Friday, May 6, 2016

A Message to the Classes of 2016



A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Congratulations to the class of 2016! To all high school, college and technical school students now approaching graduation in South Dakota, I commend you for reaching this milestone. After years of studying, taking tests and writing essays, you’ve finally made it. Congratulations on all you have achieved!

Most of you probably already have a good idea of what you’ll be doing next – what additional education you’ll seek or what career you’ll pursue. Whether you’ve decided to stay in South Dakota or pursue a career or education elsewhere, I hope you’ll ultimately consider a future here in our state.
There are a number of reasons to consider living and working here.

First, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 5 percent. Job opportunities are better here than in most places.


Secondly, the tax burden in South Dakota is low. We are among only a few states without an income tax, meaning you can keep more of the money you earn. Money that can repay student debt, buy a house someday or replace that car you drove into the ground in school.


Third, not only do people keep more of the money they earn in South Dakota, but that money will buy more here than in other places. According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report, South Dakotans experience a very low cost of living in the United States. We don’t spend as much money on housing, insurance, food and the other everyday needs. In fact, we have some of the lowest costs in the nation.  In New York, California, Washington, D.C., or many other places, you will find costs that are 12 percent, 15 percent, even 18 percent higher than the national average. In South Dakota our costs are only 88 percent of the national average.


Now some people will say, “South Dakota may have a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live there.” Actually when it comes to per capita personal income, we fare pretty well. Nationally, we rank in the top half. And, if you adjust the per capita personal income to add cost of living and taxes, we rank fifth in the nation.


After I graduated from USD, I hitchhiked my way to Chicago to attend law school at Northwestern. I’d lived in South Dakota my whole life and I was ready for something bigger, something more exciting. I wanted to experience life in the bright lights of a big city. I finished school and decided to stay in Illinois for a few years to practice law. Still, over time, I came to miss seeing the stars at night, enjoying the wide open spaces and having the company of friendly, down-to-earth people. I was glad to have experienced something new and different, but I was ready to come home to something better.


My hope is not that you will never venture outside of our state, but rather that you would consider a more permanent future in South Dakota. Most of all, I hope you will come to realize, as I did, that your dreams can come true right here at home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Math and science teachers honored at annual conference


The 24th Annual Joint Professional Development Conference of the South Dakota Science Teachers Association & South Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics was held Feb. 4-6, in Huron. A number of outstanding math and science educators were honored. Congratulations!

Mark Kreie and Paul von Fischer
Outstanding Math Teacher Award, sponsored by Daktronics: Mark Kreie (right) and principal Paul von Fischer (Brookings High School)

Janet Wagner
Physical Science Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by 3M: Janet Wagner (Bon Homme School District)

state-level finalists
Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching state-level finalists (l to r): (Dorothy) Marie Gillespie (science, Pierre Indian Learning Center), Jennifer Fowler (science, Rapid City), Mark Kreie (math, Brookings), Ruth Conway (math, Rapid City), Sheila McQuade (math, Sioux Falls), Lisa Cardillo (science, Harrisburg), LuAnn Lindskov (science, Timber Lake)
Not pictured: Cole Knippling (math, Elk Point-Jefferson) and Bjorg Remmers-Seymour (math, Rapid City)

Tricia Neugebauer and Marie Gillespie
SD Space Grant Consortium Kelly Lane Grant award winners: Tricia Neugebauer, left (Mitchell CTE Academy) and (Dorothy) Marie Gillespie (Pierre Indian Learning Center) with Tom Durkin (SD Space Grant Consortium)

Hilary Risner Jacoby Hinton
Daniel Swets Robotics Awards: Hilary Risner (SDSU 4-H Extension, Bon Homme & Douglas counties), Jacoby Hinton (McLaughlin High School)

Jean Gomer
Cindy Kroon, left (Montrose High School)presents Jean Gomer, retired (White, SD) with the Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award.

Brenda Murphey
Distinguished Service to Science Award: Brenda Murphey, left (Rapid City Area School District)

Other awards:
     • Outstanding Biology Teacher: Kay Bass (Harrisburg High School)
     • Friend of Mathematics Award: Huron Events Center/Crossroads Hotel
     • Friend of Science Award: 3M

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Victory for South Dakota's Children

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
 
This week, the South Dakota State Legislature gave final passage to House Bill 1182. This important legislation directs approximately $70 million to significant pay increases for our public school teachers, as well as instructors at the state’s technical institutes. The bill also directs nearly $40 million to property tax relief.

I proposed this bill in response to the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Over the past year, the task force undertook an extensive process of seeking public input, analyzing data and crafting policy proposals. The task force concluded that South Dakota needed to take bold action, this year, to avoid a teacher shortage. That required new money to increase teacher pay.

Great schools require great teachers and this plan will allow our state to recruit the next generation of great teachers. Our state will increase our salaries to be competitive with surrounding states, and South Dakota teachers will no longer be paid 51st in the nation.

Two other bills are a part of this package. Senate Bill 131 reforms our school funding formula to increase transparency and accountability. The new formula will be based on a statewide target average teacher salary of $48,500 and on target student-to-teacher ratios for each school. This bill also makes other important reforms, including the imposition of caps on school reserve funds and new limits on the growth of property taxes for capital outlay. It is important that, as we make a significant investment of new money into schools, we also ensure that the funding formula furthers our goal of providing an excellent education to every young person in this state.

Senate Bill 133 encourages schools to become more efficient by creating new opportunities for schools to share resources and to use services such as the e-Learning Center at Northern State. Creating efficiency allows schools to focus more funding on teacher salaries. The bill also makes it easier for certified teachers in other states to come to South Dakota.

All three bills are important. South Dakota is increasing teacher pay, making our funding formula more transparent and fair, and making schools more efficient.

House Bill 1182 was adopted by a bipartisan coalition in each house, passing with a two-thirds vote and a majority of Republicans and Democrats. It represents the strong support of all South Dakotans for our schools.
After final passage of HB 1182, the following gathered to celebrate outside Senate chambers (l to r): Wade Pogany, ASBSD; Secretary of Education Melody Schopp; Blue Ribbon co-chairs Rep. Jacqueline Sly and Sen. Deb Soholt; Rob Monson, SASD; Tony Venhuizen, Governor's chief of staff.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Year to Act on Education



A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard

The 2016 Legislative Session began this week. This year, I am proposing that South Dakota address the issue of teacher pay.

We all know that the key to student achievement is an effective teacher.  We also know that South Dakota’s teacher salaries are lowest in the nation and have been for decades.

South Dakota competes with our surrounding states for teachers, and we are falling further behind them. Ten years ago, South Dakota’s average teacher salary was about $2,000 behind North Dakota. We were 51st and they were 49th. Montana was 47th and Nebraska was 42nd.

Today, we are still closest to North Dakota among our surrounding states. But the gap is $8,000. We still rank 51st. North Dakota moved from 49th to 36th. Montana moved from 47th to 28th. Nebraska moved from 42nd to 32nd.

If South Dakota wants to maintain high student achievement, we need a new generation of high quality teachers.

To address this need, I am proposing a one half cent increase in the state sales tax. This will fund a new school funding formula that will move South Dakota’s average teacher salary from $40,000 to a target average of $48,500. At that level, South Dakota will be competitive with surrounding states.

The new funding formula will fund schools based on a target average salary of $48,500 and on a target student-to-teacher ratio for each district. That is not a measure of class size – it is a measure of all instructional staff per student.

Here is what the state is offering schools: the state will give school districts enough funding to pay the target salary, if the district reaches the target student-to-teacher ratio.

This new formula will create a more transparent funding system, based on actual costs. State policymakers will be able to see that schools receive enough money to pay their costs. At the local level, the new formula will lead to informed conversations about how local decisions impact a school’s ability to reach the target average salary.

As we ask schools to pay teachers more, we must also give them tools to be more efficient. My plan includes several measures to allow schools to become more efficient and save money. An expansion of the Statewide Center for e-Learning at Northern State University will make more high-quality online courses available to students, at no cost to their home schools.

The state will also expand successful programs that encourage sharing of services. For example, the state already negotiates centrally for Internet broadband access, and provides that service to schools. This saves schools more than it costs the state. We can expand this approach to other areas, such as purchasing, payroll administration or software licensing.

The introduction of new funding also allows the state to correct inequities. Under our current formula, property taxes are equalized across districts, so children receive uniform education, regardless of property values in their districts. However, the formula does not equalize some revenue sources, such as wind farm taxes, bank franchise taxes, the gross receipts tax on utilities and traffic fines. My proposal will treat all of these sources like property taxes, so that all schools are treated fairly.

The one half cent will generate $40 million in new revenue beyond our needs, however, so I am also proposing that this excess be dedicated to property tax relief. My plan imposes caps on school reserves funds, and limits future growth of property taxes for capital outlay. These are positive steps that benefit taxpayers and ensure that the funds we spend benefit today’s students.

We all want what is best for our children. We want to provide them with a quality education. And we know that requires a strong workforce of great teachers. This is the year to act.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

South Dakota CTE teachers receive national recognition


The joint Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) convention took place Nov. 18-21 in New Orleans. South Dakota was well represented, with teachers earning recognitions and serving as office holders.

Cayla Graves, Platte-Geddes, received the NAAE Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship. The Teachers Turn the Key scholarship brings together agricultural educators with four or fewer years of experience and immerses them in three days of professional development that addresses issues specific to the early years of teaching agriculture.

Kelly Keller, Arlington, was awarded the ACTE Carl Perkins Community Service Award. As the Region V winner of ACTE’s Carl Perkins Community Service Award, she was one of five finalists considered for the national title. The Carl Perkins Community Service Award is presented to ACTE members who have used CTE to make a significant impact on a community/humanitarian cause through leadership in programs and activities that promote community involvement. 

Terry Rieckman, McCook Central, finished his year of service as NAAE president-elect and has now stepped into the role of NAAE President. He also served as Region III Vice-President from 2011-2014.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mathematics: A Path to Great Careers, by Dr. Kurt Cogswell, South Dakota State University

As head of the SDSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics, I’ve had countless opportunities to speak with young people about careers in mathematics.  Many of those conversations have started like this:  “I like math and I’m good at it, but I never thought about majoring in math in college.”  We’re hearing about a shortage of qualified math teachers, and I personally believe that the teaching profession is one of the most rewarding careers imaginable, so I’d be remiss not to encourage that career path, but I’m also aware that it’s not for everybody.  The good news is that the non-teaching careers available to mathematics majors are also extraordinary!

People with bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees in the mathematical sciences, which include mathematics, statistics, data science, and computational science, are in high demand.  They’re being hired in virtually every sector of the economy.  Finance and business, agriculture, health care, tourism and hospitality, government, research – employers in all of these areas and more are looking for employees with high levels of training in the mathematical sciences.  Let’s look at two examples of particular importance to South Dakota’s economy.

Finance and Business:  The financial and business worlds are awash in data.  Debit cards, credit cards, online banking and shopping, and other modern financial practices generate enormous volumes of complex data.  Making sense of all this data in order to help financial organizations and businesses make better decisions, better serve customers, increase profits, and create jobs can require the highest levels of mathematical sciences training.  People with this training are employed as actuaries, financial engineers, business analysts, financial product developers, risk managers, marketing analysts, fraud detection analysts, portfolio managers, forecasters, operations research specialists, and in many other capacities. 

Agriculture:  As the world’s population grows, so does the need to increase food production.  Precision agriculture is one exciting way in which this is being accomplished.  Precision agriculture practices applied to millions of acres of cropland generate vast amounts of data, all the way from satellite data down to the level of individual rows of crops.  Data is gathered on seeds planted, pesticides employed, yields produced, soil characteristics, temperatures, rainfall, and many others factors.  Interpreting this vast amount of data can require the highest levels of mathematical sciences training.  The results are used by farmers, agronomists, and others throughout the agriculture industry to help make better decisions, increase profitability, and feed an ever-growing population.

The same theme that appears in finance, business, and agriculture is present in health care, tourism, government and elsewhere – in order to make the best decisions, organizations need people with high levels of mathematical sciences training to interpret large, complex data sets.  The jobs these people hold are consistently rated among the very best jobs in the nation by career specialists like CareerCast in 2015, and for many years prior to that.  These jobs offer high pay, great advancement potential, and the opportunity to make important, meaningful impacts in many ways.  If you or someone you know likes math and is good at it, a career in the mathematical sciences is a great choice!

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 State Report Card: How are we doing?

Abby Javurek-Humig
The 2015 State Report Card is available and lets educators, parents and other stakeholders know how South Dakota schools are doing. Schools are given a classification based on key indicators, including attendance, college and career readiness, high school completion and student achievement.
 

Student achievement
Student achievement is probably the area of the report card that gets the most attention statewide. Measurements are based on student performance on the statewide assessment in English language arts and math. Last spring, students took a new test, based on new, more rigorous standards in these areas. This test measures skills we couldn’t measure with previous tests that only included multiple choice items—skills like critical thinking, problem solving, writing, listening and research.
 

Overall, student performance was better than expected. At every grade level tested (grades 3-8 and 11), and in both subject areas, more South Dakota students achieved at Levels 3 and 4 than expected—significantly at some grade levels (see chart below). Level 3 is considered the benchmark for proficiency.
 

Across all grade levels tested, the percent of students at or above Level 3 in English language arts was 49.5 percent. In math, the percent of students in all grade levels at or above Level 3 was 41.3 percent. While these numbers might seem low, these results are in line with South Dakota’s performance on a similar assessment called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the Nation’s Report Card.”
 

We speculate that the difference between English language arts and math results may reflect the increased demand for applying math knowledge. As students become more familiar with these new standards, we fully expect scores to increase.
 

I’d also like to draw your attention to 11th grade scores. For the first time, South Dakota’s public universities will allow students to use their state assessment scores as evidence they’re ready for college-level courses, similar to how they can already use ACT scores. Universities will accept scores in Levels 3 and 4 on the state assessment as proof that a student doesn’t need to take remedial courses in English language arts and math. This makes the state assessment more meaningful than ever before for our 11th graders.
 

Other important indicators
As I mentioned, there’s more to the report card than student achievement. At the elementary and middle school levels, we also measure attendance. Our intuition tells us, and the research backs it up—attendance is crucial for student success. Students can’t learn if they’re not in school. This year, we are using a more accurate measure to help ensure students with chronic attendance problems aren’t being overlooked.
 

At the high school level, we also measure college and career readiness and high school completion. College and career readiness is based on the percent of students who met the requirements based on their ACT scores to enroll in for-credit courses in English and math at our public universities. For several years, these numbers have hovered around 67-68 percent in math and 75-76 percent in English. It’s important to note that not all students take the ACT. In the future, this measure will become more accurate as we add additional opportunities for students to indicate readiness, including the results of their 11th grade assessment, the Accuplacer exam and the National Career Readiness Certificate.
 

High school completion is measured in two ways. The four-year graduation rate indicates how many students within a cohort graduate in four years. The completer rate is the percent of students in the most recently completed school year who attained a diploma or GED, whether or not they did so within four years. Both of these numbers are gradually rising. Particularly exciting this year, are a couple of gains among our state’s Native American students—around 2 percent increases in both four-year graduation and completer rates.

We have reasons to celebrate at the same time we know much work lies ahead. Going forward, we will examine what it is that our state’s highest-performing schools are doing to help students succeed and how those practices might be shared and replicated to help our struggling schools improve.

Abby Javurek-Humig is the director of assessment and accountability for the South Dakota Department of Education.