Belgrade, Manhattan and Three Forks high schools each boasted higher graduation rates than the state average in 2019, according to recently released figures by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
Last year, the graduation rate for all Montana public high schools was 86.6 percent, slightly above 2019’s rate of 86.4 percent and a new record high. Graduation rates in the western Gallatin Valley were 87.9 percent in Belgrade, 96.2 percent in Manhattan, and 95.2 percent in Three Forks.
Three Forks’ graduation rate improved slightly over the 94.7 percent it reported in 2018, while Manhattan’s dropped marginally by less than a point from last year’s 96.9 percent. Belgrade High, Gallatin County’s second-largest high school, graduated a smaller percentage of students in 2019 than it did in 2018, when the rate was 89.5 percent. Meanwhile Bozeman High School, the county’s largest, graduated 85.3 percent of the class of 2019 – lower than the state average, and a greater than 2 percent drop from the 87.7 percent it reported a year earlier.
Belgrade High School Principal Paul Lamb said BHS’s graduation rate is impossible to predict from year to year.
“We never know – it ebbs and flows with each set of graduates,” he said, though he predicted that he expects the rate to be relatively high in 2020.
“This year’s class is very
academically driven, and we can’t say that of every single class,” he added.
Lamb said Belgrade is committed to working with all students so they can graduate and become successful adults.
“An overall philosophy here is we want to work with every student,” which is achieved through a variety of means depending on the situation, he added. Some students enroll at the alternative high school, while others take advantage of the HiSET Options Program through which they earn a high school equivalency certificate that is recognized as a regular high school diploma.
Belgrade Schools also are partnering more with community businesses to help prepare students for vocations such as welding after they graduate, Lamb said.
In Manhattan, Principal Jason Slater acknowledged the importance of the various paths available to ensure graduation for all students.
“Today there are more opportunities for kids as far as options for obtaining a diploma,” he said.
He credited his staff for Manhattan High School’s high graduation rate.
“My belief as an educator is that time in high school is priceless, and graduating from high school is still very important,” he said. “The graduation rate (in Manhattan) is a reflection of our work. Kids know teachers care about them.”
In his first year on the job, Three Forks High School’s Principal Greg Heys expressed similar sentiments.
“We just care about kids and put them in the best place we can,” he said, adding that the school’s high graduation rate reflects the quality of its staff.
Full details on Montana’s 2019 graduation data can be found at the OPI’s data website, including completion rates, dropout rates, and individual school data: https://gems.opi.mt.gov/StudentCharacteristics/.