Guest columnist: Exciting time for education in North Dakota
One of the greatest challenges teachers face is motivating their students, particularly in more abstract subjects such as science, technology and math. When students are exposed to these subjects individually, they often don’t see how the material they’re learning may be relevant after graduation. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – curriculum is designed to integrate concepts from these four areas into meaningful projects that connect students to real life situations, and encourages students to use problem-solving, creativity, decision-making and critical thinking skills.
As with other innovative educational concepts, finding funding for STEM programs could prove to be an additional challenge for educators. However, North Dakota has recently been the recipient of a more than $25 million grant from the Hess Corporation. Titled Succeed 2020, the grant is designed for middle and high school students beginning with the class of 2020 (students who are currently in the fifth grade). Specific goals include increasing the number of students who complete high school and college programs, decreasing the need for remedial education and increasing ACT scores.
Four of North Dakota’s eight regional education associations have each been awarded funds to begin working with their local schools and community partners – business and community leaders and parents – to design and implement programming focused on career and college counseling, rigorous academic and career-technical education, and support services for students. Discussions will include common core standards that address the experiences and needs of our students and the North Dakota job market, use of STEM projects in all schools, and means to tailor implementation to the needs of individual schools.
Equally important will be addition of career resources coordinators who will work to increase educators’ awareness of available career information and provide professional development regarding the student career planning process. Grant funding will help support events for students and parents to learn about college planning and preparedness, and for students to learn life and career skills they will need to successfully enter the adult world.
Ultimately, Succeed 2020 grant funding will be awarded to all eight REAs to develop and implement programming on a statewide basis. This is essential in order to provide our state’s students with learning methods that stimulate and motivate them; encourage their exploration of careers that incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; and prepare them to be successful in life. It is also essential as a means to provide administrators and teachers with the tools they need to integrate STEM subject areas and prepare students to be college and career ready.
The REA-facilitated regional coordination of programming is an opportunity to take the first steps toward bringing together K-12 school systems and our college system. By doing so, we can work toward another of Succeed 2020’s goals: to reduce the amount of remedial education currently needed by high school graduates prior to entering college-level courses.
This is an exciting time for education in North Dakota. We are entering a new era with new opportunities to take our public schools from good to great. The funding provided by Succeed 2020 will help bring North Dakota’s public education system to an entirely new level.
-Kirsten Baesler, Mandan
(Baesler is a candidate for North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is president of the Mandan Board of Education and works for the Bismarck Public Schools.)