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Montana high school graduation rates up

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Jan 16 2013 10:10:00 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A new report released by Montana Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau boasts higher graduation numbers for Montana students.

Along with the report Juneau announced a new $150,000 grant that will be used for Graduation Matters initiatives.

Right now nearly 84 percent of Montana students graduate from high school; that’s up nearly two percent from last year.

Some educators credit Graduation Matters with this increase in graduation rates.

“It really is focused on success for all students,” said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.  “When we saw how well that model worked locally and then how well it's working just in one year’s worth of getting out to about 28 different schools, with about 65 percent of the high school kids covered, its working better than we ever imagined.”

Graduation Matters started in Missoula in 2010.  The program brings in public speakers, new technology and electronics aimed at preparing students for college and careers.

NBC Montana talked to high school students to see what they think about the Graduation Matters program.

“I think it's an effective program in helping students who aren't exactly academically motivated,” said Sentinel High School junior Samantha Croft.  “It makes it a little bit easier for them or people who can't keep up with the pace, I think it makes it easier for them too.”

After the program was launched in Missoula the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation donated a $450,000 dollar grant.  Last year $150,000 was used in local schools to start Graduation Matters programs.

“It's been going on since I was in middle school,” said Sentinel High School sophomore Katie Convo.  “It’s really been nailed into us that graduation does matter and our education matters.”

However, some students say they feel Graduation Matters affects the degree to which they're challenged in school.

“If you go back to the motto of ‘quality of education over quantity of graduation,’ personally I would rather have a better educated class with less people, than a lesser educated class with more people,” said Sentinel High School senior Madelyn Roy. 

The new report released by Juneau outlines how many students graduated along with the number of students who dropped out:

In the 2008-2009 school year 2,423 students dropped out; the graduation rate was 80.7 percent. 

In 2009-2010 the amount of dropouts fell to 2,010; the graduation rate held fairly steady at 80.2 percent.

2010-2011 showed a slight drop in the number of dropouts from the previous year, 1,975; the graduation rate that year jumped up 2 percent to 82.2 percent

Last year’s dropout rates decreased to 1,841 students dropping out state-wide and for a third year in row graduation rates increased, rising to nearly 84 percent of Montana students graduating from high school. 

To read the full report click here.