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Letter from the Secretary
SD Department of Education July 2016  
Letter from the Secretary

As you are likely aware, we have released preliminary state assessment results. The news is good: student performance shows gains in English language arts and math in all but one grade level. I commend school districts for the hard work and dedication that has led to these improvements.

It takes about 100 students to show a 1 percent increase in proficiency at each grade level, so we are talking about 300 to 600 more students testing proficient in many grade levels, which is significant progress. We also saw growth overall for our Native American students.

Our youngest tested students are showing the greatest gains. This makes sense, since they have been working with these content standards in math and English language arts for most, if not their entire, school careers.

At the other end of the spectrum, our 11th grade assessment results are largely flat. We aren’t entirely sure why this is, but I think several factors are at play. Our state’s 11th graders have spent a smaller proportion of their schooling with these content standards, and they are much more familiar with the former state assessment, which was essentially a “bubble test.” It did not require them to apply and demonstrate their knowledge in the way the Smarter Balanced assessment does.

We also know that some of our 11th grade students feel the test has little value or meaning for them. I urge you to share the message with your high school students and their parents that all six of our state’s public universities accept Smarter Balanced scores for placement purposes. This makes the assessment very valuable. Students who score in Levels 3 or 4 in math and/or English language arts avoid the need for remediation and can automatically enter credit-bearing courses in the respective content area once they get to college.

I’ve said repeatedly that we must stay the course with regard to our state standards in English language arts and math. These preliminary assessment results bolster that message.

I am also pleased to report that a recent lawsuit against the state of South Dakota for its participation in a multi-state testing consortium was dismissed.

Thank you for everything you do for South Dakota students.


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