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Welcome Back to School!

Friday, August 26, 2016

As a kid, the end of summer usually meant the last of playing outside all day, fishing trips and endless bike rides around Browning with friends. The upside would be that I’d get new shoes and clothes and the anticipation of meeting my new teacher and classmates. Now as the leader of Montana’s public schools, I’m just as excited for students to walk into their classrooms and take on the school year because innovative programs are at the ready.

When I launched Graduation Matters Montana to ensure more students graduate from high school, it was never just about a number. The initiative, now in 58 communities, has always been about making sure students who graduate are ready for college, the military, and careers. It’s also been about making sure all students create a path forward while they’re still in high school.

I see incredible examples of this all across our state thanks to collaboration among Graduation Matters Montana communities, organizations and more than 450 local businesses.

Students in Hamilton can earn their CNAs while still in high school because of a partnership among Hamilton High, Bitterroot College and the Greater Valley Foundation. In Polson, juniors and seniors can get internships with St. Joseph’s Medical Center, rotating through clinical and administrative departments to give students a real-world taste of working at a hospital. In Great Falls, students at Paris Gibson can spend half of their day at Montana State University Great Falls working toward a certification in welding or construction. Billings and Bozeman have career centers for students. Missoula has its Health Science Academy. Libby and Troy are launching a trades-focused public charter program. In each corner of our state, innovative programs are in place to get students on the path toward meaningful careers that will provide them a bright future, and benefit Montana’s economy.

I’m proud to say that more students are graduating from high school than ever before, creating a multimillion dollar boost to Montana’s economy each year. Awesome things happen when all of us work together toward a common goal. To me, there is no greater challenge and no cause more worthy than setting up the next generation for success.

When our students proudly walk across that stage on graduation day, each will have a diploma in one hand and a plan for the future in the other.


Denise Juneau

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction 


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Superintendent Juneau Announces Increase In Smarter Balanced Test Scores

Wednesday, August 17, 2016, 10:28 am
By Emilie Ritter Saunders

HELENA, Mont. – Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau today announced students’ scores on the 2016 Smarter Balanced assessment increased in both math and English/language arts.

“All Montana students deserve a quality education and we know great work is happening in our schools each and every day,” Superintendent Juneau said. “We’ve raised the academic bar for our students so they’re better prepared for college and careers. Over time, students will rise to meet the challenge. This annual assessment is just one measure teachers and school leaders have to evaluate student progress, it is certainly not the final arbiter of success in Montana’s public schools.”

Nearly 98 percent of all public school students in grades 3-8 took the Smarter Balanced assessment last spring, just the second year of participating in a computer adaptive test aligned to Montana’s more-rigorous math and English/language arts standards. Eleventh grade students took the ACT instead of Smarter Balanced, cutting testing time for those students by two-thirds.

Because the Smarter Balanced test is aligned to Montana’s new math and English/language arts standards, results are not comparable to previous statewide assessments.

2015/2016 Smarter Balanced Results – Statewide Average

  • 41 percent of students tested proficient or above in math, up from 38
  • 50 percent of students test proficient or above in English/language arts, up from 45 percent in 2014/2015

Find results by grade, school or district, here.



Achievement Level Descriptors (abbreviated)

Novice (Level 1): The student has not met the achievement standard and needs substantial improvement to demonstrate success in future coursework.

Nearing Proficiency (Level 2): The student has nearly met the achievement standard and may require further development to demonstrate success in future coursework.

Proficient (Level 3): The student has met the achievement standard and demonstrates progress toward master of the subject area for likely success in future coursework.

Advanced (Level 4): The student has exceeded the achievement standard and demonstrates advanced progress toward mastery of the skills needed for success in future coursework.




Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public InstructionDenise Juneau has spent her adult life ensuring that all Montanans have access to a quality education that can open the doors to a better future. Her work in public schools and leading the state's education agency has meant increased opportunities for Montanans, and a collective boost to the state's economy.

Denise's Montana roots run deep. Her family's ancestry traces back to before Montana was even a state, possibly 54 generations on this soil. She attended Head Start in Billings while her parents worked their way through college. By 2nd grade, her family moved to Browning where Denise's grandmother was a school cook and mother to eight children, her grandfather was a medal-awarded veteran, police officer and drove school buses, and her parents were educators. Denise's first job was alongside her grandma in the school kitchen.

She experienced first-hand the value of education and public service and recognizes they can change the course of someone's life.

After graduating from Browning High School, Denise received her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University. She continued her education and earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After teaching in North Dakota and Montana and working at the state education agency, Denise set her sights on the legal profession and received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law.

Denise is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet tribe. In 2008, she became the first American Indian woman in the country ever elected to an executive statewide office. In 2012, she was reelected to a second term as Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As Superintendent, Denise launched an unprecedented effort to make sure all Montana students who graduate from high school are prepared for college or military and civilian careers. She developed a statewide initiative, Graduation Matters Montana, which has made a positive difference in more than 50 communities. Graduation Matters Montana brings school, business leaders, community members, students and families together to work toward a common goal – that every student graduates from high school ready to succeed. Since the start of Graduation Matters, Montana's graduation rate has increased to its highest level ever recorded.

Denise's success in raising Montana's graduation rate has a direct impact on improving the state's economy. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the increase in Montana's high school graduation rate will equal a $6 million annual boost to the state's economy.

Denise has also spent seven years as superintendent pushing back on federal education policies that don't make sense in Montana. She turned a rigid one-size-fits-all federal school improvement grant program into one that fits rural Montana schools. She's pushed back on federal student testing, and long advocated for repealing No Child Left Behind.

In her tenure as superintendent, Denise has raised academic standards, expanded college and career readiness opportunities and advocated for policies to improve the quality of education in our state and nation. Denise believes that all Montanans have a stake in our public education system, and when Montana students succeed, Montana succeeds.

Denise also sits on Montana's Land Board, which has a constitutional duty to manage
the state's natural resources in a way that has the largest financial benefit to public schools. Denise has advocated for responsible natural resource development in a way that benefits Montana's schools, keeps the state's resource economy moving forward, and preserves access to public lands.

Denise's parents, Stan and Carol Juneau live in Great Falls. Her brother, Ron, lives and works in Billings with his family.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

As our State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is working hard for the people of Montana to help give Montana's children the most valuable tool they can receive, a quality education.  Strong schools can create educational opportunities for Montana students to be highly competitive in the global economy.

The Office of the Superintendent

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise JuneauThe people of Montana have elected a State Superintendent of Instruction as one of the five members of the Executive Branch since 1889. Montana demonstrates the high value it places on educating our children, by electing a State Superintendent for K-12 public education who is accountable directly to Montana citizens.

By law, the State Superintendent has general supervision of the K-12 public schools and districts. The State Superintendent also serves as a member of the Land Board, the State Library Commission, and as an ex-officio non-voting member of the Board of Public Education, the Board of Regents for the University System, and the Board of Education.


Montana State Land Board

Image of Montana LandsDenise Juneau as Superintendent of Public Instruction is a member of the State Land Board. The land board oversees the management of 5.2 million acres of Montana school trust land.

State trust lands are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Trust Land Management Division. Timber, surface, and mineral resources are managed for the benefit of the common schools and the other endowed institutions in Montana, under the direction of the State Board of Land Commissioners.

Ann Gilkey, Chief Legal Counsel for Office of Public Instruction will handle questions relating to the State Land Board. Please contact Ann at agilkey@mt.gov if you would like to comment on state land topics or if you have any questions.

State Land Board meetings are held on the third Monday of each month.

Land Board

From left to right: Representative David Roundstone; Monica Lindeen, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Montana State Auditor; Leroy Spang, Northern Cheyenne President; Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Steve Bullock, Attorney General; Linda McCulloch, Secretary of State; Mary Sexton, Director of DNRC; Jerry LaFranier, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council member.

Superintendent Decisions

Office of Public Instruction Mission, Goals, and Objectives

Mission: The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides vision, advocacy, support and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all students meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities.

The Office of Public Instruction's key strategic directions are as follows:

  • Ensure that every child begins school and graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the 21st century global society by strengthening Montana education from preschool through college and the workforce.
    • The OPI is working on policy to minimize the barriers that exist at the major transition points for students in their educational career.  Pre-school to Kindergarten, Elementary to Middle School, Middle School to High School, and High School to Career or Career Prep or College.
  • Improve student achievement in struggling schools by providing leadership for school turnaround efforts across the state.
    • The OPI is working with schools and communities to find meaningful and sustainable solutions (where assistance is most needed).  Local organizing efforts involving schools and their local partners will be the core of this work.
  • Provide current and accurate educational information to the state, school districts, and communities to promote data-driven policy decisions and assist in improving teaching and learning.
    • OPI is developing a data warehouse for K-12 education that is guided by policy to ensure efficiency, quality, reliability, and accessibility and allow meaningful research to take place to assist in decision making from the local to the state level.
  • Improve school-community relationships and student performance through the development and implementation of a comprehensive communication plan.
    • A defined communication effort with School Boards, Superintendents, Administrators, Business Officials, Teachers, Students, and Parents will allow for information to more effectively and efficiently flow between the OPI and these groups.
  • Provide systematic training opportunities and focused staff development for OPI staff to support their work and ensure quality customer service.
    • Investment in the OPI staff to improve customer service and cross training to ensure efficient continuation of services will provide for an effective working relationship between the OPI and the field in all areas.

Legal Division

The OPI legal counsel provides legal advice and services to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Legal Division provides services to OPI divisions and assists the legal counsel in her duties. Those duties include, but are not limited to:

(1) providing legal advice and services to the Superintendent in connection with special education;
(2) assisting with appeals from County Superintendent decisions;
(3) representing the State Superintendent and OPI in court proceedings;
(4) providing legal services and advice in connection with teacher certification, denial, suspension and revocation;
(5) assisting with the adoption and amendment of administrative rules;
(6) assisting with legislation; and
(7) production of "School Laws of Montana."

Division Staff:
Ann Gilkey, Chief Legal Counsel, 406.444.4402
Mandi Gibbs, Early Assistance Program Director, 406.444.5664
Linda Brandon-Kjos, Legal Administrative Officer, 406.444.4402
Beverly J. Marlow, Paralegal, 406.444.3172

The Legal and the Special Education Divisions of the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) have created the Early Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP provides technical assistance to parents, school districts, and advocacy organizations, related to the delivery of a free appropriate public education for;students with disabilities. The Early Assistance Program Director is available to intercede prior to or at the time of filing a formal complaint with the OPI. The EAP Director will gather information pertinent to the situation and attempt to resolve an issue within 15 school days. With permission from the parents, the EAP process may exceed 15 days.

Our philosophy is to resolve issues amicably and, whenever possible, prevent expensive and emotionally challenging legal entanglements. When provided with the opportunity to discuss the issues at hand in a less formal and confrontational venue, parents and schools can reach agreement without undermining the relationships necessary to ensure the smooth delivery of special education services to students with disabilities.

Mandi Gibbs, Early Assistance Program Director, 406.444.5664

In order to assist citizens, school districts, and county superintendents, OPI legal staff, together with County Superintendents Marsha Davis and Rachel Vielleux, prepared a flow chart and sample forms to be used as guides in the transfer process.

Links to PDF versions of these documents are provided below. If you need the documents in a Word file, please contact the OPI Legal Division at 444.3172 or email bemarlow@mt.gov.

These territory transfer documents are only for general information to provide a broad guide in effecting a territory transfer. They should not be relied upon as constituting legal advice or definitive forms. You should seek legal assistance in drafting documents specific to your particular needs.

Petition to Transfer School District Territory
Resolution of Board of Trustees - Transferring District
Resolution of Board of Trustees - Receiving District
Sample Letter re Transferring
Sample Transfer Order
Territory Transfer Flow Chart
Territory Transfer Law