The state’s top public school official, Denise Juneau, will be asking the state Board of Public Education today to adopt new, more rigorous academic standards aimed at making Montana high school graduates better prepared for college and jobs.

“They are higher, clearer and more rigorous than what we currently have,” Juneau said in an interview Wednesday. “It provides a higher bar.”

Juneau also said the new standards for language arts and mathematics, developed with the help of a national, state-initiated program and teachers and other educators in the field, will make it easier for parents to know what their kids should be learning.

“They are much more descriptive of the type of content and explain very clearly what a student should be able to do at the end of each grade level,” she said. “They are much more understandable than we’ve ever had before.”

Juneau, the state superintendent of public instruction, plans to recommend at the board’s meeting today in Great Falls that it accept the new “common core state standards” for math and language arts. Standards for social studies and science are still being developed.

If the board agrees, it would hold public hearings on the standards with an eye toward officially adopting them by the end of the year. They could be in effect by the beginning of the 2012 school year, Juneau said.

Common core state standards is an initiative led by the National Governors Association, the Council of State School Officers and several education groups. Juneau and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer entered into the process in 2009.

So far, 43 states have adopted the new standards.

Montana already has achievement standards for its public schools, outlining what students should know by the fourth, eighth and 12th grades. The new common core standards list goals for every grade.

They’re also more detailed, Juneau said. For example, the current math standard might say that a high school graduate should know algebraic functions, but the new standard will say which algebraic functions the graduate must know.

Montana’s core standards also will incorporate Indian Education for All, Montana’s constitutional requirement to teach students about Native American culture, history and contemporary issues, she added.

Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the union representing Montana’s public school teachers, said Wednesday the union supports the new standards — but that he believes current standards already have done a good job preparing Montana students.

He also said that while core subjects are important, they shouldn’t be over-emphasized to the point of crowding out other elements of a public education, such as music, art and other non-core subjects.

“There is a whole array of educational opportunity that ought to be offered to our kids out there, and it’s not just math, English and social studies,” he said.

Juneau said the new standards have been “well-vetted” by Montana teachers and others in the field, and that they eventually will provide a new level of accountability for teaching kids what they need to know, both for succeeding in college or the job market.

About 30 percent of Montana high school graduates need remedial classes in writing and math when they go to college, and the more-detailed and tougher standards could help reduce that number, she said.

If the standards are adopted, they also would lead to a new system of testing, which would enable students here to be compared to students in other states with a common standard, Juneau said.

(4) comments


I hope they can get er done. I was amazed, but not supprised, at the comment Eric Feaver, President of the MEA/MFT Unions, was quoted as saying that the current standards have, "done a good job". It is common knowledge that our education system is/has been failing our kids for quite a time. Now, people are recognizing that fact and are doing something about it. Where have you been Eric? We have to get America Right.


More emphasis is needed on reading, writing and math in 1st through 3rd grade. Science and LANGUAGES should be introduced in 3rd or 4th grade. Social studies and history can wait until middle school. If you don't build a solid foundation first, you can't properly learn what comes later. If you spread instruction across a wide variety of subjects instead of providing concentrated instruction on the core subjects, you're creating a "jack of all trades, but a master of none". For instance, right now it seems that educators are giving students too many "art" type projects in social studies, English and science instead of making the students write reports. They are catering to students who don't read or write well. I understand that some people learn better by "doing", but perhaps these art projects are put in place because the system has failed to get some students to grasp basic skills. Instead of trying to raise the kids up, they are dragging the kids down to the lowest common denominator. Many people might object to this, but it might be best to separate highs school students into two groups: those who only want to attend through the age of 16, then start apprenticeships so they can become employable, and those who want to go on to colleges and universities.


I agree about languages being taught in elementry school. In one of my early education classes we learned that young children pick up languages way faster than older ones/adults.


What we're going to get is LOWER standards for graduation.

Our educators are far more concerned about expecting bigger paychecks than they are about actually educating our children.

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