WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 26, 2014, 11:28 AM

ND schools face hurdles "of biblical proportions"

FARGO – Larry Skogen described educational challenges “of biblical proportions” at North Dakota United’s higher education conference Saturday.

By: Forum News Service, INFORUM, WDAY

FARGO – Larry Skogen described educational challenges “of biblical proportions” at North Dakota United’s higher education conference Saturday.

The North Dakota University System interim chancellor was the keynote speaker for the organization made up of K-12 and higher education instructors as well as state and county employees.

The conference was free of charge and open to all employees of North Dakota’s public universities to gain professional development and participate in a panel discussion.

“Basically, the goals for the conference are to get people together, our members and non-members, to talk about the issues that affect higher education,” said Nick Archuleta,

president of North Dakota United.

Skogen also discussed the increased rate of technological change, “exploding” populations, and the Internet, which he likened to “another continent” of information and operation.

Skogen suggested that the best ways to address these issues include collaboration, constant innovation, analyzing degree attainment versus skill attainment, and developing a new business model for education.

“We have to begin with the fact that higher education is not an ivory tower,” said Skogen. “We have to break out of the traditional mode of thinking for higher education; business cannot be as usual.”

The conference also addressed North Dakota’s development of vertical alignment, which connects K-12 and higher education faculties to better prepare students for education after high school.

“Vertical alignment is focused on, if we’re requiring placement in writing and in mathematics, let’s analyze a little bit closer those connections between pre-K-12 and higher education so we can look at how to improve,” said Dan Leingang, a mathematics professor and department chair at Bismarck State College who spoke about the issue.

“To generate a better understanding of why each student might not be ready or why, when they do get into higher education, they don’t perform at the level we’d want them to, is part of what we should be doing in terms of analyzing and finding answers for those questions.”

Karen Christensen, vice president of education for NDU and a fifth grade teacher in Wishek, N.D., said that this communication between K-12 and higher learning is vital to the success of students in North Dakota.

“We don’t change the people that we’re working with. We’re developing our students from pre-k until we’ve got them career ready,” said Christensen. “So, if we’re sharing students, we should be sharing information and sharing goals. By us working together, we’re going to more efficiently meet that career-ready status that we need to get our kids to.”

NDU was established in September when the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association merged to create an organization providing public employees and educators with representation and professional resources.