K-12 State Accreditation

Accredited South Dakota Schools and Districts
Approved South Dakota Programs

Accreditation Review Tool
Instructions – Accreditation Review Tool
Helpful Resources
School Improvement Plan Map School Calendar Requirements Q & A
School Improvement Plan Template Frequently Asked Questions
Tips for a Smooth Onsite Review The Accreditation Process
Improvement Plan Resources For Accreditation Reviews
Useful Links

The Accreditation Process

On March 22, 2005, the South Dakota Board of Education approved new administrative rules for District Accreditation and Improvement. Administrative Rules 24:43 outline the process for required school improvement plans for all public and private school districts that wish to maintain or seek state accreditation.

The accreditation process also includes the requirement for a review of each district, in 5-year cycles ARSD 24:43:02:05. The purpose of the review is not only regulatory but also intended to aid schools in the constant school improvement process. Requirements for the review can be found in ARSD 24:43:02:06. All currently accredited schools and districts must host a review for accreditation. If a district is currently accredited by an external accrediting agency, such as AdvancEd, the district must still host a visit from the State.

Failure to comply with these regulations may result in action by the secretary of education as outlined by Chapter 24:43:07.

Improvement Plan

Under ARSD 24:43:01:03, the school improvement plan is identified. An "improvement plan" is a written document developed by the school district, based on local data. An improvement plan sets forth policies, processes, practices, and strategies that are grounded in research and will lead to continuous improvement of student learning. The plan identifies a challenging set of goals and sets forth actions that will be taken to achieve the goals. It specifies the responsibilities of the school district and its schools. The plan includes periodic benchmarks, measurement processes, and evaluation protocols. An improvement plan is the subject of official action by the school board and, after adoption, becomes an official district document. An improvement plan is subject to annual review.

There is no one model for a successful school improvement plan. South Dakota Administrative Rule states, though, that accreditation and district improvement is for an entire district. Although not all buildings within a district must be included under the same improvement plan, all buildings within a district must have some form of current improvement plan in place. An accreditation review will verify the existence and implementation of these plans. The Department of Education has also developed an improvement plan template for any district/system use - see "School Improvement Plan Template" above.

Resources For Accreditation Reviews

Proper documentation of compliance with all applicable state laws and administrative rules should be available upon request in accordance with ARSD 24:43:02:06.

1. School Improvement Plan. A current school improvement plan(s) is in place. Authorized by ARSD 24:43:01:03

A current school or district improvement plan must be in place that covers all students and all buildings, whether through one plan or multiple plans.

An "improvement plan" is a written document developed by the school district, based on local data. An improvement plan sets forth policies, processes, practices, and strategies that are grounded in research and will lead to continuous improvement of student learning. The plan identifies a challenging set of goals and sets forth actions that will be taken to achieve the goals. It specifies the responsibilities of the school district and its schools. The plan includes periodic benchmarks, measurement processes, and evaluation protocols. An improvement plan must be approved by the school board and, after adoption, becomes an official district document. An improvement plan is subject to annual review.

A district or school may choose a format that best suits the community, provided it contains all elements. DOE-approved formats include:
- AdvancEd
- Association of Christian Schools International
- Baldrige Criteria
- Bureau of Indian Education Model
- Christian Schools International
- Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation
- Effective Schools Improvement Process
- McRel School Improvement Model
- National Association of Private Schools
- National Lutheran Schools Association
- SD LEAP (Indistar®)
- Title I (School-wide Plans)
- Wisc. Evangelical Lutheran Synod School Accreditation

2. Waivers of Administrative Rule. Authorized by ARSD 24:43:08:03.

The district must demonstrate that any waivers of administrative rule it holds continue to be in the best interest of students. This is documented by reporting on progress through the district or school’s improvement plan.

All waiver applications should be submitted to the department by July 1. Please check http://doe.sd.gov/oatq/adminrulewaivers.aspx to verify whether your school or district holds an administrative rule waiver(s).

3. Curriculum Alignment to State Standards. Authorized by SDCL 13-33-1 and 13-3-48.

Accredited schools must teach to the state content standards as approved by the Board of Education. A current listing of standards can be found at: http://doe.sd.gov/ContentStandards/index.aspx Examples that can demonstrate alignment include but are not limited to samples of: curriculum maps, lesson plans, or district-adopted curriculum and/or course guides that show comprehensive evidence of standards alignment.

Please note that the 2016-17 school year is the first year of implementation for the new science, social studies and fine arts standards. Standards revision and adoption timeline: http://doe.sd.gov/ContentStandards/documents/Strd-Timl.pdf

4. Online courses offered. Authorized by ARSD 24:13:12.

Distance learning courses must be provided through an approved South Dakota Virtual School provider. Districts offering classes outside of the South Dakota Virtual School must provide students with a certified teacher and demonstrate alignment to state content standards.

5. Graduation Requirements. Authorized by SDCL 13-1-12.1; ARSD 24:43:11:02, and ARSD 24:43:11:07

Schools must offer at a minimum every two years the courses required for high school graduation. See ARSD 24:43:11:07 for the offerings required and 24:43:11:02 for the graduation requirements. Districts must be able to show that they are in compliance with these requirements.

6. Kindergarten Requirements. Authorized by SDCL 13-13-10.1

Kindergarten and junior kindergarten programs must be taught by certified staff and aligned to state content standards. If a district offers a combined preschool and junior kindergarten or combined preschool and kindergarten program, the programs must be accounted for separately. State aid is not paid for students in preschool and teachers teaching preschool must have that portion of their day subtracted from their percentage FTE.

7. Safety Plan and Emergency Drills Documentation. Authorized by SDCL 13-25-10 and ARSD 24:43:09:01.

An up-to-date written plan for the safety of students and staff in the event of a fire, tornado, or disaster should be on file. The district should also keep documentation indicating the dates and times of at least two fire drills per semester and any additional disaster or evacuation drills conducted.

8. Secure Storage of Student Records. Authorized by ARSD 24:43:09:02 and SDCL 13-3-56 .

A permanent record of each student's scholarship and attendance, as well as a cumulative record kept for each student through the elementary and secondary schools shall be kept and stored in a safe place where it cannot be destroyed, i.e., a fireproof safe. If records are not stored in a fireproof safe, a duplicate copy shall be kept in a place that is not the school building.

A student's individual academic achievement test scores shall be made part of the student's permanent record and provided by the local district to parents or guardian of each student or, in the case of an emancipated student, to the student.

9. School Calendar reflects required minimum hours, and reported to the state by the last Friday in August. Authorized by SDCL 13-26-1 and ARSD 24:17:03:08.

A school calendar shall be submitted for all applicable attendance centers and the online calendar updated on a regular basis to reflect actual instructional time. The department will check the district’s calendar(s) through Infinite Campus.

The required minimum hours, exclusive of intermissions, are as follows:
   • Kindergarten: 437.5
   • Grades 1-5: 875
   • Grades 6-12: 962.5

An intermission is defined as when the students are at recess or lunch. The required number of hours a school must meet is determined by the maximum required for a grade. For example, if a school has students in grades 1 through 6 on the same calendar, the students must be in class 962.5 hours. A school may maintain more than one calendar to reflect the actual number of hours students are in class. For more information, see: http://doe.sd.gov/ofm/sims.aspx

All school calendars are due by the last Friday in August. The minimum data reporting requirements for a school calendar are as follows:
(1) Start date of school year;
(2) End date of school year;
(3) Grade levels;
(4) School terms in quarters, semesters, or trimesters; and
(5) Periods.

10. Privacy of Student Education Records (FERPA). Authorized by 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. Parents and guardians must be notified of their right to withhold certain information that could potentially be shared through the FERPA. The Department will want to see that the district made this information public. Suggested methods to share FERPA notification with stakeholders are: local newspaper, parent letter, student handbook, or posted on office bulletin board. The reviewer will ensure that complete contact information for the federal office is part of the notice. An excellent resource for what should be included in FERPA notification can be found at the US Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office.

11. Bullying policy requirements. Authorized by SDCL 13-32-16.

Each school district policy developed pursuant to §§ 13-32-14 to 13-32-19, inclusive, shall contain the following provisions:

(1) A statement prohibiting bullying and a definition of bullying that includes the definition listed in § 13-32-15;
(2) A description of the type of behavior expected from each student of the school district, and the consequences for a student of the school district who commits an act of bullying;
(3) A procedure for reporting an act of bullying, including provisions that permit a person to anonymously report such an act, although formal disciplinary action may not be based solely on an anonymous report; and
(4) A procedure for the prompt investigation and response to any report of bullying, including a requirement that an investigation be conducted on any alleged incident of bullying committed against a child while the child is aboard a school bus, at a school bus stop, or at a school-sponsored event.

The school district bullying policy will be reviewed to ensure that provisions 1-4 are included. The district should show how the policy is made readily available to stakeholders, parents, and students.

12. Birth certificates are on file for all K-12 students. Authorized by SDCL 13-27-3.1.

For each student enrolled, districts must verify the certified birth certificate as issued by the Department of Health within 30 days of enrollment. Districts must then keep on file a copy of the certified birth certificate.

Hospital-issued certificates are not official records and do not meet the standard of the statute. A certified copy of a birth certificate can be obtained by contacting the Vital Records office at the Department of Health.

13. Immunization records shall be updated and on file for all students. Authorized by SDCL 13-28-7.1.

Immunization records do not have to be a part of the student’s cumulative file if they are normally kept in another file in the school. For example, some districts keep their student’s immunization records in the nurse’s office. For an onsite visit, though, the Department representative will need to have access to all records in an efficient manner. If the district keeps their immunization records in another building outside of the school districts, please make arrangements to allow the accreditation officer to review those records.

Please note that for the 2016-17 school year, meningitis has been added to the list of required vaccinations. All sixth graders must have this immunization in place to meet the new statute requirements. Details: http://doh.sd.gov/family/childhood/immunization/MiddleSchool.aspx

14. Personal Learning Plan (PLP). Authorized by ARSD 24:43:11:01.

Students should begin to develop their personal learning plan in their 8th grade year. Ideally, personal learning plans are dynamic documents that assist individual students in mapping out the courses and experiences that will help them in meeting their academic and career goals. The PLP may be completed in any form (i.e. SDMyLife’s Personal Learning Plan, Infinite Campus’ Multi-Year Academic Planner, etc.). Personal Learning Plans must document at least 22 credits from 9-12th grades. They can also incorporate extracurricular activities, work-based learning experiences, industry-recognized certifications, out-of-school training opportunities, and the like.

For the review, evidence of completed PLPs with at least 22 credits in an academic plan should be shown either by accessing them electronically or from students’ permanent files.

15. Criminal background investigation results of current employees and student teachers must be on file. Authorized by SDCL 13-10-12 and clarified by SDCL 13-10-14.

Completed criminal background checks must be on file for each person over eighteen years of age that is hired by the school district. Submit fingerprints to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to comply. More information about how to do this in South Dakota can be obtained by contacting the DCI office.

In order to assure these requirements, districts will be asked to provide a current list of all district employees, including instructional, non-instructional, and administrative staff, along with each employee’s current position/assignment and most recent date of hire.

16. Certified Staff are state certified and properly endorsed to teach current assignments. Authorized by SDCL 13-42-1.2 and 13-43-5; ARSD 24:43:10:01.

Each person that is required to be certified shall have a current certificate or plan of intent, or both as applicable, for their current assignment. Staff must have accurate up-to-date information entered on the Personnel Record Form (PRF) system. It is no longer a requirement to have a paper copy of a certificate on file in the administrative office of the school system. The validity of a certificate can be verified through the Department of Education's Teacher 411 website.

17. Teacher Evaluation. Authorized by SDCL 13-42-34.

Any public school district seeking state accreditation shall evaluate the performance of each certified teacher in years one through three not less than annually, and each certified teacher in the fourth contract year or beyond, not less than every other year.

Districts will be asked to provide the following:
   • Policy and/or Evaluation Cycle
   • Aggregate Summative Ratings
   • Professional Practice Components
   • Anonymous Evaluation and SLO Documentation

Teacher interviews may be scheduled as part of the review.

18. Principal Evaluation. Authorized by ARSD 24:58:03:01.

Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, each school district shall evaluate the performance of each principal and assistant principal at least once per year for the principal's or assistant principal's first four years of employment with the district and at least every other year thereafter.

Districts will be asked to provide the following:
   • Policy
   • Professional Practice Components
   • School Growth Goal (SPI goal, academic progress goal or combo of SPI and AMO goal)

Administrator interviews may be scheduled as part of the review.

Useful Links:

Administrative Rules / Article 24:43
SD Codified Law / Title 13


For questions relating to accreditation, email: doeaccred@state.sd.us