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Montana is in the running for the title of the most geographically dazzling state, with its towering peaks, thousands of snaking rivers, and diverse wildlife. However, the state is merely average in terms of public education, with math and reading proficiency rates around the 50% mark. 

Despite this, Montana is home to a number of high-performing, well-rounded school districts that balance academic achievement with vigorous athletic programs. Here’s a look at the state’s five best school districts, all of which are high school districts, as Montana separates them for statistical purposes.

Bozeman High School District is the best public school system in Montana. Consisting of Bozeman High School and school-within-a-school Bridger Charter Academy, the district has an above-average graduation rate and 71% of its students are college or career ready. 

Earning the 2nd spot in the ranking is Billings High School District, which comprises three high schools in the state’s largest city. The district places a focus on STEM education and its schools have flourishing athletics programs. 

Beaverhead County High School District places 3rd in the rankings. Consisting of a single high school in the small town of Dillon, Beaverhead students graduate at a rate over ten percentage points higher than the statewide rate. 

Montana’s 4th best school district is Missoula High School District, made up of four high schools in Missoula and Seeley Lake. The district’s students benefit from a favorable student-teacher ratio of 15.2.

Rounding out Montana’s top five is Park High School District, comprising a single high school in the town of Livingston, which lies just north of Yellowstone National Park. Students of Park High School are 60% proficient in reading & language arts, which is significantly higher than the statewide rate. 

Top School Districts in Montana, 2020

RankSchool DistrictCity
1Bozeman H SBozeman
2Billings H SBillings
3Beaverhead County H SDillon
4Missoula H SMissoula
5Park H SLivingston
6Hamilton K-12 SchoolsHamilton
7Libby K-12 SchoolsLibby
8Choteau H SChoteau
9Helena H SHelena
10Corvallis K-12 SchoolsCorvallis
11Flathead H SKalispell
12Big Sky School K-12Big Sky
13Powell County H SDeer Lodge
14Fairfield H SFairfield
15Highwood K-12Highwood
16Polson H SPolson
17Circle H SCircle
18Chinook H SChinook
19Manhattan High SchoolManhattan
20Frenchtown K-12 SchoolsFrenchtown
21Florence-Carlton K-12 SchlsFlorence
22Simms H SSimms
23Whitefish H SWhitefish
24Malta K-12 SchoolsMalta
25Sidney H SSidney
26Red Lodge H SRed Lodge
27Culbertson H SCulbertson
28Centerville H SSand Coulee
29Baker K-12 SchoolsBaker
30Great Falls H SGreat Falls
31Gardiner H SGardiner
32Plains K-12Plains
33Butte H SButte
34Noxon H SNoxon
35Sweet Grass County H SBig Timber
36Glasgow K-12 SchoolsGlasgow
37Lincoln County H SEureka
38Columbia Falls H SColumbia Falls
39Cut Bank H SCut Bank
40Belgrade H SBelgrade
41Bigfork H SBigfork
42Plentywood K-12 SchoolsPlentywood
43Joliet H SJoliet
44Harrison K-12 SchoolsHarrison
45Laurel H SLaurel
46Twin Bridges K-12 SchoolsTwin Bridges
47Melstone H SMelstone
48Huntley Project K-12 SchoolsWorden
49Scobey K-12 SchoolsScobey
50Townsend K-12 SchoolsTownsend
51Hobson K-12 SchoolsHobson
52Thompson Falls H SThompson Falls
53Stevensville H SStevensville
54Dawson H SGlendive
55Forsyth H SForsyth
56Conrad H SConrad
57Sunburst K-12 SchoolsSunburst
58Columbus H SColumbus
59Ennis K-12 SchoolsEnnis
60Custer County H SMiles City
61Shelby H SShelby
62Darby K-12 SchoolsDarby
63Fergus H SLewistown
64Troy H STroy
65Anaconda H SAnaconda
66Whitehall H SWhitehall
67Medicine Lake K-12 SchoolsMedicine Lake
68Shepherd H SShepherd
69Dutton/Brady K-12 SchoolsDutton
70Wibaux K-12 SchoolsWibaux
71Ronan H SRonan
72Superior K-12 SchoolsSuperior
73Jefferson H SBoulder
74Havre H SHavre
75White Sulphur Spgs K-12White Sulphur Springs
76Hot Springs K-12Hot Springs
77Fairview H SFairview
78Drummond H SDrummond
79Charlo H SCharlo
80Harlem H SHarlem
81Park City H SPark City
82Cascade H SCascade
83St Ignatius K-12 SchoolsSt Ignatius
84Stanford K-12 SchoolsStanford
85Belfry K-12 SchoolsBelfry
86Victor K-12 SchoolsVictor
87Arlee H SArlee
88Dodson K-12Dodson

Methodology

The following variables contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, school funding per student, student to teacher ratio, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Math test, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Reading and Language test. Data from a total of 10,247 public school districts were used to compute a score for each school district. The following states were omitted due to lack of sufficient data: Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, and Virginia. Note that high schools in some states have their own independent districts.

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