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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Students may apply for Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

The search is on for South Dakota’s top youth volunteers. Now through Nov. 5, 2013, students in grades 5-12 are invited to apply for Prudential Spirit of Community Awards if they have made meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service within the past 12 months. The application is available at and

The awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, were created in 1995 to recognize middle level and high school students for helping people in need, promoting health and safety, protecting the environment, or volunteering in other ways. The awards are presented annually on the local, state, and national level.

South Dakota’s top youth volunteers of 2013 were Daniel Schmidtman, 18, of Sioux Falls and Bridger Gordon, 13, of Whitewood. Schmidtman, South Dakota’s top high school volunteer, helped form a hunger-focused student volunteer organization that has grown to include more than 175 members from numerous schools who are participating in monthly service projects and planning several large fundraising events. Gordon, South Dakota’s top middle level volunteer, has spearheaded several environmental initiatives in his community over the past four years with the philosophy that every day should be Earth Day.

Applicants for 2014 awards must complete their online application by Nov. 5, 2013, then submit them for certification to a middle or high school principal, Girl Scout council, county 4-H agent, American Red Cross chapter, YMCA, or HandsOn Network affiliate. Paper application forms can be requested by calling 877-525-8491 toll-free.