In Montana, American Indian student enrollment is 12 times the national average and nearly 85 percent of the districts are rural. Technical assistance is essential to ensuring the state’s 824 public schools have what they need to serve all students equitably. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) has identified the following high-priority areas for receiving NWCC support:
College and Career Readiness
An overarching goal of OPI is to ensure all Montana students graduate from high school ready for postsecondary success. The primary vehicle for achieving this goal is the Graduation Matters Montana (GMM) initiative. Our past support of GMM includes the development of:
- A toolkit to help districts and schools establish dropout prevention programs
- Training modules for districts implementing early warning systems that identify students at risk of dropping out and employ interventions to keep them on track to graduate
- Tools to help GMM communities track their implementation progress and success
NWCC is currently focused on helping OPI develop structures within the agency and with external partners to sustain the GMM initiative through 2017 and beyond. We are also helping OPI convene a community of practice among school-based graduation coaches (individuals who are hired by districts through GMM to coach students toward graduation).
American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Student Support
Working with OPI and the Northwest’s four other state education agencies (SEAs), we provide capacity-building support to meet the educational needs of American Indian/Alaska Native students. We do this by helping the SEAs’ Indian education coordinators share resources and lessons learned with each other, as well as by providing technical assistance to individual SEAs through state-level projects with regional implications. For example, we are helping to facilitate a cross-agency task force charged with developing a more coherent strategy for how OPI supports districts in closing the American Indian achievement gap. We are also providing guidance and a needs assessment process for districts wanting to launch Native language immersion programs.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Planning
OPI is working on a consolidated state ESSA plan that reflects the wishes and needs of Montana communities and stakeholders, is easy to explain and understand, and is relevant for teachers and administrators. NWCC is supporting various aspects of OPI's plan preparation and submission including providing resources to work groups, synthesizing stakeholder feedback, and offering guidance on ways to structure the planning process.
Comprehensive Family Engagement
OPI sees family engagement as an essential component of student success and is striving to strengthen agency capacity in this area. To this end, NWCC is conducting an assessment and gap analysis of existing family engagement strategies, programs, and practices across OPI; conducting a national scan of other state agency practices, structures, and communication strategies; and facilitating OPI meetings for staff to develop a strategic plan to improve family engagement at the state level and to spread evidence-based practices and recommendations to districts and schools.