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For Immediate Release: Oct. 19, 2012
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

New accountability system identifies top-performing, focus schools

Twenty-three elementary and middle schools and seven high schools have earned top spots under the state’s new accountability system.

As part of South Dakota’s waiver from No Child Left Behind, the state was required to identify the top 5 percent of public schools, as well as the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools, this fall. The schools were identified, in most cases, based on their scores on the new School Performance Index, or SPI, a 100-point index that encompasses key indicators that measure school performance.

At the elementary and middle school level, those SPI key indicators include student achievement in math and reading on the state assessment and attendance rates. At the high school level, those SPI key indicators include student achievement in math and reading on the state assessment, four-year cohort graduation rate, and ACT scores in English and math.

This is a transitional year for the new accountability system. Additional indicators, including academic growth, will be added to the School Performance Index by the 2014-15 school year. Once fully implemented, the department plans to use three years of data for most of the SPI key indicators. This current calculation is based upon only one year of data.

“A review of the data shows that a majority of our schools are performing well, and our students are reaching appropriate benchmarks,” said Dr. Melody Schopp, South Dakota’s secretary of education. “Kudos to those educators, students and parents who are committed to seeing that our children are getting the knowledge and skills base that will see them through life.”

According to Schopp, at the elementary and middle school level, 82 percent of schools earned at least 70 out of the 100 points possible. And at the high school level, 71 percent of schools earned at least 70 out of the 100 points. It is at the 70 mark that SPI scores begin to drop rapidly.

At the lower end of the spectrum are schools whose SPI scores rank among the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools. Under the new accountability system, these schools are considered “priority” schools.

“The indicators are showing that something is not working in these schools,” Schopp said. “In certain cases, the school might be serving a unique student population that impacts the results. But whatever the case, it’s here that we, as a state and as local communities, need to make a concerted effort to make a difference for these students. We owe it to them.”

The Department of Education also has identified “focus” schools, a classification that applies only to Title I schools and considers the performance of historically underperforming student groups.

As part of the new accountability system, the department will work with Priority and Focus schools to implement meaningful interventions designed to improve student outcomes.

Data for individual schools, including points earned for the various indicators, can be accessed at


Click here for a list of the schools.