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Secretary's Column
By Dr. Melody Schopp
Department of Education

As leaders, we all have to make tough decisions. In the last few weeks, we made the decision to hold South Dakota’s targets for proficiency, required under No Child Left Behind, at last year’s (2009-10) levels.

With reauthorization of ESEA progressing slowly, if at all, and facing a deadline for release of our 2010-11 adequate yearly progress results, we made the call to hold our proficiency targets steady for another year. Without taking this action, we believe that a number of schools would be unfairly labeled as failing under the current system. Eventually, that would set into motion a whole series of actions that our department doesn’t have the capacity to address.

This does not mean South Dakota has thrown accountability out the window. Districts and schools will be held accountable this year, as in previous years. We are simply holding steady, as we await reauthorization of a law that we all know has flaws.

We also plan to revise our graduation rate goal to 80 percent (as opposed to 85 percent) this year. South Dakota is making the move to the new required four-year cohort graduation rate calculation this year (a year early), and we know it will reflect poorly on schools simply trying to do the right thing for students.

So, as we forge ahead with this year’s AYP process and we begin developing a new system of accountability for South Dakota, I encourage you to keep doing what’s right for your students. Ultimately, that’s what we are all about!

In another exciting development, the Great Plains Education Foundation based in Aberdeen, S.D., has provided the department with a $500,000 grant to support the Common Core Professional Development work. That work has started this summer with a pilot and will continue during the upcoming school year. The grant funds will cover the cost of subs to free up teachers to participate in this important work.

I want to publicly thank my Superintendents Advisory Council and the Governor’s Office for their efforts to make this happen. And, of course, many thanks to the Great Plains Education Foundation for recognizing the long-term positive impact this work will have on South Dakota students.