Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau speaks with students, from left, Ronson LaRoque, Jimi Plainfeather, Lenita Goes Ahead and Eldawna Little Light at Plenty Coups High School on the Crow Reservation in Pryor last August. (Casey Riffe/Billings Gazette)
The head of Montana’s Office of Public Instruction traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to stand up for rural schools, especially schools on reservations.
Rural districts face challenges in complying with the methods set for improving results in their lowest-performing schools – action required as a condition for receiving billions of dollars in federal aid, Education Week’s Lesli Maxwell writes here.
But rural means something very different on the East Coast than it does in the far-flung reaches of the West, Juneau told the annual legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
“The frontier is really where we are,” she says. “We are more rural than rural.”
Maxwell reports that:
Ms. Juneau emphasized that even the so-called transformation model, which is less drastic than the three other turnaround models that the U.S. Department of Education has said are acceptable, won’t work in her state because the approach requires the principals to be replaced. The five schools that Montana has identified as the lowest-performing are all located on isolated American Indian reservations she said.
Even if those districts could find strong principals to replace the existing ones, Ms. Juneau said, there are more fundamental challenges, such as where they would stay.
“We lack housing,” she told the secretary. “If we want to get a turnaround specialist in these places, we may not even be able to buy a double-wide trailer for them.”
Juneau, who is Mandan and Hidatsa, is the first Native woman elected to statewide office in Montana.
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