GUSB should address district’s academic inadequacies

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Dear Editor:

At the January Glendive School Board meeting, the board spent more than 21 minutes of a 48 minute meeting discussing and approving a mechanism, “Academic Variance,” for students to receive a DCHS diploma without meeting the published requirements for graduation. Yet, the fact that U.S. News and World Report (USN&WR) considers Dawson County High School to be, academically, one of the worst high schools in Montana doesn’t seem to be a problem big enough to warrant the board’s attention. USN&WR’s opinion of DCHS is probably based, at least in part, on the very poor performances of DCHS students in Math and Science, as established by a “Report Card” provided annually by the State of Montana.

According to the 2018-2019 “Report Card,” 78% of DCHS students ranked less than mediocre in Math, and 62% less than mediocre in Science skills. Perhaps it would be illuminating to compare DCHS scores to other high schools in this part of the state. Richey and Terry High Schools get evaluated on a different basis, due to the size of the schools. However, as a parent, if your primary concern was your child’s academic advancement, you would send him or her to Richey; Richey student’s scores (including Reading skills) have regularly been the highest in the region. On the other hand, DCHS’s Math scores have been significantly worse than those of any other school in the region; eight percentage points worse than Circle, and 26 percentage points worse than those posted by Baker High School. Notably, Baker High school also scored 12 points better than DCHS in Science skills, and is ranked #37 in Montana by USN&WR. Wibaux High School Math scores were considerably higher (23 percentage points) than DCHS, but Wibaux is not ranked by USN&WR due to its size. Sidney High School is the only school in the area close to the same size as DCHS, and it scored 15 points better in Math and seven points better in Science skills . . . enough to be ranked 53rd by USN&WR . . . not enviable, unless your school is in the bottom quarter. The only regional high school, besides DCHS, ranked one of the 23 worst high schools in the state was Custer County High School (Miles City).

How can the Glendive School Board justify spending almost half of a meeting discussing and allowing “Academic Variances,” while ignoring, month after month, “Academic Deficiencies” such as the recurring dismal performances of their students in Science and Math? Clearly, at least one student has been identified who will be unable to obtain a diploma, this year, without an “Academic Variance.” But how about the 56 (or so) seniors who will graduate this year, and will still be “Less than Proficient” in Math? How about the 49 (or so) seniors who will graduate this year, and be “Less than Proficient” in Science?


Jon Fitch