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Press Release

Education Commission of the States last week honored North Dakota with the 2024 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation in recognition of its success in spearheading the nation’s first competency-based graduation pathway that provides individualized opportunities for student success. 

After recognizing the barriers in traditional curricular pathways for students, North Dakota set out to expand students’ options for fulfilling graduation requirements while exploring their interests and passions. In 2021, the North Dakota Legislature successfully passed SB 2196, creating the North Dakota Learning Continuum — the first official competency-based graduation pathway in the country. 

The collaborative nature of this initiative stands as a model for education innovation efforts. Rooted in the instructional requirements established in the Legislature, state leaders worked with educators from across the state to write continuum benchmarks that would offer flexibility to students and schools. Family and public comment was invited before the State Board of Public School Education officially adopted the continuum in Spring 2022. 

A nominator said, “It has been a true partnership between school districts and the state to reimagine a model of education that values the diverse needs of every individual learner.” 

To build on this progress, North Dakota passed the Learn Everywhere bill, HB 1478, which allows students to earn credit from work experiences, internships or organization memberships while working on projects they’re passionate about. To ensure schools could make changes to curriculum and instructional delivery models, the state passed HB 1388 that guarantees the same amount of funding per student no matter where a student is learning from. 

North Dakota’s ongoing efforts offer schools an opportunity to create personalized pathways that prepare students with the skills they need to be successful long after they graduate high school. 

Education Commission of the States will present North Dakota with the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation at the 2024 National Forum on Education Policy July 10-12 in Washington, D.C. 

The Frank Newman Award for State Innovation is one of three awards that Education Commission of the States gives each year to celebrate outstanding commitment to public education. The others are the James Bryant Conant Award, which recognizes individual achievement, and the Education Commission of the States Corporate Award, which recognizes a for-profit corporation, nonprofit organization or foundation.


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