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Teacher training initiative aims to boost AP courses in ND

FARGO - Teacher training sessions at Davies High School this week are the first of a statewide effort to drastically increase the number of Advanced Placement courses in North Dakota schools and the number of students taking them.

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler talks Wednesday, July 15, 2015, about the National Math and Science Initiative training underway this week at Fargo Davies High School. At left is Fargo School District Superintendent Jeff Schatz. Helmut Schmidt / The Forum
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler talks Wednesday, July 15, 2015, about the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) training underway this week at Fargo Davies High School. At left is Marcus Lingenfelter, Vice President of State Relations for NMSI. Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

FARGO – Teacher training sessions at Davies High School this week are the first of a statewide effort to drastically increase the number of Advanced Placement courses in North Dakota schools and the number of students taking them.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said Wednesday that the state's partnership with the nonprofit National Math and Science Initiative will give elementary, middle school and high school teachers the intensive training they need to improve math, science and English instruction.

She said when she took office in 2013, The College Board reported that North Dakota ranked 51st in the nation in Advanced Placement course offerings.

"That's not acceptable," Baesler said.

The "Laying the Foundation Institute" program at Davies, and one that will be held July 28-31 at Bismarck Century High School, are part of an effort Baesler said will be "transformational" for the state's schools.

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Baesler worked to get $1.25 million set aside by the Legislature for the training in the 2015-17 state budget. The ultimate goal will to find philanthropic partners to help support the program, she said.

In 2014, North Dakota had 31 schools in 21 public school districts and 10 nonpublic school system that offered AP tests, according to The College Board.

The state has 179 public school districts.

In 2014, 394 Fargo students took an AP exam, and 270 scored a passing grade of 3 or better. Those Fargo students all together took 592 exams, 422 of which scored with a 3 or better, DPI reported.

In West Fargo, 141 students took AP exams, and 102 scored a 3 or better. West Fargo students on the overall took 215 exams, with 149 test scoring a 3 or better, DPI reported.

Marcus Lingenfelter, vice president of state relations for NMSI, said the organization uses training programs that have proven themselves effective over the past 20 years.

Lingenfelter said that 1 million students have been served and 50,000 teachers trained by NMSI, and 765 high schools in 30 states have instituted the college readiness program.

Lingenfelter said there is a 68 percent first-year increase in the number of students at partner schools earning AP test scores that qualify for college credit.

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"That is 10 times the national average in increases," he said.

By the third year of the program, schools using the NMSI training post a 128 percent increase in student AP test scores qualifying for college credit, he said.

"The school systems that participate in this program will see dramatic, transformative and measurable results in terms of the outcomes" Lingenfelter said.

He said NMSI will be involved with North Dakota for at least five years.

About 50 teachers were training at Davies, including 21 Fargo School District middle and high school teachers, Superintendent Jeff Schatz said.

"We are looking for those gains in student achievement" to better prepare them for college and the workplace, Schatz said. "We believe in professional development for our teachers ... so our teachers are prepared to prepare students for the 21st century."

West Fargo School District had 23 elementary and four secondary teachers at Davies, Superintendent David Flowers said.

"This initiative will increase the participation rate and the success rate of students in advanced coursework in our community and our state," Flowers said.

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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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