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SD Department of Education
Nov. 2019  

TEACHER FEATURE: SD teachers dig into new math and ELA content standards

Implementation of South Dakota’s new content standards in math and English language arts is underway this fall. Students will be assessed on the standards beginning in spring 2020. The path to implementation began in summer 2016, and South Dakota educators have been involved from the outset.

That summer, work groups of K-12 educators and other stakeholders gathered to revise existing standards. Throughout the 2016-17 school year, the Department of Education gathered feedback from the field on the work groups’ proposed changes. The work groups finalized their revisions after considering the feedback in summer 2017, and the South Dakota Board of Education Standards then held four public hearings on the proposed standards before adopting them in spring 2018.

The following educators were among those involved in revising standards and/or later disaggregating, or “unpacking,” the standards. Unpacking of the standards took place during the summer of 2018. Find standards and supporting documents to help teachers use them effectively on the department’s English language arts and math content standards webpages.

I had the opportunity to work with unpacking the 4th grade math standards. It was an eye-opening experience for me. It allowed me to fully understand the depth of what the standards were saying. It also helped me see what the students truly need to know.

The value of the unpacked standards documents, for me, is I can look at the standard for the previous grade level if I have a struggling student. It also clearly lays out each standard for me as an educator. This, in turn, helps me teach that standard better.

For teachers familiarizing themselves with the updated standards, I would encourage them to keep referring back to them as they are planning and teaching lessons. The documents give you examples, important vocabulary, and so much vital information.
--Bev Dunn, fourth grade, Woonsocket Elementary

Unpacking the standards was great professional development. Each standard was carefully considered and discussed by experienced teachers. As the work progressed, I gained a much better understanding of the sequence and depth of knowledge needed to master each standard. It was a joy to work with teachers who are passionate about their subject!
--Cindy Kroon, math, Montrose High School

I was fortunate to be part of the ELA standards revision process, unpacking the revised ELA standards, and helping develop the toolkit for rolling out the ELA unpacked standards.

In addition to becoming more familiar with the standards themselves, I most appreciated the K-12 discussions, where we voiced approval, suggestions, and/or concerns. We had to look closely at how possible changes at one grade level might affect both previous and successive grade levels. Revising Reading and Writing Standards 10 to include student choice initiated intense discussion, yet the decision to include student self-selection within South Dakota’s standards is backed by research on what's best for our students (see National Council of Teachers of English Statement on Independent Reading).

The unpacked standards give teachers starting points for lesson and unit planning and may, perhaps, help “demystify” each standard. If teachers utilize essential questions to guide their planning, the unpacked standards provide examples. If teachers are looking for student-friendly language, the unpacked standards offer suggestions. If teachers have been overwhelmed at the prospect of teaching each standard in isolation, the unpacked standards share “clusters” of standards that can work together.

I recommend using the toolkit as part of professional development to review and discuss the unpacked standards. The toolkit offers guiding questions and activities for digging into and discussing the unpacked documents. If possible, take a collaborative approach - looking at the standards with a colleague or two or more, even if they're at different grade levels. I gained so much from listening to not only the middle level educators who were part of the standards work but also the elementary and high school ELA teachers.
--Anne Moege, seventh and eighth grade English language arts, National Board Certified, Mitchell Middle School

I had the privilege of being the third-grade table lead for both the revision and unpacking process. Participating in this process was an incredible professional development opportunity. I was able to reflect upon and analyze the standards in a way that I never had before. I became very familiar with the vertical alignment of our South Dakota standards and came to appreciate the level of rigor across grade levels.
--Melissa Pankratz, intervention teacher, Sturgis Elementary

The unpacked standards documents are packed with information about each standard. Maybe you're not sure of the depth of the standard or how a standard connects to other standards. The unpacked standard documents have those answers. They also have great examples to help clarify any language that may seem vague or confusing.

The process of creating the unpacked standards documents was the best professional development! It allowed for deep discussions about each standard with teachers passionate about their profession from across the state. While challenging work, it was rewarding to be a part of creating a product that can help teachers as they navigate the updated standards.
--Amy Schander, math and science, Gayville-Volin High School

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