North Dakota's K-20W Initiative: Every Student, Every School, Cyber Educated


Technology is changing every industry and virtually every job. As a national leader in the energy, agriculture and unmanned aerial systems industries, North Dakota sees the tremendous opportunity technology represents to our state's economy, and our students' futures.

Leaders from across the state are focused on helping North Dakota's students and workforce succeed in the rapidly changing global economy through a whole-of-government approach to teaching computer science and cybersecurity skills that are critical for today's jobs - and jobs that don't even exist yet.

Code named “K-20W” to reflect every student from kindergarten through PhD and workforce, the K-20W coalition is comprised of more than 40 public and private sector participants who share a goal of  “Every Student. Every School. Cyber Educated.“

“Technology is ubiquitous in every occupation, in every profession, in almost everything we do in today’s modern world,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s state school superintendent. “Our students must have an understanding of computer science and cybersecurity and know how to develop and apply computational thinking skills to solve problems. We want our students to be good digital citizens, to be more aware of potential cyber-threats and how to combat them, and to be better prepared to safeguard their digital identity.”

Cybersecurity is a growing, global career field, with nearly 3 million openings worldwide according to recent reports. A recent Executive Order emphasizes the growing shortage of cybersecurity professionals, and need to invest in these critical skills. In addition, a new Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award will recognize teachers who are helping prepare students for cybersecurity careers.

“We have a unique and robust ecosystem with dozens of committed partners in North Dakota making a huge impact on our ability for every student and citizen to learn computer science and cybersecurity skills – truly foundational for 21st century careers,” said Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley. “There is growing national attention on this exciting initiative, and this team has shown first-hand what can be accomplished through a whole-of-government approach and desire to change the world.”

Spearheaded by EduTech, the educational technology arm of the North Dakota Information Technology team, the coalition includes K-12, higher education, workforce development, military, state government and industry partners. Since the coalition’s creation in Jan. 2018, the collaborative effort has resulted in significant training and resources for North Dakota’s teachers, students, parents and administrators through a variety of programs.  

  • EduTech has provided dozens of training sessions for more than 2,100 participating teachers (*aggregate, doesn’t represent unique attendees) focused on computer science and cybersecurity.
  • North Dakota State University has a new cybersecurity education focus in its PhD program, and along with Bismarck State College, was recently designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by NSA and Homeland Security.
  • The ND Department of Public Instruction is implementing newly drafted computer and cybersecurity science (CCS) standards - the first in the nation to emphasize cybersecurity, which were developed and approved in 7 months.
  • In its first year participating in the SANS Institute’s Girls Go CyberStart program, North Dakota had the highest per capita engagement with 310 girls from 28 schools participating. Additionally, Valley City State University sophomore Shane Hitch received a SANS Institute full scholarship for his achievements in the national Cyber FastTrack program. Hicks was ranked 79th in the nation out of 100 finalists from 63 colleges across 28 states.

Strategic alliances with NICERC,, the SANS Institute, National Center for Women & IT, Palo Alto Networks, Microsoft TEALS and TechSpark, and Girls Who Code have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, training and in-kind contributions. These partnerships have also yielded significant capacity in professional development and classroom resources, including:

  • $175,000 classroom equipment was provided to teachers who complete NICERC training; EduTech was also the first organization nationally to be certified as a NICERC state training partner.
  • Microsoft TEALS was implemented in 14 schools, building on the state’s TechSpark partnership, which includes a $50,000 grant and partnership with Learning Forward North Dakota that is helping build professional learning standards and best practices via EduTech’s delivery of the, NICERC, and Microsoft training platforms to support the growth of CCS education across the state.
  • Minecraft events were held in 4 locations with more than 70 educators and in-classroom support from EduTech Minecraft experts.
  • The K-20W coalition is expanding internship, apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship and tribal partnerships for computer and cyber science education and STEM.
  • Higher Education institutions are creating new degree opportunities, including a partnership between Bismarck State College and Palo Alto Networks that will grow the college’s Cybersecurity and Computer Networks Program.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said, “The leaders of our colleges recognize the challenge ahead, and clearly see the rules of the game are changing.  As a small population state, it is even more important for us to prepare for the growing wave of technological transformation. Thanks to the Governor and State Board of Higher Education for leading the way and encouraging active collaboration among state agencies.  What we’re recognizing as a result of partnering in this K20W cyber initiative with Superintendent Baesler, CIO Shawn Riley and partner agencies, is that there are many students, both men and women, in North Dakota who now have a variety of opportunities to discover their aptitude in cybersecurity thanks to. the K20W Initiative.”

“The K-20W Initiative will expand our state’s workforce to limitless potential in the 21st century,” Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer said. “By investing in our future generations, our state will thrive and continue to be national leaders in unmanned aerial systems, autonomous technology and other high-tech industries. Statewide educational efforts will provide a path of success for all businesses regardless of industry in our state.”