Thursday, March 8, 2018

'Why do we test?'


Abby Javurek, Director of Assessment and Accountability
I’m often asked, “Why do we test?” It’s a great question with a variety of answers. But the most important answer has to do with students.  

Teachers are constantly assessing their students. It can be as simple as asking students what they know about a given topic before delivering a lesson. This kind of assessment is called formative. Of course, there are also the bigger assessments like those a teacher might give at the end of a chapter, unit or even a semester.

Through assessment, teachers determine what students know already, whether they need additional instruction and when they are ready to move on to new, more advanced material. Assessment also helps teachers ensure that students can apply what they’ve learned.

In the latter half of every school year, students in grades 3-8 and 11 take the Smarter Balanced assessment (the state test), which is called a “summative assessment.” Results from this assessment help school, district and state officials see what students know and are able to do in the areas of math and English language arts. Assessment data is used to understand how students are performing and to inform decision-making regarding improving student learning outcomes.

There’s more to Smarter Balanced than the summative assessment, though. It’s an entire system that also includes interim assessments (which teachers can use throughout the school year) and the Digital Library, an online repository of formative assessment resources available at no cost to all South Dakota public school teachers.  
South Dakota teachers even have a voice in shaping the Smarter Balanced assessment system. A number of our state’s teachers have worked with colleagues from other states (who are also part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) to help develop and build the Smarter Balanced assessment system by writing test items, participating on task forces and committees, and creating resources for the Digital Library.

Starting in the fall of 2017, the Smarter Balanced assessment became even more valuable to South Dakota high school students. As part of our state’s proactive admissions process, students who score at Level 3 or 4 in English and math on the Smarter Balanced assessment are guaranteed general acceptance into the state’s public universities and technical institutes. In this way, the test provides a tremendous value for South Dakota high school students as a college admissions test. We believe Smarter Balanced is a reliable indicator of college readiness, and this is an exciting opportunity to alert students of options they may not have realized were available to them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

State Legislature honors 2018 Milken Educator and SD Teacher of the Year

Carla Diede (left), South Dakota's 2018 Milken Educator, and Rachel Schaefer, 2018 South Dakota Teacher of the Year, were recently honored by the State Legislature. Carla and Rachel also took time to talk with us about the teaching profession.
L to R: Sen. John Wiik, Sen. Larry Tidemann, Carla Diede, Rachel Schaefer, Sen. Jim Bolin
Carla Diede in the Senate
Rachel Schaefer in the Senate

Carla Diede and Rachel Schaefer in the House of Representatives



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

9 sample lessons for teaching Native American history and culture to students of all ages



The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards are state content standards intended to help guide South Dakota K-12 educators in teaching Native American history and culture. A work group has been developing OSEU-aligned sample social studies lessons for teachers of all grade levels. Here are several examples, developed using the Inquiry Design Model Blueprint™:

Grades PK-5
:

Grades 6-8:

Grades 9-12:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Farewell message from Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp

A video message from Secretary Schopp
A video message from Secretary Schopp

Forty years ago, I entered the classroom as an elementary teacher because I like working with kids. I never could have imagined the trajectory my career would take, ending here in Pierre, leading the state Department of Education.

Through all of it, my greatest joys have never changed: helping kids and working with fellow educators.

We spend our early years preparing for a career, the bulk of our adult lives working, and then what? I have been asked many times lately if I am counting down the days to retirement from state government, and I can honestly say no, as it is such a bittersweet decision.

I knew this part of my career would eventually come to an end, but I think I expected a clearer answer to the question: how will I know when I’m done?

I’ve always looked for ways to improve, whether as a practitioner in the classroom or as a public official. So I guess I should have known I’d never really feel as though the work were done.

But I hope I’ve done my part to make things better. I step away from this position knowing that the department is in good hands, our state’s education system is strong and there is clear vision for where we are headed.

Most educators retire quietly, having touched so many lives over the course of their careers. That makes writing this farewell message a humbling experience. While my role at the state level has put me in a spotlight, the work has never been about me.

It has been an honor to serve the students and educators of South Dakota. Thank you.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Celebrating American Education Week



Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp
American Education Week is Nov. 13-17. I hope you take some time during this special week to celebrate public education.

I love visiting schools. From the moment the buses and cars pull up in the morning, the activity is non-stop. It takes so many people to make it a success, including those bus drivers who make sure everyone arrives safely.

A visitor’s first stop is the main office. With students, teachers, staff and visitors regularly coming and going, a person can get tired just watching the action, all of it seamlessly managed by office staff.

Next, it’s off to the classroom to see South Dakota teachers in action. As both common sense and research tell us, great teachers in the classroom are the foundation upon which the rest of our public education system rests.

Alongside classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, school counselors and school librarians work hard to equip all students with the skills they need to leave the K-12 system ready for college, career and life.

School nutrition employees fuel bodies and minds for the hard work of learning.

Parents and community members volunteer in classrooms, concession stands, book fairs and more.

And those hallways, classrooms and restrooms don’t clean themselves. Without custodians, garbage piles up, and on a snowy day, sloppy boots quickly muck up a school entrance beyond recognition.

Coaches and advisors round out a student’s experience with athletics, fine arts and other extracurricular activities.

School administrators, working with their local school board members, help ensure the whole system runs smoothly.

Quite simply, education is an awesome endeavor. In buildings full of active, inquisitive, talkative, creative young people, no day can ever be quite like another. And isn’t that worth celebrating?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teacher Feature: 2018 SD Teacher of the Year nominees


Meet South Dakota’s Regional Teachers of the Year. These outstanding educators are candidates for 2018 State Teacher of the Year, who will be named at a special banquet Oct. 19 in Rapid City, as part of the Systems Change Conference.
Watch video interview with Cara Biegler
Cara Biegler, English, Timber Lake Middle School
Watch video interview with Caitlin Bordeaux
Caitlin Bordeaux, computer science and multimedia, St. Francis Indian High School
Watch video interview with Jennifer Mudder
Jennifer Mudder, 5th grade, Tyndall Elementary
Watch video interview with Jeremy Risty
Jeremy Risty, social studies, Brandon Valley High School

Watch video interview with Rachel Schaefer
Rachel Schaefer, kindergarten, Elkton Elementary

Watch video interview with Jessica Zwaschka
Jessica Zwaschka, chemistry, Spearfish High School

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Celebrating Native Americans' Day


A column by Indian Education Director Mato Standing High
 
Oct. 9 is Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota. How does one properly observe this day?
 

First, don’t feel limited to one day. Let Native Americans’ Day be an opening to something bigger. To quote Lakota Elder and educator, Dorothy LeBeau: “Opening yourself to another worldview will assist you in understanding what occurs both in and outside of Native communities.”
 

This is a day for all of us to celebrate a rich history and people who have been here since time immemorial. Native American history is everyone’s history.

Whether you are Native American or not, here are a couple questions to consider as you think about this special day:

•    How much do I know about Native American culture and history in South Dakota?
•    What would I like to learn about Native American culture and history in South Dakota?

Whatever your knowledge level may be, I encourage you to visit WoLakotaProject.org, where you can access a wide variety of video interviews with Native American elders from our state discussing the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, or the OSEUs, for short. The OSEUs are intended to help our state’s K-12 educators incorporate the history and culture of the people of the Oceti Sakowin (the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people) into their teaching.

If you are unfamiliar with the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, I strongly encourage you to read them. Though they are targeted to educators, they are written in such a way that the non-educator can also benefit from them. They are currently going through the standards revision process. Both the current and proposed standards are available on the Department of Education’s Content Standards Review webpage.