- Secretary's Column:
Preparing for a new, more rigorous assessment
- Partnership to help struggling college-bound students catch up
- New system identifies top-performing schools, schools to receive targeted interventions
- Accountability sessions wrap up; webinar archived online
- STARS pilot districts receive training in Pierre
- Whooping cough cases rise; parents urged to immunize kids
- Upcoming Events
- 2012 Regional Transition Forums
Nov. 7 – Dec. 14, Various locations statewide
- IEP Workshops
Nov. 15 –29, Various locations statewide
- Principal Standards and Evaluation Work Group meeting
Nov. 19, Pierre
- Teacher Evaluation Work Group meeting
Nov. 20, Pierre
- South Dakota Board of Education meeting
Nov. 26, Pierre
By Dr. Melody Schopp
Department of Education
Preparing for a new assessment
For most leaders, there are one or two important issues that keep them up at night. For me, assessment is one of those issues. Come the 2014-15 school year, we will not only be assessing our students on a new set of standards, the Common Core, but we will also be assessing our students via a new format: online. These are major changes, and ultimately, what I believe will be very positive changes. Of course, with change always comes challenge.
As we work to prepare for the new assessment in spring of 2015, we will need to be addressing the challenges from various fronts. First, we will need to make sure our technology systems are capable of handling online assessment (in terms of devices, bandwidth, etc.). Secondly, it will be important that our students have some exposure to, or experience with, online testing. And, finally, we will need to ensure that our students have a deep understanding of the new standards in ELA and math.
I’ve been taking some time over the last few weeks to look at the sample performance items and tasks posted for review by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. I encourage you, and your teachers, to do the same. (To access, go to: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/sample-items-and-performance-tasks/) The samples include nearly 50 assessment items and performance tasks, including examples of technology-enhanced items that take advantage of computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would otherwise be possible with traditional item types.
Beyond summative assessment, if we truly want to improve teaching and learning, we need to be looking at benchmark and formative assessments as well. This year, we have about 20 districts that are participating in a benchmark assessment pilot that will give us some experience, as a state, in doing just that. Pilot schools will be testing their students during four different testing windows throughout the school year, with immediate feedback provided through the South Dakota Assessment Portal.
Certainly, summative assessment plays a role in the educational process. However, with immediate feedback gathered from benchmark assessment, teachers can use that data to assess student learning and modify instruction, if necessary, to ensure that learning is occurring. It is this type of assessment that can drive instruction and improve student outcomes.
There is no doubt that the move to Common Core and online assessment will require a shift in thinking. The transition will be challenging and complex, but in the end, I believe it will be a move that benefits our education system, our educators, and most importantly, the students of South Dakota.
Partnership to help struggling college-bound students catch up
A collaborative effort between the Department of Education and Board of Regents will help the state’s college-bound juniors and seniors who may need some assistance to get up to speed before hitting campus for the first time.
The Board of Regents requires students whose ACT sub-scores fall below 20 in math and 18 in English to take remedial courses prior to entry into college-level courses.
The new partnership will allow students to complete remedial coursework before entering one of the Board of Regents’ institutions.
“We’re excited about this partnership and the opportunity it creates for students,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp. “This initiative supports our core mission of ensuring students are college-, career- and life-ready when they exit K-12.”
The new program, available through the South Dakota Virtual School, uses a diagnostic assessment to generate online coursework tailored specifically to each student’s needs. The Board of Regents will honor successful completion of the tailored coursework, allowing students who successfully complete the coursework to enter directly into college-level courses.
The online remedial courses are scheduled to be available to students beginning in January 2013, and will be offered in both 10-week and 12-month options. Students must register for the courses through their local school district, similar to other online courses offered through the South Dakota Virtual School. The cost of any coursework would be the responsibility of the student and his or her family.
“Research shows that students who graduate from high school ready for college-level work are more likely to be retained and to successfully graduate from college,” said Jack Warner, the regents’ executive director and CEO. “Not only is this a win for the state, it’s also a win for students and their parents, who save time and several hundred dollars in costs if the student can avoid remedial classes.”
For more information, visit the South Dakota Virtual School website at www.sdvs.k12.sd.us
New system identifies top-performing schools, schools to receive targeted interventions
Twenty-three elementary and middle schools and seven high schools earning top spots under the state’s new accountability system were named last month.
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.
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 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.
To review data for individual schools, including points earned for the various indicators, go to: www.doe.sd.gov/secretary/spi.aspx
Accountability sessions wrap up; webinar archived online
The Department of Education and School Administrators recently partnered to provide school leaders with more details about South Dakota’s new accountability model.
In addition, the approximately 90-minute presentation was made available online via LiveMeeting. The presentation includes an overview of the School Performance Index as well as calculations of key indicators used to identify Exemplary, Priority and Focus schools.
Presenters finished by discussing what this will look like in the transition phases and how it will move forward in coming years.
In case you’d like to refer back to anything from the presentation, or were not able to attend any of the event sessions, you can check out an archived version of the LiveMeeting presentation at http://www.doe.sd.gov/secretary/spi.aspx. Follow the link titled “Accountability Webinar 10/31/2012” in the right-hand column.
STARS pilot districts receive training in Pierre
Representatives from 10 pilot districts and all ESA regions were in Pierre last month to receive training on the new statewide longitudinal data system, dubbed the South Dakota Student Teacher Accountability Reporting System, or SD-STARS.
Beyond just pulling in data and accessing the portal, these “Data STARS” learned how they can navigate the portal and use the data to analyze outcomes and ultimately improve instruction.
Jill Burns, Assistant Computer Technician from Andes Central School District, said, “[SD-STARS] is so easy to use, and you get great reports in your hands in minutes!” Helen Schwarting, teacher in White River School District, agrees. “…It will require less time organizing and more time to analyze. We can get into the nitty gritty of the data and see what we can do to help our students…”
Before the department rolls SD-STARS out to districts statewide, data management staff are gathering insight from pilot districts and doing any necessary troubleshooting. The hope is that pilot districts can serve as ambassadors for the system in the future. In addition, the ESAs will provide support to districts in their region. The statewide rollout is expected to begin March 2013.
For more information, go to: http://www.doe.sd.gov/ofm/lds.aspx
Whooping cough cases rise; parents urged to immunize kids
State health officials are seeing an increase in the number of whooping cough cases and urging people to make sure children are immunized.
Nationally, 48 states and Washington, D.C., have reported increases in whooping cough, also known as pertussis, through September. In South Dakota, cases are up 87 percent over the five-year median, with 56 cases reported as of Oct. 3. Most of those cases are in school-age children and result from an outbreak in a school setting. Neighboring Minnesota has reported nearly 4,000 pertussis cases, the most since 1943, while Iowa has reported more than 1,100 cases so far this year.
The state Department of Health provides free vaccine to protect children against pertussis. The vaccine the state provides is T-dap, which also includes tetanus and diphtheria, with doses recommended at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. Children need the complete series to be fully protected. A booster dose is also recommended at 11-12 years as immunity begins to wane. The department provides that booster dose free as well, although some providers may charge an administration fee.
The booster dose protects middle school students from the disease and increases the ring of protection around vulnerable infants. Because whooping cough is highly contagious and spreads easily in school settings, immunizing the older age group also helps decrease the likelihood of outbreaks. Schools can schedule clinics to offer the whooping cough vaccine along with the seasonal flu vaccine.
Find more information on the Department of Health’s website at http://doh.sd.gov/
Another round of Clean Diesel Grant Program funding opens
The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources just started accepting applications for the fifth round of funding under the South Dakota Clean Diesel Grant Program. The program provides funds to assist schools in purchasing new public school buses to replace old, high-emitting diesel school buses, and to equip in-use diesel school buses with exhaust control retrofit devices that significantly reduce toxic soot emissions. The primary goal of the Program is to reduce your school children’s exposure to both fine particulate and smog-forming pollution.
There is no cost for the exhaust control retrofits. Eligibility for the retrofits includes any South Dakota public school district that directly provides transportation services. Total award per school district for a replacement bus will be approximately 25 percent of replacement cost and may be more depending on the number of successful applicants. Districts that have not received a replacement bus in previous rounds will have preference. DENR intends to award funds to as many eligible applicants throughout the state as possible.
The application deadline for round five is December 21, 2012. For more information about the program, or contact the DENR Air Quality office at (605) 773-3151, or go to: http://denr.sd.gov/des/aq/aadera.aspx
Nov. 11-17 is American Education Week
American Education Week is coming up this month. This special week recognizes the contributions of the various people who make up the public education system, from teachers to food service workers and counselors to bus drivers, and everyone in between. Thanks for all you do to make sure our state’s children are receiving the best education!
New DOE directors in place
Colleen O’Neil recently began as director of the department’s Division of Curriculum and Career and Technical Education, and Ann Larsen took over as the new director of the Division of Educational Services and Support. A recent transplant from Greeley, Colo., Colleen is a lifelong educator, having served in numerous positions, including teacher, chief learning officer, assistant principal and chief human resource officer. Ann has been with the department for more than 10 years, most recently serving as special education director.
2012 Regional Transition Forums
Nov. 7 – Dec. 14, Various locations statewide
Forums are informal and interactive meetings to discuss collaboration between agencies, schools, and families so students with disabilities can receive appropriate services and supports during the transition to adulthood process. Check out the DOE Calendar of Events for exact dates and locations. For more information, contact Melissa Flor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nov. 15 –29, Various locations statewide
The IEP workshop will take you through all the essentials needed to provide students with a program that results in educational benefit. Workshops run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in their respective time zones and six contact hours will be offered. Presenters will cover all areas of special education, from referral to placement to IEP development. This interactive workshop will help you analyze data and write appropriate IEPs for students with varying disabilities. Registration is limited to 50 participants at each site. For registration and a complete list of dates and locations, go to: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDRVcTFFNVVfcktJc284REhaTzlfaXc6MA
Principal Standards and Evaluation Work Group meeting
Nov. 19, Pierre
This will be the fourth meeting of the Principal Standards and Evaluation Work Group, which will convene at 9 a.m. (Central) in the MacKay Building. The group's purpose is to provide input in developing principal standards, four-tier rating system and evaluation instrument used by districts for principal evaluation. For more information, go to: http://www.doe.sd.gov/secretary/iitpsewg.aspx
Teacher Evaluation Work Group meeting
Nov. 20, Pierre
This will be the fourth meeting of the Teacher Evaluation Work Group, which will convene at 9 a.m. (Central) in the MacKay Building. The group's purpose is to provide input in developing the four-tier rating system and evaluation instrument used by districts for teacher evaluation. For more information, go to: http://www.doe.sd.gov/secretary/iittewg.aspx
South Dakota Board of Education meeting
Nov. 26, Pierre
This regularly scheduled meeting of the state Board of Education will be held at the MacKay Building in Pierre. More information will be provided on the board’s webpage as it becomes available.