Montana’s high school graduation rate is on the rise. A new report from the state Office of Public Instruction touts a nearly four percent increase in the graduation rate since 2009, up to over 84 percent in 2013.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau attributes much of that success to an initiative started by her office in 2010 called Graduation Matters Montana.
Thirty-three communities in the state have joined the program, which implements locally-designed strategies to keep kids in school.
Juneau says these local programs include students making graduation pledges to an adult who is important to that individual.
“All the research says as long as there’s one caring adult in a child’s life that they’re going to be successful and so they’re building that system at the community level,” she said.
The state’s dropout rate also fell by nearly one and a half percent in the last few years. That equals out to 772 more students graduating in 2013 than in 2009. Juneau believes these figures could be helped more if the state would increase the legal drop-out age.
Right now, that legal age is 16.
“That law was passed in 1921, our economic situation is so different now," Juneau said. "And so we want to make sure that the bar is set high and that that expectation is there.”
Juneau would like to see the legal drop-out age raised to 18 and says she will be advocating for a bill to do so next legislative session.
In addition to this week’s report, the Office of Public Instruction is recognizing five communities with impact awards for outstanding efforts to improve graduation rates. Those communities include Missoula, Rocky Boy, Great Falls, Anaconda, Belgrade as well as the United Ways of Montana.