November 2013


Pierre teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Shana Davis, an English teacher at Riggs Academy, an alternative-education site at T.F. Riggs High School, received a $25,000 surprise recently. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, State Education Secretary Melody Schopp and Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, presented Davis with a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award during a school assembly Monday, Nov. 18.

“Shana Davis has taken a strong leadership role with Riggs Academy. She is constantly innovating to help her students succeed,” said Schopp. “It is so exciting to see her dedication acknowledged with this tremendous honor.”

Davis is a former Army reservist and Iraq War veteran who has taught for 12 years. Five years ago, she helped create Riggs Academy for at-risk students. Principal Kevin Mutchelknaus praises Davis’ skill in empowering students and getting them on track to graduate. She is a member of the Community/Law Enforcement/School Team investigating alternatives to detention, and leads the Riggs Student/Teacher Assistance Team.

The Milken Educator Awards were conceived by Lowell Milken to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession. Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the following criteria:
    • Exceptional educational talent, as evidenced by effective instructional
      practices and student learning results in the classroom and school
    • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that
      provide models of excellence for the profession
    • Individuals whose education contributions are largely unheralded yet
      worthy of the spotlight
    • Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong, long-range potential for
      professional and policy leadership
    • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students,
      colleagues and the community

To learn more about the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, visit

Go to: for photos.

Go to: for video.

Student growth rating for teachers based on learning objectives

This story is the second in a three-part series on the continuing development of South Dakota’s model teacher effectiveness system.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, South Dakota public school districts will be required to have a teacher effectiveness system in place. Under the model system developed by South Dakota’s Commission on Teaching and Learning (CTL), teachers will receive both a professional practice rating and a student growth rating, which are combined into one summative rating. Districts will have the flexibility to use their own systems of evaluation, as long as they can demonstrate alignment to this model.

The professional practice rating is based on the state’s professional teaching standards known as the South Dakota Framework for Teaching (i.e. Charlotte Danielson model). The teaching standards include 22 components grouped into four domains: 1) Planning and Preparation, 2) Classroom Environment, 3) Instruction, 4) Professional Responsibilities.

When it comes to the student growth rating, the model system relies on student learning objectives (

“While many schools are familiar with the standards for professional practice, the concept of using student learning objectives, or SLOs, in the evaluation process is a new one,” said Abby Javurek-Humig, director of assessment and accountability for the South Dakota Department of Education.

A student learning objective is a teacher-driven goal or set of goals that establishes expectations for student academic growth over a period of time. These specific, measurable student learning goals are based on student learning needs and aligned to applicable standards. SLOs reflect a rigorous, yet realistic expectation of student growth that can be achieved during a given instructional period. SLOs must be approved by the principal. Under the model system, teachers are required to develop a single SLO based on the critical learning needs of students in a particular class or course.
For example:

• A second-grade teacher responsible for teaching multiple content areas only needs to create one SLO for one of those content areas.
• A physical education teacher who teaches multiple classes and even multiple grade levels is only required to create one SLO for one class in one grade level.
• A high school math and science teacher need only create one SLO for one class in one content area.

Under the model system, a teacher’s student growth rating is based on a percentage of SLO attainment. A Low Growth rating indicates that a teacher’s SLOs were less than 65 percent attained. An Expected Growth rating indicates a teacher’s SLOs were 65 to 85 percent attained, and a High Growth rating indicates a teacher’s SLOs were 86 to 100 percent attained.

At Fred Assam Elementary, a pilot school in the Brandon Valley School District, teachers and students are excited about SLOs. Some teachers, like Missy Livingston, write the SLO on the board, so students are well aware of the goal they’re working towards.

Livingston teaches second grade and says that the process of developing SLOs has presented a great opportunity for collaboration. She and her fellow second grade teachers chose to develop a grade-level goal ( The goal is still unique to each teacher’s students because each second grade class has a slightly different starting point, as determined in this case, by DIBELS scores. Developing a grade-level goal is one option, but teachers can also develop SLOs individually.

“This process encouraged us to work together and figure out a focus for the year,” said Livingston. “We brainstormed about what content area to emphasize, looked at the data, and decided that this goal would really help our students develop a strong foundation in addition and subtraction.“

Livingston and her colleagues know that foundation will be essential when these second graders move on to third grade and delve deeper into multiplication.

“I’ve heard students say, ‘I really think I did better today,’” says Principal Susan Foster. “Students are taking ownership and that is exciting. This whole process, digging down into the data, really looking for that area of student need, is keeping us focused.”

While teachers and administrators were initially apprehensive, Foster says that piloting the teacher effectiveness system has done a great deal to help them see how all the pieces fit together: the Danielson Framework, evaluation, and SLOs.

Livingston agrees: “It’s been a pretty easy transition overall. We’ve had a lot of support from administration in developing the goals and working to obtain them.”


• SLO Example: Brandon Valley, 2nd grade (

• SLO Examples: State of Wisconsin (

• Frequently Asked Questions (

• SD’s Student Learning Objectives Guidebook (

State considers changes to accountability system

South Dakota is considering changes to its new accountability system. Those changes were introduced at a state Board of Education meeting Nov. 18 in Pierre. A summary of the key changes is below. The proposal will be put out for public comment this winter, prior to the state applying for an extension of its ESEA Flexibility Waiver for an additional year.

- Take the indicator for Teacher/Principal Effectiveness out of the School Performance Index, or SPI
    • While aggregate data surrounding effectiveness would still be reported, schools would not receive SPI points for this item.

- Take the indicator for School Climate out of the SPI
    • Instead, embed “climate” into work with Priority Schools.

- Create a special audit process for schools with unique mission

- Use three years of data for the Student Achievement indicator

- Re-consider how Attendance indicator is calculated

- Make the NCRC/WorkKeys assessment optional for districts to administer to 11th or 12th graders
    • For districts that chose to administer, up to 10 points of the College and Career Readiness indicator would come from NCRC/WorkKeys.

Please be watching for more information on this important topic.

Loan deferment or forgiveness possible in teacher shortage areas

The U.S. Department of Education has designated teacher shortage areas for the 2013-14 school year. This federal designation of teacher shortage areas may qualify borrowers for deferment or forgiveness of outstanding Federal Family Education Loans, Federal Stafford Loans, or Federal Perkins Loans. Qualification depends on loan type and date of issue.

These designations may also enable grant recipients to fulfill their teaching obligation under the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program.

Individuals teaching in one of the designated areas can contact the lender holding their loans to determine whether the loans qualify for deferment or forgiveness. Call the Federal Student Aid Hotline at 1-800-4FED-AID with any questions.

Teacher shortage areas:
- Academic Disciplines:
    • Career & Technical Education (7-12)
    • English as a New Language (K-12)
    • Language Arts (7-12)
    • Mathematics (7-12)
    • Science (7-12)
    • Special Education (K-12)
    • Speech Pathologists
    • World Languages (K-12)

- Geographic Areas:
    • Bennett County
    • Cheyenne Indian Reservation
    • Corson County
    • Crow Creek Indian Reservation
    • Jackson County
    • Lower Brule Indian Reservation
    • Mellette County
    • Shannon County
    • Todd County

Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program now accepting applications

High school seniors and college freshmen with a strong interest in science and intentions of pursuing careers in STEM fields are encouraged to apply for the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program.

Davis-Bahcall Scholars will have the chance to spend four to five weeks of their summer exploring the world of modern scientific research at some of the nation’s leading laboratories and universities. They will spend two weeks at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, travel to other research laboratories within the United States and possibly to Italy (funding permitting).

The program is sponsored by 3M Corporation, the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, and the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 15, 2014.

Go to: for more information.

WoLakota Project website now live

“WoLakota” implies balance and coming together. The WoLakota Project is a partnership of TIE and the South Dakota Department of Education, meant to support students in high-need schools, pairing trained mentor-teachers with new teachers and providing Courage to Teach circles to tend to the “hearts” of each.

Mentors will support the embedding of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEU) into practice, complementing the Common Core. The OSEU will address the achievement gap of American Indian students by embracing their identity, and will promote cultural understanding among non-native students and teachers. “When we approach teaching with one worldview…we create systems of failure in our schools,” says Lakota Elder Dottie LeBeau.

WoLakota is intended to close the circle into a system of understanding and success.

Visit to learn more.

Technology grant program accepting applications from pre-K-12 teachers

The CenturyLink Teachers and Technology grant program will award a total of $7,500 to South Dakota teachers with ideas for using technology to engage students.

Five teachers will receive a grant awarded through a competitive application process. Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers are encouraged to apply.

The grant application can be found at and must be submitted to the Department of Education by December 30, 2013.

For more information, contact Erin Larsen, South Dakota Department of Education, (605) 773-2533,

*Indicates a repeat session of training previously offered by the Department of Education.

The Department of Education has a new registration system (

*Common Core: K-12 Module 2 & 3
Dec. 3, Aberdeen

Module Two: Common Core 101 will be a one-day workshop. The workshop will focus on review and understanding Common Core KUD concepts and Webb Leveling. Participants will engage in a process to analyze lessons to ensure alignment to the disaggregated CCSS (KUD) and meet the cognitive demand of the CCSS (Webb Leveling.) Participants will also discuss the relationship of formative and summative assessments and evaluate the purposes and uses of assessment. (Danielson Framework: Domain 1)

MODULE 3 will be online follow-up work for both Math and ELA.

Go to: for more information.

Regional Meetings 2013: E-books & School Libraries
Dec. 3, Aberdeen
Dec. 10, Sioux Falls
Dec. 11, Rapid City

The SD State Library and the School Section of the South Dakota Library Association (SDLA) will hold regional meetings for certified-teacher librarians, paraprofessional librarians, district librarians, library aides, and administrators who wish to learn more about the current e-book landscape. School Library Coordinators Marta Stirling and Joan Upell will partner with Electronic Services Coordinators Jane Healy and Julie Erickson to give an overview of what’s available for schools and ways to integrate e-books with online resources and the Common Core State Standards. School librarians at each location will also discuss and demonstrate e-book platforms they are currently using with their students. Plus, there will be time for exploration and questions, so bring your own laptop, tablet, or other device of your choice. Wifi will be provided through hotspot connections.

Go to: for more information.

LifeSkills Curriculum Training
Dec. 4-5, Sioux Falls

LifeSkills Curriculum Training will be held from 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m. each day at the Hampton Inn in Sioux Falls.

LifeSkills is a proven, highly effective, substance abuse prevention program. This comprehensive program provides adolescents and young teens with the confidence and skills necessary to resist social pressures to smoke tobacco, drink, and use drugs. Go to: for additional details about the training and to register.

Behavior Plan Writing Process Workshop
Dec. 11, Sioux Falls

This course walks participants through the process of writing positive, proactive, and effective behavior plans. There is no magic wand or one plan that fits all, but there is a proven process a team can use to problem solve and come up with a plan for almost any behavior. Participants will become familiar with the entire process starting with data collection, using that data in the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), then taking the FBA and turning it into a Behavior Support Plan (BSP).

Go to for more information.

*Common Core: Literacy in History/Social Studies, Art, Music, World Language, Science/Technical Subjects
Various locations

This workshop will cover the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in history/social studies, art, music, world language, science and technical subjects. Teachers of all non-ELA content areas in grades 6-12 are welcome to attend. Participants will learn foundational components found in Common Core for ALL content areas. The workshops will include understanding of the standards as well as strategies for implementation.

The training will run from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Please bring the following:
1) Laptop Computer
2) Text-based resource that will be used in an upcoming lesson. This text-based resource will be analyzed and transformed during the workshop. If you bring a textbook, please bring a supplementary reading material such as an article, blog, quantitative text (graph, chart, etc.)

Go to: for more information.

Formative Language Assessment
Various locations

This workshop provides an overview of assessment models with a focus on formative assessment. Participants will explore academic language in formative assessment, its implementation, and impact on instruction. Participants will be able to do the following:
  • Describe different types of assessment
  • Create targets or objectives for academic language measurement and development
  • Develop a variety of performance tasks and identify appropriate assessment tools
  • Discuss the importance and use of feedback

Go to: for more information.

These are only a few upcoming events. Go to for a complete listing.


Gilder Lehrman winner shines in second career

Teaching is technically Denise Allen’s second career, but this year’s state Gilder Lehrman winner felt called to teaching as soon as she graduated high school.

Allen teaches first grade at Langford Elementary, and was selected for the award given to history teachers in part because of her fun and unique study of various presidents and other historical figures.

“We have a lot of fun with it, especially around the holidays dedicated to those individuals,” Allen said. “So much of social studies at this age is really learning how to get along with people. I have a small group of kids which is nice because we get to develop a lot of different concepts a little more deeply.”

Allen also strives to make her lessons interdisciplinary. That way, she’s teaching social studies, as well as other subjects throughout the day, and the students see how all learning is connected. This year, the students measured a high school basketball player and compared his height to Abraham Lincoln’s height. They also built Lincoln Log houses.

Allen is in her fifth year of teaching. After high school, she earned her two-year degree in travel industry management. She worked in customer service at United Airlines for a while and then in 2004, started taking night classes. She finished her degree at Northern State University, and fulfilled her dream of teaching.

She feels it has been a rewarding and worthwhile journey.

“In first grade, everything is exciting and new,” Allen said. “I love seeing the spark in my students’ eyes, and knowing that it’s because of something you told them that ignited their interests. It’s something they learned from you.”