MISSOULA, Mont. -

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau had a busy day. She awarded thousands of dollars in grant money to schools participating in her Graduation Matters program.

Overall, $200,000 was awarded to more than 35 school districts. The schools in the region that received money included Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Libby, Whitefish, St. Ignatius, Hot Springs, Missoula, Polson, Arlee, Thompson Falls, Stevensville and Hamilton.

It's a reward for their efforts to keep kids in school and make sure they graduate.

Before the program started in 2009, more than 2,000 students dropped out of school each year. Around 1,500 kids dropped out in 2013; 770 fewer than four years ago.

Juneau says that the programs each community puts in place under the banner of Graduation Matters helps prepare students for the next level, whether college or a technical career.

The state has raised standards in English and math, and improved help for kids applying for college and financial aid.

Juneau hopes to keep lowering the dropout rate and have every community in the state a part of Graduation Matters.