The cold bite in the air signals that school is upon us. As a fifth-grade teacher, I know it’s an exciting time for students, teachers and parents. Like other Montana teachers, I have been preparing for my new students. My goal as a teacher is to create a learning environment that engages students and gives them the opportunity to learn. My goal as your state senator is to give teachers the tools that they need to create that learning environment.

Montana has a lot to be proud of when it comes to our public education system. Graduation rates continue to climb. We have great outcomes in our schools because we have dedicated teachers, and our teachers work hard to meet the needs of their students.

During the 2019 Montana State Legislature, the Montana Dyslexia Screening and Intervention Act was passed. Schools must now screen all children entering a new school and children in grades K-2 for possible reading difficulties. Such early screening, diagnosis and intervention is the key in helping children who struggle with dyslexia, a disorder that makes it difficult to learn to read and to interpret words, letters and other symbols.

Schools must now also offer training on dyslexia to their teachers. Many children throughout Montana will benefit from this. A dyslexia task force is looking at ways to address training for new teachers, professional development for current teachers, and accreditation standards. Working together with the education community we are finding ways to find and help students who have dyslexia.

I am pleased that there are many opportunities for our high school students to get a jump on their college career. As students enter high school, many are planning for their future path to higher education. Montana has a “One-Two Free” dual-enrollment program that gives high school students the opportunity to earn six college credits while attending high school. These courses may be taken on line, or in their high school. Our local high schools offer a wide range of dual-enrollment course.

I have always believed that our children are our greatest assets. They are our future for our great state and for our country. With the help of our educators, parents and communities our children have the opportunity to achieve great success in school, careers and in life.

Thank you to all who play such an important role in our children’s lives and I hope you have a great school year.

Sen. Edie McClafferty (D-Butte) represents Senate District 38. She can be reached at Edie.McClafferty@gmail.com.

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