Graduation rates for all Montana schools hit a new record high in 2019 of 86.6%, but at Bozeman High School the number slipped to 85.4%, the lowest in Gallatin County.

Among Montana’s 15 largest, AA high schools, Bozeman High’s graduation rate ranked No. 9.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction released the latest graduation numbers last week, reporting this was the second year in a row that Montana saw record-high rates.

“I am proud that our state’s trend data is showing that more and more students are invested in their high school education,” Elsie Arntzen, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release.

Bozeman High, the state’s largest high school with 2,204 students, saw its graduation rate drop more than 2% between 2018 and 2019, down from 87.8%.

Bozeman High’s rate has fluctuated up and down over the past five years, and last year’s 85.4% was in the middle of the pack.

“I’m concerned that our number dropped,” said Bob Connors, Bozeman school superintendent, “but it’s right around the state average. We can continue to do better and give every kid an opportunity to graduate.”

Connors pointed out that other Montana high schools have seen their graduation rates change by several points up or down from the previous year.

Graduation rates are based on the number of students who started as freshmen and graduated four years later, not the number of seniors who make it to graduation, Connors said.

Students who leave Bozeman without telling where they’re going count against the graduation number, he said. Those who drop out but complete the HiSET high school equivalency tests also are counted against the high school’s graduation rate, even though they achieved in a different manner.

Among Gallatin County high schools, two of the smallest, Willow Creek and West Yellowstone, were tied for first place in 2019 with 100% graduation rates.

They were followed by Manhattan High (96.1%), Three Forks High (95.2%), Big Sky High (94.4%), Belgrade High (87.9%) and Bozeman (85.4%).

Nearby Park High in Livingston had a 92.6% graduation rate.

Among Montana’s AA high schools, the leaders were Helena’s Capital High (90.9%) and Butte High (90.6%).

They were followed by Billings West High (89.2%), Kalispell’s Glacier High (88.8%), Belgrade High (87.9%), Helena High (86.4%), Billings Skyview High (86.3%), Missoula Sentinel High (85.6%), Bozeman (85.4%), Great Falls’ C.M. Russell High (84.9%), Missoula Big Sky High (84.6%), Kalispell’s Flathead High (82.8%), Great Falls High (81.8%), Missoula Hellgate High (81.0%) and Billings Senior High (80.3%).

OPI reported that among minorities, American Indian students make up 11% of Montana’s school population and their graduation rate declined slightly from 67.5% to 66.7%. Hispanic students are a growing minority who make up about 5% of Montana students, and their graduation rate increased from 79.4% to 83.1%. About 78% of Montana students are white.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.

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