In an age where students have access to information with the click of a mouse, teachers should use tools to design learning experiences instead of lessons in an effort to ensure students are ready for the next step in their careers, North Dakota’s schools superintendent said Wednesday.

“We have to value every route our students have to take,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler told the Herald editorial board Wednesday. “We’ve really embraced at the Department of Public Instruction the term ‘choice ready,’ and that it is our mission to ensure all of our students are choice ready when they leave us, meaning whatever they choose to do at the end of their K-12 career that they have the knowledge and the skills and the disposition … to be successful at whatever they choose to do.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Grand Forks was the last stop on a listening tour of 11 cities in North Dakota in which Baesler gathered input from teachers on math and reading standards. A committee to be chosen later this year by an independent consultant will revise the math and reading standards, which will be implemented for the 2017-18 school year.

Baesler announced May 3 the state would replace Common Core standards, just weeks before she faces challenger Joe Chiang, a Fort Totten, N.D., high school math teacher, in the primary election June 14. He has criticized Common Core and has said he would scrap North Dakota’s standards if elected.

Baesler said Wednesday it is North Dakota practice to review math and reading standards every five to seven years. She previously told Forum News Service the move from Common Core was not a campaign strategy.

In the meeting with the Herald editorial board, Baesler referred to legislation presented to the North Dakota Legislature that would have prohibited the use of Common Core standards and would have forced the state to withdraw from a consortium that develops assessments for Common Core. She said in testimony that the bill, which eventually was divided into two bills, would have left schools without standards or a plan to implement new standards.

“It significantly altered the process in which we as North Dakota had set our learning standards and content standards,” she said. “It removed it from writing teams of teachers coming together to determine what our students should know and be able to do to a legislative process, having the Legislature determine what our standards in math and English should be.”

She also testified the state was approaching the time in which it would revise its standards.

“That’s why we are doing that now,” she said. “I testified to that.”

Both bills failed.

As done in the past, Baesler said she wanted to make sure teachers have a say in shaping North Dakota’s standards, which is why she is discussing the process with educators and is gathering input. She emphasized the North Dakota standards would set high expectations for schools to educate a broad spectrum of students.

“We can set high goals and high expectations for our students and achieve them for all students because we have committed teachers,” she said. “We have supportive communities. We have a state Legislature that has continually invested in education as a top priority.

“We shouldn't be afraid of setting high expectations for our students because, with all that we have and the support that we can provide our students, they can achieve it.”