Educational summit to be held in Mandan

The state’s eight Regional Education Associations, including the Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative of Minot, attended a summit in Mandan on Thursday. New State Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Kirsten Baesler also attended. Regional Education Associations are comprised of regional area school districts and cooperating partners seeking to enhance educational programs and services through cooperation and the pooling of resources, according to a press release.

“This summit is truly historic in that a meeting like this has never occured before,” said Tom Conlon, director of the Missouri River Educational Cooperative, in the press release.

The primary issue discussed was the status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind waiver. The U.S. Department of Education has allowed each state to request a waiver from specific No Child Left Behind requirements by creating their own comprehensive plans to improve educational outcomes for students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction. Baesler updated the groups on the state’s waiver application and garnered feedback that she will use in her upcoming discussions with the U.S. Department of Education.

The groups also discussed how the various educational agencies throughout the state can best collaborate in transitioning from the current content standards being used to measure student, school, and district proficiency to the new Common Core State Standards, which will begin to be assessed in the spring of 2015.

The groups also discussed the need for professional development opportunities within school districts to better educate students.

The groups planned for future meetings and said future topics could include school safety, resurgence of the previously dissolved education commission, career readiness and awareness, increasing student enrollment and concrete steps to ensure ongoing collaboration.

“I am thrilled to participate in this summit, especially as I start as North Dakota’s Superintendent,” said Baesler in the press release. “I can only represent and serve our students and schools if I hear from them. I look forward to working with all our REAs and North Dakota school districts as we move forward with this and other key issues.”