- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s million-dollar investment in a national education initiative will help the state move up the ladder in the number of U.S. students who take advanced placement classes, the state’s superintendent of public instruction said Wednesday.

Kirsten Baesler was in Fargo to observe about 50 teachers in the middle of a four-day seminar sponsored by the non-profit National Math and Science Institute, or NMSI, which is working with the state to raise the rigor of math, science and English coursework.

Baesler said she discovered shortly after taking office in January 2013 that North Dakota ranked behind every state and Washington, D.C., in the number of students who were taking college-level classwork, considered to be a barometer for success in college or the workplace.

“That is not acceptable for us in North Dakota,” Baesler said.

Participation in advanced placement classes is already rising, but more work needs to be done, she said. The number of students who earned qualifying exam scores for college credit in math and science is up 31 percent in the last two years, she said.

The North Dakota Legislature, at Baesler’s request, ponied up $1.25 million in the last session to support NMSI programs. The state will be looking for private funding beyond that initial investment, she said.

Marcus Lingenfelter, NMSI’s vice president for state and federal programs, all but guaranteed dramatic results and said the group doesn’t have a marketing budget because teachers promote the program for them.

“The teachers go to the training, they come back with such enthusiasm, they speak to their colleagues, they speak to their building leaders, and it just grows from there,” he said.

A second workshop is scheduled later this month in Bismarck, where about 100 teachers are expected to participate.

“This is 100 percent voluntary, which speaks volumes about our teachers in North Dakota,” Baesler said. “It’s their summer, they’re not under contract and they’ve chosen to take four beautiful days in the middle of July, lake season, to come to Davies High School to train how to be better teachers for their students.”

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