Gazette opinion: Good things happen in Billings schools

2011-10-05T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Good things happen in Billings schools The Billings Gazette
October 05, 2011 12:00 am

Among the most enthusiastic fans tracking the Billings All Stars at the Little League World Series were their classmates at Lewis and Clark Middle School. Eight of the team members are students at Lewis and Clark, where they were welcomed home with an ice cream social for all students.

When U.S. Sen. Jon Tester visited Billings West High last week, students peppered him with tough questions, reflecting their knowledge and interest in our government and current events.

Supportive students

Students and staff at Broadwater Elementary organized a day of fundraising activities Saturday to help support a third-grader who is awaiting a heart transplant in Denver.

Billings Public Schools students are learning and using their education to be involved in their schools and our community.

Standardized measures of learning show progress, too:

Last spring, 89 percent of Billings Public Schools students were proficient in reading on the test required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

All three Billings high schools brought up their grades in both math and reading, compared with a year earlier.

Billings public high school students consistently score above state and national averages on ACT tests for college entrance.

One of Billings Public Schools’ many assets is the Career Center, a unique career-oriented learning center, which has grown to include programs ranging from agriculture to welding. Students residing anywhere in School District 2 can learn automotive repair or prepare for studying engineering or medical careers. Billings students build a house every year, in cooperation with the Billings Home Builders Association.

Big high school helpers

Four days a week, 103 students from Billings high schools (including the public high schools and Central Catholic High) spend a class period in a public middle school, elementary school or Head Start classroom mentoring a younger child. On the fifth day, they go to Big Brothers, Big Sisters for a class in child development and other issues for mentors.

The program has been shown to improve the “littles’” self confidence and academic achievement.

“The impact is just phenomenal,” said Nancy Thorson, Big Brothers, Big Sisters program director.

As the above examples show, good things are happening in Billings schools. The schools are moving forward, using the resources they have been given by taxpayers, depending on their staff to do the best for all 15,500 students every day.

In academics, community service and civic engagement, our Billings students get high marks. Without ignoring the district’s challenges in leadership and budget matters, we ought to celebrate what’s right about our schools.

Let’s move ahead with positive leadership, seeing both the good products of our public schools as well as the problems that must be solved.

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