Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen said on Thursday that she was proud to announce that graduation rates in state public schools have broken a record for the second year in a row.

“This is improvement, this is growth,” said Arntzen. “For two years in a row our graduation rates have been the highest ever. We’ve gone from 86.4 percent last year to 86.6 percent in 2018-2019. That’s only a .02 percent increase, but what that means is engagement. I have students in a four year high school cohort that are staying engaged and are learning, and that’s what the graduation rate means to me. I have student engagement and they believe in themselves and they believe in the public school system and they’re staying in school.”

Arntzen praised a new initiative that has been making an impact on school success.

“We have a new initiative called ‘Montana Hope’, and it’s a tremendous focus on the students themselves,” she said. “This is personalized learning, making sure that every child, through our Constitution, has an opportunity given to them through our public school system. That, in turn, leads to social and emotional learning, making sure that that student can look in the mirror and see that they are OK.”

The 2019 graduation rate for American Indian students was 66.7 percent compared to 67.5 percent in 2018 and 2017, and 63.0 percent in 2016.

Arntzen said success is coming for Native American students, but it’s taking a little extra time.

“The Native population in our schools is about 11 percent and their completion rate is growing,” she said. “They may not be graduating in that traditional four years, but they are receiving a diploma, whether it’s through a GED or they are staying longer in school, but they are completing at a larger rate than they’ve ever completed before.”

Completion rates for American Indian students (taking more than 4 years to graduate but still receiving a diploma) are at a historic high of 70.2 percent.

Get full details on the 2019 graduation rates by clicking on the OPI website.