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Baesler: Free Student Access to Education Software Will Continue

BISMARCK, N.D., April 19, 2021 – North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Monday that an educational software program used by about 6,000 students for accelerated learning will remain available at no cost to students and families for the next two years. She encouraged North Dakota districts, schools, and families to continue using the program, or to consider becoming new users.

Edmentum Exact Path offers personalized online instruction in mathematics, reading, and language arts to students in grades kindergarten through 12. It adapts to each student’s needs and provides assessments that document a student’s learning progress.

Interested students, parents, and schools may sign up to use Exact Path at its website. Learning resources and North Dakota Edmentum consultants are available to provide guidance and help.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction made Exact Path available at no cost to students and families in August 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic closed North Dakota schools to in-person instruction. Families and students had been struggling to adapt to different learning platforms being used by different grades and classes, Baesler said. The Exact Path platform offered a single, accessible resource for instruction.

At the time, a Department of Public Instruction survey about how federal COVID-19 recovery money should be used for education showed the highest priority for families was to provide “readily available academic resources and digital learning opportunities,” Baesler said.

About 6,000 students in 50 of North Dakota’s public school districts are using Exact Path, as well as one nonpublic school system and 47 students being taught through home education. It is available to students in public and nonpublic schools, Native American tribal schools, and to schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, as well as to students who are being taught at home.

“North Dakota students and families who have benefited from Exact Path should have the opportunity to continue using it at no cost,” Baesler said. “Our students, families, and educators have all worked incredibly hard to overcome the learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.”

Ann Ellefson, director of academic support at the Department of Public Instruction, said the program will remain open to all students until September 2021. If a student uses Exact Path regularly through September 2021, he or she will be eligible to continue using it at no cost for two more school years, until September 2023.

Families may sign up for Exact Path without a school’s participation, and schools may offer it without a district’s participation. Ellefson said some North Dakota teachers have signed up, with their principal’s approval, to use with specific students or in instances where an academic intervention is needed. “It is a very flexible arrangement,” she said.

Exact Path is a software product of Edmentum, a Bloomington, Minnesota-based company with roots in computer-assisted instruction. David Burkman, principal of Woodrow Wilson High School in Fargo and the EL program administrator for Fargo’s public schools, said the company provided excellent product support. (Starting in the next school year, Woodrow Wilson will be known as Dakota High School.)

Schools in Fargo, Ashley, Lidgerwood, Garrison, and New Salem-Almont have praised Exact Path. 

“While moving to Exact Path in a time of chaos caused by COVID, it was reassuring at the superintendent’s level to know that it’s not just a product, that the customer service is high quality and done pleasantly,” Burkman said.

The Department of Public Instruction paid $1.2 million for a statewide license to allow any student to access Exact Path from August 2020 until September 2021. The cost of the new contract, from October 2021 through September 2023, is being negotiated. The state’s Exact Path costs are being paid by federal pandemic recovery funds that are set aside for education.

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