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Montana ESSER School District Spotlights

Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI) requested support from REL Northwest to spotlight districts that were using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to increase student re-engagement.

To select districts to feature, REL Northwest first examined data from Montana's ESSER Annual Reporting to identify a pool of districts for consideration. To be included in the pool, as of July 22, 2022, districts had to have expended at least 50% or more of their ESSER funds in the "Lost Instructional Time" category.

Districts were then categorized by their student enrollment size and locale (rurality) into one of three types: mid-sized district, small-rural district, and tribal nation district. Next, REL Northwest identified districts that had included evidence-based activities that are likely to directly improve student learning outcomes (e.g., tutoring, student-facing technology investments, after-school programming) in their grant applications to the Montana OPI. REL Northwest then identified 2-3 potential districts that met the above criteria within each type of district. REL Northwest then conducted prescreening interviews with administrators at these districts.

After conducting screening interviews with the district candidates, REL Northwest selected Belt Public Schools for the small-rural district, Miles City Unified School District for the mid-sized district, and Arlee Joint School District for the tribal nation district. The final selection of the districts was based on two factors: districts that included student-outcome focused programming in their ESSER plans and of those districts, which ones were far enough along in implementation to share information about their planning phase, implementation phase, and evaluation plans.

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