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Take the Pledge to Graduation

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.

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About Graduation Matter Montana

Objectives of Graduation Matters Montana:

  1. Increase the rate of Montana students graduating from high school college- and career-ready.
  2. Establish a support network between schools, businesses and community organizations for student success.
  3. 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.

Student-Centered Policies

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.

Policy Changes

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

Relevent 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 graduationmatters@mt.gov or call 406-444-5643.

Graduation Matters Montana Communities

Is there a Graduation Matters initiative in your community?


As of March 2014

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 graduationmatters@mt.gov.

Montana Map of Participating Schools/Districts

North West Western 4 Rivers South Central South East North East North Central Central Hi Line


City Contact
Lewistown Deb Schlagel

Community Schools & Contacts

Graduation Matters Montana Parters

GMM welcomes corporate, community, and foundation partnerships. Click here for our Local Partnership Agreement.

Current GMM partners include:

Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation

Northwestern Energy

Health Occupation Student Association of Montana

Montana Parent Teacher Association

First Interstate Bank


Montana Community Foundation

United Way

Jobs for Montana Graduates

State Farm Insurance

Gear Up

Student Assistance Foundation, Montana

Montana Federal Credit Union Network

GMM Legislation

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

Press Release Archive

Press Releases

Juneau Announces 35 Communities Receive Graduation Matters Grants

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Superintendent Denise Juneau announced the award of 35 grants 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. The Office of Public Instruction was awarded $450,000 over three years from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to support community-based Graduation Matters initiatives. In addition, State Farm Insurance ($10,000), Steele Reese Foundation ($20,000), AT&T ($20,000) and the Going to the Sun Rally Foundation ($3,000) provided funding to add to this year’s Graduation Matters Montana Challenge Fund grants.

"The statewide graduation rate is moving in the right direction due to the hard work happening at the local level across Montana," said Superintendent Juneau. “Hundreds of students have had their lives changed as a result of focused attention by educators, families and community members to ensure young people in Montana have the opportunity to achieve their educational and career goals.”

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. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates Montana will see a $4.3 million annual boost to the state’s economy going forward and an increase of $5.1 million in spending on homes and a $600,000 increase in automobile sales. Collectively, the additional graduates will likely earn an additional $68.2 million over the course of their lifetimes, compared to if they had not graduated from high school.

“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.”

There are currently 42 Graduation Matters communities, and 74 percent of public high school students now attend a school with a Graduation Matters initiative. Graduation Matters communities have focused on identifying students most at risk of dropping out, developing dropout prevention strategies and interventions, building community support, increasing college-going rates, and offering students college and career exploration opportunities.

2014 Graduation Matters Montana Grantees:
Anaconda: $7,000
Arlee: $5,000
Belgrade: $5,000
Billings: $10,000 (United Way of Yellowstone County)
Box Elder: $3,500
Bozeman: $8,000
Browning: $10,000
Columbia Falls: $8,000
Cut Bank: $3,500
Frazer: $4,000
Graduation Matters Gallatin County (United Way of Gallatin County): $5,000
Glendive: $3,500
Great Falls: $10,000 (United Way of Cascade County)
Hamilton: $4,000
Hardin: $7,000
Hays-Lodge Pole: $3,500
Hot Springs: $3,000
Kalispell: $10,000
Laurel: $5,000
Lewistown: $3,000
Libby: $5,000
Lincoln: $4,000
Livingston: $10,000
Lockwood: $8,000
Miles City: $10,000
Missoula: $5,000
Polson: $5,000
Rocky Boy: $3,500
St. Ignatius: $5,000
Stevensville: $7,000
Thompson Falls: $10,000
Three Forks: $4,000
Townsend: $5,000
Whitefish: $3,500

Additional information about the 35 Graduation Matters Challenge Fund grantees can be found here: http://opi.mt.gov/PDF/GradMatters/2014_GMMChallengeFundAwardees.pdf