By Tom Oster
Department of Education
Three things that keep me
up at night
As leaders in our schools and communities, we all have things that keep our brains running on overdrive. Here are three issues that have been keeping me up at night lately:
Common Core State Standards Initiative
South Dakota is one of 51 states and territories that signed on to be a part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. We saw a draft of those standards back in March, when they were available for public comment. We expect that the final version will be available sometime soon. At that point, we will need to decide, as a state, if and when we want to adopt the standards.
Indications from Washington, D.C., are that states will need to adopt the Common Core, or some version of common standards, if they want to be eligible for certain federal initiatives. While I am personally in favor of having common standards across the states, I have some concerns about how we will assess those standards.
Transitioning to new standards will require a massive effort in our state, beginning with training of teachers and ending with a new assessment. Both of these processes are time-consuming and require much effort, and the assessment piece can get very expensive.
While I believe the end result would be well worth the effort, the question of assessment needs to be answered before South Dakota would make the leap to new standards.
Reauthorization of ESEA
We’ve been hearing talk about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for months now, and in March, the Obama Administration released its blueprint for reauthorization.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, the national organization that I belong to, released its own policy document related to ESEA reauthorization. I also have been part of a group that has been discussing concerns specific to rural states. We believe we can have more of an impact with a “united voice” than we would as individual states.
No bill has been introduced as of yet, but I would recommend that you read through both of these documents to get a sense of the national discussion. I would also welcome any comments or recommendations that you may have regarding the reauthorization.
Race to the Top
After much consideration, we have decided not to apply in round-two of the Race to the Top competition. For a variety of reasons, we do not believe it would be in our schools’ and students’ best interests to apply at this time.
We are not averse to having any of the discussions on topics outlined in the Race to the Top application. In fact, we are eager to have those conversations. But we simply need more time to have thoughtful conversations with all of the key stakeholders at the table before making these important decisions.