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Montana Won’t Seek Waiver from the U.S. Department of Education

Friday, December 9, 2011

Helena, MT - Superintendent Denise Juneau today announced the Office of Public Instruction will not be seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education from certain requirements of No Child Left Behind under the ESEA Flexibility Plan in exchange for other reforms.

Stated Superintendent Juneau, "I need to make sure any policy change or reform efforts that Montana engages in make sense for our kids and our schools." She continued, "After careful consideration of the impacts on Montana schools and the financial resources that would be necessary to meet the 'all or nothing' requirements of the waiver, it is clear the strings attached to this option do not make sense for our state."

Juneau spent the past several months seeking input from Montanans regarding the waiver option, including representatives from Montana School Boards Association, School Administrators of Montana, MEA-MFT, Montana Indian Education Association, Montana Board of Public Education, Montana Small Schools Alliance and Montana Rural Education Association. Education leaders joined Superintendent Juneau in expressing their concern that the waiver plan is a replacement program for current NCLB requirements which would cost the state millions to implement.  

"Implementing the policies in these 'all or nothing' waiver requirements when they could quite possibly be overruled by Congressional action would be short-sighted. I will keep advocating for rural states and Montana schools so that any new reforms or funding opportunities don't exclude states like ours. We cannot have yet another education reform effort from DC that doesn't take into account the rural nature of our state and provide the flexibility states need to deliver a quality public education," said Juneau.

Montana will continue to move forward with its current reform efforts: promoting community-based efforts to improve graduation rates; adopting higher standards in English and Math and revising our state test to match those standards; creating a new state accountability system with public education partners; developing an evaluation framework for teachers and school leaders aligned with national professional practice standards; and intensive turnaround efforts at Montana's lowest-performing schools. 

A copy of Superintendent Juneau's letter, signed by local education leaders, can be found here: http://opi.mt.gov/PDF/Supt/Dept_of_Ed/ESEA_Waiver_Decline.pdf

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OPI Hosts More than 350 Educators at Annual Title I Conference in Billings

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 8:53 am
By Allyson Hagen
406-444-3160

OPI Hosts More than 350 Educators at Annual Title I Conference in Billings
Juneau Recognizes Two Schools with Distinguished School Awards

Billings, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau will recognize two Montana schools at the Office of Public Instruction’s annual Title I Conference in Billings for their achievements in closing the achievement gap and high academic achievement. This year's conference has more than 350 district and school personnel registered to attend and will cover topics ranging from effective strategies for implementing the Montana Common Core Standards to identifying and providing services to homeless students and increasing community and parent engagement in public schools.

This year’s featured speaker is Aric Bostick, a teacher and motivational speaker who has inspired over half a million people worldwide. Bostick’s presentations and workshop trainings for teachers encourage them to make a difference in young people’s lives, show what it takes to be a great teacher and share communication and motivation tools to benefit students. The keynote presentation is from 8:30 am – 10:00 am on Wednesday.

Title I (one) funds are used to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help economically disadvantaged children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. Schools receiving distinguished school awards met three required qualifications including: a poverty rate of at least 35%, reaching high academic achievement for at least two years and reducing the achievement gap between student groups.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Valley View Elementary, Great Falls, MT
Valley View Elementary in Great Falls is a preK-6 school with an enrollment of 384 students, and 54 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Principal Rhonda McCarty believes the single most important factor contributing to the success of Valley View Elementary is people working together in teams to support the best interest of kids and adults going above and beyond to help one another. All grade level teams have a shared planning time during the week allowing teachers to work in an uninterrupted setting to address standards, curriculum, assessments, lesson plans and student learning. Teachers in grades 4-6 also have a shared planning time with teachers teaching the same content. Content area teachers use this time to understand how standards and expectations spiral from grade level to grade level. Valley View also focuses on ongoing professional development, data driven decision making, and engaging families in students’ learning through strategies such as parent teacher home visits.

High Academic Achievement: Boulder 7-8, Boulder, MT
Boulder 7-8 serves more than 50 students, and approximately 59 percent of Boulder students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Principal Maria Pace believes the single most important factor contributing to the success of Boulder 7-8 is the core belief that all students are held to the highest standard of excellence and accountability. School leaders also point to their focus on high quality instruction, supporting each educator in their individual professional growth, and staff-driven decision making. Specifically, teachers have been trained on differentiated instruction (Response to Intervention), which has led to higher rates of achievement in English and math.

For more information, download the Title I Conference agenda:
http://www.opi.mt.gov/pdf/TitleI/2014Conf/14TitleIConfAgenda.xlsx

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OP-EDS

ACT for All Provides Opportunity for College and Career Exploration

Superintendent Denise Juneau
April 18, 2013

Currently, 60 percent of Montana's graduating seniors take the ACT. The ACT measures the skills and knowledge in English, math, reading, and science that students have learned in school and need to know in order to be ready for first-year college courses. On Tuesday, April 23, every public school junior in Montana will take the ACT college entrance exam at no cost to their families.

The test will be provided for public school juniors without cost for the next five years because of a partnership between the Office of Public Instruction and Montana GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). Offering the ACT test to all public school juniors will provide us with a statewide picture on how well prepared Montana students are to enter higher education.

When I informed my Student Advisory Board about this opportunity, they cheered and applauded with excitement. Most of my advisory board members are juniors and seniors, getting ready to make major decisions about their futures. Each of them knows that acquiring training and education beyond high school will provide them with greater opportunities for economic success. Each of them knows doing well on the ACT can open doors for them as they make plans for life after high school. These opportunities can include access to dual-credit courses as well as scholarships and grants for college.

It is estimated that by 2018, 64 percent of job openings nationally will require education and training beyond high school. In today's global economy, we need to be sure we are preparing Montana's students to be economically successful adults. Some students who thought they were ready for college may find they need to take another math class before they graduate. Other students who hadn't thought college was a possibility for them may find they have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.

Other states in our region have implemented statewide ACT testing for every junior, including Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. Logistical benefits of statewide ACT testing for all public school juniors include: the testing will occur during a school day, students do not have to drive to testing sites, and there will be a make-up day on May 7 for those students unable to attend the April 23 testing day. Students can also send their test results to as many as four colleges at no cost.

As April 23 approaches, use this opportunity to talk with your child about his or her plans for the future and what career path he or she is thinking of pursuing. When students receive their results, usually about four or five weeks after the test, take some time to review their results with them and with their guidance counselor. Many students may decide to take the ACT again their senior year if they believe they can get a better score.

Parents and students can find free practice tests and materials as well as career-planning tips at www.act.org.

Best of luck to all the ACT test takers!

 

The Power of Business and Education Partnerships

Superintendent Denise Juneau
August 13, 2012

Last month, at the first-ever Graduation Matters Montana Summit, business and community leaders joined school districts from thirty communities to focus on improving student achievement and graduation rates in Montana. These business and community partners have stepped up because they understand that each of us has a role to play in supporting student success and that public education directly impacts Montana's economic future.

Business leaders from State Farm Insurance, First Interstate Bank, Mountain West Broadcasting and PRO Outfitters discussed how educators and businesses can work together to support students and our economy. Businesses can help students make the connection between what they learn in school and the skills they need in the work force. They encouraged educators to tap into their local businesses for job shadowing opportunities, internships and classroom presentations. They also discussed the importance of educators and businesses working together to help make students aware of the variety of jobs available in our state.

Our business leaders are looking for workers not only with academic skills but also critical thinking and communication skills, creativity, adaptability, resilience and the ability to work in teams.

From the very beginning, I have known that in order for Graduation Matters Montana to be successful, entire communities will need to work together to get the job done. The economic future of our state depends on a quality public education system. As Montana citizens, we must get involved in supporting the students who will lead our state into the future.

Today's students are your future customers, employees, tax payers, board members, parents and community leaders. If we don't provide them with a quality education, opportunities to explore careers and seek out mentors, and encourage them to go on to college or skills training programs, we won't have the bright future that all of us want for our state.

More and more, our kids are going to need training after high school to compete for jobs in today's 21st century economy. By 2018, more than 60% of jobs are going to require training and education beyond high school. Compare that to 1973, when only 28% of jobs required education after high school. Workers in Montana who didn't finish high school are making on average $9 per hour, while college graduates make on average $17 per hour. We cannot expect to have a booming economy on $9 per hour wages.

The changing demands of our economy require greater collaboration between K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and businesses. I commend the school districts who have signed on to become Graduation Matters communities. They are committing to take a hard look at their data, be open with their communities about their challenges, open their doors to new partnerships and embrace the hard work of graduating every student prepared for college and the work force.  

Montana students are capable of developing the skills necessary to succeed in a global economy. We need to challenge them, provide them with opportunities for relevant, engaging classes and work experiences and allow them to rise to the challenge.

Students are asking us for these opportunities and these relationships. I challenge Montana's business community to seek out ways they can be involved in local and statewide Graduation Matters efforts and continue to make a difference in the lives of students in their communities. For ideas of ways to support students and a list of current Graduation Matters communities, go to our website: http://graduationmatters.mt.gov.  

Preparing Montana's Students for Tomorrow's Opportunities

Superintendent Denise Juneau
May 8, 2012

Graduation Matters Montana! All across the state, students are walking across the stage to receive their diploma and celebrating this significant milestone with their families and friends. As State Superintendent, I have the privilege to share in several graduation celebrations. This year, I will speak at Rocky Boy’s high school graduation after being invited by two students who serve on my Student Advisory Board. These two young leaders started a peer mentoring program to improve their school’s graduation rate, and both are going to attend college.

I will also address the graduates of Miles Community College, which was recently recognized as one of the top 120 community colleges in the country. Miles Community College is working hard to ensure their programs prepare students to meet the workforce needs of their community and to provide opportunities for those already working to improve their skills so they can advance in their careers.

I will also speak to families and graduates in Great Falls, a community that has committed to Graduation Matters Montana and the promise we have made statewide to graduate more students prepared for college and careers. One thing is true no matter where I travel in Montana – education means opportunity and the chance for a brighter future.

For some Montana students, their graduation ceremony will also be a reminder of the friends and classmates who aren't walking across the stage with them. With nearly 2,000 students dropping out every year, we all have work to do to make sure our state has the educated workforce necessary to compete in a global economy. I know it will take entire communities, working together to achieve the goal I have set of cutting our dropout rate in half by 2014. I also know that Montanans are up for the challenge.

This imperative to ensure an educated workforce for Montana is why 27 communities have launched their own locally-designed Graduation Matters initiatives. And students are taking the lead in their communities as well, working with their peers and school leaders on "I Pledge to Graduate" events. Since October, nearly 3,000 students have taken the pledge to graduate.

I know we must do more than simply graduate more students from high school. We must make sure Montana students are prepared for the jobs of the future, many of which will require training and education beyond high school.

That’s why I worked with the Board of Public Education to raise academic standards in English and math. It’s also why I worked with my partners in higher education to provide the ACT at no cost for all juniors for the next seven years, allowing every student the opportunity to assess their college-readiness. Giving every student the opportunity to see if they are ready for college or if they need to adjust their coursework during their senior year in order to get ready is going to pay off for our students and their families.

When I visit with students, they are clear in their desire that their classes relate to real-world experiences, prepare them for careers and include hands-on learning. Another critical partnership with the Montana University System is Big Sky Pathways, which links students to career coursework paths so they earn college credits and explore careers while they are in high school.

As you celebrate the graduates in your life, remember that investing in our young people is the only way to ensure our future economic success. Making sure that a high school diploma means each student is prepared to pursue their dreams is the promise of public education and the goal we must continue to strive to meet together as educators, families, students and community members. Our economic future depends on us delivering on that promise.

The Spirit of Community Superintendent

Denise Juneau
December 14, 2011

I recently visited Riverside Middle School in Billings where the school’s theme for the holidays is, "Everyone is a giver." Principal Sharon Tietema told me that when her students experience giving to others in their community, it leaves a lasting and powerful impression.

On Cougar Kindness Day, students, staff and volunteers from Riverside Middle School visit senior centers, make gifts for veterans and cookies for the police and fire departments, volunteer at the food bank and shovel sidewalks for community members. Students also read to and make cookies and crafts with local elementary students. These acts of kindness are impressive and illustrative of the school's genuine support of their students and the Billings community.

I can't think of a better theme for the holidays. The spirit of community is one of the things I love most about Montana. There are examples of giving everywhere I look across the state.

My family instilled in me the importance of giving back, looking out for those less fortunate and striving to ensure opportunity for all. A woman once told me that my grandfather had played a significant role in her life. He was a truancy officer and had to check on her and her brother when they were missing school. When he went to her house, he discovered that they were not attending because they didn’t have shoes to wear and could not afford to buy any. She explained that my grandfather came back with pairs of shoes for her and her brother so they could attend school. Today, that woman is a teacher, and she is helping her students understand the importance of giving so others can succeed.

Supporting kids, in whatever way you can, can have a profound impact on their future. There are many ways to ensure the basic needs of kids are met in your community including supporting your local food bank or donating a warm winter coat.

In fact, there are many ways to be a giver year-round. Volunteering your time in a classroom, supporting your local education foundation, running for school board, joining the PTA, mentoring a young person or starting an internship program in your office are great ways to support schools and your community and make a difference in the lives of young people.

A quality public education requires all of us to be givers of time, energy, ideas, donations and talents. Schools are the heart of Montana communities and deserve all that we can give. Helping our young people to become educated is a gift that supports individuals, communities, our state and our country.

 

Farm to School Programs Support Local Economies and Health of Montana Children

Superintendent Denise Juneau
October 13, 2011

This past spring, I attended the Gallatin Valley Farm Fair where local farmers, FFA students, the Gallatin Conservation District and local businesses come together annually to share their expertise and excitement about agriculture and conservation with fourth graders across the county.

Teachers told me their students ask questions for weeks after their visit to the Farm Fair. Even though Montana students are surrounded by open space and farmland, many of them have not had the opportunity to see a working farm or see firsthand where their food comes from. Watching kids' eyes light up when they get the chance to pet a horse or learn how to milk a cow is a great reminder of how important it is to offer outdoor learning opportunities for our students and take advantage of our community members’ knowledge to make learning interactive and relevant for students.

October is National Farm to School month. Our state has a deep and rich connection to agriculture.  Sixty years ago, about 70 percent of the food Montanans put on their tables was produced right here in the state.  Today, that number has dropped to approximately 10 percent. In that same time span, we've seen an increase in processed foods, childhood obesity and childhood hunger. We need to get more Montana-produced food into our schools, where it will provide our children with the nutritious meals they need to stay healthy.

Farm to School programs are a win-win situation for all involved.  In Montana, 80,000 students are served by the school lunch program every day. Our schools can provide a substantial and consistent market for local farmers and ranchers, which in turn, supports our rural communities. Community-based agriculture has the potential for creating jobs, developing small business entrepreneurships and keeping precious dollars in the community.

Not only is there an economic benefit to our communities by supporting Farm to School programs, there is also a health benefit for children.  Farm to School programs educate students about the interconnection of food, nutrition, and agriculture and encourage them to make healthier food choices.

Farm to School programs include educational opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking demonstrations, creating "made in Montana" menu items and farm tours. Farm to School programs are popping up in Montana's urban and rural schools. For example, more than 40 of our schools have gardens where students prepare the soil, plant the seeds, care for the plants and watch them grow. Those students now have ownership of the food they helped grow and harvest.

Children in Boulder participate in after-school and summer programs using donated garden space to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for local families, other students and for after-school cooking classes. Some of the produce is sold at Boulder Farmer's Market and the local grocery store.

Montana Farm to School efforts also include FoodCorps, the nation's first statewide team of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers trained to start and expand Farm to School programs. In 2006, FoodCorps started working in six schools and has now expanded to a dozen communities. 

All across our state, school nutrition programs, non-profit organizations, school administrators, teachers, parents, farmers, ranchers, policy makers and state agencies are coming together to explore the many strategies for connecting children to their food sources and agriculture, Montana's largest industry.

Farm to School programs have something for everyone because they improve learning, nutrition and local economies. I hope you will join me in supporting your school's Farm to School efforts.

Summer Reading is the Key to Keeping Students on Track

Superintendent Denise Juneau
July 13, 2011

Summer has finally arrived in Montana.  Even though school is out, young people will experience learning losses if they don’t engage in educational activities during their summer break. 

Going to the public library to check out books was one of my favorite summertime activities.  My friends and I rode our bikes to the library, explored the stacks and returned home with several books that would fill hours of our time.  Reading opened doors to other world-views, made me interested in many different topics and exposed me to new ideas.  Reading continues to inform and inspire me.  It is a vital skill for every child to have and maintain for their future success.  Reading should be a year-round activity.

Summer is a very important time to sustain the reading habits teachers and parents work so hard to establish during the school year.  The U.S. Department of Education reports that, on average, children are set back by 25% in reading skills each summer.  This is often referred to as summer reading loss.  For students who struggle with reading, summer can set them back significantly from their peers. 
 
What this means is that the gap in reading skills between readers and struggling readers grows each year.  Children don’t “catch up” in the fall because the other children are moving ahead with their skills. By the end of 6th grade, struggling readers can be as much as two years behind their classmates if they are not keeping up their skills during summer.

Summer reading loss contributes to achievement gaps between Montana students, and we need to work together to make sure all our students achieve their full potential. Ensuring students are able to read complex materials and engage in critical thinking will keep them on track to graduate and prepare them for college and careers.

There are many ways you can work with your child to ensure their learning continues all year long and they continue to stay on track with their classmates. Research shows that reading just five or six books during the summer can help keep a struggling reader from falling behind.

Libraries across Montana have great summer reading programs. The theme for this summer's program is One World Many Stories. If you want information on what programs your local library may be offering for kids this summer, go to: mymontanalibrary.org.

Other websites with a wealth of information about helping your child choose a book that interests them as well as tips for parents and families to engage children in reading and learning throughout the summer include: scholastic.com and readingrockets.org.

Another way to connect a child to reading is to give them the opportunity to become an author, which is also a great way to keep up their writing skills. There are several websites that allow students to create and publish their own work such as storybird.com and storyjumper.com.

No matter how you choose to work on reading with your child, the important thing is that you make reading a year-round  family priority so they have fond memories of summer reading and library visits and increase their skills for future success.

Why Graduation Matters for All Montanans

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau
January 18, 2011

I recently received an e-mail from a former student thanking me for believing in her while she was in high school and for giving her hope that she could do something successful in her life.  Although she left school before graduating, she received her GED and joined the National Guard.  She is now married, has two beautiful sons and is serving our country in Iraq.  My response was that she was, and continues to be, worthy of high expectations.  I believe that adults should hold high expectations of each student. 

One of those expectations should be ensuring that young people graduate from high school. Graduation is a fundamental quality of life issue for individuals, their families and communities, and the State of Montana.

So how are we doing on that fundamental quality of life issue?

The short answer: not well enough.  Last year, 2,010 students in grades 7-12 dropped out of school. This number is much too high. To confront this challenge, I have launched Graduation Matters Montana, an initiative aimed at increasing the graduation rate in our state. This statewide initiative is modeled after a successful program that started in Missoula.

Montana is one of a dwindling number of states that allows students to legally drop out of high school at age 16.  My priority piece of legislation in 2011 is to raise the legal dropout age from "age 16" to "age 18 or upon graduation." I am pleased to be working with state Senator Taylor Brown (R-Billings) on this critical piece of legislation, Senate Bill 44.  

The law allowing students to drop out of high school at age 16 has not been changed in 90 years, but the world we live in has changed during that time.  We now live in a time of social and economic circumstances that requires, at a very minimum, a high school diploma.

A high school graduate earns an average of more than $9,200 annually than a student who drops out.  Individuals with a high school diploma have an employment rate twice as high as individuals who dropped out of high school.  In addition, nearly 75 percent of the inmates in the Montana State Prison system are high school dropouts.  About 35 percent of the population in the Montana State Prison system has achieved neither a diploma nor a GED.

Our changing world and the economic success of the next generation demand that we take action to increase the graduation rate in Montana.

I also understand that when we expect more from our schools and students, we need to create flexibility and alternatives for implementation.  That is why Senate Bill 44 allows for different pathways to success for students. These pathways include adult basic education and the GED, Job Corps, Youth Challenge or apprenticeships.  We will continue to work with schools to share successful models and support the good work currently being done in communities across Montana to address the dropout rate.

I recently convened the first-ever Student Advisory Board, which includes 40 students from 31 Montana schools, to get their advice on dropout prevention.  They confirmed that students have a desire to do well in school and be successful adults, but they need options, flexibility, and career-relevant course work in their school setting. Raising the legal dropout age is a beginning, rather than an end to the work that lies ahead. 

I firmly believe that children will rise to meet the expectations we set for them. As a state, we need to set the expectation for our young people that they will graduate from high school.

If you share my belief that graduation matters, join us as we engage students, parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders to make sure schools are meeting students’ needs to prepare them to succeed in the 21st century and be productive members of our communities.

 

Local Values Come First in Montana's Race to the Top Proposal

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
June 10, 2010

Last week, Governor Brian Schweitzer, Board of Public Education Chair Patty Myers, more than 700 local schools and I submitted Montana's Race to the Top application to the U.S. Department of Education. The schools participating in this opportunity represent 94% of Montana's K-12 students, and a winning proposal could bring up to $74 million in federal funds that will benefit all schools in Montana.

Other states, during their application process, passed charter school laws, tied teacher performance to student test scores, adopted national standards that have not yet been finalized, and fired teachers and staff wholesale. None of this is proposed in the Montana Plan because they will not work in our state. Montana has not changed its laws or administrative rules to apply for one-time-only federal funding.

We have written a plan that maintains Montana's constitutional tradition of local control and fits our rural – or frontier – state status. The Montana Plan allows schools to implement innovative programs to reach every student based on their local context. It demonstrates the education community's commitment to improve education for all of our students.

The Montana Plan we submitted maintains our educational values and traditions because it builds on our current educational structure which works for so many of our students.

The Montana Plan includes refining and aligning Montana's rigorous state standards to international benchmarks so students are college and career ready. These standards promote world-class academic standards and a curriculum that fosters critical thinking and problem solving.

The Montana Plan provides new supports for teachers and principals to improve instructional effectiveness. It also continues our innovative work to keep great teachers in Montana schools. The Montana Plan builds on our partnerships with post secondary educators so we prepare and recruit the best and brightest in Montana to the teaching profession.

The Montana Plan calls for enhancements to data systems that will better coordinate information between schools and the state, which will help increase transparency and accountability, and help teachers, administrators, and policy-makers use data to improve instruction and make strategic decisions about the best use of limited resources.

Finally, the Montana Plan provides help to transform those schools that have historically struggled with academic achievement by creating a supportive partnership between the school, the community, and state leaders.

The Montana Plan, our Race to the Top application, is about providing a high-quality education for all children. Our state's economic competitiveness and the path to college and career success depends on providing every child with an education that will enable them to succeed in the 21st century economy which is based on knowledge and innovation.


Cast Your Vote for Student Achievement and Economic Prosperity

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
April 30, 2010

On May 4, you will elect school board members for your local district and vote on mill levies to support your local school. The vote you cast is vitally important to your community's future. In a recovering economy, it is especially important to focus on the next generation and make sure our students have the skills and knowledge to compete in the global economy.

You have an opportunity to ensure a quality education is provided to students and to bolster Montana's economy by voting in school board elections and on local mill levies.

School boards are very powerful elected bodies. They deal with multi million dollar budgets and make policy decisions that establish the vision for our schools. They make critical choices such as hiring the superintendent and administrators responsible for establishing the organizational and operational structure needed to create a positive learning environment. School boards decide everything from establishing bus schedules to determining the length of the school year. Your vote in local school board elections determines the future of all students in your community.

School boards play a large role in student achievement. They establish goals for student achievement and evaluate student progress. They are responsible for adopting policies that affect all schools and students in the district. Researching each candidate's views on positions is essential. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating a candidate:

  • Does the candidate understand the role of the school board in promoting academic excellence?
  • Does the candidate understand all the issues facing the school district; both educational and economic challenges?
  • Will the candidate bring additional skills to the board and represent the diversity of the community?
  • Will the candidate be able to do what is right for all children, even if it requires making unpopular decisions?

There is much at stake on May 4. Members of your school board must be dedicated to serving all children of your community. They must believe in the value of public education and understand their strategic role in promoting the best interests of the entire school community. When schools flourish, Montana's students achieve academic excellence and our entire state benefits.

Please make your voice heard on May 4 by voting in school board elections and on local mill levies.


Education is the Great Equalizer

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
January 19, 2010

This week we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—a man who brought, and still brings, hope and healing to our country. His legacy continues to press us forward in our advocacy of equality and justice—and to serve our communities. Education is still the most important ingredient in ensuring a child's success in life and our state's strength and economic well-being. It is still the great equalizer in our society. Ensuring students' academic achievement takes parents and community members partnering with schools and teachers to promote a quality education. Our work toward closing the achievement gap in Montana between American Indian and non-Indian students is a cornerstone of this work and something we must all share a deep commitment toward. Now is the time to look to the future, develop new ideas and strategies, and push ourselves as individuals, as schools, and as communities to ensure a great education for ALL students.

We all have an opportunity to greatly impact the life of children and prepare them for the future. Building productive and supportive relationships is the key to helping kids meet and overcome the challenges in their lives. Studies repeatedly demonstrate the most effective strategies for success are the ones that employ the four pillars of family, school, community and self.

We know that a parent's involvement with schools is more important than any other factor to a child's success. One of the most important things parents can do is ensure their child receives the guidance and encouragement they need to be successful. When parents communicate regularly with their children's teachers, when they are familiar with homework assignments and the daily classroom routine, children know their education comes first, at home and at school. When teachers and parents work together, they can and do make a difference in the lives of children every day.

Parental involvement in school benefits students in many ways, including improved grades and test scores, increased attendance and homework completion, positive student behavior, increased high school graduation rates, and increased enrollment in post secondary education.

When schools successfully create and sustain strong relationships with parents, there is increased access to resources and information, as well as a shared vision of students succeeding. However, schools cannot succeed in isolation. External support from local communities and businesses is needed to expand partnerships and create an environment that provides opportunities for everyone to become involved in education and participate in decision making.

I have visited with many people from every corner of Montana over the last few years, and in particular paid several visits to the schools and communities on the Fort Belknap reservation and surrounding area recently. Hands down, the people with the most optimism, every time, are students, your children and grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your students. They dream big dreams: dreams they are counting on us to help them achieve. We want students who can think critically, ask questions, identify and solve problems, and know how to work together. We want students who know and understand their subject areas. We want them to become our future tribal leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses, professors and teachers. When all of us pull together, we can succeed in this mission. We all must encourage students to do well and aspire to be whatever they want to be. With your backing, and that of everyone around them, there is no limit to what our students will achieve this year and in years to come.

At the Office of Public Instruction, we strive to guarantee all students receive a quality public education. Meeting this goal requires all of us -- students, families, schools, and communities – to be better informed and work together. The OPI stands ready to provide vision, advocacy, support, and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all students meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities. The OPI continues to work closely with schools on the Fort Belknap reservation and surrounding area to address challenges and provide on-going support. We believe that through collaboration at the state, local and tribal level, we can produce the change our students deserve.

We should all be very proud of Montana schools and students, and we must continue to be inspired by Dr. King. As he stated in his "I Have a Dream" speech, "we cannot walk along. And as we walk, we must pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.


Back to School

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
August 24, 2009

A new school year holds the promise of learning that will open so many doors for the children of Montana. Education is still the most important ingredient in ensuring a child's success in life and our state's strength and economic well-being. It is still the great equalizer in our society. Ensuring students' academic achievement takes parents and community members partnering with schools and teachers to promote a quality education.

We all have an opportunity to greatly impact the life of children and prepare them for the future. Building productive and supportive relationships is the key to helping kids meet and overcome the challenges in their lives. Studies repeatedly demonstrate the most effective strategies for success are the ones that employ the four pillars of family, school, community and self.

We know that a parent's involvement with schools is more important than any other factor to a child's success. One of the most important things parents can do is ensure their child receives the guidance and encouragement they need to be successful. When parents communicate regularly with their children's teachers, when they are familiar with homework assignments and the daily classroom routine, children know their education comes first, at home and at school. When teachers and parents work together, they can and do make a difference in the lives of children every day.

Parental involvement in school benefits students in many ways, including improved grades and test scores, increased attendance and homework completion, positive student behavior, increased high school graduation rates, and increased enrollment in post secondary education.

When schools successfully create and sustain strong relationships with parents, there is increased access to resources and information, as well as a shared vision of students succeeding. However, schools cannot succeed in isolation. External support from local communities and businesses is needed to expand partnerships and create an environment that provides opportunities for everyone to become involved in education and participate in decision making.

Finally, students are the core of schools. We want students who can think critically, ask questions, identify and solve problems, and know how to work together. We want students who know and understand their subject areas. When all of us pull together, we can succeed in this mission. We all must encourage students to do well and aspire to be whatever they want to be. With your backing, and that of everyone around them, there is no limit to what our students will achieve this year and in years to come.

At the Office of Public Instruction, we strive to guarantee all students receive a quality public education. Meeting this goal requires all of us -- students, families, schools, and communities -- to be better informed and work together. The OPI stands ready to provide vision, advocacy, support, and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all students meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities.

We should all be very proud of Montana schools and students. I wish every student a great year of learning opportunities.


Cast Your Vote for Student Achievement

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
April 29, 2009

On May 5, you will elect school board members for your local district. The vote you cast is vitally important.

School boards are very powerful elected bodies. They deal with multi-million dollar budgets and make policy decisions that establish the vision for your school. They make critical choices such as hiring the superintendent and administrators responsible for establishing the organizational and operational structure needed to create a positive learning environment. School boards decide everything from establishing bus schedules to determining the length of the school year. Your vote in local school board elections determines the future of all students in your community.

School boards play a large role in student achievement. They establish goals for student achievement and evaluate student progress. They are responsible for adopting policies that affect all schools and students in the district.

As a voter, you may be concerned about student transportation, textbooks, curriculum standards, assessments, and school construction. Others may be concerned about technology, community partnerships, and fiscal challenges. Researching each candidate's views on positions is essential. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating a candidate:

  • Does the candidate understand the role of the school board in promoting academic excellence?
  • Does the candidate understand all the issues facing the school district; both educational and economic challenges?
  • Will the candidate bring additional skills to the board and represent the diversity of the community?
  • Will the candidate be able to do what is right for all children, even if it requires making unpopular decisions?

There is much at stake on May 5. Members of your school board must be dedicated to serving and teaching all children. They must believe in the value of public education and understand their strategic role in promoting the best interests of the entire school community. When schools flourish, Montana's students achieve academic excellence and our entire society benefits.
This year, school board elections occur on May 5th. Please vote for those who will deliver a bright future for all students in your community.


Funding Public Education

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
February 11, 2009

Last week, nearly fifty people from rural and urban towns across Montana traveled to Helena and told their stories about crumbling school buildings, problems recruiting teachers to their towns, outdated textbooks, lack of classroom supplies, and understaffed classrooms. Yet, our public schools continue to provide an education where students demonstrate high achievement on standardized tests and high graduation rates. It is imperative we maintain a level of funding so public schools can continue their good work. Our students deserve the best education our state can provide. Indeed, if we lose ground in providing the best education system possible, the results will be disastrous for our state.

Senate Bills 69 and 70, sponsored by Senator Gary Branae, would increase school funding $61.2 million dollars more than the Governor proposed in his budget. These bills are necessary so schools can cover costs and do not have to cut programs or staff over the next two years.

Public education is the only endeavor our state constitution requires the Legislature fund. "The Legislature shall provide a basic system of free quality public elementary and secondary schools… It shall fund and distribute in an equitable manner to the school districts the state's share of the cost of the basic and elementary and secondary school system."

Many people presume schools already receive enough money and do not understand why more is necessary. It is important to remember school funding was neglected for 10 years prior to the latest school funding lawsuit. Also, the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act resulted in additional regulatory burdens and more administrative paperwork without sufficient funds to cover those costs. However, schools accept that additional accountability and continue to meet the federal and state requirements while ensuring students are provided a valuable learning experience.

The Legislature has defined a basic system of quality education and provided funding according to that definition over the last two legislative sessions. The foundation of a quality education, according to the legislative definition, is the accreditation standards set by the state Board of Public Education.

However, despite an increase in funding over the last two legislative sessions, the number of schools deficient in accreditation standards grew from 9% to 15% from 2004-07. Additionally, Montana ranks 44th nationwide in teachers' salaries and new teachers continue to leave our state to seek more competitive wages.

The Legislature considers several “educationally relevant factors” when funding schools and created funding components for each, including number of students, needs of American Indian students, and ability to attract and retain qualified educators.

SB 69 increases the total quality educator payment, which provides funds to schools on a per teacher (and other professionals) basis, to $4,600 for fiscal year 2010 and to $6,200 for each succeeding fiscal year. Increasing the total quality educator payment to these levels will help schools with their challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers and bring Montana's average teacher's salary up to the national median over six years.

The Governor proposed a three percent increase for the basic entitlement and per-student payments to schools. SB 70 proposes an equitable increase of three percent for each of the other components in the Legislature's definition of a quality education.

I traveled across our state during the 2008 campaign and never met a parent who did not want their child to become better educated. Parents have high expectations for their children's education, including becoming successful in their future careers, successful preparation for post secondary education, and achieving economic success. Adequate funding is critical to ensure a quality education for all Montana's students - no matter their background, their heritage, their economic status, or geographic location.

It is sometimes easy to claim that education simply asks for more money without understanding the challenges facing our schools or the promises it holds for all of our futures. Public education greatly influences our state's economy, and although we do not see the fruits of this investment for a generation, every dollar that is spent now, particularly in tough economic times, makes sense. When we ensure a quality education is provided to every student, there will be fewer incarcerations, less dependency on the welfare system, and greater global economic competitiveness.

Adequate funding will ensure an educational system that fosters student excellence and gives Montana's students the tools they need to solve the economic challenges we face as a nation. Despite funding difficulties, we all remain proud and supportive of our schools, their community connections, and the students they educate.

Denise Juneau,
Superintendent of Public Instruction

Multimedia


2009 Education Week

SUPERINTENDENT DENISE JUNEAU

Inspiring Montanans
Superintendent Denise Juneau on the meaning of American Education Week.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/Juneau/AmericanEducation.mov

Get involved
Superintendent Denise Juneau on why education is important to all Montanans.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/Juneau/Important1.mov


TEACHER OF THE YEAR ANNE KEITH

Making our state stronger
Teacher of the Year Anne Keith talks about what parents and members of the community can do to get involved with their local school.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/TeacherOfYear/StrongerSchools2.mov

Tomorrow's world
Teacher of the Year Anne Keith on what she is doing to prepare her students for tomorrow's world.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/TeacherOfYear/TeachForFuture.mov


AMERICA'S TOP YOUNG SCIENTIST MARINA DIMITROV

Doing great things
America's Top Young Scientist Marina Dimitrov on the importance of getting kids excited about science.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/kid/ExcitingScience.mov

Science is cool
America's Top Young Scientist says more girls should get involved in science.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/kid/PinkDucttape.mov

Working together
America's Top Young Scientist on what she likes best about school.
Clip link: http://opi.mt.gov/Streamer/Supt/EdWeek09/kid/ScienceFAV.mov

Biography

Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public InstructionAs Montana's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau is working hard to provide every Montana child a quality education that creates opportunities for them to be highly competitive in the global economy.

Juneau grew up in Browning, Montana, the daughter of two educators. She attended, taught in, and worked with Montana's public school classrooms from elementary school through higher education and throughout her professional career. 

Superintendent Juneau is proud of the work of Montana’s educators and students.  Our public education system produces great outcomes with students scoring in the top five states in math, science, and reading on national tests.  She also realizes that we cannot rest on our laurels and must continually improve and confront challenges when we discover them.  One of the areas in need of improvement is increasing high school graduation rates.

The Office of Public Instruction’s new data system shows that more than 2,000 students drop out of Montana schools every year. In order to ensure that Montana students graduate from high school ready for college and careers, Superintendent Juneau launched a statewide initiative, Graduation Matters Montana. Making sure all students have opportunity and access to higher education and good paying jobs is more meaningful for our state and our country than ever before.  Making sure all students receive a quality K-12 education, and that they walk out the door as young adults with a diploma or certificate in their hand, is urgent and essential work.

As part of Graduation Matters Montana, Juneau started the first-ever Superintendent's Student Advisory Board. In an effort to keep public education policy student-centered, she brought together 40 students from 31 schools across Montana to discuss ways to keep students engaged in school and graduate on time. The Student Advisory Board is also taking on the issues of bullying and school climate.  Juneau promoted legislation to provide statewide definitions and procedures for anti-bullying policies in Montana schools. She will continue to work through administrative avenues to improve anti-bullying policies and procedures in Montana schools.

With a belief that every child in Montana deserves a quality education, Juneau has taken on an unprecedented reform effort with Montana's four lowest-performing schools. Other reform efforts include recommending the Board of Public Education adopt the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Math. These standards are higher, clearer, and more rigorous than our current standards and were created to ensure students graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

Juneau is a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and is the first American Indian woman elected to a statewide position. Juneau received a Bachelor's Degree in English at Montana State University in Bozeman.  She earned a Master's Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Juneau also holds a law degree from the University of Montana and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Carroll College. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

As our State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is working hard for the people of Montana to help give Montana's children the most valuable tool they can receive, a quality education.  Strong schools can create educational opportunities for Montana students to be highly competitive in the global economy.

The Office of the Superintendent

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise JuneauThe people of Montana have elected a State Superintendent of Instruction as one of the five members of the Executive Branch since 1889. Montana demonstrates the high value it places on educating our children, by electing a State Superintendent for K-12 public education who is accountable directly to Montana citizens.

By law, the State Superintendent has general supervision of the K-12 public schools and districts. The State Superintendent also serves as a member of the Land Board, the State Library Commission, and as an ex-officio non-voting member of the Board of Public Education, the Board of Regents for the University System, and the Board of Education.

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Montana State Land Board

Image of Montana LandsDenise Juneau as Superintendent of Public Instruction is a member of the State Land Board. The land board oversees the management of 5.2 million acres of Montana school trust land.

State trust lands are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Trust Land Management Division. Timber, surface, and mineral resources are managed for the benefit of the common schools and the other endowed institutions in Montana, under the direction of the State Board of Land Commissioners.

Ann Gilkey, Chief Legal Counsel for Office of Public Instruction will handle questions relating to the State Land Board. Please contact Ann at agilkey@mt.gov if you would like to comment on state land topics or if you have any questions.

State Land Board meetings are held on the third Monday of each month.


Land Board
STATE LAND BOARD CULTURAL TOUR

From left to right: Representative David Roundstone; Monica Lindeen, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Montana State Auditor; Leroy Spang, Northern Cheyenne President; Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Steve Bullock, Attorney General; Linda McCulloch, Secretary of State; Mary Sexton, Director of DNRC; Jerry LaFranier, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council member.

Superintendent Decisions

Office of Public Instruction Mission, Goals, and Objectives

Mission: The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides vision, advocacy, support and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all students meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities.

The Office of Public Instruction's key strategic directions are as follows:

  • Ensure that every child begins school and graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the 21st century global society by strengthening Montana education from preschool through college and the workforce.
    • The OPI is working on policy to minimize the barriers that exist at the major transition points for students in their educational career.  Pre-school to Kindergarten, Elementary to Middle School, Middle School to High School, and High School to Career or Career Prep or College.
  • Improve student achievement in struggling schools by providing leadership for school turnaround efforts across the state.
    • The OPI is working with schools and communities to find meaningful and sustainable solutions (where assistance is most needed).  Local organizing efforts involving schools and their local partners will be the core of this work.
  • Provide current and accurate educational information to the state, school districts, and communities to promote data-driven policy decisions and assist in improving teaching and learning.
    • OPI is developing a data warehouse for K-12 education that is guided by policy to ensure efficiency, quality, reliability, and accessibility and allow meaningful research to take place to assist in decision making from the local to the state level.
  • Improve school-community relationships and student performance through the development and implementation of a comprehensive communication plan.
    • A defined communication effort with School Boards, Superintendents, Administrators, Business Officials, Teachers, Students, and Parents will allow for information to more effectively and efficiently flow between the OPI and these groups.
  • Provide systematic training opportunities and focused staff development for OPI staff to support their work and ensure quality customer service.
    • Investment in the OPI staff to improve customer service and cross training to ensure efficient continuation of services will provide for an effective working relationship between the OPI and the field in all areas.

Legal Division

The OPI legal counsel provides legal advice and services to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Legal Division provides services to OPI divisions and assists the legal counsel in her duties. Those duties include, but are not limited to:

(1) providing legal advice and services to the Superintendent in connection with special education;
(2) assisting with appeals from County Superintendent decisions;
(3) representing the State Superintendent and OPI in court proceedings;
(4) providing legal services and advice in connection with teacher certification, denial, suspension and revocation;
(5) assisting with the adoption and amendment of administrative rules;
(6) assisting with legislation; and
(7) production of "School Laws of Montana."

Division Staff:
Ann Gilkey, Chief Legal Counsel, 406.444.4402
Mary Gallagher, Early Assistance Program Director, 406.444.5664
Linda Brandon-Kjos, Legal Administrative Officer, 406.444.4402
Beverly J. Marlow, Paralegal, 406.444.3172

The Legal and the Special Education Divisions of the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) have created the Early Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP provides technical assistance to parents, school districts, and advocacy organizations, related to the delivery of a free appropriate public education for;students with disabilities. The Early Assistance Program Director is available to intercede prior to or at the time of filing a formal complaint with the OPI. The EAP Director will gather information pertinent to the situation and attempt to resolve an issue within 15 school days. With permission from the parents, the EAP process may exceed 15 days.

Our philosophy is to resolve issues amicably and, whenever possible, prevent expensive and emotionally challenging legal entanglements. When provided with the opportunity to discuss the issues at hand in a less formal and confrontational venue, parents and schools can reach agreement without undermining the relationships necessary to ensure the smooth delivery of special education services to students with disabilities.

Contact:
Mary Gallagher, Early Assistance Program Director, 406.444.5664

In order to assist citizens, school districts, and county superintendents, OPI legal staff, together with County Superintendents Marsha Davis and Rachel Vielleux, prepared a flow chart and sample forms to be used as guides in the transfer process.

Links to PDF versions of these documents are provided below. If you need the documents in a Word file, please contact the OPI Legal Division at 444.3172 or email bemarlow@mt.gov.

DISCLAIMER
These territory transfer documents are only for general information to provide a broad guide in effecting a territory transfer. They should not be relied upon as constituting legal advice or definitive forms. You should seek legal assistance in drafting documents specific to your particular needs.

Petition to Transfer School District Territory
Resolution of Board of Trustees - Transferring District
Resolution of Board of Trustees - Receiving District
Sample Letter re Transferring
Sample Transfer Order
Territory Transfer Flow Chart
Territory Transfer Law