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For Immediate Release: Sept. 15, 2008
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Out with the Carnegie unit, into the 21st century

Recognizing that learning is not synonymous with seat time, the South Dakota Board of Education gave its stamp of approval to a new definition of “unit of credit.” The move broadens the methods for evaluating student competency and assigning credit. The action came at today’s board meeting in Watertown.

“Schools traditionally have relied on the Carnegie unit to measure student competency. Under this system, seat time meant credit,” said Dr. Melody Schopp, director of accreditation and teacher quality for the Department of Education. “That way of thinking doesn’t always hold true in today’s world. Students can demonstrate learning in a variety of ways, including online learning, portfolios and performance-based assessments.”

For many years, the Carnegie unit was the standard for schools across the country. The Carnegie unit was defined as 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year. South Dakota’s rules defined a unit of credit as 146 hours of contact time.

According to Schopp, the traditional Carnegie unit can be a roadblock to innovative ways of instructing students.

The rule endorsed by the board identifies end-of-course exams, alternative assessments aimed at content knowledge, or 146 hours of class time as methods for demonstrating competency and assigning credit.