Gazette opinion: Juneau fights for quality public education

2012-10-02T00:00:00Z 2012-12-16T15:01:10Z Gazette opinion: Juneau fights for quality public education The Billings Gazette
October 02, 2012 12:00 am

Want to know how your local school measures up on standardized tests?

The Montana Office of Public Instruction website provides answers. For example, an OPI site visitor can see that in the 2011-2012 school year, reading scores for Yellowstone County public schools showed that the great majority of eighth-grade students met standards. The percentage of eighth-grade students scoring at proficient or advanced levels ranged from 87 percent to 93 percent.

Over the past four years, Montana public schools have improved data collection so they can track how well their students are doing. Using that information to improve teaching and learning has been a major focus of Denise Juneau’s work as Montana superintendent of public instruction since she took office in January 2009.

Statewide, test scores are up and dropout rates are down. However, the data show there’s work to be done in schools where student achievement is low or dropout rates are high. Juneau is tackling both of those challenges.

As the state’s elected public education leader, Juneau has rallied Montanans to work within their communities to improve graduation rates. Borrowing a successful idea from Missoula, Juneau has taken Graduation Matters Montana across the state to challenge schools and community members, including businesses, to collaborate on initiatives that will help more students graduate ready for college and careers.

Juneau has stepped up collaboration between Montana K-12 schools and the university system. She established regular meetings with the commissioner of higher education and OPI is partnering with OCHE on projects to improve college readiness among high school graduates.

“When you look at future job prospects, students are going to need higher education,” Juneau said.

Juneau wrangled with the U.S. Department of Education to prevent federal mandates from hurting Montana schools. She secured private grants to promote reading skills and dropout prevention. Her work with struggling schools has yielded gradual, measurable improvement.

Juneau exemplifies the success that Montana’s education system should deliver to all students. After graduating from high school in Browning, she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Montana State University, a master of education degree from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Montana. Juneau has been a classroom teacher and an attorney. She brings great skills to the job of superintendent of public in instruction. But more importantly, she brings tremendous passion for quality public education and a deep commitment to helping Montana students succeed.

Juneau is the candidate we would entrust with guiding and implementing state education policy to benefit all Montana’s children.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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