Academic Achievement

Relative to other states, student performance in Montana is above average, with 8th graders scoring 6 and 5 percentage points higher than the national average for students at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math and reading exams, respectively. The national average is 34% for math and 35% for reading.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Montana earns a very high grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Thirty-four percent of Hispanic 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam. Because the state does not have a large enough African-American student population to meet NAEP sampling requirements, Montana’s grade is based solely on low-income and Hispanic students. 

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Montana is above average relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Montana posts mediocre marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Montana earns a middling grade preparing its students for college and careers. At 86%, the state’s high school graduation rate is above the national average, but only 13 students out of 100 pass an AP exam.

21st Century Teacher Force

Montana does a very weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The Treasure State largely fails to identify effective teachers, remove ineffective teachers, and prepare more well-qualified ones. 

Parental Options

Montana does a very poor job providing parents with strong school choice options. It is one of only eight in the country with no charter school law, and there is no private school choice program.

Data Quality

Montana earns an average grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. The state has funded and is building a longitudinal data system.


Montana receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Students have limited access to high-quality digital learning options, and the state has not provided the necessary funding or infrastructure to support digital learning. 

International Competitiveness

Montana earns an above average grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with 38% of students proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard.

Fiscal Responsibility

Montana receives very low marks on fiscal responsibility, with only 64% of its pension funded.