Last updated on 2012.09.02
I'm hoping to see HB 1234 referred to a public vote and vetoed by the general public. If that can't happen, I'm gunning for one of the five teacher seats on the South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council created by Senator Russell Olson's amendment to HB 1234, Governor Daugaard's pile of unfunded mandates on our public schools.
One of the topics I would raise for discussion on SDERAC this summer would be teacher preparation. HB 1234 offers scholarships to 100 college students a year who promise to stay and teach in South Dakota for five years after graduation. We pay these promising students for two years' worth of public university tuition and fees. However, these scholarships do nothing to directly ensure teaching quality or longevity.
Perhaps instead of just handing out scholarships for mere time and GPA (2.8? That's all? Come on!), SDERAC should consider a program that makes a concerted effort to prepare students for the unique rigors of teaching in the South Dakota schools with the most critical needs, the schools serving our rural and Native communities.
Enter GoTeach South Dakota. This project, a collaboration of USD, the Rural Learning Center, and other partners, offers college students who aspire to teach in South Dakota the following support:
- Camaraderie and networking with a small cohort of students interested in teaching in Native American and rural schools.
- Use of a laptop computer and other financial incentives, such as a stipend for books, based on availability.
- Specialized social/cultural training that will better prepare you to be a successful teacher in a rural setting.
- A more dynamic, year-long student teaching experience that includes on-site university coursework taught by USD faculty.
- Support from an experienced mentor teacher and university faculty during your academic training.
- Relevant professional development opportunities before and after graduation.
- Ongoing support from your mentor teacher and university faculty for two years following graduation.
- Access to an online support system of GoTeach peers, mentors, and university faculty.
GoTeach South Dakota promises participating school districts the following benefits:
- An opportunity to hire teachers with a passion for teaching in rural places and who have been trained to meet the needs of rural schools.
- A reduction of teacher turnover resulting in cost savings.
- Graduate level coursework for school based mentor teachers.
- Access to professional development resources for teachers in participating schools.
- Assistance with the change process.
- Increased student achievement due to improved teacher education and preparation.
HB 1234 throws us a mishmash of unproven carrots (merit pay) and sticks (ending continuing contract) and hopes against evidence that ideology will translate into practical educational outcomes. GoTeach South Dakota takes a much more engaged, intentional approach to preparing teachers to serve South Dakota students.
GoTeach South Dakota is relatively new, and real educational reforms will take some time to take hold and produce lasting results. But when the South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council meets this summer to fix all of the admitted flaws in the Governor's truly awful education reform legislation, the participants must take time to study the model and activities of GoTeach South Dakota.