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Education partnership

Gov. Jack Dalrymple addresses the crowd during a National Math and Science Initiatives press conference Thursday at Legacy High School in Bismarck. Dalrymple said North Dakota's partnership with the NMSI would provide more opportunities for higher-achieving students. Seated, from left, are Gregg Fleisher, chief academic officer of NMSI, Kirsten Baesler, superintendent of Department of Public Instruction, Greg Pulliam, XTO Energy, Jon Godfread, of Greater North Dakota Chamber, and Tamara Uselman, superintendent of Bismarck Public Schools.

North Dakota's partnership with an organization promising to boost the Advanced Placement program will be funded through a $13 million investment from an ExxonMobil subsidiary.

XTO Energy is providing the money to roll out National Math and Science Initiative programs throughout North Dakota. Their efforts aim to train teachers and provide support for AP classes.

Eleven school districts in the state, including Bismarck and Mandan, have signed on for the initial round of NMSI's College Readiness Program, said Gregg Fleisher, NMSI's chief academic officer.

That means students in those districts will soon receive checks for successful scores on AP exams, which also earn them college credit. Teachers also will be financially rewarded for students' passing scores.

In addition, the program funds new classroom equipment and consultants who will fly to North Dakota to hold study sessions with students and teachers.

Education and business leaders gathered Thursday at Legacy High School for a press conference about NMSI. Gov. Jack Dalrymple spoke about the importance of providing opportunities to high-achieving students to develop their talents.

Often, the focus of funding education is geared toward supporting struggling students, he said.

"That's a good and worthy goal, but, at times, it becomes clear it pushes out the discussion we should be having about students on the other end of the spectrum," he said.

North Dakota ranks at the bottom of the nation for participation in AP programs. State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said 25 percent of North Dakota high schools offer AP exams.

Greg Pulliam, public and government affairs manager for the western division of XTO Energy, said education is the building block for individual opportunity and economic growth.

"The success of North Dakota's industries depends on the quality, ingenuity and diversity of its workforce," he said.

In addition to the $13 million from ExxonMobil, NMSI has set a goal to raise an additional $5 million from the North Dakota community for the programs.

Bismarck, Mandan and West Fargo school districts are also part of a separate $20 million grant NMSI has applied for from the U.S. Department of Education.

That money is intended to fund NMSI programs and research in those districts and seven others throughout the country. NMSI operates in more than 30 states.

(Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8267 or