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Plain Talk: Could North Dakota see longer school years to make up for pandemic learning loss?

"I think each school district will make changes to their calendars," Supt. Kirsten Baesler said.

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Screenshot of North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler introducing a list of proposals for closing the COVID-19 pandemic learning gap to lawmakers on Thursday, Feb. 18.

"We have a bit of a crisis in K-12 education right now," North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said on this episode of Plain Talk.

At issue is the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it's had on the state's schools. While some of the testing and other measurements of academic progress vary from district to district, Baesler said her office estimates that as many as 25 to 28 percent of students currently aren't performing at grade level.

The "chaos" of the pandemic "has had an impact on the learning of our students," Baesler said.


What can be done about it?

State lawmakers had charged Baesler with coming up with a list of proposals, and she's begun presenting the list she produced, with the input of teachers and other education stakeholders, at the on-going legislative session in Bismarck .

Some of the top proposals? High-impact tutoring, social and behavioral interventions, and adjustments to the school calendar.

That last may be the most provocative in terms of public response, but Baesler said how these proposals are implemented, if they're implemented, would probably look different in each school district. She said it's unlikely that districts would add days to their calendars, but parents and students will likely see some "tweaks" such as academic summer camps or weekend tutoring sessions.

"I think each school district will make changes to their calendars," Baesler said.

The report presented to lawmakers made it clear that teachers don't want "one size fits all" solutions from the Legislature, Baesler added, saying there is little appetite among educations for any mandates or requirements from lawmakers.

Other proposals Baesler's report brings up include creating a credentialed position called "health technician" at schools (think something akin to a school nurse) and hiring school counselors at elementary-level schools as well.

The full Department of Public Instruction report is below. To subscribe to Plain Talk , click here.


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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a columnist and podcast host for the Forum News Service. Reach him at
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