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Letter from the Secretary

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SD Department of Education August 2014  
  Letter from the Secretary

Back-to-school preparations are in full swing across South Dakota, and students will soon be back in the classroom. What an exciting time of year.

At the state level, we remain focused on preparing students for college, career and life. You and your staff put this goal in action every day.

With new standards in English language arts and math, teachers are going further in-depth with their instruction, helping students achieve deeper levels of understanding and make connections between classroom learning and the outside world.

This is important work that takes time. In the spring, students will be tested on the new ELA and math standards when they take the new Smarter Balanced state assessment.

We know that Smarter Balanced test results will look different than Dakota STEP test scores. It’s important to remember, though, that the two tests should not be compared. They measure student proficiency on two different sets of standards.

The standards have been raised, so Smarter Balanced test scores are likely to make it appear that student proficiency has dropped. This always happens with a new test. It does not mean students are performing poorly.

We are on the right path. I’m confident that South Dakota students will rise to the challenge and future test scores will rise.

And assessment is just one piece of the puzzle. This year, we will work to spread the message of how all the pieces—high quality standards, instruction and assessment—fit together and play a vital role in every student’s education.


Letters were recently sent to seniors whose ACT English and/or math sub-scores fall below the Board of Regents’ requirements for college readiness. These letters detail the opportunity to complete targeted remedial coursework, while still in high school, via the South Dakota Virtual School.

This is a tremendous opportunity for students to save time and money. Please encourage appropriate students to take advantage of this program.

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