By Tom Oster
Department of Education
Earlier this week, the South Dakota Board of Education addressed two important issues regarding the future of education in our state. While they may not have hit the radar screen of the general public, I consider both issues to be milestones in the education world.
First, the board voted to adopt the Common Core standards in English language arts and math. Such a notion would have been unheard of 15 years ago, when we didn’t even have consistent standards across the state.
Under this country’s current education system, we have 50 different sets of standards and 50 different assessments. The Common Core will help to provide consistency regarding when and how key concepts are taught in our schools. This consistency is crucial in today’s world where students and families are highly mobile. It makes sense to have rigorous expectations for all students – no matter where they live – as they all end up entering the same highly competitive, global economy when they leave school.
Because of this consistency and because of the level of rigor at which the standards were set, I believe adoption of the Common Core was the right thing to do for kids. Further, by eliminating the need for 50 assessments, it should save states money.
Second, the board voted to move the proposed teaching standards to a public hearing.
By providing teachers, and those that evaluate them, with basic standards, we are creating a shared expectation of what good teaching looks like across our state. We are all shooting at the same target, if you will. Too often, evaluation is looked at as a punitive process. With the proposed framework, which the board will consider adopting, the evaluation becomes more of a growth process for teachers. It’s not just a checklist, but rather a standard of achievement.
I encourage administrators and teachers to review the proposed standards for teaching, which are basically Charlotte Danielson’s “Framework for Teaching” and to provide feedback to the department. The board is expected to consider the issue at its March 2011 meeting.
Finally, I would like to close by wishing all of you the best in the year ahead. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as secretary of education, and I consider it a privilege to have served the schools, educators and students of South Dakota. I encourage you to keep up the good work that you do. Thank you.