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South Dakota Scores Still Beat National Average: Who Needs 16 or Common Core?

Bob Ellis's American Carrion reprints the report that South Dakota's K-12 teachers continue to do better than the national average when it comes to preparing their students to succeed at college, as evidenced by their students' above-average ACT scores. Two quick points:

  1. South Dakota's consistent better-than-average performance tells us we should not gamble our outstanding K-12 system on ideological reforms with no evidence that they will help students learn better, like the merit pay, state-mandated teacher evaluations, and elimination of continuing contract due process rights that Referred Law 16 will wreak on our schools. Time to start chanting, kids: Nix 16!
  2. The article quotes our Secretary of Education Melody Schopp, the poor woman saddled with the task of making Referred Law 16 sound like a good idea, as saying there's always room for improvement. She says implementation of Common Core State Standards, "should help boost student learning overall" (article's words, not Schopp's). But hmmm... if South Dakota is doing something better than the national average, how will starting to do things like the rest of the nation improve our scores?

Sibby, the floor is yours... but only if you agree not to say "New Age," "Masons," or "sex worship." ;-)


  1. larry kurtz 2012.08.22

    Schopp was on Dakota Midday the flagship program for Bill Janklow's idea of public radio: I winced, cringed, and clinched to constipation as she recited the party line throughout the interview.

    I was so embarrassed for her I switched to another broadcast.

  2. grudznick 2012.08.22

    Bran Muffins

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.22

    I offer a better remedy, Grudz: elect Democrats.

  4. Donald Pay 2012.08.22

    The sad thing is Melody is right. They could make things better, but the state educrats and politicians keep throwing money at the wrong things, because they don't look at the data they have right in their hands.

    The state has years and years of data which they should be looking at. They should be analyzing that data to follow cohorts of students through from K-12 in various school districts. If they just take the time to tease the data they will probably find HB 1234 is wasted effort and wasted money.

    I analyzed a few cohorts of students from Rapid City schools and found, as is quite common, that there is a drop in student achievement between middle school and high school. So, right there is something that needs to be looked at---how to make the transition to high school easier for some students. In Rapid City I believe they tried "coring." Central also did a much better job of addressing racial issues which kept Indian students from looking at school as a positive experience.

    Then, I looked at achievement in various types of students: the academic stars, the bright students, the average students, and the struggling students.

    The academic stars did not have a drop in achievement scores. In fact, they had an increase.

    The average students had a slight drop in achievement. The struggling students in middle school had either dropped out or were still struggling in high school, and their achievement scores declined.

    The biggest drop in achievement scores, though, occurred in the bright student cohort, those who were just under academic star status.

    In Rapid City the academic stars self-selected or had parents who pushed them into courses that put them on an accelerated track. They were able to access honors classes or AP classes. They took years of foreign language, math and science. Significantly, many were in music and/or forensics. In short, they were challenged mostly by their own peers every day to excel. Sometimes peer pressure is good.

    Now, what about those bright students. They were less likely to be channeled into the toughest courses where the academic stars were. Instead, they attended the regular classes with average and poor students. In short, they weren't challenged up to their abilities, were bored and tuned out or became discipline problems.

    So, just from the Rapid City data, it seems to me that pushing more bright students into advanced courses where they will be adequately challenged may provide big achievement gains with just a little more money for advanced courses, foreign language, etc.

    Every school district is a bit different, so what was evident in Rapid City, might be different in Eureka. Still, the state needs to use the data they have rather than throwing money at programs that ain't gonna work.

  5. Justin 2012.08.23

    Compare that to our legislature's report card on corruption:

    These jackasses are telling us how to run our schools?

    I bet Stace can tell them how to hang the flag!

  6. Justin 2012.08.23

    I shouldn't have picked on Mr Nelson there, I actually think he was on the right side of this all along and usually does a great job of challenging the state on the inside deals I worry most about. But I still don't think our hapless legislature should be telling any other professionals in our state how they can better do their jobs.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.23

    Justin, I agree: Stace Nelson would likely be our ally in working to improve South Dakota's score on that corruption report card. But I really like your main point: our schools are already better than the national average: we should be focusing on reforming our State Capitol!

  8. Jana 2012.08.24

    The Republicans in Pierre aren't alone Mitt and Paul are out of touch on education as well.

    The Obama campaign has an ad that is running in some states that highlights the Romney/Republican belief that cutting education and larger class sizes are their priorities.

    Between Ryan's 20% reduction of funding to education and the out of touch Romney belief that larger classroom size doesn't matter should trouble all parents.

  9. Troy Jones 2012.08.24

    Really? Really?

    A political ad by a candidate is both a reference source for facts and a former of intellectual discourse?


    Starting one's day with humor though is a good thing. So for that I thank you.

  10. Bill Fleming 2012.08.24

    (...Troy's not used to political ads that tell the truth, Cory. :^)

  11. Jana 2012.08.24

    Glad I could help Troy.

    So Ryan's budget doesn't cut education by 20%? Romney didn't say that class size doesn't matter?

    Maybe I did editorialize just a wee bit with the "priorities" comment ;^)

Comments are closed.