Last week, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Board of Public Education Chair Patty Myers, more than 700 local schools and I submitted Montana’s Race to the Top application to the U.S. Department of Education. The schools participating in this opportunity represent
94 percent of Montana’s K-12 students, and a winning proposal could bring up to $74 million in federal funds that will benefit all schools in Montana.
Other states, during their application process, passed charter school laws, tied teacher performance to student test scores, adopted national standards that have not yet been finalized and fired teachers and staff wholesale. None of this is proposed in the Montana Plan because they will not work in our state. Montana has not changed its laws or administrative rules to apply for this one-time-only federal funding.
We have written a plan that maintains Montana’s constitutional tradition of local control and fits our rural — or frontier — state status. The Montana Plan allows schools to implement innovative programs to reach every student based on their local context. It demonstrates the education community’s commitment to improve education for all of our students.
The Montana Plan we submitted maintains our educational values and traditions because it builds on our current educational structure which works for so many of our students.
The Montana Plan includes refining and aligning Montana’s rigorous state standards to international benchmarks so students are college and career ready. These standards promote world-class academic standards and a curriculum that fosters critical thinking and problem solving.
The Montana Plan provides new supports for teachers and principals to improve instructional effectiveness. It also continues our innovative work to keep great teachers in Montana schools. The Montana Plan builds on our partnerships with post-secondary educators so we prepare and recruit the best and brightest in Montana to the teaching profession.
The Montana Plan calls for enhancements to data systems that will better coordinate information between schools and the state, which will help increase transparency and accountability and help teachers, administrators and policy-makers use data to improve instruction and make strategic decisions about the best use of limited resources.
Finally, the Montana Plan provides help to transform those schools that have historically struggled with academic achievement by creating a supportive partnership between the school, the community and state leaders.
The Montana Plan, our Race to the Top application, is about providing a high-quality education for all children. Our state’s economic competitiveness and the path to college and career success for students depend on providing every child with an education that will enable them to succeed in the 21st-century economy which is based on knowledge and innovation.
— Denise Juneau is Montana’s superintendent of public instruction.