Supt. Kirsten Baesler: How to Improve Education in North Dakota


In May I announced that the Department of Public Instruction was beginning the process of revising North Dakota’s academic standards for math and English. These new standards will replace the standards adopted in 2011 based on the Common Core. Since May, two committees comprised of North Dakota teachers have met and completed the first draft of standards for public comment and external review.

In addition to the standards being released for public comment so all citizens may provide feedback, NDDPI has also created a review committee comprised of community leaders, business, industry and labor, and the general public to provide input to our teachers on the standards. At least two more drafts of the standards will be released for public comment, with the third and possibly final draft to be released in March 2017.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]This intellectual freedom ensures that our teachers have the opportunity to create a set of standards that they believe is best for our students to prepare them academically for life.[/mks_pullquote]

The final draft will be implemented beginning the 2017-2018 school year. Based on these new standards, a bidding process will be initiated for a state assessment that will measure students’ ability with these new standards. The bidding process will include the recommendations provided to me by the State Assessment Task Force which I convened in 2015. The 2016 standards revision of our math and English standards presents an opportunity to update two of the most essential subjects as we transition into the education demands of the 21stCentury.

The teachers developing the next version of our standards are not bound to keeping or removing certain standards as they work to revise and update the standards. It is entirely within the power of North Dakota teachers on the committees to make as many or as few modifications as they deem necessary. Aside from the timeline for the drafts to be released and revised, teachers have no mandates placed on them regarding their work.

This intellectual freedom ensures that our teachers have the opportunity to create a set of standards that they believe is best for our students to prepare them academically for life. At the same time, the teachers are accountable to community leaders and to the public as their work is reviewed by any North Dakotan that wishes to have input during the review process. This model balances the need for professional involvement in the standards with the critical element of community involvement in the education of our students.

The revision of North Dakota’s academic standards in math and English is a necessary process to ensure that our students will not fall behind as gains in global content knowledge and instructional theory surpass the standards that have been adopted. The standards adoption process being used in North Dakota ensures that the standards to which we hold our students accountable is crafted by our own teachers and guided by our cultural context of community, business and industry and the general public.

The first drafts of the proposed new standards are posted on the NDDPI website. I encourage every North Dakotan to review them and provide comment. We are counting on the collective wisdom of North Dakotans to improve our education system. Those efforts will strengthen North Dakota’s schools and help prepare our students for a successful future!