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Montana Schools and Linda McCulloch

Linda McCulloch has an answer that every teacher is familar with to the recent report that suggests Montana schools are not performing well: the test wasn’t fair! Unfortunately, for Montana students, McCulloch is putting politics ahead of being an advocate for the constituents that truly matter–Montana’s kids. Leadership is needed to improve Montana schools, and our Superintendent of Public Instruction has simply been unwilling to show that.

In response to the article, McCulloch said argued that the success of Montana students on standarized tests invalidated the argument that our schools weren’t doing well, stating: “‘‘They’re wanting us to look like states that perform lower than we do in student achievement, and that makes no sense at all.” That’s just like a student ascribing blame to the teacher. There’s no compelling reason to believe that Education Week was targeting Montana–just pointing out some flaws.

Importantly, McCulloch ignores one of the most damning elements of the report: the disparity between low and high income school districts. Until we are committed as a state to educating all students, regardless of their income, can we really rest comfortably on test scores as a justification for our educational system? The State Superintendent needs to be a voice of leadership, challenging the orthodoxy that says it is acceptable for some districts to receive thousands of dollars per student less than others. A leader would see this report as an opportunity to demand change, not cover herself.

Predictably, rather than reporting on the issue, today’s IR gave a thumbs down to the report…how about thumbs down to repeating PR spin from public officials rather than investigating the report?

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I have very limited access to the net…but the original story was in the Gazette and IR in the past two days. The editorial (such as it was) was today.

  • It is depressing that there is so much press on how underfunded the schools are, and yet when a report comes out on how are schools are doing, it doesn’t get beat to death and run down by the media.

    I find it comical that the IR ran the underfunding story with the report card story.

    1. Fire the teachers who are not performing. Why this will never happen: Unionization and tenure. Apparently no one has had a teacher who has not performed up to par. The only way you can be fired in Montana (as a teacher in the public school system) is having sex with a student, using drugs, or looking at porn on the schools computer.

    2. Schools are underfunded and cannot keep qualified teachers. B.S. If you don’t like your pay quit and find another job. I wish I had summers off. I make the same pay as you and I work for 12 months, yet I don’t complain, I like my job and feel fortunate to be in Montana.

    3. Schools are underfunded and that will make the quality of education suffer for the students. Not true. How much of it is going towards employee’s pensions, salary, etc. I’m sorry to say that the Montana Supreme court is flat wrong. I could drive a truck through the argument of “quality education”. Why do people claim that we have a great school system, and great students? It must not be coming from the school system, because they are underfunded and are currently not producing a quality education. Or is it?

    How extremely inept are the political parties of Montana (dems and repubs), including the Gov. with that sorry a** outline of school funding? Why not just beg to go back to court again. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back Brian.

    The entire educational system needs to be revamped, not because the students are lacking a quality education, but so that we know where the money is going, how it will be dispersed, and avoid the lawsuits and the crybaby attitude of the teacher’s union. Learn to live on a budget like normal people.

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