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Columbia Falls Receives Graduation Matters Grant
Grants awarded to Montana schools in an effort to increase the number of students who graduate
Superintendent Denise Juneau announced Columbia Falls Public Schools is being awarded $8,295 to support the incorporation of the Graduation Matters initiative.

A total of 25 grants were awarded to Montana schools in an effort to increase the number of Montana students who graduate from high school and are prepared for college and careers. School will receive a total of $165,000 this year. The Office of Public Instruction was awarded $450,000 over three years from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to support community-based Graduation Matters initiatives. In addition, State Farm Insurance granted the OPI $15,000 to add to the GMM Challenge Fund Grants this year.

"The Columbia Falls School District is putting an impressive team together to increase their graduation rate and raise expectations for all students," Juneau said in a statement. "This is the kind of community support that students need to be successfully prepared for college and the 21st century workforce."

Graduation Matters Columbia Falls has set a goal of reducing their dropout rate by 1 percent each year to achieve a zero percent dropout rate by 2017. Additionally, they aim to reduce the amount of students who are credit deficient by 19 percent each year. In order to achieve this goal, Columbia Falls will use its Challenge Fund grant for summer school and academic coaches who will be assigned to students who are identified as at-risk for dropping out, according to OPI. Graduation Matters Columbia Falls has already created 28 business and community partnerships.

In 2010, Superintendent Juneau launched Graduation Matters Montana to address the state's dropout rate and to ensure that students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Montana's graduation rate has improved from 80.2 percent in 2010 to 83.9 percent in 2012. In the 2011-2012 school year, the number of dropouts decreased by more than 130 students.

In the first year of the Challenge Fund grant, Graduation Matters communities have focused on identifying students most at risk of dropping out, developing new dropout prevention strategies and interventions, building community support, and offering students college and career exploration opportunities. Graduation Matters communities have partnered with 250 local businesses and community organizations and reduced the credit deficiencies of more than 1,000 high school students.
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