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Letter from the Secretary
SD Department of Education Nov. 2015  
Letter from the Secretary

As I travel around South Dakota, I hear a distinct theme in conversations about education: the need to support teachers. I hear about it among pre-service teachers, veteran teachers, administrators, higher education officials, and other stakeholders. That’s good, because to properly support teachers, all of these groups must work together.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is mostly focused on teacher pay, and this group’s final recommendations will be critical as we move into the legislative session. However, even in task force discussions, it has become clear that more support is needed not only in the monetary sense. At the task force’s August meeting, Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shared information from his study showing other factors impacting the teaching profession--things like too little prep time, heavy teaching loads and large class sizes.

In this month’s newsletter, you’ll find stories about work that seeks to support teachers in non-financial ways. Through the CEEDAR Center grant, the department is working with several institutes of higher education in South Dakota to better align teacher preparation with what new teachers will encounter in the field, particularly in regards to the needs of special education students. The hope is that eventually this work will expand to professional development for current teachers as well.

The department’s instructional reading coaching program began in 2014-15 and provides training to K-3 teachers in core foundational reading skills. Many teachers who participated last year are receiving additional training, and teachers new to participating districts are receiving the training their colleagues received in 2014-15. I hope you’ll read about the feedback on this program—the support networks it’s building among coaches and teachers are powerful.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the K-16 Summit in Chamberlain, which brought together administrators, higher education officials, new teachers and teachers who have recently supervised student teachers. Conversations and connections among these groups can do much to better prepare new teachers for the challenges of today’s classrooms.

Teacher burnout is real, but it is not inevitable, especially when we all work together.

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