Baesler, Microsoft Announce Expanded Partnership For High School Tech Education

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For Immediate Release
Contact: DaleWetzel, Public Information Specialist
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Baesler, Microsoft Announce Expanded Partnership For High School Tech Education
Microsoft TEALS Program to Launch and Expand in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D., Jan. 22, 2018 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Monday announced a new partnership with Microsoft Corp., and said she is gauging interest from local superintendents and high schools in utilizing a unique program for computer science instruction.

Microsoft will be expanding its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program to North Dakota by hiring a full-time, North Dakota-based coordinator, volunteering some of its own employees and expert instructors as classroom teachers, and exploring further investments to expand this innovative program for North Dakota high school students, Baesler said during an event at the Bismarck Career Academy and Technical Center.

“I want to thank Microsoft for starting this program and investing additional staff resources to support it,” Baesler said. “In North Dakota, we are used to planting crops and doing what is needed to bring in a bountiful harvest. Microsoft is offering some top-quality engineering and computer science education seeds for our schools, and I look forward to continue working with them to support these types of programs.”

In the TEALS program, a volunteer computer science professional from Microsoft or another industry partner teams up with a classroom instructor to team-teach computer science courses. The classroom teacher gradually takes over instruction as she or he gains knowledge of the subject.

Baesler said teachers of various educational backgrounds can use Microsoft TEALS both to learn computer science concepts and how to teach them.

“This program is about problem solving and being creative,” Baesler said. “It teaches our students to think rigorously and systematically. It helps to teach the North Dakota values of persistence, tenacity and self-reliance.”

The superintendent said Microsoft TEALS is much more than helping students become familiar with technology. “Computer science is about creating technology, rather than just using it,” she said. “To use one analogy, it is not about driving a car. It is about designing and building a car.”

Taya Spelhaug, Microsoft’s TechSpark manager for North Dakota, emphasized how essential it is for high schools to teach computer science, given that technology affects almost every element of our daily lives.

“Learning to code, through Microsoft’s TEALS program, will help our students unlock exciting career 
opportunities and thrive in an increasingly digital economy,” Spelhaug said. “Governor Doug Burgum and state school Superintendent Kirsten Baesler’s leadership made possible this opportunity for North Dakota students to learn computer science.”

The Department of Public Instruction has successfully advocated a number of initiatives to encourage computer science programs and instruction in North Dakota’s schools.

At Baesler’s urging, the 2017 Legislature approved a new law that allows a high school student to substitute a rigorous computer science course for a mathematics class to meet North Dakota’s requirement that he or she have three units of math to graduate. The law took effect last August.

The NDDPI has obtained legislative support for students to take Advanced Placement courses in science, computer science, math and English. Each student may take at least one exam in those AP subjects for free during their high school careers. The tests normally cost almost $100 each.

Last month, Baesler encouraged North Dakota schools to take part in the “Hour of Code” national event during Computer Science Education Week.

According to, a nonprofit organization that is supported by the technology industry, North Dakota has more than 600 open computing jobs, which have an average annual salary of more than $70,000.
Ninety-three percent of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science, but only 40 percent of schools teach it, according to Students who learn computer science in high school are six times more likely to major in computer science in college.

Baesler said Hillsboro High School in the Red River Valley is the only North Dakota high school with a Microsoft TEALS program. She hopes it will catch on with many others.
“I’ve met some of their students at Hillsboro. I’ve met their teacher and their principal,” Baesler said. “It’s a program that these students are excited about learning. It’s a class that the students who are involved in it are really excited about going to. They see how this relates to the future occupations that they want, and the doors this class is opening up for them.”