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BPS Named District of the Year

Bismarck Public Schools Named District of the Year by K-12 Dive

Bismarck, ND K-12 Dive has named Bismarck Public Schools the District of the Year for 2023. When reviewing potential candidates for this year’s honor, K-12 Dive cited the district’s curriculum development, literacy commitment, and Peer to Peer program as factors in selecting BPS, while specifically identifying the Empower[Ed] program as “standing out as a microcosm of the district’s commitment to innovation.”


Empower[Ed] began at the Career Academy around four years ago to provide a personalized, competency-based path to graduation for BPS juniors and seniors. Instead of emphasizing absolute academic requirements, district leaders collaborate with students, counselors, and learning facilitators to identify “learning dispositions”.   The vision is to create an option for any learner to earn core subject credits through hands-on, community-embedded projects in conjunction with their Career and Technical Education courses. “​​We don’t necessarily want to put high school kids into high-stakes environments where they’re doing mission-critical work for community businesses,” says Pat Phillips, BPS Systems Innovator. “We want them to be working in the realm of ‘value added.’ We’ve found that works really well in terms of our community partners being responsive to letting learners try things and giving them the opportunity to fail, get feedback, and try again.” Some hands-on projects Empower[Ed] students recently engaged in include creating a metal sign for AquaTraction, making a poster for CraftCade, and installing a flight simulator at Buckstop Junction.  Empower[Ed] currently serves 93 students, with plans to expand to 150.


K-12 Dive provides regular news updates to around 200,000 education leaders. Each year, they consider districts nationwide before choosing one to honor as District of the Year. See the following article to learn more about K-12 Dive and BPS Empower[Ed]: