Thursday, August 29, 2019

Celebrating Attendance Awareness Month

Executive Proclamation
Office of the Governor
State of South Dakota

Whereas, Good attendance is essential to student achievement and graduation, and South Dakota is committed to reducing chronic absenteeism rates; and

WHEREAS, Chronic absence, missing 10 percent or more of school or just 2 or 3 days a month, is a proven predictor of academic trouble and dropout rates; and

WHEREAS, The impact of chronic absence hits low-income students who are more likely to face systemic barriers in getting to school – such as unreliable transportation, lack of access to health care, unstable or unaffordable housing; and

WHEREAS, Improving attendance and reducing chronic absence takes commitment, collaboration, and approaches tailored to particular challenges and strengths in each community; and

WHEREAS, Chronic absence can be significantly reduced when schools, parents, and communities work together to monitor and promote good attendance and address hurdles that keep children from getting to school:

Now, Therefore, I, Kristi Noem, Governor of the State of South Dakota, do hereby proclaim September 2019, as

Attendance Awareness Month

in South Dakota, and encourage school leaders, parents, and communities to spread the message that good attendance matters and to develop solutions to ensure all children are in school as much as possible and engaged in their learning.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bringing in a New School Year

A column by Governor Kristi Noem

Can you believe the summer is almost over? The launch of the school year is a little different for my family this year. Booker is beginning his senior year of high school in a few days and will be starting football soon (Go Chargers!). Kassidy and Kennedy are done with college now, so school supply shopping is a much easier task… though I have to admit I miss the days of picking out boxes of crayons and spiral notebooks.

With one in high school and two having gone all the way through our state’s public schools, I’ve been privileged to have a front-row ticket to the continuum of our education system. And from this perspective, one thing is abundantly clear: we do a lot of things right in our South Dakota schools.

Earlier this year, I visited Todd County Middle School in Mission, South Dakota – a school that is doing a lot of things right. Their work has been bolstered in recent years by a state-funded Native American Achievement Grant, a 3-year project to jumpstart improvements in academic outcomes for Native American students and increase student success. The project requires schools to build cultural identities, encourage academic perseverance, and develop student leadership skills. Schools that received these funds are expected to integrate Native American culture and language throughout their curriculum. It’s truly a remarkable program.

Because of this grant, Todd County Middle School has implemented several changes that are benefitting both the students and their community. They are incorporating Lakota language and culture into their school, addressing mental health, and meeting students where they are at for both behavior and academic needs.

It is a student-centered environment. Each morning, teachers and students start the day with wellness activities to get kids in the mindset for school. They make sure every student has had something to eat. Teachers collaborate and work together to instruct and support students. In addition to traditional counseling services, they have implemented a recovery room where students can go to work through anxiety or take time to sort through a difficult situation. These rooms are staffed with counselors and have proven successful in curbing violence in the school and helping students be ready to learn in the classroom.

And the results speak for themselves. The 8th grade class I talked with went from 78 acts of violence in their 5th grade year to only four incidents of violence as 8th graders. Academic gains are emerging as well. The students are articulate, confident, and optimistic – a reflection of the atmosphere throughout the school.

I was incredibly impressed by Todd County Middle School, and I know that successes like this are mirrored all over our state. Teachers are working to inspire students and prepare them for the workforce. I’m committed to further expanding opportunities in this arena, too. In a few months, we’ll launch our “South Dakota Week of Work,” which will expose students to high-demand careers and innovative businesses right here in South Dakota.

So as another summer comes to an end, let me leave our students (and teachers too!) with this back-to-school encouragement: Find things you are passionate about and act on them. Be bold. See the good in people. Focus each day on leaving this world a little better than you found it.