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SD Department of Education March 2015  

TEACHER FEATURE: Robin Cochran Dirksen

Lead-Deadwood project named state finalist in Samsung contest

Robin Cochran Dirksen teaches science at Lead-Deadwood High School. She loves growing two things: plants and scientists. In the Englewood Springs Botanical Area near Whitewood Creek, she’s trying to do both with a project that engages students at all grade levels. She describes it as place-based learning that melds social, environmental and health concerns.

The project was named this year’s state finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, earning more than $20,000 in technology for the Lead-Deadwood School District.

Over the life of the Homestake Mine, the mine discharged approximately 100 million tons of contaminants into Whitewood Creek, once placing it among the most contaminated watersheds in the country, unable to support so much as algae growth.

Since 2008, Dirksen has been using the site as a sort of outdoor laboratory to teach students about the impact 100 years of mining has had on the local watershed and ecosystem. Students learn about the power of remediation to address and mitigate the effects of these activities by monitoring and replanting indigenous plants.

In addition, students have begun an online herbarium (http://www.wolakotaproject.org/?page_id=944) of plants used in the Oceti Sakowin cultures. The herbarium includes pictures of plants, along with their scientific names, Lakota names, and information on any research students have done on the plants. In the future, Dirksen hopes to take video of Lakota elders talking about the various plants’ traditional uses.

Several agencies collaborate with Dirksen and her students in the Whitewood Creek area. “We don’t do anything without expert oversight,” she says. Among the agencies involved are the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Hills Ranger District and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Dr. Mark Gabel, botanist at Black Hills State University, has advised on the project as well.

Dirksen has also worked with Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) to get the herbarium (http://www.wolakotaproject.org/?page_id=944) on the WoLakota Project website, along with other information on the remediation project and how the work connects to the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards (http://indianeducation.sd.gov/documents/OcetiSakowinEUS.pdf).

Dirksen teaches advanced biology and chemistry. She has previously taught AP Chemistry for the South Dakota Virtual School. She teaches STEM Research in collaboration with the Sanford Underground Research Facility, and is an adjunct instructor at Black Hills State University. In almost everything she teaches, she tries to incorporate the Whitewood Creek project into the curriculum.

Younger students get involved, too, which provides older students an opportunity for mentoring. Elementary students have started plants for the site in their classrooms. Middle school students have helped with pulling weeds and planting on-site. It’s Dirksen’s hope that by getting young students involved, they’ll maintain interest in the site and project throughout their time in the Lead-Deadwood School District.

Answering parent questions as Smarter Balanced testing window opens

The Smarter Balanced statewide assessment was a subject of discussion during this year’s state legislative session. As a result, you may be getting some questions from parents about the assessment. While there have been attempts to change state law regarding the requirement to test all students in grades 3-8 and 11, those attempts failed – both in 2014 and 2015.

Below is a brief synopsis educators can use to help parents understand the importance of this new test:

Why students are taking the Smarter Balanced test

The Smarter Balanced test measures students’ mastery of academic standards in the areas of English language arts and math. Per state and federal law, this assessment is given one time a year and serves several important purposes.

• First, the assessment provides parents with important information regarding their child’s academic performance and skills. It’s much like an annual medical check-up.

• Second, the results help educators to discover patterns in terms of overall student performance. If a teacher sees that his or her students are not performing well on a particular topic – adding and subtracting fractions, for example – the teacher can modify his or her instruction, in order to ensure that future students are fully understanding the topic.

• Third, the collective assessment results are published each year in the State Report Card, so that parents, school leaders, taxpayers and community members can see how their local schools are performing.

• Finally, the public universities in South Dakota will be using the results of the Smarter Balanced assessment – specifically, a student’s 11th grade results – to determine if that student needs to take remedial coursework upon entry into a state university.

Other resources for parents

For a parent infographic about Smarter Balanced, go to http://commoncore.sd.gov/documents/SBAInfogr.pdf.

Item-type tutorials (http://sd.portal.airast.org/item-type-tutorials/) on South Dakota’s Smarter Balanced portal walk viewers through each type of item students may encounter on the test. (Note: These tutorials are videos, but do not have audio.)

Practice and training tests can be accessed at http://sd.portal.airast.org/training-tests/.

Graduate credit available for teachers who complete Teachscape training

Through Teachscape, all South Dakota public school districts have access to in-depth, high quality training on the state’s teaching standards (Danielson Framework) and how the standards are used for teacher evaluation. Teachers now have an opportunity to earn graduate credit through the University of South Dakota for this work. Two options are available. (See chart below.)

With a state-paid license, South Dakota teachers access Teachscape Focus for Teachers and receive comprehensive training on the South Dakota Framework for Teaching. Approximately 30 hours of coursework and reflection are available to teachers through Teachscape Focus for Teachers.

For a teacher to get a state-paid license, the district’s Teachscape contact must email the Teachscape Implementation support team at sdsetup@teachscape.com. Please note that the license providing access expires June 30, 2015.

The course registration deadline is May 1. Coursework must be submitted by May 30.

Contact Barb Hansen with the East Dakota Educational Cooperative at (605) 367-7680 or barb.hansen@edec.org with questions about the courses.

Contact Matt Gill, South Dakota Department of Education, at (605) 773-8193 or matthew.gill@state.sd.us, with questions about Teachscape.

To earn one credit: To earn two credits:
Complete introductory module, titled Laying the Foundation Complete introductory module, titled Laying the Foundation
Complete 8 component modules (at least one from each domain) Complete all 22 modules
Complete the Self-Assessment of Professional Practices Complete the Self-Assessment of Professional Practices
https://drive.google.com/open? id= 0B4eVtOSbGdGYd09VdmNWM zNZaEk&authuser=0 https://drive.google.com/folder view?id=0B4eVtOSbGdGYNWdY TG9Uci14dkE&usp=sharing

New advanced data use course available this summer

Advanced Data Use Skills for Educators, a new online course available this summer, will build upon skills taught in the prerequisite course, Fundamentals of Using Data for Educators. Participants will apply fundamental skills to an individual project using data.

Course requirements include readings, participation in online discussions and completion of a data project, with the goal of using data to answer important questions to drive positive change in a district, school or classroom.

The course is scheduled for June 1-July 15, with the data project due July 15. Participation is free. Two credits are available through the University of South Dakota for $40/credit.

Register at https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com. Search by course title. For those wishing to receive credit, there will be an additional link on this website where participants can register with USD.

Fundamentals course

The Fundamentals of Using Data for Educators course will be available again this summer. This course is open to all South Dakota administrators and teachers. It involves independent work and one day of face-to-face instruction, available in Aberdeen, Brookings or Chamberlain.

Participation is free. One credit is available through USD for $40.

For more information and to register, go to https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com. Search by course title. For those wishing to receive credit, there will be an additional link on this website where participants can register with USD.

SD educators discuss dual credit and college readiness courses in Expect More videos

Hear what your colleagues are saying about how dual credit and college readiness courses prepare students for postsecondary.

            College readiness courses                                       Dual credit
            View video at http://youtu.be/OC-D2Jjcx3U              View video at http://youtu.be/Z9xZ_3129Pk

Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship deadline April 18

The 2015 State Legislature appropriated an additional $150,000 for the Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship Program. This program is aimed at encouraging South Dakota high school graduates to obtain their postsecondary education in-state and then stay in South Dakota to teach in a critical teaching need occupation. For more information, go to http://www.sdbor.edu/students/documents/CriticalTeachingNeedsScholarshipApplication2014.pdf.

Governor issues executive order establishing council to study Indian education

The Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council will study methods designed to improve the achievement levels and graduation rates of Native American students. The council will consist of stakeholders including tribal leaders and representatives from the Indian Education Advisory Council, the South Dakota Departments of Education and Tribal Relations, and various education groups.

Read more at http://news.sd.gov/newsitem.aspx?id=17264.

Todd County JAG students make video promoting sportsmanship

To encourage sportsmanlike conduct from spectators, JAG students in Todd County recently made a video that now gets played before games at the school and during parent/teacher conferences. Kudos to these student role models!

Watch video at http://youtu.be/s7iZtutY_Lw.

SDMyLife magazine available now

SDMyLife is a career development program that assists South Dakota students with navigating the career development process. The South Dakota Department of Education publishes an SDMyLife magazine every two years and makes it available for free to South Dakota educators. The magazine contains information on the following:

• Career clusters
• Rigorous coursework
• Student organizations
• College entrance and workforce readiness exams
• Financial aid
• Industry certifications
• Tips for utilizing SDMylife.com

The magazine also offers insight from South Dakota business and industry professionals. To read the digital version and order copies for students, go to http://www.sdmylife.com/educators/mylife-magazine.

With the support of teachers, counselors and parents, SDMyLife is intended to help students better understand how their interests, skills and knowledge relate to real-world academic and career opportunities. South Dakota students use SDMyLife to research and plan for life after high school.

Contact Megan Lahr, South Dakota Department of Education, at (605) 773-4726 or megan.lahr@state.sd.us, with questions.

Digging Deeper sessions now archived for easy access

Digging Deeper into Primary Sources was an online learning day intended to give educators tools to help students analyze, evaluate and differentiate primary and secondary sources. Speakers included Dr. Peggy O’Neill-Jones, director of the Teaching Primary Sources Teachers Network; South Dakota author Jean Patrick; representatives of state agencies, universities and more. To access the day’s presentations, go to http://teachingprimarysources.wikispaces.com/.

Upcoming Events

For a complete listing of events, go to http://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/.

South Dakota Early Childhood Education Conference
April 9-11, Rapid City

This conference is put on by the South Dakota Head Start Association and the South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children to bring professional development to South Dakota's early childhood education professionals. The conference is held every April and features nationally known keynote speakers, workshops and networking opportunities.

For more information and to register, go to http://sdececonference-org.doodlekit.com/.

TIE Conference
April 19-21, Rapid City

The 29th Annual TIE Conference will be held at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. It’s the largest event in the region focused on teaching materials, instructional practices, and technology applications for school administrators, teachers, technology coordinators, librarians and media specialists.

The event features breakout sessions, in-depth workshops, nationally recognized keynote speakers, an opportunity for graduate credit and a large exhibit hall.

For more information or to register, go to www.conference.tie.net.

Board of Education meeting
May 18, Aberdeen

The South Dakota Board of Education will hold its regularly scheduled meeting in Aberdeen. Public hearings will be held related to content standards adoption in the areas of science, social studies, fine arts and K-12 educational technology. An agenda will be posted at http://boardsandcommissions.sd.gov/Template.aspx?id=32 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

2015 Summer Education Conference: Multi-Tiered System of Supports
June 3-4, Pierre

This conference is open to all schools, with a reduced registration rate available for educators from MTSS schools. Graduate credit is available.

The first day of the conference will focus on teaching students to think critically about text. School-wide Positive Behavior Supports will be the main topic of day two. Keynote speakers will be Jill Jackson and Dr. George Sugai.

For more information and to register, go to http://doe.sd.gov/oess/documents/15ConfMTS.pdf.

Questions? Contact Becky Cain, South Dakota Department of Education, at rebecca.cain@state.sd.us or (605) 280-3568.

Save the Date: 2015 Indian Education Summit
Nov. 1-3, Pierre

For more information, go to http://indianeducation.sd.gov/summit.aspx.

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