More communities in Montana will be able to join the Graduation Matters initiative thanks to a six-figure check from a Missoula-based foundation.
State Superintendent Denise Juneau received the first of three installments on the $450,000 grant to help to improve Montana’s graduation rate from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Wednesday.
The check for $150,000 will allow more Montana communities to work to lower school dropout rates.
“This is one area of challenge we really need to address,” Juneau said during a news conference Wednesday.
The word is getting out about the Graduation Matters program, and Juneau says she receives calls from communities around the state weekly asking if they can participate.
Helena is one of 11 communities involved in the program. The grant money will assist 10 to 15 additional communities each year for three years. Those accepted will be awarded up to $10,000 to replicate successful dropout prevention strategies.
Juneau said key components required for successful applicants include the ability to bring together stakeholders to look at data and formulate a plan. Details of the strategy will look different in each community.
“Montanans continue to respond to the call to lower the dropout rate and improve Montana’s economic future,” Juneau said. “All the stakeholders in these communities understand that graduation matters. The Washington Foundation’s investment in Montana’s students is going to pay off for years to come.”
“Investing in the community-based efforts focused on improving the achievement of all students is the single-most important investment we can make in our children,” said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “Developing Graduation Matters programs in school districts across the state sends a message to our children that we care about them and their future.”
Juneau’s Graduation Matters launched in 2010 and aims to cut the dropout rate in half by 2014. That would mean reducing the number of dropouts statewide by about 1,000. There are approximately 10,000 high school graduates in Montana each year.
The initiative was inspired by a similar effort in Missoula led by Superintendent Alex Apostle, which boosted the district’s graduation rate from 80 percent to 87 percent.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, email@example.com or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe