North Dakota Has “New” Standards

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler
Photo credit: Say Anything Blog

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announced that she approved “new” math and ELA standards for North Dakota.

From the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s press release:

The new standards will replace the math and English standards based on the Common Core that have been in effect since 2011, Baesler said. They take effect during the 2017-18 school year.

The standards provide guideposts for what students should know, and be able to do, during each grade in their educational journey. For example, North Dakota’s first-grade English standards include introductions to subject-verb agreement and singular and plural nouns; a fourth-grade math standard says students should be able to classify geometric shapes.

“I really feel like we were given the opportunity to really make them North Dakota standards,” said Lynn Mitzel, a member of the math standards writing committee. Mitzel is a math coach for the Fargo public schools and the South East Education Cooperative of Fargo.

Teachers who worked on the math standards writing committee said they believed the new standards were easier to understand and interpret. The standards include examples of how they can be applied in the classroom.

Two separate groups of North Dakota math and English teachers created the standards. They began their work in June 2016 and continued throughout the summer, fall and winter.

“Our North Dakota teachers devoted hundreds of hours to write these new standards and this publication is the result of months of conscientious work by North Dakota educators who represented various areas of expertise, including general education, special education, early childhood education, and higher education,” Baesler said.

“When I announced the new standards work would begin, I emphasized the writing job would be in the hands of North Dakota teachers,” Baesler continued. “There were no dictates from the state or federal government. Department of Public Instruction staff provided support and served as facilitators, but they did not suggest or encourage any standards.”

Thirty-eight North Dakota mathematics teachers made up the standards writing committee for math, while 33 English instructors wrote the English standards. “Our North Dakota teachers worked with the former standards for six years, and no one was more qualified to improve them,” Baesler said.

The writing committee’s two drafts were made available for public comment in September 2016 and January 2017, which generated useful opinions from teachers, administrators and parents.

A second layer of review was also added. A panel of eight community leaders, business people and representatives of the general public met twice to review the drafts and provide a fresh set of eyes and different perspectives for the committee’s work.

“The whole process was open to the public the whole time. They had the outside group review the drafts of the standards, and they also had the drafts available for public comment. Everything was very up front,” said Patsy Schlosser, an Edgeley High School math teacher and member of the math standards writing committee.

Baesler called the standards-writing process “exceptionally open and transparent.”

I didn’t follow the process so I can’t vouch for how transparent it was or say that it wasn’t. I do know the foundation for the standards was Common Core so this is not a repeal. The goal was to “update” and “improve” their standards.

So I’m not really optimistic. Read them for yourself (math and ELA).