091317-nws-task-force

Gov. Doug Burgum, right, announces the formation of his Innovative Education Task Force during a press conference at the state Capitol on Sept. 12 in Bismarck. Also commenting on the task force were, from left, Nick Archuleta, of North Dakota United, Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, Sen. Donald Schaible, R-Mott, and Kirsten Baesler, state superintendent of public instruction.

Gov. Doug Burgum has created a task force to improve public education in the state. That’s an admirable goal and his efforts should be applauded. The governor says there needs to be change in the way education is delivered to match the 21st century economy and the rapid advancement of technology.

The Tribune Editorial Board hopes the task force, which will hold its first meeting on Oct. 12, can develop ideas that will be helpful to all schools across the state.

Educators, overall, haven’t been stuck in doing things the same way over and over. For years they have explored new methods of teaching and taken steps into the digital age. It’s not easy to change, especially if you are in a smaller school with limited resources and a smaller budget. The effort has been there, with teachers attending seminars and conferences during the school year and in the summer. They have been seeking better ways to teach.

One of the problems is finding consensus on educational changes. Some parents and teachers want to stick to the basics, some want to leap into the future and there’s the middle ground where parents and teachers want to blend the old into the changes of the 21st century.

The Bismarck School District has been willing to make changes. The district has designed new schools to meet digital challenges. Legacy High School has more open spaces, book carts over a traditional library and has been trying new teaching methods. Legacy has the advantage of being a new school designed for the changes. Not everyone is comfortable with everything being tried at the school.

That’s the challenge facing the task force. How do you convince multiple school districts that any proposals developed will be a good fit for them? Burgum is right when he says the state educational system must change. We are dealing with global issues and many countries are doing a better job than the U.S. in educating their children. We should be proud of our educational system but we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking it shouldn’t be better.

When North Dakota’s oil development slowed and revenues fell it was due to world market conditions. We have to teach our children to understand the issues and how to deal with them in the 21st century.

In announcing the task force last week Burgum had a variety of educational leaders with him. Among them were Sens. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, and Donald Schaible, R-Mott, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, and Aimee Copas, executive director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders.

It’s going to take a diverse group of educators to come up with ideas that the majority can accept. Burgum says he wants to reinvent government and how the state operates. Educational change is an important and difficult early challenge. If North Dakotans want their children to receive a quality education they need to look into the future and be willing to change.

The Tribune wishes the task force success. It won’t be easy.

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