Providing a World-Class Education with Customized Learning


The purpose uniting Northern Cass School District #97: “We believe every child can change the world; therefore, we will provide a world class education.” Guest post by Cory Steiner, a Superintendent at Northern Cass School District #97

Located 25 miles northwest of Fargo, North Dakota, everyone at Northern Cass School District #97 is united in a single purpose. “We believe every child can change the world; therefore, we will provide a world class education.” Working from that single mission statement, the “why” behind everything we do, we also developed our Collective Commitments. These commitments embody everything we do at Northern Cass: all offerings, initiatives and conversations focus solely around our commitments.

  • We are dedicated and passionate about relationships, teaching and learning, self-reflection, acknowledging greatness and support of the Northern Cass community.
  • We are driven towards continuous improvement.

Recently, Northern Cass started moving towards Mass Customized Learning (MCL), which is when instruction is tailored to each student’s needs and interests, for all of our learners. Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, the district studied the concept and participated in a variety of site visits. Each visit provided further evidence of why customized learning is so important for the success of today’s learners.

During the 2017 legislative session in North Dakota, Senate Bill 2186 passed, which made it possible for schools to apply for a pilot program to allow for more local control and flexibility for innovation like personalized learning. I testified multiple times in support of the bill alongside students like Dawson Schefter. After the bill passed, Northern Cass submitted a proposal for innovation related to customized learning.

Moving from proposal to execution

Our journey to personalizing learning for our students has included many milestones and learning opportunities:

  • During discussions in leadership development sessions in partnership with North Dakota State University, it became increasingly clear that personalized learning was how we can help move Northern Cass from good to great.
  • We were able to visit schools in North Dakota and go to RSU2 in Maine, where personalized learning has been implemented district-wide.
  • District and school leaders, as well as teachers, took the personalized learning quiz from KnowledgeWorks to evaluate our readiness to scale personalization and uncover insights to get started.

These events were powerful in helping us gain momentum in implementing MCL. We were able to discuss about customized learning using our individual quiz results as a starting point. The quiz provided us with common language, key things to consider when moving forward and it also guided discussion on potential next steps.

We are now actively making progress towards providing customized learning for each of our students. This move is going to help elevate Northern Cass to a district of excellence that delivers more fully on our promise: “We believe every student can change the world, therefore we must provide a world class education.”

Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ approach to personalized learning. Then take this four-question quiz to find out where your district should take action to get ready for personalized learning.