Anyone who cares about the success of Missoula’s public school students is invited to attend an hourlong meeting on Thursday to discuss Graduation Matters Missoula.
If you are going, expect an interactive meeting.
This isn’t a standup event for school administrators to lecture the audience, this is an hour for everyone in the room to discuss, problem solve and offer ideas to help make graduation possible for all Missoula County Public Schools students.
“There is going to be a lot of collaboration and discussion with everyone who shows up and is in the room,” said Alex Apostle, MCPS superintendent.
“We will talk about the direction and the goals we have set for this year,” Apostle said. “And basically, we are moving toward a 100 percent graduation rate.”
If this sounds like hyperbole, consider this: MCPS currently has the lowest dropout rate of all AA districts in Montana.
“When we get our results from the state, we will be closing in on a 90 percent graduation rate – or close to it – which is a monumental point,” Apostle said. “When I came here in 2008, it was under 80 percent.”
The other point Apostle is pleased to make: MCPS’ current dropout rate is at 2.58 percent. In 2009, it was 4.68 percent.
“That’s something we are very proud of, and I credit our teachers, our classified staff and our community for these successes,” he said.
Created by Apostle and a group of Missoula community members and organizations, Graduation Matters Missoula was launched in 2010 as a collaboration between MCPS and the Missoula community.
The goal: to create a school district that achieves 100 percent graduation.
Two years later, with the help of the greater Missoula community and MCPS teachers, staff, students and their families, that goal is becoming more of a reality than a vision.
A dedicated community effort and tangible strategies have made the success possible, Apostle said.
Among the things that have worked to increase school participation and graduation is a finely tuned attendance policy that helps to more readily identify students in crisis.
The district also employs the use of the Aventa Credit Recovery program, which allows students to recover lost credits through an online program with the assistance of a real MCPS teacher.
More robust recordkeeping and follow-up with dropouts is also helping to keep students in classrooms, Apostle said.
The good work will only continue with ongoing community support and involvement, said Mark Thane, MCPS executive regional director.
To that end, the Thursday meeting is arranged far differently than past meetings.
“We are going to have four stations set up, and as people come in the door we will ask them to go to a station, where they will listen to a brief presentation, followed by discussion,” Thane said. “We will have time for feedback and we will share some of the data we have and that we collect.”
The meeting will both celebrate the successes of Graduation Matters Missoula to date and be a time to identify the program’s next steps.
“We still have work to do,” Thane said. “And we are looking for continued dialogue with the community to help us establish priorities.
“Certainly there will be good ideas to be gleaned by people in the community – those who are most affected by dropouts and graduation rates.”
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.