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GoTeach South Dakota: Improving Teacher Preparation

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.


  1. LK 2012.03.05

    "HB 1234 throws us a mishmash of unproven carrots (merit pay) and sticks (ending continuing contract)"

    I realize you used the metaphor as the legislature used it, but why did they forget the point of the story. When the kid used the stick the punish, the donkey didn't move. It was only when the stick was adapted to offer the carrot that the donkey moved.

    The story doesn't really have any details about whether only 20% of the donkeys were able to get a carrot.

  2. Steve Sibson 2012.03.05

    "But when the South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council meets this summer"

    Won't happen if HB1234 is referred.

  3. D.E. Bishop 2012.03.05

    I like your thoughts Cory. One minor disagreement: 2.8 GPA is enough. You know it's not only GPA that makes a good teacher.

    I like the focus on rural and on preparation. Many professions require a one-year internship. I had one as a pastor, and it was wonderful. There were some negative experiences, and I had a local supervisor who was a jackass, but I learned sooo much! I was always well-supported by the grad school I came from and the people of the community. I never felt alone or bewildered.

    One of the pluses was that the people there really wanted me to succeed. If it all went to hell, everyone was aware that at the end of the year I would be gone. I really think it was a win/win.

    The church I went to paid me a salary, health insurance, all housing costs. The pay was low, but so were my expenses. And I always had designated mentors ready to help.

    After our internships, we returned to school for one more year. That was a very good plan too, because we suddenly had so many questions that we didn't even know existed before! We knew what to expect, what to plan for, what we needed. It was an entirely different atmosphere. The focus was on addressing real-life situations we had encountered.

    The small town churches liked the deal because interns are cheaper and costs matter for them. They could fill vacancies in their pulpit. They felt like they were playing a role in building the next generation of preachers. The townspeople mentored me in the ways of small towns. Those people had a sense of value, of contributing in a concrete way. They took great pride in the progress they helped create in me.

    If there was one, single thing SD wanted to change in teacher preparation, adding a full year internship would be it.

  4. rollin potter 2012.03.05

    Mr. Bishop, Thank god there are still some sensible people in the world! You hit the nail on the head without Using a lot of big words and trying to impress a few people with your education you probably picked up at a public school like most of these professors have done. What they know came from a book and very little from actual experience!!!!! Any one can read a book and use the big words !! Give em hell CORY!!! Just a dakota hillbiiy letting off some steam!!

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.05

    Thanks, Rollin! Hell I shall give. (But on behalf of book-learnin' and big words, I protest just a little. I plan to continue to use both in this year's campaign, along with my dashing good looks.)

    D.E.: are you preaching now? Which denomination? I really like your comparison of the pastor-training model with the student-teaching model. As for GPA: if I'm sponsoring a scholarship, I want more. True, high GPA alone doesn't guarantee good teaching. But cracking 3.0 isn't that hard for the best and brightest. I want a higher GPA alongside other expectations of proven performance.

    Steve: indeed, referral would stop all those working groups in their tracks, which would stymie the closed-door globalist cabal—aaahhh! What have you done to me? ;-)

    If referral happens, awesome. If it doesn't, I would love to be in position to shape (or reshape!) the law before implementation.

  6. D.E. Bishop 2012.03.06

    Part of the GPA thing, Cory, was self-defense. I thought the purpose of college was to drink as much beer as I could, and smoke as much weed as I could. Hence, it took my 5 years and a semester of academic probation to earn a BS in education with a 2.3 GPA! Seriously. I really have a pretty high IQ, and I really behaved like a bonehead, at best, for the first two years of college. Flunked a couple of classes, etc. BTW, I've been quite successful in my work.

    I'm in the ELCA (the big Lutheran denomination) and I serve as a chaplain to crazy people. It is a perfect fit.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.07

    D.E., you should chat with my wife. She's in ELCA seminary right now, and is doing CPE this summer. Your insights on chaplaincy could be useful!

    I do agree that college GPA and future job performance are not necessarily correlated. But I still don't mind saying to scholarship applicants, "Hey, you want my money? Show me you're busting your chops right now." That said, I'll still turn down an applicant with a 3.8 who shows signs of coasting, incuriosity, or other flaws.

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