Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Minot Daily News, Minot, May 19, 2015

Common Core concerns

Among complaints many educators make about the federally driven Common Core school standards is that administering required tests is an enormous challenge. Lack of computers and broadband access to the Internet often are cited.

Requiring that tests be administered online is one of the Common Core program's foundations. That might sound reasonable but for the fact nearly two-thirds of the nation's schools don't have access to high-speed Internet connections needed to administer the tests effectively.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. public schools don't have access to broadband Internet connections, The Associated Press reported this week. Yet educators in the 43 states that have adopted Common Core are pressured to use online testing.

Educators are being forced to cope, through methods such as rotating schedules that allow only small groups of students to be tested at a time.

Online learning clearly is the wave of the future. But therein lies the catch: For most schools, broadband Internet connections still are in the future. Setting up a Common Core system relying too soon on online testing amounts to putting the cart before the horse.

One wonders how many other aspects of Common Core were not thought out adequately before being foisted upon the states.


The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, May 20, 2015

Task force will face challenge

There remains a philosophical divide in North Dakota over how students' progress in schools should be judged. It was debated in the Legislature during a failed attempt to dump Common Core.

While Common Core survived, the issues that sparked the debate have not been resolved. Kirsten Baesler, state superintendent of public instruction, plans to name a task force that will review options for conducting student assessments. Everything will be on the table, she says, including leaving the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The consortium has drawn the ire of critics of the current testing system.

The details of the task force haven't been decided yet. To be determined: how many will serve, who will serve and how will they be selected and the timetable for the task force's work. Baesler envisions a tight schedule, with the task force in place by this summer and a decision on how to proceed by next spring. She's indicated she would like the Legislature's majority and minority leaders to be on the task force, or have them designate someone to serve for them. There have been legislators and others, on both sides of the issue, who have expressed a desire to be selected.

That's good. Those that have strong feelings on the issue should be willing to put in the time, and it's going to take time. It's a complex issue that's going to require open-minded hard work.

Part of the impetus for the task board comes from the problems encountered during the spring rollout of a new online assessment program.

The contractor hired last year to implement the assessments, Measured Progress, has so disappointed the state that legal action is being discussed.

Baesler says the task force will include parents of public, private and home-schooled children. Education and industry representatives will also participate along with the legislators.

The importance of this issue can't be downplayed. Just this week, Baesler said she's looking at ways to close the gap between students' scores on state assessments and their performance on a test called the "Nation's Report Card."

On Monday a national report grouped North Dakota among more than a dozen states with large differences in student scores on their own state assessments and those reported on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

Baesler expects the use of Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring will provide better information on North Dakota students' college readiness and the gap between the NAEP and Smarter Balanced results to be narrower than the present gap. The Smarter Balanced assessment was created to be more comparable to the NAEP test, and to provide a better picture of how our students are doing in school, she said.

The NAEP report provides the task force with another piece of information to explore.

Hopefully Baesler can create a task force with a wide range of expertise willing to work together to improve education and assessment in the state. It would benefit everyone.


The Daily News, Wahpeton, May 18, 2015

A word of advice: Don't grow up too fast

This is the last week of school for area North Dakota students, while Minnesota has a few short weeks left.

For graduating seniors, this is a step toward maturity. These teenagers are standing on the brink of adulthood.

In the next few years many of these seniors will graduate from college, start their careers and may choose to start a family. Some of these students chose an alternate route instead of higher education and have been tax-paying citizens for years. All of them are a shining example of the future and for all, they have an exciting road ahead with more avenues than they can hope to anticipate.

As they stand before you in these next few weeks with a cap and gown, remind them of the importance of the following words of advice:

— Share — yes, they did learn many of life's important lessons in kindergarten. Share their knowledge, aspirations and dreams

— Be fearless — don't be afraid to go for those dreams and don't let others dictate their actions

— Listen to you — this is the age when young adults understand the endless advice they received growing up. Their parents have navigated this stream and have their best interests at heart

— Enjoy the ride — don't wish for tomorrow, take advantage of today. Challenge yourself to be successful and you will succeed

— Finally, don't grow up too fast — enjoy being young. Use this time to achieve personal growth. In a few short years your perspective will have changed, so protect your youth. Invest in yourself and remember this moment.

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