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School reminder

Newman Elementary second-grader Riely Blanton, left, and seventh-grader John Humphrey chat with Newman teachers Danielle Martinson and Mary Anderson, right, on Fenton Avenue Southwest in Billings in August 2015. Martinson and Anderson were part of a volunteer effort distributing door hangers reminding parents that school starts Aug. 26.

BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff

Graduation Matters Billings, a coalition of community members, businesses and schools, received a statewide award for improving attendance rates last school year.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau announced a total of six Graduation Matters Impact Awards on Tuesday.

In Billings, Graduation Matters is led by United Way. The school district kicked off the year by knocking on doors in the neighborhoods around Newman Elementary, emphasizing the importance of school attendance. Other schools, like Riverside Middle School, designated specific staff members to work with parents and guardians to get students to school.

Students missed fewer school days in Billings during the first semester of the past school year when compared to the same time period the previous year. Each school had an average attendance rate of more than 90 percent, and only two schools saw decreases in average attendance.

Billings has committed to a goal of raising graduation rates in School District 2 high schools to 90 percent by 2020. The district rate for the 2014-15 school year was 82 percent.

“In just six years, Graduation Matters Montana communities and partner organizations have developed innovative and lasting ideas that prove when we work together, we can make significant progress,” Juneau said in a press release.

Graduation Matters Montana started in 2010. Since then, Montana’s graduation rate has increased by nearly six percentage points, from 80.2 percent in 2009-10 to 86 percent in 2014-15. There are now 58 communities across Montana with their own Graduation Matters initiatives.

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.