Secretary's Column
By Tom Oster
Department of Education

Reaching across cultural barriers

As we move into the fall of the year, I am looking forward to the annual Indian Education Summit. The summit takes place this year Sept. 26-28 in Chamberlain. It’s a time for us as educators and leaders to focus on solutions for helping our American Indian students thrive, which needs to happen more often.

The Indian Ed Summit is not just for educators from reservation schools and border towns. It’s for all of us. Before coming to my position as secretary of education, I didn’t fully understand the challenges facing many of our Native students. I still don’t. But what I have come to discover is that there are dedicated educators who are going to great lengths to make sure these students have the opportunity to achieve at their highest potential. The Indian Ed Summit is a place to hear some of those success stories and figure out how you might model them in your own district.

Gov. Rounds proclaimed 2010 a Year of Unity in South Dakota. I know that certain groups and communities have accepted his challenge and are planning activities around that theme.

At the Department of Education, we will be running a Year of Unity Writing Contest for 4th and 11th graders this fall. The writing contest will have a special focus on relationships between Native and non-Native people. Your elementary teachers and secondary English teachers will be receiving information about the contest soon. Our hope is that by getting students researching, reading, talking and writing about a range of cultural perspectives, we can promote positive relations between the races early on.

While improving race relations may seem a daunting task, we have opportunities each day, as individuals, to treat people with respect and kindness. That’s how barriers are broken down … person to person, one day at a time.

Click here to learn more about the Year of Unity Writing Contest.

READING Up gets under way

Eager to improve reading proficiency at your school? The new READING Up initiative may help. Register your teachers today for one of 50 scheduled workshops. Click here for details and the complete schedule.

What is READING Up?
Using Dakota STEP data, READING Up takes aim at student performance on specific English language arts content standards. The targeted professional development focuses on the two standards at each grade level with which students struggle the most.

Even more importantly, participating teachers will learn a process to review, revise and align lessons and student assignments to grade-specific standards at the appropriate Bloom’s Taxonomy level. It’s called the Standards in Practice™ model, and it helps teachers achieve a higher level of rigor in their instruction.

“With high expectations, rigorous courses and challenging assignments, the result should be improved test results,” said Becky Nelson, who is spearheading the initiative for the Department of Education.

READING Up workshops will be offered throughout September and October. Participating teachers also will commit to participating in follow-up webinars and related activities.

There is no cost to attend the workshop, and the benefits are many: teachers with tighter lesson plans and assignments, students who have a deeper understanding of the specific standards targeted at their grade level, and possibly better Dakota STEP scores in reading.

More information
To learn more about this important initiative, please contact Becky Nelson or Marta Stirling at the Department of Education, (605) 773-3134.

Consortium receives grant to develop assessment

South Dakota is one of 31 states in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has been awarded a four-year $160 million Race to the Top assessment grant by the U.S. Department of Education. The funding will be used to develop an assessment aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

SBAC was one of two consortia awarded a comprehensive assessment system grant. It’s the first collaboration of its kind to develop a common assessment system among a majority of states.

“A common assessment makes sense on so many fronts, especially in light of the movement toward common standards,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “Not only is it the fiscally responsible thing to do, but we also will benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our partner states in building an assessment that’s appropriate for the 21st century.”

SBAC will create state-of-the-art adaptive online exams, using “open source” technology. The online system will provide accurate assessment information to teachers and others on the progress of all students.

The system will include:
1) the required summative exams (offered twice each school year);
2) optional formative, or benchmark, exams; and
3) a variety of tools, processes and practices for teachers to use in planning and implementing informal, ongoing assessment. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

SBAC’s assessment system will be tied to the Common Core State Standards, an initiative led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. By the end of 2011, states in the consortium must agree to adopt the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math. States still in the consortium in 2014-15 must agree to use the consortium’s tests as their accountability assessments.

Funding for the RTTT assessment grant will begin Oct. 1. SBAC, led by 17 governing states, will begin its work by conducting an assessment framework study. The bulk of the test development work will be conducted in spring 2011.

The governing states are those that are fully committed to SBAC and are engaged in all decisions. South Dakota is an advisory state, which means it can participate in all meetings and workshops but is not part of the decision-making process.

Common Core Standards on agenda

The South Dakota Board of Education will get its first opportunity to discuss the Common Core State Standards when it meets Sept. 28 in Chamberlain. Staff from the Office of Curriculum, Career and Technical Education will present the board with an overview of the standards in English language arts and math.

While adoption of the Common Core is voluntary, it is a key part of the four pillars of reform being advanced by the current administration in Washington, D.C. States that adopt the Common Core could enjoy a competitive edge when applying for federal grants.

As the Common Core State Standards were developed over the last year, South Dakota has provided feedback to the two organizations leading the initiative: the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. Educators across South Dakota had several opportunities to provide input regarding content, rigor and developmental appropriateness of the Common Core. Feedback received at the state level was mostly positive.

The board is expected to move the Common Core Standards to public hearing, which would take place in December.

“Now that we know the SMARTER Balanced Consortium will receive funds to develop an assessment aligned to the Common Core, I believe that we’re ready to move forward,” Secretary of Education Tom Oster said. “The assessment piece has been a big question for me all along.”

Also on the board’s agenda: a public hearing regarding changes to Administrative Rule on end-of-course exams and technical institute business. Click here for complete agenda.

Indian Ed Summit set for Sept. 26-28

The 2010 Indian Education Summit will be held Sept. 26-28 at Cedar Shore in Chamberlain. The theme of this year’s summit is “Woonspe Epazo,” a Lakota term that means “to point to education.”

Partners in this year’s effort include the South Dakota Department of Education, MidCentral Education Cooperative, University of South Dakota, Oceti Sakowin Education Consortium, and Technology and Innovation in Education.

The goal of the Indian Education Summit is to provide solutions to the unique challenges American Indian students face, and to present successful models for educators to implement. The conference provides the opportunity for collaboration between state leaders, tribal and Bureau of Indian Education schools, and individual school districts.

Breakout sessions will center around four main focal points:
• Family, Community, Relationships
• Student Achievement
• Higher Education
• Culture, Resiliency

Keynote speakers include Wayne Stein, professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University, and Richard B. Williams, president of the American Indian College Fund.

For more information and to register online, visit www.doe.sd.gov and click on the Indian Education Summit link

Teachers needed for Dakota STEP work

Administrators: Do you have a teacher with strong opinions about the state’s assessment system? The Department of Education is looking for educators to serve on several Dakota STEP work groups. Please consider nominating someone from your district for this important task. (See groups and links to online nomination below.)

The department will reimburse all selected participants for mileage, meals and lodging (at state rates) and will pay a stipend of $125 a day or $62.50 a half-day. The department also will reimburse each participant’s district $70 per day to go toward substitute pay, if necessary.

Participants will be notified via e-mail once the work groups have been selected later this month.

Reading, Math and Science
Alignment Work Groups
Oct. 26 and 27, Sioux Falls

Participating teachers will need to have experience in the subject they wish to be part of at the appropriate grade levels (3-8 and 11). A diverse group of teachers representing both large and small districts across the state, including special education and English language learner teachers, is needed.

These groups will review possible Dakota STEP items in the areas of reading, math and science for alignment to the South Dakota content standards. There will be separate work groups for each content area.

To nominate teachers for any of these work groups, click on the appropriate content area and grade grouping below. The deadline to nominate has been extended to Sept. 24.

Reading Grades 3-5
Reading Grades 6-7
Reading Grades 8 and 11

Math Grades 3-5
Math Grades 6-7
Math Grades 8 and 11

Science Grades 5, 8 and 11

If you or your teachers have any questions about this process, please contact Gay Pickner, Department of Education, at (605) 773-3247.

Reading Passage Bias and Content Work Group
Oct. 28, Sioux Falls

Participating teachers will need to have experience in reading instruction at the appropriate grade levels (3-8 and 11). A diverse group of teachers representing both large and small districts across the state, including special education and English language learner teachers, is needed.

This group will review Dakota STEP passages for grade-appropriate content. Teachers also will identify and eliminate bias from these passages and ensure that they are sensitive to the diverse circumstances of all students.

To nominate teachers who are interested in participating in the Reading Passage Bias and Content Work Group, click on the appropriate grade grouping below. The deadline to nominate has been extended to Sept. 24.

Grades 3, 4, 5, 6
Grades 7, 8 and 11

School Library Survey: Compare and contrast your data

The South Dakota State Library now has your 2009-10 school library statistics available for access and comparisons. Bibliostat’s CONNECT is an online tool that gives you easy access to comparative statistics and facts about school libraries in South Dakota.

With CONNECT, you can quickly and easily identify peer school libraries and then compare your library to others on any of hundreds of measures. From your web browser, you can select comparison school districts by name or allow CONNECT to identify them based on specific criteria you provide. You choose the data elements or output measures that you are interested in looking at, and then choose if you would like to view the results in a graph or an Excel table.

You will need the unique login and password assigned to your school district during the 2009-10 School Library Survey. Once into the database, select “South Dakota Schools,” and proceed.

Can’t remember your login or password? Contact either of the State Library’s school coordinators: Joan Upell at (605) 295-3152 or Lee Crary at (605) 295-3173.

Later this fall, watch for the South Dakota State Library’s “2010 School Data Digest,” a snapshot of South Dakota school libraries during the 2009-10 school year.

School health update: Report flu, immunize against whooping cough

The state Department of Health is asking schools to report flu-related illness again this year. They’re also working to get word out about vaccinating adolescent children for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Reporting flu absenteeism
For reporting purposes, the Department of Health asks schools to simply count the number of children absent from school weekly due to “illness.” Although this is a blunt measure, it gives DOH a good indication of when influenza is striking a region within the state.

To report flu absenteeism in your school, visit http://doh.sd.gov and scroll down to “Quick Links.” Click on “Report weekly absenteeism numbers for schools.” This link will take you directly to the weekly survey. Please report data for the previous school week. The data collected is confidential and voluntary.

School-specific information will not be released or published. Weekly aggregate school absenteeism summaries will be included in weekly influenza updates that are distributed statewide and posted on the Department of Health website.

If you have any questions regarding this surveillance project, please contact Vickie Horan at the Department of Health, (605) 773-3737.

Whooping cough immunization recommended for adolescents
Several states are reporting outbreaks of pertussis (or whooping cough), and cases are on the rise in South Dakota.

A booster vaccine is recommended for adolescent children at age 11-12, when the immunity from the childhood pertussis series begins to wane. The Department of Health is currently making Tdap vaccine available free to all children ages 11-14. Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Parents can contact their usual vaccine provider to get their children vaccinated.

The Department of Health also will work with schools to make the Tdap vaccine available in the school setting, either along with the usual seasonal flu clinics or as separate clinics. Schools interested in organizing a Tdap clinic for their middle school students can contact one of the department’s local Community Health Services offices (see http://doh.sd.gov/LocalOffices/CHS.aspx for a listing by county).

Pertussis is a serious illness that causes uncontrollable coughing, rib fractures, pneumonia, loss of consciousness and even death. It is especially serious for very young children, with two-thirds of those under age 1 who get it needing hospitalization. As with other contagious diseases, pertussis spreads easily in the school setting and on into the community. Vaccinating middle school students protects them from illness and increases the ring of protection around vulnerable infants and helps decrease the likelihood of outbreaks.

As school clinics are scheduled, please submit date, time and location details to the department at DOH.INFO@state.sd.us so events can be listed on the schedule at http://doh.sd.gov/WhoopingCough/.

Upcoming Events

READING Up workshops slated

Fifty READING Up workshops will be held at locations across South Dakota this fall. READING Up offers targeted professional development to improve student performance on specific English language arts content standards. It will follow the Standards in Practice method, which can be used to review, revise and align lessons and student assignments to grade-specific standards at the appropriate Bloom’s Taxonomy level.

Learn more and access the READING Up schedule.
READING Up is an initiative of the South Dakota Department of Education.

Watch for IEP Workshops
The department’s Special Education Programs is conducting several IEP Workshops this fall. Workshops will cover information regarding: child find and pre-referral strategies; determining suspected areas of disabilities; prior notice/consent and procedural safeguards; evaluation procedures and reporting; developing and implementing an IEP.

Sept. 24, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (Central Time)
Mid-Central Cooperative, Platte
Session ID: 46054

Sept. 30, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Super 8, Hill City
Session ID: 46060

Oct. 12, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (Central Time)
First Lutheran Church, Brookings
Session ID: 46165

Oct. 21, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (Central Time)
Huron Middle School, Huron
Session ID: 46437

Nov. 2, 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. (Central Time)
School District Administrative Office, Yankton
Session ID: 46439

Nov. 5, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Central Time)
Milbank High School
Session ID: 46070

Nov. 17, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Western Dakota Technical Institute (main entrance), Rapid City
Session ID: 46441

Dec. 8, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Central Time)
Governors Inn, Pierre
Session ID: 46443

To register for an event, go to http://www.escweb.net/sd_esa/ and enter the appropriate Session ID.

Separating Difference and Disability with Dr. Collier

A growing number of students from diverse racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds have unique learning needs as they acquire school English and adapt to the culture of the American education system. Among this diverse population of students are at-risk learners and learners with a variety of disabilities. This situation presents school districts, and even the most experienced education professional, with unique challenges.

The needs of these diverse learners are not being appropriately addressed when “difference” is used to disproportionately place or deny diverse learners special education services.

This workshop, Oct. 7-8 at the AmericInn in Fort Pierre, will address specific issues facing education professionals who work with diverse learners with learning and behavior problems, particularly language minority students. Led by Dr. Collier, the workshop will provide guidelines to the assessment, intervention and identification strategies that are most effective in separating difference from disability.

Participants will learn best practice strategies to assist teams in determining the degree to which ESL contributes to academic and/or behavioral concerns. Participants will learn what tools and strategies are available and appropriate to use. Response to Intervention and Response to Instruction and Intervention models for English Language Learners will also be explored, focusing upon the interpretation of data gathered during the general education intervention problem-solving process, prior to conducting an evaluation for special education. This process will ultimately lead to strategies and interventions that will reduce barriers to special populations.

Registration is available online. CEUs are available.

Questions can be directed to Becky Cain, Department of Education, (605) 280-3568.

Conference promotes parental involvement

The 3rd Annual Parent Conference, “Learning Starts at Home,” will be held Oct. 15-16 at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City. Anne Henderson, author of “Beyond the Bake Sale,” is the featured speaker.

The event is free.

To view the complete agenda and to register, visit SDPIRC’s website.

Get re-energized at Systems Change

"Passion and Persistence in Education” is the theme of this year’s Systems Change Conference, slated for Oct. 13-15 in Chamberlain. The event will be held at Cedar Shore Resort.

The 2011 South Dakota Teacher of the Year will be announced during the Thursday evening banquet. The National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling of Iowa, will address the audience that night as well.

To review an agenda and to register, click here.