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School Boards Association working on a vision for K-12 education

The North Dakota School Boards Association is spear-heading an effort to develop a vision for K-12 education.

NDSBA General legal counsel Anita Thomas said this comes in the wake of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act – the successor to No Child Left Behind. And she said numbers from a recent Gallup poll in North Dakota left her organization with some questions.

"It indicated that 89 percent of North Dakotans believe their schools are good or excellent," Thomas said. "So, we looked at it, and started scratching our heads, saying 'Based on what? And compared to what?'"

Thomas said in house, NDSBA asked itself if the results would have been the same, had people actually known what percentage of students are not achieving proficiency on basic assessments, or the percentage of students not able to transition seamlessly to college, and get an on-time completion of a degree or certificate.

"In the last 15 years of No Child Left Behind, we had the federal government holding our feet to the fire," Thomas said. "Whether or not you liked that level of accountability, it was there. Now, ESSA gives us the ability to hold ourselves accountable. And from our perspective at the School Boards Association, we would like to insure that we're having an honest conversation about how our students are really doing."

Thomas said NDSBA invited a number of educational professionals to sit down and come up with a vision of what North Dakota schools should look like. She said a part of the discussion will center around how prepared teachers are to step into the classroom.

"In the legal profession, for instance, you do not take a student who just graduated and passed the bar, and say 'Hey -- here's the murder trial of the century. Go for it,'" Thomas said. "You get a new hire at Boeing, and that's not the individual told to design the new 777 airplane. Yet, with teaching, we say, 'Fine. You graduated. Here's the key to your classroom. See you in May.'"

Thomas said the hope is to come up with goals and action steps to design a system North Dakota needs.

"ESSA wants us to think, imagine, create," Thomas said. "We have a white board. We can focus on 21st century needs. And we don't have to be afraid to step out of our comfort level."

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