Educational leaders continue forward momentum

October 23, 2015

Dr. Richard Rothaus, NDUS, interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, presented on both admissions standards and Predictive Analytic Reporting.

Dr. Richard Rothaus, NDUS, interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, presented on both admissions standards and Predictive Analytic Reporting.

Leaders from the state’s education-focused agencies met last week to discuss challenges to their respective missions and goals and how they could help each other meet those challenges.

Members of the State Board of Higher Education, the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Career and Technical Education and the Education and Standards Practices Board met last Friday to talk about ways forward. Presentations included remedial classes and admissions standards for students, recruiting and retention efforts for instructors, and how the respective agencies could work more closely together to provide quality education for all the citizens of the State.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler welcomed the diverse group of educators to the meeting at the Capitol. Dr. Shelby Maier, North Central Comprehensive Center at McREL International gave a presentation on a teacher recruiting and retention task force. Following that, Dr. Jon Martinson, the executive director for the North Dakota Schools Boards Association (SBA), spoke about marketing efforts that sought to address the teacher shortage. He noted that lack of educator advocacy and public knowledge on teaching professions had contributed to the overall perception and public attitude on addressing teacher retention.

The SBA is continuing efforts to change that perception through outreach in the state’s major daily newspapers. Martinson added that in addition to those efforts it would be necessary to examine why teachers left their jobs, and in what roles they were most needed.

“Teacher responsibility increases each year but respect for them and the work they do wanes,” Martinson said. He added that while it might be considered controversial for him to say, the state’s agencies might need to look into “rip[ping] up the salary schedule,”  which mandates pay increases based exclusively on how long someone has been in a position.  Martinson stressed that incentive pay for performance could be one option forward to alleviate the issue, noting that to solve the problem, something would have to change.

“We won’t change things by embracing the status quo,” he concluded.

Later, following presentations on dual credit classes, increased educational requirements for instructors, the state of standard assessments, and how industry deals with assessments and certifications, Dr. Richard Rothaus, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs at North Dakota University System, presented on admissions across the two-year, four-year and research universities.

He said while standards for admissions were on an upward trend, the three-tiered environment was able to fit the need for most, if not all, students.

“It’s rare that we have a situation where we have a student who wants to get in and we can’t accommodate them,” Rothaus said.  He added that the admission standards for NDSU and UND are designed to be similar to and competitive with other research universities.

Rothaus also spoke on Predictive Analytics Reporting, which has been tested at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University and is on its way to full implementation across the NDUS. Rothaus stated that the analytic framework could help predict student success, or the challenges to it.

“This analytical tool is extremely powerful and provides anonymized student data that helps us figure out factors associated with success and those associated with failure,” Rothaus said. “This is taking data we already have and we can use it to look at trends to predict those situations.”

Paired with data from the State Longitudinal Data System, PAR could help increase student success over time, he noted.

His presentation transitioned into discussion led by SBHE member Mike Ness, a retired superintendent with 30 years of experience in K-12. Ness said that higher standards were good in theory, but could place strains on high school students focused on completing the “Core Courses” needed for their college or university of choice.

“If Core Courses are increased, what does that do to the K-12 electives, the arts, the CTE courses and dual credits?” Ness asked the educators. He added that it was a topic he’d brought up in higher ed environments, and was looking for input from other educational agencies.

Baesler noted that she’d be happy to work within K-12 and with other agencies, but any effort would need to be totally collaborative, starting with an agreed-upon definition for what should constitute the Core Courses.

“What I would like to see is a continued conversation about the definition of ‘core course,’” Baesler said. “Music is considered a core area in elementary school, and if music is core in our arena, why isn’t it core in yours?”

Some career and technical education classes also should be considered as core courses, she said. “I have seen, personally, how so much math, science and English is taught within career and technical courses very, very effectively,” she said. “Core courses, I think, should be more broadly inclusive in university system admissions.”

According to SBHE member Greg Stemen, the collaborative discussion throughout the day showed clarity of purpose from those present.

“Our Joint Board meeting produced positive and meaningful discussion,” Stemen said. “The dialogue amplified how interdependent each of the aspects of North Dakota’s educational system are on each other for future development and success. The willingness to act on what was discussed will eventually determine the overall effectiveness of the meeting.”