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Education leaders to discuss policies

Determining what is an adequate education for North Dakota students, and how much the state will have to pay to make it happen, is under way in earnest.

Determining what is an adequate education for North Dakota students, and how much the state will have to pay to make it happen, is under way in earnest.

State education leaders met on Wednesday in Bismarck with Allan Odden, a national education expert, to gather the information needed to continue reforming the state's K-12 education system.

Odden met on Thursday in Bismarck with the state's Commission on Education Improvement.

"Just about everything to do with K-12 education will be on the table," Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday.

"We're going to get very deep into some policy discussions about what changes are needed," said Dalrymple, chairman of the education commission, which created the template used to revamp K-12 funding in the last legislative session.

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Those discussions will likely touch upon core curriculum, the types of diplomas awarded, teacher training, and testing and assessments, Dalrymple said.

Odden is a lead partner for the consulting firm Picus and Associates. The company was hired for $149,000 to study North Dakota's system and recommend changes to provide each student with an adequate education, Dalrymple said.

Odden sees "tremendous possibilities" for North Dakota.

"I'm going to make a guess that it's not going to be super expensive. It's doable," he said Thursday.

Still, there are challenges, such as the large number of small school districts. And all schools may have to make changes in how teachers are trained and students taught.

"The whole state will have to gear itself to what it will take to double perform," Odden said. "Every district is going to have some putting their nose to the grindstone."

An initial draft study is due in March for review and debate by education leaders, Dalrymple said. Once a template for a typical school is determined, Picus and Associates will provide a cost analysis, he said.

"That becomes the essence of adequacy," Dalrymple said. "Making sure every student in North Dakota has the resources to achieve."

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Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, was impressed with Odden, calling him "extremely well-versed in everything that's going on in the United States in terms of education."

Flakoll said the commission and lawmakers will have to determine what can be done in the next biennium and in the longer term.

"We're trying to find a sweet spot, where we can have significant, notable improvements in performance and do it at a price that everyone agrees is well worth the investment and affordable," Flakoll said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Education leaders to discuss policies Helmut Schmidt 20071207

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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