Mary Stadick Smith, SD Department of Education's Operations and Information Director, speaks about the department's plan for assessment for the 2013-14 school year.

Districts will have flexibility to use alternate teacher evaluation systems

The South Dakota Board of Education has passed rules that would provide school districts flexibility to use their own teacher evaluation systems, as long as those systems align with the South Dakota standards for teaching, are research based, and include a valid measure of student growth.

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Plan for Smarter Balanced assessment continues to move forward

Pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education, South Dakota students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take part in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Field Test beginning March 18, 2014. The South Dakota Department of Education will be working with districts to create the spring testing schedule. The SBAC Field Test is based on the Common Core standards in English language arts and math, and will be administered in place of the Dakota STEP.

The assessment will be delivered online.

Because this is a Field Test, student results will not be delivered in the typical fashion. Furthermore, school accountability classifications will be held steady for one year. If a school was classified as a Focus School in 2013-14, that classification and any associated requirements would continue into the 2014-15 school year.

As schools prepare for new assessments aligned to the Common Core, it is important to remember that comparing the results of the old Dakota STEP with the new Smarter Balanced test is not appropriate. The new assessment measures different standards and will require that a new baseline for performance be set.

Over the summer, a number of enhancements were made to the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests that are online, including the availability of additional test forms for special populations, mathematics performance tasks, downloadable scoring guides, and a help desk to support teachers and other users. Practice Tests can be accessed at

For more information, contact Jan Martin, South Dakota Department of Education, at (605) 773-3246.