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Despite not getting any additional state funding to improve family engagement in public schools or provide computer science and cybersecurity training for teachers, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said these remain top priorities.

At the Legislature this year, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction sought $300,000 for family engagement efforts, as well as $6 million to provide teacher training in computer science and cybersecurity. However, lawmakers opted not to fund these requests.

Still, Baesler said she intends to move forward with training teachers in computer science and cybersecurity through public-private partnerships. This week, she also announced her own Family Engagement Cabinet.

Family engagement has emerged in recent years as a leading issue for North Dakota public schools and families, Baesler has said.

This week, DPI announced the creation of a 23-member Family Engagement Cabinet, which will have its inaugural meeting next week. The committee will meet every three months, and members will serve 18-month terms.

The Family Engagement Cabinet is similar to Baesler's Student Cabinet, which was formed in 2015. The group meets with Baesler quarterly to discuss education topics and issues.

A total of 57 people applied for positions on the Family Engagement Cabinet, which were vetted and ranked by DPI employees, according to a news release. The group includes members from the Standing Rock, Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian reservations.

Computer science and cybersecurity

Though DPI didn't get $6 million to train teachers in computer science and cybersecurity, state lawmakers did pass a bill that will allow teachers to get a credential to teach these topics.

DPI also approved new K-12 academic standards in computer science and cybersecurity in February, and Baesler said in an interview last week that she's "pleased" to have the academic standards in place and the credential as an option soon.

Instead, Baesler said she's interested in exploring public-private partnerships to provide computer science training to teachers.

"(Private companies) reached out to us and say, 'You know what, we’re going to help our teachers get this training and credential anyway,'" she said. "It’s going to take longer, but we’re going to make sure that the teachers that want to get this credential are going to have the opportunity to get this credential."

Baesler said DPI is in currently in the process of writing the administrative rules for the credential, and she is looking for public-private partnerships to fund training for teachers. She said the nonprofit Code.org gave about 100 scholarships to North Dakota middle and high school teachers for training next month.

"We’re just going to continue to pursue some of those partnerships for our teachers. We still want to be one of the leaders; every student, every ZIP code," she said.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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