Jan 19, 2011 5:26 PM by Irina Cates (KPAX News)
MISSOULA - Missoula County Public Schools officials are celebrating its one-year anniversary of the Graduation Matters Missoula program.
Educators were trying to pump up the community in a new effort to help students graduate from high school just about a year ago.
MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle says this effort yielded an impressive result-a nearly 50% decrease in dropout rates in less than one year.
"I'm very thrilled with the progress that we've made. It's due to the efforts of our staff and our community in terms of being supportive of the initiative. I'm very excited to continue our work, because the goal is that once a student enters our school system, they will graduate."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau says Missoula's success is now a state-wide effort called Graduation Matters Montana.
"Take some of the great ideas here, and scale it up, and talk with communities all across Montana about the importance of graduation."
She added that in Montana, about 2,000 students drop out of school each year.
"Our cities probably have the highest number of dropouts, but it's probably our areas with very high poverty, such as on our Indian reservations. Public schools on our Indian reservations probably have the highest dropout rate."
Apostle says it's still early to document specific changes in students who decided to stay in school last year, but he says the community support helped.
"That our young people know that the adults in our community are concerned and supportive of them graduating from high school."
Apostle also says community members donated over $300,000 to the Graduation Matters program and some of this money will help students in low-income families.
Juneau told us that when it comes to education, adults need to set the bar high and then help students reach the set expectations.