3 Big Things:
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Secretary's Column
By Tom Oster
Department of Education

Random Thoughts

What are the 3 Big Things?
Last month, I mentioned the department’s “3 Big Things” in my column, and this month’s Hot Topic is devoted to them as well. I encourage you to get involved in these efforts. I believe they have the potential to positively impact your academic bottom line: student achievement.

Superintendents: You will receive a packet of information in the mail detailing the 3 Big Things next week. Please call our office if you have any questions.

AYP comes to close
This year’s annual AYP process is wrapping up – with Aug. 9 the last day for appeals. I want to congratulate all those schools and districts that met this year’s goals. As we get closer to the goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math, it gets more difficult to show progress.

I know how hard your staffs and students work each year to do well on the Dakota STEP and STEP-A. I also appreciate your efforts to carefully review your data during the AYP process. Thank you for these efforts and for your dedication to ensuring that South Dakota students get the best education possible.

Technology summit
Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the National Rural Education Technology Summit in Washington, D.C. I was asked to be on the panel because of South Dakota’s leadership in the area of educational technology. It was a chance to tout the great things we have done with technology in our schools, but also to express concern about our existing infrastructure.

With the economic concerns of the past several years, the technology infrastructure in our schools has suffered. We haven’t been able to stay on top of updates. And, as you well know, the longer you put off improvements, the further behind you get.

That said, it was good to hear that the federal government is discussing the expansion of its E-Rate program. E-Rate has helped us build and support our technology infrastructure here in South Dakota, and any expansion of that program would be welcome news.

Back to school
Finally, I would like to wish each of you a successful 2010-11 school year. Back-to-school is always an exciting time. I hope that initial energy and enthusiasm stays with you throughout the school year and can sustain your spirits in times of challenge.