School guidance counselors across North Dakota are training to use new college-preparation software that will be deployed in all of the state’s public middle and high schools this fall, as part of a deal reached in June between the software’s provider, Bridges Transitions Inc., and Student Loans of North Dakota (SLND), a division of the Bank of North Dakota.

Purchased for the state by SLND, the Bridges Guidance Central software bundle is being provided free of charge to all North Dakota students and parents. The contract calls for Guidance Central to be installed at 225 schools throughout the state, and residents who cannot access it at any of these schools can log on through the SLND web site. The agreement also includes training for North Dakota guidance counselors and other education professionals who will be implementing the product in their schools.

Bridges says its software is used in more than 14,000 schools and agencies across North America–but this is the first time the program has been deployed by an entire state.

“This type of sponsorship model provides tremendous value for everyone involved,” said John Simmons, the company’s chief executive. “We are delighted to have been chosen by the Bank of North Dakota as the provider of these very important programs for career exploration, education planning, and test-preparation success.”

Whitney Williams, Bridges regional manager for North Dakota, said the program helps students explore careers, plan for college and jobs, and prepare for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.

“It’s a complete program of career and educational planning [resources] for students,” she said.

The Guidance Central software suite consists of three programs: Choices Explorer for career exploration; Choices Planner for school and career planning; and testGEAR for online test preparation.

The Choices Explorer program contains 900 career profiles and more than 200 career videos, including Spanish-language videos. Students can type in the school subjects they’re most interested in, and the software will return a list of related college majors and career possibilities.

Choices Explorer also reportedly contains information about more than 330 post-secondary programs, quizzes to help students find college majors, articles on volunteering, guides to succeeding in high school and preparing for college, a parents’ guide, and an application that enables students to piece together their own student portfolios.

Bridges says its Choices Planner software offers reports that give students information about academic programs, schools, and careers, with easy-to-use tabs and connections to related programs and careers. It also provides a basic skills survey, workplace skills checklists, and resume and cover-letter building functions for job seekers.

Choices Planner includes information about more than 8,000 colleges, technical schools, and graduate programs, and it enables comparisons of different colleges, universities, and career paths, Bridges said. All of this information can be stored in student accounts for later use, and educators and parents can use the planner’s accountability tools to determine the areas of study in which students need more targeted instruction.

The online testGEAR program provides round-the-clock access to standards-aligned content, including more than 60 interactive lessons that teach more than 200 learning skills and test-taking strategies, as well as practice exams that help students prepare for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams, Bridges said. Students take a diagnostic test that measures their strengths and weaknesses and assigns a customized test-prep curriculum based on the results.

The company says educators also can use testGEAR to measure and improve student academic performance. The program offers nine reporting options for student and group abilities, indicating where students need to improve in relation to national standards. Bridges says its flexible reporting structure allows for data-driven instruction at the classroom, school, and district levels.

Citing the results of studies carried out by the company, Minot High School career counselor Steve Beutler said the program can improve a student’s ACT test score by up to six points, which translates to about 240 points on the SAT, he estimates.

Links:

Bridges Transitions Inc.
http://www.bridges.com

North Dakota Department of Education
http://www.dpi.state.nd.us

Student Loans of North Dakota at Bank of North Dakota
http://www.mystudentloanonline.com/index.jsp