BISMARCK, N.D. – State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, educators and state lawmakers expressed optimism that a new state law will foster a culture of innovation that will inspire students and educators and position North Dakota as a leader in education.
They were among the speakers Thursday at the first Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education, which drew more than 500 people to Legacy High School in Bismarck. The summit featured discussion panels on ways to promote innovation; science and technology education; and the new education law, SB2186, which was approved by the 2017 Legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Burgum earlier this year.
The bill encourages schools to draft innovation proposals, with support from teachers, parents, administrators and the local school board. If some state education laws pose an obstacle to a project, the law gives Baesler authority to waive them.
Schools would be required to report measurable results from their projects, and Baesler must give regular briefings to the Legislature about the progress of local innovation initiatives.
In anticipation of SB2186’s approval, the Northern Cass school district has drafted a proposed innovation plan that will begin in the eighth and ninth grades, Superintendent Cory Steiner said. It would assign instructors in different disciplines to work in the same classroom, and student progress would be measured by their proficiency in subjects, rather than by grades.
“We have the foundation in this state to really do great things,” said Steiner, who added that he believes the bill is an invitation to “stop tinkering and start transforming education. … This finally gives us the permission to create a great system.”
State Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga, a retired school superintendent and teacher, said he believed the bill “has the potential to revolutionize the delivery of education to students.”
Burgum gave closing remarks via Skype from Washington, D.C., where he spent the day at the White House participating in meetings on infrastructure with senior administration officials and fellow governors, mayors, tribal leaders and others.
“Innovation is the key to our nation’s infrastructure challenges, and is a shared theme for the future of education,” Burgum said. “Those of you here today are change agents for a reimagined education system that will help North Dakota lead in a 21st century economy.”
Burgum’s Chief Operating Officer Jodi Uecker also announced the creation of a Task Force to explore additional ways to transform education. The Governor’s office will be soliciting participation from interested individuals in the near future.