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For Immediate Release: Aug. 28, 2008
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

South Dakota’s 2008 Report Card: Dakota STEP scores up, schools demonstrate growth

The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the annual state assessment required under No Child Left Behind continues to inch forward. Seventy-six percent of all students tested in 2008 scored proficient or advanced in math, compared to 75 percent last year. Eighty-four percent scored proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 83 percent last year. The statewide graduation rate remained steady at a solid 88 percent.

“Any time we can move the needle in a positive direction, it’s a good thing for students,” said Secretary of Education Rick Melmer. “We are pleased to see the progress, but we recognize that it will become more challenging as we get closer to the goal of 100 percent proficiency.”

Approximately 63,000 public school students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Dakota STEP or Dakota STEP-A last spring. The results of these assessments are used to determine whether a district has made adequate progress toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency required by NCLB.

Each school district’s results are reported on the 2008 Report Card, which is now available online at Click on “Report Card” in the left column.

Number of schools “in improvement” declines

One of the Report Card highlights is the number of schools identified as “in improvement.” That number dropped from 91 in 2007 to 84 in 2008. “The fact that we have fewer schools in improvement despite a rising bar is really good news,” Melmer said.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools must meet adequate yearly progress, or AYP, goals. If schools don’t meet the goals for two consecutive years, they are identified as “in improvement” and must complete a school improvement process. “We would like to think that the school improvement process is working,” Melmer said. “Districts are using their Dakota STEP data, along with other indicators, to really focus their efforts and articulate goals and objectives, and it seems to be making a difference.”

Of those schools in improvement, 46 percent made progress in all areas or missed by just one or two the required cells. Some districts are required to make progress in as many as 18 different cells at three distinct levels: grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

Progress recorded in most areas

At the elementary and middle school levels, South Dakota students surpassed the goals for math and reading proficiency. Students in grade 11 – the only high school grade tested – met the goal for math but fell slightly short in reading.

Of the various subgroups the Report Card tracks, many showed slight increases or held steady. State officials pay close attention to the Native American subgroup, since its members make up 11 percent of the student population. In 2008, 46 percent of Native American students scored proficient or advanced in math, compared to 45 percent last year. In reading, 63 percent scored proficient or advanced, compared to 61 percent last year.

Two other subgroups of interest are students with disabilities and students who are considered economically disadvantaged. As a whole, these two subgroups also saw gains.

A final area the Report Card covers is teacher quality. Under No Child Left Behind, teachers of core academic subjects are required to be “highly qualified.” NCLB defines a highly qualified teacher as one with full certification, a bachelor’s degree and one who demonstrates competence in subject knowledge and teaching. The 2008 Report Card shows that only 1.6 percent of the classes being taught in South Dakota are being taught by someone who has not met the qualifications for highly qualified.


Click this URL to access South Dakota's 2008 Report Card.