Other than legislative committee, I thought it would be a good idea to report on the two other educational focus groups on which I serve.

The first is the governor's appointed Innovation Education Task Force. This is a committee of 15 education and community leaders appointed to a four-year term. Our mission is to investigate and identify the conditions necessary to the potential of our teachers and students. To suggest a system of identification and support for schools and districts implementing innovative practices and highlight best practices providing an effective and equitable 21st century education. These changes would be proposed to the 66th Legislative Assembly in 2019.

We have met several times, with visits to Garrison and Oakes schools with opportunities to have discussions with students and to see how innovation is being used in North Dakota schools. So far, we have considered blended block schedules and competency-based learning. The vision is to provide educational opportunities to the students of North Dakota that are unique to their learning styles and interests. That will include the many resources available through our communities, teachers, government leaders, colleges and businesses.

The other committee that I have been invited to serve on by Kirsten Baesler, superintendent of Public Instruction, is the North Dakota Strategic Vision for Education Steering Committee. The committee consists of 22 people from educational groups, four legislators and a representative of the governor's staff. This committee's mission is to develop a strategic plan for DPI, utilizing an inclusive and collaborative process, to define the strategic work of the department over the next five years. We will define measurable student outcomes to attain, identify critical areas for improvement and design high-priority strategic initiatives with action plans and budget. So far, we have agreed that key areas are that students enter kindergarten prepared to learn, demonstrate reading proficiency in third grade, meet expected learning gains each year, be engaged in learning and graduate choice ready. We have also highlighted the disparity in achievement for students in poverty and for Native American students. When this strategic vision plan is completed, it will be a gauge that will be used to see if policy and budget are aligned to achieve the goals that are adopted.

These committees and the work that is being done in the interim committees is to improve education and to be more efficient with the money that we invest in education. My goal in all of this is to put the needs of students first and to make sure that any improvements are based on facts and have a proven record. I also feel that anything that is going to be adopted by our local school districts must come from a bottom-up approach developed by teachers, educational leaders, students, parents and the community of that local area and not a state-mandated approach.

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