Baesler: Bill Would Encourage Education Innovation

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
Office 701-328-2247
Cell: 701-400-8557

Baesler: Bill Would Encourage Education Innovation
BISMARCK, N.D. Feb. 16, 2017 –
State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler joined a group of legislators and  education leaders Thursday to support approval of SB2186, a bipartisan bill that would give school districts more freedom to use innovative ways to help students learn.
The legislation gives local school boards the opportunity to submit proposals to the state that would encourage diverse approaches to instruction, and provide improved educational and academic opportunities for students.
Baesler said the aim is to encourage school districts to draft plans for providing 21st Century learning experiences for students, and to show how well they work. Any plan would have to be approved by the local school board, and have support from parents, community members, teachers and staff.
Local school districts would decide whether to undertake any innovation initiative, Baesler said, adding that projects would not require additional money from local property taxpayers or the state. “This innovative learning pilot program encourages districts to seek better results with the funds already in place,” she said.
“Innovation requires us to think differently, and openly analyze our current practices,” Baesler said. “This bill promotes innovative thinking with planning, so that North Dakota districts may prepare a customized learning approach for their students.”
Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, is the primary sponsor of SB2186. The North Dakota Senate approved it unanimously, 44-0, on Feb. 10. Other sponsors are Sens. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, and Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, and state Reps. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton; Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake; and Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo.
Schreiber-Beck, Johnson and Guggisberg are members of the House Education Committee, which is expected to review the bill. Schreiber-Beck is the committee’s vice chairwoman.
Baesler held a news conference Thursday in the state Capitol to discuss the bill. She was joined by Poolman, Oban, Larson, Schreiber-Beck, Johnson and Guggisberg, along with North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta; Jon Martinson, executive director of the North Dakota School Boards Association; and Aimee Copas, executive director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders.
To encourage thinking about education innovation in North Dakota communities, the Department of Public Instruction, North Dakota United and the Greater North Dakota Chamber hosted showings of the education reform documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” late last summer in seven North Dakota cities. North Dakota lawmakers were invited to a Thursday night screening of the film at the state Heritage Center.

Below are quotes from the news conference:
Superintendent Kirsten Baesler
, discussing how SB2186 will improve education in North Dakota:
“There are a tremendous amount of innovative activities that are going on across our state, throughout our classrooms, at every grade level. But what’s happening now, it is a bit more of a scattershot method. Certain teachers, certain school districts are attempting things, seeing success, and not really being able to put it into a model that might be scalable, or really not ever have the opportunity to report that, to compare that to the traditional model.”
“What this legislation does, it not only allows that community to develop a plan, but it also puts into place a framework over a three- to five-year period where they’re analyzing the results. Then we at the state can use that to better determine, and more efficiently determine, where our support should be for professional development, and where our resources need to be delivered in order to provide better results with the same amount of money.”
State Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, the primary sponsor of the bill:
“As we look at our students today, the reality is that most of what we used to learn in school, our students can now look up in 30 seconds on a telephone. As these students have changed over the past 20 years, so have my priorities in what I teach them. I have moved away from teaching information and now I must focus on teaching kids how to process and evaluate information.  I focus much less on what to learn and much more on how to be a good learner … Our schools need the flexibility to change too.”

“This bill empowers teachers, parents and school boards by giving them the ability to truly be innovative in their approach to education. As a high school teacher, I am particularly excited about the opportunities we have to redefine the senior year, to reduce our focus on standardized tests, and really look at educating our kids more holistically. Many of our rules and priorities are not practical anymore. I look forward to seeing what schools can do when they no longer have to work within the confines of all of these policies.”

State Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, a member of the Senate Education Committee, who was responsible for explaining the bill in the North Dakota Senate:

“I just think it’s important to make sure we got the right words on paper. All the ideas were there. And when you craft a piece of legislation that really has such a huge impact on our schools, you want to make sure that the words on the paper are what we need to guide us through this process. I think the bill, as it was passed in the Senate, is a perfect example of what incredible opportunities can be accomplished by disregarding partisanship and who gets the credit, and instead remaining focused on our overall priority, giving North Dakota kids in our North Dakota schools the very best educational experience that they can get.”

“There’s already a lot of innovation happening in our schools, thanks to dedicated teachers and leadership from school administrators and school boards. But this bill really has the potential to take that creativity … even further.”

“We had parents come in (for the bill’s hearing in the Senate Education Committee) and say, ‘This is an awesome opportunity for my child who has disabilities,’ and from parents who came in and said, `My child is a really high learner, and I want him to be more challenged in the classroom.’ When you have that kind of broad-based support, I think that shows that we have a pretty good policy on our hands.”
Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton, vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee:

“I think our kids and our students here in North Dakota will be excited to learn, and that’s part of it. I look at it as hands-on learning. I go back to my old 4-H days, and it’s pretty interesting that we’ve evolved to knowing that hands-on learning is an exciting venture for students.”

“Everybody learns differently. I am a former educator, I am a specialist. As we look at our students and we look at ways to stimulate their interest in learning, I think this is the way we have to go about it. Hopefully, we have all of our parents’ support on this. I think the school administrators are welcoming this, as well as the educators.”

Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo, a member of the House Education Committee:

“A bill like this offers the opportunity for schools to look at innovation and how they can be innovative.”
“It seems like every session we come out here, somebody has an idea, and they usually call themselves an entrepreneur. They’re going to fix education. This bill will allow our teachers, the people who know education best and our kids best, to be intrapreneurs, and actually create that innovation in the schools themselves.”

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United:

“On behalf of North Dakota’s teachers, we welcome this opportunity to be part of this group that came up with the innovation legislation that you see in front of you. It is going to really unleash the creativity in our classrooms on behalf of our teachers and our students.”

“Innovation is going on right now … but what this will end up doing though is, it will release those teachers and the school districts from some really, quite frankly, well-meaning but unneeded bounds that they have around them right now, and it will allow that creativity to flow.”

“Imagine a kid who is in a (career and technical education) class, for example, who is applying what he is learning in class to his job at the implement dealership in his town, and getting credit for that. That is an awesome idea, and there are thousands and thousands of ideas like that out there. I think you’ll start seeing those things roll out very, very soon.”

Dr. Aimee Copas, executive director, the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders:

“One of our superintendents had a really excellent thing – he said, ‘We’re operating too closely, for a number of years, on an industrial model of education, and we need to … ask and prepare our students to be ready for a world of college and career, to be ready for jobs that don’t even exist yet. To develop 21st century skills like collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. We have to develop academic, social and emotional skills and make sure we’re developing long-lasting relationships in a safe environment.’ The list that we ask our students and our teachers and our administrators to do, it’s really never-ending.”

 “Our administrators are so excited about this, because our kids cannot be about politics. It’s about students. Some of our schools are limited by location. Some of our schools are limited by bureaucracy. And this really opens up the door to doing the types of things that we know our students can do, that we know our teachers can do, that we know our administrators can do. But our innovation can’t be accomplished … until we empower all of our folks to do the things that we know that they can do well.”