Jan Martin, with the department’s Division of Assessment and Accountability, talks about this spring’s Field Test of the Smarter Balanced assessment

2014 legislative session opens Jan. 14
Track education-related bills at legis.sd.gov

Braille and large-print textbook orders due Jan. 15
Need to order braille or large-print textbooks for next year? Click here for more information.

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

Welcome back. I hope you’re refreshed after a restful holiday break.

I’m not one to make resolutions, but I am excited about the opportunity the new year presents to re-focus. For me, that means re-committing to the aspiration that all South Dakota students leave the K-12 system prepared for college, career and life. As you may recall, the department has identified key goals along the way to this overarching aspiration:

1) Students enter 4th grade proficient or advanced in reading.
2) Students enter 9th grade proficient or advanced in math.
3) Increase the academic success of Native American students.
4) Students graduate high school ready for postsecondary and the workforce.

Reflecting on where we have been, I think we have made great strides in addressing goal #4 in particular. We have taken steps to provide more students access to Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses. We have provided opportunities for students to complete remedial coursework prior to entering college. All of this has been done in an effort to help students hit the ground running when they enter a postsecondary institution.

We have also pushed forward with the work of the WoLakota Project, which pairs mentor-teachers with new teachers to help them embed the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings into their daily practice. While this is a start in terms of laying a foundation for the academic success of our Native American students, we have much more work to do in this area.

We also have work to do in the remaining two goal areas – reading and math proficiency – and that’s where I see the department focusing its efforts in the months ahead.

These are weighty goals, and they require commitment from each one of us on a daily basis. It will take time, but I am resolute in the belief that we will get there. Thank you for your dedication to the children of our state. It’s an honor to work with you, South Dakota’s education leaders.