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Montana's Native American Graduation Rate Drops For First Time In Six Years

Montana student achievement scores for 2018.
Montana Office of Public Instruction
Montana student achievement scores for 2018.

After several years of improvement, Montana’s Native American graduation rate dropped slightly last year, according to Montana’s new statewide school report card which was released Monday. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA for short, is the federal replacement for No Child Left Behind.

2018 Montana graduation rates.
Credit Montana Office of Public Instruction
2018 Montana graduation rates.

Data from the last school year in the ESSA report shows 68 percent of Native students graduated within four years. That’s down 1.5 percent from the prior year.

Last year the graduation rate for white students was 21 percent higher than for native students, and improved by 0.3 percent.

The drop in the Native American graduation rate comes after five years of growth, including a 3.5 percent spike in 2017.

Overall, results in the statewide report card are a mixed bag.

It shows 42 percent of public-school students are proficient in science. Thirty-one percent of students mastered their reading skills. When it comes to math, however, only 24 percent of students exhibited proficiency.

“That tells us aggregately that we can do better," says Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s state superintendent of public instruction. “But I know there are moments where we need to celebrate success as much as what it is that we can do better. Let’s go ahead and put more emphasis on those ones that are almost there so we can carry them over the finish line. That’s a success story that’s going to be told next year when this report card goes out again.”

The ESSA results show 71 percent are deemed college or career ready.

Montana’s ESSA plan calls for students who have historically scored the lowest in tests – students in poor families, English learners, kids with disabilities, and Native Americans – to show the greatest academic improvement over the next several years.

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