Monday, August 22, 2016

Make School Attendance A Priority

Gov. Dennis DaugaardA column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Across South Dakota, a new school year is getting underway. Students and families are getting back into the school day routine, reestablishing study habits and juggling activities.

In order to succeed in school, students are often reminded to listen to their teachers, complete homework assignments on time and cooperate with their classmates. There is another simple practice we sometimes overlook that is absolutely critical: consistent school attendance. It seems obvious, but the importance of attendance cannot be overstated.

Some absences cannot be avoided, and that is understandable. Sometimes though, absences can add up without notice. The research indicates that all it takes is missing 10 percent of a school year to negatively impact student achievement. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider that it translates to just two or three days a month, it’s easy to see how families can sometimes overlook accumulating absences. It doesn’t matter if absences are excused or unexcused, consecutive or non-consecutive. Time out of the classroom is learning time lost.

Attendance is vital from the very beginning. Kindergarten and 1st grade students who are chronically absent are much less likely to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. Already by 6th grade, chronic absence is an indicator that students are at risk for dropping out of school. And by 9th grade, a student’s attendance record is an even better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores.

In September, we’ll be observing Attendance Awareness Month in South Dakota. I encourage you to join with me in this observation.

This school year make attendance a priority in your household. Think of it as your student’s first and most important job, and know that the habits they form now will likely stick with them when they enter the workplace. Help your kids understand the importance of showing up. As Woody Allen put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

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For an audio recording of the Governor’s weekly column, visit news.sd.gov/media.aspx and click on “Audio” under “Governor Dennis Daugaard.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Preliminary state assessment results show gains



Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp
Preliminary results on the 2016 statewide assessment in English language arts and math show gains in student performance in both content areas and in all but one tested grade level. The assessment is administered each spring to just under 70,000 South Dakota public school students in grades 3-8 and 11.

I commend students and educators for the hard work and dedication that has led to these improvements.

It takes about 100 students to show a 1 percent increase in proficiency at each grade level, so we are talking about 300 to 600 more students testing proficient in many grade levels, which is significant progress. We also saw growth overall for our Native American students.

Our youngest tested students are showing the greatest gains. This makes sense, since they have been working with these content standards in math and English language arts for most, if not their entire, school careers.

At the other end of the spectrum, our 11th grade assessment results are largely flat. We aren’t entirely sure why this is, but I think several factors are at play. Our state’s 11th graders have spent a smaller proportion of their schooling with these content standards, and they are much more familiar with the former state assessment, which was essentially a “bubble test.” It did not require them to apply and demonstrate their knowledge in the way the Smarter Balanced assessment does.

We also know that some of our 11th grade students feel the test has little value or meaning for them. I want to  share the message with our high school students and their parents that all six of our state’s public universities accept Smarter Balanced scores for placement purposes. This makes the assessment very valuable. Students who score in Levels 3 or 4 in math and/or English language arts avoid the need for remediation and can automatically enter credit-bearing courses in the respective content area once they get to college.

I’ve said repeatedly that we must stay the course with regard to our state standards in English language arts and math. These preliminary assessment results bolster that message.

I am also pleased to report that a recent lawsuit against the state of South Dakota for its participation in a multi-state testing consortium was dismissed. As part of the consortium, South Dakota benefits from the shared expertise of member states and the lower costs available through a cooperative effort.

South Dakota educators have aided in the development of the Smarter Balanced assessment over the past several years, and their involvement continues. Several educators from our state were recently asked to participate in further item development this summer.

Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Test
% of students at or above Level 3*

English Language Arts


 
2016 State SBAC (preliminary)
2015 State SBAC (final)
Grade 3
50.57%
47.65%
Grade 4
50.24%
44.44%
Grade 5
50.2%
47.77%
Grade 6
51.38%
44.51%
Grade 7
52.39%
48.44%
Grade 8
53.09%
47.33%
Grade 11
60.3%
59.71%
All Grades
52.36%
48.19%

Mathematics


 
2016 State SBAC (preliminary)
2015 State SBAC (final)
Grade 3
54.03%
50.23%
Grade 4
48.5%
44.47%
Grade 5
38.18%
36.18%
Grade 6
40.97%
33.79%
Grade 7
42.63%
38.59%
Grade 8
41.95%
38.12%
Grade 11
37.87%
38.77%
All Grades
43.63%
40.13%

*Levels 3 and 4 considered on track for college/career readiness

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.