Montana features heavily on many listings for scenic and geographically impressive states due to its snow-capped peaks, trails, lakes, and diverse range of wildlife. But how does the Big Sky state compare in terms of education rankings and what are the best school districts in Montana?
There are many factors to take into consideration when looking at statistics for education, such as the number of students, performance and graduation rates, funding, and student to teacher ratios.
On a scale of one to ten, Montana only ranks about halfway up the table in national terms, but aside from this fact, the state has more than its fair share of well-rounded public schools that balance the state’s academic achievement and performance.
As such, when considering the best school districts in Montana, it becomes clear that it’s not just a case of heading to the bigger cities.
Taking into account how spread out the population in this region of the U.S. is, you begin to see how there is such a broad range of performance statistics and rankings.
The very best school districts in Montana aren’t always about funding or location, although there is always more chance of bigger budgets in the more populated cities.
Essentially, what seems to make them successful more often than not is the commitment of the teachers, the children, and to some extent the parents, to make the schools what they are.
No two sets of statistics related to a state or district’s educational status give the same information, at least not in the same order. But there are a few common denominators when considering the best of the many school districts in Montana.
To help guide you along the way of finding the school district that best fits your need, we have a list of the most commonly-occurring districts and their corresponding towns and cities.
10 of the Best School Districts in Montana
Bozeman is a Montana city in Gallatin County with a population going on for 50,000. Despite rising living costs it is often cited as one of the best places to live in Montana, with its suburban feel that is offset by the surrounding countryside.
The public schools in Bozeman are highly rated, and Bozeman has come out top in various previous listings, especially when it comes to elementary schools.
Bozeman is also the home of Montana State University, for those looking for higher education. As a bonus, families will find there are a lot of activities to do in Bozeman outside of school hours
Billings is in Yellowstone County and has the largest population of any city or town in Montana, at over 100,000. As such, the school district is the biggest in the state, a fact which may or may not appeal to a family. Regardless, the schools in Billings are above average for the state, and there are a lot of families living in this region of Montana.
Billings has around 5-6,000 students in grades between 9 and 12 with a student-teacher ratio of around 17 to 1. Test score figures indicate more than one-third of students are proficient in math and half of them in reading.
Missoula is the second most populated region of Montana with a population of over 70,000, and similar to Billings its public schools are ranked above average for the state. This is another region of Montana with something of a dense urban/suburban feel and there are plenty of amenities to suit all ages.
The city has just under 4,000 students in grades between 9 and 12 with a slightly lower student-teacher ratio than Billings, at around 15 to 1. State test score figures indicate that just under half of all students are at least proficient in math and just over half are fully proficient in reading.
Hamilton is a fairly small town in Montana with a population of less than 5,000. The schools in this town in Montana’s Ravalli County are also rated above the national average, and state test score figures indicate similar performance rates to those from the more populated cities.
The town has less than 2,000 students in grades PK, and K-12 and student-teacher ratios are again similar to those in the bigger cities at around 15 to 1. Hamilton Public Schools rate consistently well in terms of the teachers, the programs of study, and extra-curricular clubs and activities.
Although it has a very small population of less than 3,000, Libby is a town in Montana with a well-rated school district. Libby is in Lincoln County and is surrounded by some picturesque rural areas which could be why the town attracts a fair share of retirees. But the schools are rated above the national average, and hence the town also holds some attraction for professionals with families.
The Libby Public School System has just over 1,000 students in grades PK and K-12, with a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. State test scores indicate slightly higher rates of performance than those from the more populated areas, with half or more of the students being proficient in math and reading.
Even as the capital Helena is a town with a smaller population than both Missoula and Billings, at more than 30,000. The city is in Lewis and Clark County and is also often considered one of the best places to live in Montana. Not statistically the best in Montana, but the schools nevertheless are way above the national average.
In Helena there obviously lots of schools and other amenities, and Helena High School District is an above-average public school with close to 3,000 students in grades 9-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 14 to 1. Figures for state test scores indicate that 40% of students are at least proficient in math, and closer to 60% in reading and literacy.
Corvallis is located between the scenic Bitterroot Mountains and the Sapphire Range, just south of Missoula. Public Schools in this town frequently rate quite highly on various listings as above average.
The main public school has students in grades PK and K-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. The state test scores indicate achievement higher than that coming from the larger cities, with at least half of students achieving proficiency in math and more than that in reading and literacy.
Corvallis Public Schools were rated at an overall grade of a B+ which was largely attributed to the teachers and academic programs.
Ennis is a small Montana town with a population of barely 1,000. And yet it features highly on many listings related to education in the region and has an above-average public school district.
The small town has somewhere in the region of 400 students in grades PK and K-12 with one of the best student-teacher ratios of 12 to 1. Around half of students are at least proficient in math and more than 60% are highly literate and good at reading.
Ennis High School has over just over 100 students in grades 9-12 with an even better student-teacher ratio of 10 to 1. According to state test scores, at least 75% of students are proficient in math, and an impressive 90% are proficient in reading and literacy.
9. Flathead, Kalispell
The Flathead School District, which is in Kalispell, is another frequently high-ranking, above average, public school district, particularly in terms of high schools.
Flathead High School has close to 3,000 students in grades 9-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1, and the school has previously been ranked the 16th best in Montana. According to state test scores, 35% of students are at least proficient in math and 55% in reading, and there is a great range of clubs and activities on offer.
Glacier High School is another and possibly even better high school in the district that has previously been ranked as the 12th best in Montana.
10. Big Sky
Big Sky School District is another highly public school district located in the Gallatin Gateway. This district has previously earned an ‘A’ rating for its academic programs, its teachers, and its college preparation schemes.
With less than students in grades PK and K-12 and a student-teacher ratio of 12 to 1, state test score figures indicate that close to 60% of students are at least proficient in math and over that in reading and literacy.