2011 Teacher of the Year:
Spotlight on outstanding teachers

South Dakota’s 2011 Teacher of the Year will be announced Oct. 14 at the Systems Change Conference. Find out more about this great recognition program – prizes include a car, technology package and cash – and this year’s candidates.

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Secretary's Column
By Tom Oster
Department of Education


Here's a quick look at some state-level happenings this past week that should be of interest to you.

Common Core State Standards
As you are aware, the state Department of Education has been involved in discussions regarding the Common Core State Standards throughout the last year. It was gratifying to be able to present those proposed standards to the South Dakota Board of Education earlier this week. I believe that the idea of common standards among the states is an idea whose time has come. When you look across this country, our current system provides no consistency of expectation from state to state. The proposed Common Core Standards will help to lay that groundwork -- providing all of us, whether we're in South Dakota or South Carolina, with clear, rigorous and consistent goals for learning.

Once we were able to answer the question of a common assessment, which could save states like South Dakota hundreds of thousands of dollars, I was convinced that this is the right thing to do. Anyone interested in providing comment on the proposed Common Core Standards will have several options to do so. Please read this month's story about the Common Core to find out how you can offer public comment.

Common course numbering system
Earlier this week, many of you received an e-mail regarding the move to a common course numbering system. While this process will require some work on your part, we believe it's the right thing to do in the long run. The move to common codes, which will be printed on all high school transcripts, will provide consistency across the state. Once the initial work is done, upkeep should be minimal. Also, you have until May 1, 2011, to implement the codes. If you desire, you can contract with Campus to upload courses. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter, and our staff is ready to answer any questions you may have.

Indian education
Finally, I had the privilege of attending this year's Indian Education Summit, Sept. 26-28, in Chamberlain. The event had record attendance -- more than double the attendance of previous years. It was a great conference. It left me feeling hopeful about the potential to impact the lives of our American Indian students. In the past few weeks, I also visited several school districts in Indian Country -- McLaughlin and Smee -- and was impressed by the efforts being made in those schools to implement a culture of learning, to engage students and to infuse Native American culture into the educational experience. The folks I met at those places were passionate about their students, and I applaud them for their efforts. I know that Shannon County also has had some recent success in improving Dakota STEP scores. As we move forward with addressing challenges specific to educating our American Indian students, it will be crucial to gather these types of success stories and best practices, and figure out how to replicate them at schools across the state.