Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A New System to Serve ALL of our Students

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Nearly 50 cents of every state tax dollar goes to education. That includes funding for our public universities, technical schools, and the state Department of Education, but the majority is used to fund our K-12 system. Given that education makes up such a large portion of our budget, we need to routinely evaluate how we are doing as a state. We should often ask ourselves this question: Are we sufficiently preparing our students for what comes next?

About a year ago, we pulled together data that indicated the answer to this question, for most of our high school students, is “No.” Of our students who start 9th grade, 80-90% will finish. About 70% of those will enroll in post-secondary education.  This is less than two-thirds of those who started 9th grade.  Of those who enroll at a tech school or university, only 50-60% will graduate.  Thus, only a fraction of our students who started 9th grade will earn a degree. In other words, our current system is only working for a minority of our students.

We need to do better.

We have long emphasized the four-year degree path over other valid options – like technical degrees and certificates, associate degrees and industry-recognized credentials.  This focus has led some of our students to be disengaged and unaware of good alternative options. This disengagement, coupled with large-scale economic changes, is forcing us to think differently about the high school experience in South Dakota.

After I met with several superintendents to discuss these issues and former Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard gathered input from education leaders across the state, we decided to propose new high school graduation requirements. While our old requirements met the needs of some students quite well, many of our students are not finding relevance between what they learn in school and their expectations for, and experiences in, the “real world.” At the same time, employers tell us they are struggling to find workers who possess the skills they need – all of which is leading to a gap between employer needs and worker skills.

These new graduation requirements offer students the flexibility to explore various types of career paths. They were designed to empower school districts, school counselors and student support networks to help our young people find meaningful, personalized pathways to success through graduation and beyond. The new requirements are not a value judgment about the “right way” to success. Nor do they put students into tracks. Implemented well, they are about each student finding his or her own right way and making that informed choice.

Under the new requirements, every student must still take four units of English, but an aspiring engineer might take a technical writing class instead of a lang uage arts elective. Every student must still take three units of math, but an aspiring accountant might take a business math class instead of geometry. Every student will still be required to take three units of science, but an aspiring nurse might be able to take an advanced biology class instead of physics. Any student who seeks to go directly into the workforce after high school can find that path through these requirements. A student seeking to enter a university and progress to postdoctoral work years down the road can also lay that foundation through these requirements. The new system serves our future nurses and welders as well as our aspiring teachers and doctors.

Students need to be well-versed in a variety of subject areas throughout their high school years. But they also need to start thinking about what they will do after graduation – looking for that intersection of aptitude, interests and workforce opportunity. These new requirements will help our students – ALL of our students – to do just that.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Finding Enjoyable, Well-Paying Work

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Work is an important part of personal fulfillment. True, most of us work because we must – to provide for ourselves and our families – but a job nevertheless gives us purpose. And when it’s work we enjoy that pays enough, well, that’s the goal.  

Unfortunately, many young people are struggling to find enjoyable, well-paying work. Some lack a degree or formal training – perhaps they went straight into the workforce after high school or started a program they didn’t finish. Even those who have degrees, though, often still have trouble finding meaningful work. For instance, of those who have a four-year degree, only 36 percent say their education prepared them for a job and more than half of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed. 

It’s not for lack of jobs. According to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, we now have more job openings than job seekers in America. A number of these jobs are higher paying, higher-skill jobs in areas like health care, cybersecurity and manufacturing. Unfortunately those looking for work often do not have the skills needed for these good jobs.

The Western Governors’ Association has spent the last year studying this “skills gap,” holding webinars and workshops all across the West to identify solutions. This week as my term as chair of the Western Governors came to an end, I hosted my fellow governors in Rapid City where we released our report on workforce. The report lists ways states can enhance career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers.

The recommendations include integrating state efforts, increasing the availability of training, expanding broadband access in rural communities and connecting education to careers. We need to ensure a degree isn’t the destination but a pathway to a job. That means providing students with better information and guidance so they can explore careers and make enlightened decisions about their futures. One way we’re doing this in South Dakota is through a pilot program called Career Launch. This program involving ten school districts pools resources to provide more career counseling and give students hands-on experience. 

For example, in Yankton, many high school seniors plan their schedules so that their traditional classes are compressed into half a day – morning or afternoon. During the other half of the day, the students work at a paid internship with a local employer. Each student receives high school credit, is paid at least $11 an hour, gains exposure to a career field and learns foundational skills – like how to arrive on time, dress appropriately and interact with customers and coworkers.

During my first term, I would often say, “Workforce is a marathon, not a sprint.” But now, as I’m nearing the end of my time as governor, I am realizing it’s actually more like a relay race. Over the past seven years, we have initiated several strategies. Some have worked, some haven’t and some remain to be seen. 

Next year, when my time in office comes to an end, I will pass the baton, and hope our new leaders will continue the race.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

South Dakota No Longer Last In Average Teacher Pay


For the first time since 1985, South Dakota’s average teacher salaries in the 2016-17 school year were no longer the lowest in the nation.

The news comes from the National Education Association’s 2018 Rankings and Estimates report, an annual report that was released on April 23. According to the report, South Dakota’s average teacher salaries increased from $42,025 in 2015-16 to $46,979 in 2016-17 – an increase of $4,954 or 11.8 percent. South Dakota’s average salary rose from 51st in the nation to 48th.

The increases came as a result of the 2016 State Legislature’s passage of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Both as a dollar amount and as a percentage, South Dakota’s increase in salaries was the highest in the nation by far – the second largest increase as a dollar amount was New York at $2,750, and the second largest by percentage was North Carolina at 4.2 percent.

According to the NEA, South Dakota’s average teacher salary had ranked 51st in the nation in every annual report issued from 1986 to 2017.

“The primary goal of the Blue Ribbon Task Force was to make South Dakota’s teacher salaries competitive with other states, considering salaries and cost of living, and we are accomplishing that,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “We also sent an important message to our teachers – that we value the work they do, that three decades in last place was enough and that we were willing to step up to improve their salaries.”

South Dakota teacher salaries rank even higher when adjusted for cost of living and taxes. According to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the state ranks 29th when the NEA state averages are adjusted to reflect state and local tax burden and regional price parity data, which is calculated by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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.