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North Dakota Innovative Schools Research Partnership

About the Partnership

The goal of the North Dakota Innovative Schools Research Partnership (ND Innovative Schools RP) is to support the development and implementation of innovative schools in the state. The work of the partnership focuses on collecting and analyzing data to understand the implementation of, and outcomes related to, innovative school reform initiatives. This work supports the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) goals to improve the delivery and administration of education and academic success of students.

Focus Area

Innovative Education Icon

Innovative Education: focuses on examining how innovative educational approaches are implemented and used and supporting schools and districts in developing and implementing innovative educational approaches.

Summary of Related Projects


 Infographic: Legacy High School Student Flex-Time Usage
This infographic shows how students at Legacy High School used their flexible time during the 2018/2019 school year.

Research Reports

Examination of Students’ Use of Flexible Time at Legacy High School
Closed Project
Legacy High School (LHS) in Bismarck, North Dakota, has been implementing a daily schedule in which students have flexible time–or time apart from their regularly scheduled classes–built into the school day. LHS staff designed flexible time so that students can choose their learning activities. This study will support LHS staff in understanding how students are using their flexible time and whether there are differences in the patterns of use among groups of students. In particular, this study will help LHS staff to determine whether academically struggling students are accessing available instructional supports and whether flexible-time use varies disproportionately across student demographic groups.
Report: How Legacy High School Students Use Their Flexible Time (2020)
Report Snapshot: View Study Snapshot
Report Brief: View Study Brief
Report Appendices: View Appendices

Technical Support

Evaluation of the North Dakota Communities in Schools Programs
Closed Project
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) needs to monitor the implementation and outcomes of the Communities in Schools and the Full-Service Community Schools programs in four North Dakota schools. These programs focus on the nonacademic needs of students to increase academic outcomes such as engagement, attendance, achievement, and graduation. REL Central is supporting NDDPI partners in developing a comprehensive evaluation plan and using the data to improve program implementation. The project will build NDDPI’s capacity to evaluate the programs and determine needed supports for implementation in order to ensure progress toward improved student outcomes.

Interpreting Research on Student Use of Flexible Time
Closed Project
Legacy High School in Bismarck, North Dakota, has an innovative flexible-time system built into the school day. Students can choose to use their “flex-time,” or time outside of their regularly scheduled classes, for academic or nonacademic activities. Teachers can also determine learning activities for students’ flex-time. The report How Legacy High School Students Use Their Flexible Time describes a study in which REL Central partnered with Legacy High School to examine how teachers and students used this system. The study found that students used a large majority of their flex-time for nonacademic activities (78%) and that academically struggling students spent less of their student-determined flex-time on coursework than their peers did. In this follow-up project, REL Central will guide Legacy High School partners in interpreting and addressing the findings from the report. The partners will explore root causes, identify implications, and develop plans to improve students’ use of the flexible-time system. The project will help Legacy High School partners apply findings from the report and improve their capacity to use research and evidence.

Reconceptualization of Learning Centers for Personalized Learning
Closed Project
Legacy High School (LHS) in Bismarck Public Schools, North Dakota, supports personalized learning, in which instruction is individualized to each student. LHS implements a flexible time schedule that allows students to choose their learning activities. For example, students can choose to visit a learning center where they can receive additional academic support or engage in enrichment activities. The learning centers are available to encourage students’ agency in determining when and in what subjects they need support. However, results from a recent REL Central study (Legacy High School Student Flexible-Time Usage) and feedback from teachers suggested that the Humanities Learning Center was underused and not meeting its goals of helping students build literacy and social science skills. REL Central will support LHS to formulate high quality evaluation questions to understand why the Humanities Learning Center is not meeting its goals, to leverage available data or to collect additional data to answer these questions, and to determine the best ways to proceed in acting to improve the use of the center.
Handout: Research Considerations for Developing a Peer Tutoring Program

Support for Evaluating North Dakota Innovative Education Program
Closed Project
Recently revised North Dakota legislation allows school districts to request waivers of state law and regulations in order to develop innovative education programs. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) needs to develop criteria for reviewing the districts’ proposals, which require a detailed description of the proposed innovation, an implementation plan, and an evaluation plan. REL central is supporting NDDPI partners in developing, operationalizing, and finalizing the criteria and in drafting guidelines for district evaluation plans. The project will increase NDDPI staff knowledge of program evaluation and result in guidance that can be used to support the evaluation of other state initiatives.

Use of Flexible Time in Competency-Based Education
Closed Project
To offer more personalized learning, Legacy HS in Bismarck, North Dakota, features a daily schedule in which students have unscheduled flexible time. REL Central is supporting BPS and Legacy HS stakeholders in developing a research plan to understand how different students use their flexible time, and how different uses of flexible time relate to student learning and motivation. This support includes identifying research questions and developing data collection instruments that will help BPS and Legacy HS stakeholders improve student use of flexible time.