Standards and Accountability: North Dakota has clear and specific standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in mathematics and science, but not yet in social studies/history. The state has clear and specific standards in English at the elementary and middle school levels.
And while the state has standards-based tests in English and math in all grade spans, it offers no tests aligned with state standards in science or social studies.
The state relies primarily on multiple-choice and short-answer items to test students’ knowledge, rather than asking students to produce more extended, written responses.
Also bringing down the state’s grade is its limited accountability system.
North Dakota publishes test data on school report cards and uses the information to rate schools. But it does not provide help for or impose sanctions on both Title I and non-Title I schools that are consistently low-performing or failing.
The state also lacks monetary rewards for high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: North Dakota is one of seven states that require teacher-candidates to pass only a basic-skills test before they earn their initial teaching licenses. That modest requirement lowers its grade.
High school teachers must complete majors in the subjects they plan to teach. Middle school teachers, however, must have majored in middle-level education, as opposed to specific academic disciplines.
North Dakota plans to require content-area coursework for middle school teachers beginning in the 2006-07 school year. The state requires 10 weeks of student teaching.
However, the state does not evaluate new teachers through classroom observations or portfolios once they’ve entered the profession. North Dakota also fails to underwrite mentoring for novice teachers or to finance teacher professional development. In addition, it does not include any of the teacher-qualification information tracked by Education Week on its school report cards.
While the state identifies its low-performing teacher-preparation institutions, it does not currently hold those institutions accountable for the quality of their graduates in a classroom setting.
School Climate: North Dakota does not provide money to local districts for school construction or renovation. Nor does the state have a mechanism in place to track the condition of school facilities. It’s also one of 10 states that lack charter school laws.
But the state gets high marks from its local school officials concerning parent involvement, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey. For example, 100 percent of 4th graders and 98 percent of 8th graders are in schools where school officials report more than half of parents attend parent-teacher conferences.
Reflecting its rural makeup, the state also has some of the nation’s highest percentages of students attending small schools at the elementary and high school levels. Furthermore, average elementary school class size, as reported by teachers on the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, is one of the smallest in the country, at 17.8 children.
North Dakota is one of 17 states to provide state funding to discourage school bullying. Several state-sponsored training sessions focused on school bullying are provided each year for district administrators, teachers, and counselors.
Still, the state supplies none of its good news on class size or parent involvement on its school report cards.
Equity: North Dakota has a positive wealth-neutrality score, indicating that inequities in state and local revenue are related to differences in local property wealth. The state ranks 42nd of the 50 states on that measure. North Dakota has a coefficient of variation of 17.1 percent, which means there are wide disparities in education spending across its districts. The state ranks 28th on the McLoone Index, which measures what it would cost to bring student spending in districts below the median level for per-pupil aid to that median.
Spending: North Dakota’s 9.5 percent increase in spending from 2000-01 to 2001-02 raised its per-pupil spending a little above the national average, to $7,868. The state ranks 26th on the spending index, which takes into account how many students attend schools in districts spending at least the national average and how far the rest fall below that average. The state still has a below-average contribution of total taxable resources spent on education, at 3.6 percent, ranking it 38th of the 50 states. The national average is 3.8 percent.