The goal of Succeed 2020, an education and workforce development project in North Dakota, is to help the state’s students become better prepared for college and 21st century careers.
Achieving this goal is no small task. North Dakota’s eight Regional Education Associations (REAs), our primary partners, are leading implementation of Succeed 2020. With management and technical assistance from FHI 360, the REAs work with school districts to improve their educational programs and services through professional development, direct services and data analyses. The REAs are bringing together institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, business associations and employers, state and local government agencies, and Native American groups to ensure that all students have access to rigorous curricula, ongoing college and career planning, and the supports they need to succeed in school.
Our numbers show that Succeed 2020 is making significant progress. In the 2013–2014 school year, 2,000 teachers, 300 administrators, and 150 counselors and careers advisors participated in professional learning opportunities that ranged from workshops on how to improve students’ literacy and numeracy skills to one-on-one guidance to understand classroom data. Professional learning communities bring together teachers from similar grades and content areas to solve common challenges.
One excellent example of the impact of high-quality professional development is the Great Northwest Education Cooperative’s master teacher program. The master teacher worked closely in 2013–2014 with first-year teachers at New Town High School on the Fort Berthold Reservation, a community that struggles to find and retain teachers. After just one year of mentoring, data analyses and workshops, teacher turnover dropped 75 percent. This dramatic improvement in teacher retention is incredibly important for student achievement.
In the 2013–2014 school year, REAs also engaged more than 250 businesses in their activities. Businesses participated in career fairs, hosted job shadows and internships, and even advised on curricula and programs. Students were able engage in hands-on activities such as using construction equipment, touring health care facilities and building robots with the help of local engineers. These types of learning experiences help students understand what jobs are out there and how they can prepare for those jobs.
Now that the 2014–2015 school year is well underway, the REAs are building on their success by using data to determine which activities are most successful and which need adjustments. In many REAs, additional professional learning opportunities allow teachers, administrators and counselors to dig deeper into specific content areas or strategies for student success. In addition, the REAs are placing greater emphasis on working collaboratively throughout the state.