annually by 2015. ($745,384 and $783,219 or $1.5M increase from base of $1.17M)
This request for funding was successful as a part of HB 2, the state budget bill.
Senate Bill 14, Provide Funding for Educating 19-Year-Olds
Some students need an additional year or semester to finish their high school diploma; however, schools do not receive any funding to educate 19-year-olds. Montana needs to update this law to reflect the cost of keeping students in school and ensure they graduate. (Estimated cost: $861,000 to serve 110 students per year)
This bill passed in the Montana Senate and failed in the House Committee on Education.
Want to know more? Download OPI's fact sheet on SB 14
House Bill 86, Invest in Career and Technical Education Student Programs
Montana's Career and Technical Education Student Organizations (CTSOs) currently serve 6,287 students. Students who participate in organizations such as FFA, HOSA, and FCCLA gain valuable leadership experience and skills they can use in the workforce and higher education. Additionally, students who take three or more CTE courses have a graduation rate of 96.2 percent. The OPI requests $1M to support CTSOs. The goal of HB 86 is to increase student participation by 10 percent each year of the biennium, resulting in a total of 7,500 students participating in CTSOs by the end of the second year.
This bill passed in both the Montana Senate and House of Representatives and was signed by Governor Bullock on April 24, 2013.
Want to know more? Download OPI's fact sheet on HB 86
OPI and SAF Award $50,000 in Grants to Support College-Going and College-Readine
Friday, November 1, 2013
Superintendent Denise Juneau and Kelly Cresswell, vice president of Foundation Activities at Student Assistance Foundation (SAF), announced the 12 Graduation Matters communities who will be receiving $50,000 in grants from the Graduation Matters Montana Student Assistance Foundation College Readiness Fund. Communities will receive grants ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.
"This strategic investment of funding is expected to bring in more than $3.9 million dollars in federal grant funding for Montana students and families for college,” said Superintendent Juneau. “It is exciting to see Graduation Matters communities setting high goals to reach out to and engage students and families as they prepare for life after high school."
Schools are setting their sights on increasing the number of students in their schools who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by participating in programs such as College Goal Montana. If schools are successful in meeting their goals, it is estimated Montana students and their families will receive $3.9 million in grant awards for their college education. The majority of grantee schools will also participate in College Application Week this November, an effort to increase the number of Montana students who apply for college.
Other activities that will be supported by the grant include: promotion of dual credit courses, providing college and career exploration and mentoring opportunities for middle school and high school students, and outreach to families to increase awareness of financial aid and college and certificate options.
"In addition to funding the important work that will be done through these grants, SAF outreach staff will be participating in many of the activities that will be carried out by our grantees,” said Kelly Cresswell. “Understandably, students are concerned about the cost of higher education. All of us working together will ensure that more students have access to college - socially and financially."
Communities Receiving Awards from the Graduation Matters Montana Student Assistance Foundation College Readiness Fund: Anaconda, Bozeman, Browning, Columbia Falls, Eureka, Great Falls, Hardin, Hot Springs, Libby, Livingston, Missoula and Thompson Falls.
More information about Graduation Matters Montana can be found at: http://graduationmatters.mt.gov.
About Student Assistance Foundation
Student Assistance Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Montana corporation that provides students with knowledge and tools to pursue and fund their postsecondary education. Funds generated by SAF are returned to Montanans in the form of education grants and public benefit programs - to date more than $27 million. For more information, visit www.safmt.org or www.SmartAboutCollege.org.