Washington Foundation Grants $450,000 to Support Improving Graduation Rates

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
By Allyson Hagen

Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Grants $450,000 to Support Improving Graduation Rates
Juneau's Graduation Matters Montana Initiative Gaining Momentum

Helena, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau and Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, announced today that the Office of Public Instruction was awarded $450,000 over three years to support a statewide network of locally-designed, community-driven efforts to increase the number of Montana students who graduate from high school ready for college and careers in the Montana workforce.

Superintendent Juneau stated, "Montanans continue to respond to the call to lower the dropout rate and improve Montana's economic future. All the stakeholders in these communities understand that Graduation Matters. The Washington Foundation's investment in Montana's students is going to pay off for years to come. Every student we are able to keep from dropping out of school or who is inspired to continue their education after high school benefits not only that individual, but the entire state."

Support from the Washington Foundation will allow the Office of Public Instruction to start the Graduation Matters Montana Challenge Fund, assisting 10 to 15 new Graduation Matters communities each year for three years.  As many as 45 new communities will be added over the three-year timeframe.  Each community will be awarded up to $10,000 to replicate successful dropout prevention strategies.

Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation stated, “Investing in community-based efforts focused on improving the achievement of all students is the single-most important investment we can make in our children.  Developing Graduation Matters programs in school districts across the state sends a message to our children that we care about them and their future. This message is the core of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation’s mission, and we are proud to be able to support this critically important initiative.”

Juneau launched Graduation Matters Montana in 2010 and aims to cut Montana's dropout rate in half by 2014. The initiative was inspired by Graduation Matters Missoula, an effort led by MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle. Since the launch of their initiative, Missoula's graduation rate has gone from 80 percent in 2009 to 87 percent in 2011, and their dropout rate has decreased from 5.1% in 2008 to 2.5% in 2010.

Stated Superintendent Apostle, "I’m thrilled at the direction Superintendent Juneau is taking to make sure that we’re doing everything possible so every student in Montana graduates from high school prepared for their next steps in life. It’s exciting to be a part of this statewide effort, and I look forward to sharing our successes here in Missoula, as well as learning what’s working in other Montana communities.”

Current communities involved in a Graduation Matters Montana initiative:
Billings, Bozeman, Belgrade, Butte, Great Falls, Hamilton, Helena, Kalispell, Livingston, Missoula and Townsend

More information about Graduation Matters Montana can be found at http://graduationmatters.mt.gov.

About the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation:
The major philanthropic organization for the Washington Companies and the Washington family, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington’s Foundation values mirror those of its Western heritage. The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation strives to better the human condition by supporting programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole.


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