Episode 22: 10 Years of Learner-Centered Innovation in Rural North Dakota with Dr. Cory Steiner

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Episode Summary:

Marlon Styles takes a seat in the hosting chair to interview Dr. Cory Steiner, Superintendent of Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. Together, they explore the district’s last decade of work transforming to a learner-centered, competency-based education system.

Cory stresses the why behind it all – the obligation to meet every learner where they are and give them experiences to be ready for their next chapter. He shares openly about mistakes made, embracing vulnerability, and believing in the promise and potential of every student.

Critically, he shows that even in a small rural community, when you put learners at the center, the learning experiences can truly be out of this world.

During the episode, Cory shares:

  • 🏫 Why they started a “school within a school” competency-based model before expanding district-wide
  • 🧠 The power of developing a Portrait of a Learner and building understanding on how it applies to all grade levels
  • 👥 How to empower educators to lead professional development and learning
  • 🤝 The importance of strong community and parent partnerships
  • 🎓 What it looks like to provided real-world learning opportunities for all ages
  • 💡 What a passion-based studio experience co-designed by students entails
  • 🚀 How Northern Cass is aiming to further personalize and expand offerings while eliminating grade levels

Related Resources:

  • Rural Places, Big Visions – a visit to Northern Cass (Getting Smart).
    Northern Cass School District gave Getting Smart a grand tour of their learning community. Get an inside look at what they saw and heard.
  • 2022 Yass Prize Finalist (Yass Foundation for Education).
    The Yass Prize celebrates best-in-class education organizations that accelerate impact with the speed and urgency learners deserve. Check out Northern Cass School District’s featured write-up as a 2022 finalist.
  • Customize the Learning Experience (LCC Online Course).
    Learn about ways to make learning more personalized by providing voice and choice, designing curriculum and assessments with learners, and leveraging technology to make the process more efficient.

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