Tuesday, August 15, 2023 - 04:13 pm

Gov. Doug Burgum today kicked off the seventh annual Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, highlighting how North Dakota is focusing on the Building Blocks for Success to improve outcomes for students.

Burgum explained how the state is investing in the Building Blocks for Success, five key strategic themes identified by the North Dakota PK-12 Education Steering Committee: 1) quality early childhood experiences; 2) support for safe and healthy behaviors; 3) career awareness, exploration and development; 4) quality education personnel; and 5) quality student-centered instruction in driving positive outcomes for students, educators, communities and the state.

The governor also highlighted legislation and policies approved since 2017 to provide school districts with flexibility to enhance student-centered, personalized learning, including innovation waivers; a choice-ready framework to prepare students for college, career or the military; Learn Everywhere, which allows graduation credits to be fulfilled through internships, apprenticeships, extracurriculars, clubs and other educational opportunities; and Graduation Pathway, which made North Dakota the first state in the nation with legislation that allows competency-based education built on student proficiency and mastery of standards to count toward a high school diploma.  

“No other states have offered this menu of opportunity up to their K-12 system. What are we going to do with it?” Burgum said in his remarks, encouraging more districts to take advantage of the tools available. “Thanks for being involved in education. It’s so important what you’re doing, and that’s why we’re so passionate about trying to make sure that we can make a difference for all (students).”

Nearly 500 individuals registered to attend the free one-day summit in person and an additional roughly 150 registered for the virtual option. Keynote speakers were Matt Kirchner, an international speaker, author, business leader, host of the weekly TechEd Podcast and president of ATS/LAB Midwest, a leading distributor of world-class curriculum, eLearning and training equipment, and Nicholas Carlisle, CEO of Power of Zero, a global initiative to address cyberbullying, and creator of the award-winning No Bully program for schools.

The governor also announced recipients of the #InnovativeND Awards throughout the day. The categories and recipients are:

  • Frontline Innovation – Mendi Blake, special education teacher in West Fargo Public Schools, who has pioneered the development of the ID program at West Fargo High School, empowering students with special needs to believe in themselves and their abilities while building life skills.
  • Collaborative Culture – Michelle Candy, teacher at Two Rivers Education Center, North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who led the effort to make the Missouri River Correctional Center a pilot site for the STAR (Student Achievement in Reading) national reading initiative aimed at training instructors in evidence-based reading practices to be used with intermediate-level adult learners.
  • System Transformation – Tom Klapp, Beth Head and Luke Bush, Northern Cass School District, for their efforts to develop “studios,” an inclusive partnership between educators, learners and the community to provide a six-week learning experience where students connect with professionals to solve real problems in their community.
  • Student Leadership – Aidan Pelton, who will be a junior this fall at Watford City High School and serves as a mentor in the Little Buddy Program, on the Vision West mental health subcommittee, and as chair of the ambassador program, having led a cultural food fair in March that celebrated the 23 countries represented in Watford City.
  • Pathways Innovation – Denise Jonas, director of the Cass County Career and Technical Education Center, who has worked to ensure students have the opportunity to take CTE courses not offered by their schools and has advocated for career advisors at each school to help students find their future careers.