Monday, August 24, 2015

A Welcome Back message from Secretary Schopp

I’m energized for the new school year. Many South Dakota schools are back in session, and others soon will be.

We are asking folks to share their back to school photos with the hashtag #SDBackToSchool. You can find us on Twitter @sddoe. I hope you’ll join in the fun!

I would also like to make you aware of a new publication developed by the Department of Education, entitled “Celebrating South Dakota Teachers.” This magazine highlights some of the great things teachers are doing across our state. Our goal with this publication is to elevate and raise awareness about the importance of the teaching profession and to highlight the positive things happening in South Dakota classrooms. The magazine features many of our state’s award-winning teachers.


An electronic version of "Celebrating South Dakota Teachers" is also available.


There is much to celebrate in South Dakota public education. 


Have a great school year!



Friday, August 14, 2015

The Value of Dual Credit Courses, a column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Like other young South Dakotans, Kelcie Hauf of Dell Rapids is getting ready to head back to school. As a high school senior, Kelcie is trying to decide which field to study when she graduates. Rather than wait until she gets to college to explore career options, Kelcie is participating in the dual credit program. Because she is considering a career in counseling, Kelcie took a dual credit introductory speech course last spring. This fall she will be utilizing the dual credit program to take Psychology 101 to explore that career path further.

Dual credit courses allow students like Kelcie to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. At only $40 per credit hour, these courses provide students and their families significant cost savings. These are the cheapest university or technical school credits a student will ever take, and they can save hundreds of dollars by taking just one course. Last year, South Dakota students saved more than $2.5 million by using this program – averaging more than $1,000 per student in savings.

At a time when the cost of college is a great concern, dual credit courses are a great way to save money. They also save time, making it more likely that students will graduate on time. Every dual credit course taken in high school is a course that need not be taken in college.

In its first year, this program has been a tremendous success. Last year, 1,946 public, private, Bureau of Indian Education, tribal and homeschool students participated, with a pass rate of 92.76 percent. Thirty-nine districts had at least one quarter of their juniors and seniors complete courses.

Many students take dual credit courses online, which provides greater flexibility in scheduling.  These courses also make dual credit available to students who are not near a university or technical institute.

Just as Kelcie is doing, students can explore their interests with dual credit.  A student who might want to study robotics or medical lab technology after high school could take an introductory course from one of the state’s technical institutes to try out the program before making a final decision. If the student then decides to pursue that career, he or she has a jump start on a degree. Or perhaps a student wants to take a college algebra course not available at the local district. He or she could take that course from a state university.

With dual credit, students take college-level courses while still having the support of their local high school educators who can help them develop the skills they will need, like stronger time management and study skills. In fact, data shows that students who take dual credit do better when they go on to college or a technical institute – even after adjusting for grade point average, ACT scores and other performance indicators.

Today, more than ever before, it’s important for young people to continue their education beyond high school. The escalating number of people earning degrees and the increasingly competitive global economy require today’s workforce to have greater skill sets and more education. Dual credit can help prepare our students for that next step.

Visit sdmylife.com to learn more.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Message to the Graduating Classes of 2015, a column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard



Congratulations to the class of 2015! 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 fourth lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 5.5 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 10 percent, 12 percent, even 18 percent higher than the national average.  In South Dakota those costs are only 88 percent of the national average.

Now some people will say, “There may be a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live in South Dakota.” 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 for the low cost of living, we are the fifth best in the nation. If you adjust for lack of income taxes, we rank third in the nation.

Beyond the financial reasons, though, South Dakota is a great place to live because we have a good quality of life here. Our communities are safe, our public schools are high-quality and our people are friendly. We also have clean air, clean water and beautiful scenery.  And you can’t put a price tag on the love and support of your family, here in South Dakota.

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. Your dreams can come true – right here at home.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8: A message from South Dakota Education Secretary Dr. Melody Schopp

When you were little, did your jaw drop whenever you ran into one of your teachers outside of school? As children, it doesn’t seem to occur to us that teachers have lives beyond the classroom. Seeing a teacher out in the community can feel like a celebrity encounter.

We don’t lose that sense of awe when we grow up either. Think of the first time you talked to a former teacher after you graduated high school. Did you get tongue-tied wondering if you dare use his or her first name?

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4-8. I hope you take time to celebrate all teachers during this special week—those in our schools today, and those in your life, past and present. There’s a reason we grow up admiring our teachers. It’s not because they’re really celebrities (though I think the world would be a better place if they were). It’s because they encourage us, mold us and inspire us. Teaching is an honorable profession.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Librarian wants students to be lifelong learners, readers and library lovers

Laura Allard is the librarian at Memorial Middle School in Sioux Falls. The South Dakota State Library recognizes this library as an Exemplary 21st Century School Library.

How long have you been a school librarian?
I’ve been a librarian since 1997 and have worked in school libraries for seven years.

 

 Why did you decide to become a school librarian?
I’ve known I wanted to be a librarian since I was 16. I first thought of being a school librarian when I was getting my master’s in library science. I love young adult literature, and one of my favorite parts of working at a public library was helping kids and teens find books and helping them with research projects.

What makes your school’s library an Exemplary 21st Century School Library?
I think what is foundational to Memorial gaining the Exemplary status is that our library has a lot of support from teachers and administrators.

(Click here for more information on the 21st Century School Library program.)


What kind of programming do you offer?
On an ongoing basis, we have grade-level lunch book clubs. We have also hosted a special coding class for Teen Tech Week, author Skype sessions, a winter reading festival, a spring book swap and The Reading Olympics.

Do you have special programming over the summer?
Our library is open during the summer, which is a great way for our students to enjoy the library informally and have a familiar source for reading materials during the long summer months. We especially get a lot of incoming sixth graders, which is a great way for them to feel comfortable in the building, and it’s great for me because I get to meet them first!

How are today’s school libraries different from when you were in school?
I don’t even remember my junior high library. Free reading was not emphasized in school as much when I was in junior high. One thing I hope I accomplish with the students at Memorial is that they have positive memories of the library, which hopefully translates into their being lifelong learners, readers and library lovers!

What books are popular right now?
Right now it’s all about Minecraft! Our students also love reading the YARP (Young Adult Reading Program) Teen Choice Book Award-nominated books, and of course, series like Michael Vey, Divergent and Maze Runner.

What do you like most about being a librarian?
I love that the fundamental goal of libraries and librarians is to facilitate learning in their community. This is also the biggest challenge, because a librarian’s purpose is often misunderstood. Many still see us as only “the book people” when libraries and librarians are so much more. The challenge of being a librarian today is changing perceptions.

What do you like about being the librarian at Memorial Middle School?
I love our students, and I love our teachers!

How do you keep learning?
I read the School Library Journal, Teacher Librarian and Knowledge Quest. I follow a lot of Twitter feeds and have set up several Google alerts for topics I am particularly interested in. I am looking forward to summer to catch up on some of my professional reading. I also enjoy taking online classes from the American Library Association and other professional organizations.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

College readiness courses prepare students for rigor of postsecondary

By taking online college readiness courses while still in high school, students can avoid taking expensive, non-credit bearing remedial courses once they get to college.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dual credit courses save students time and money


Hear what South Dakota educators have to say about how dual credit courses are helping students get ahead!