State adopts new system to replace US education lawPIERRE — In a split vote Thursday, the state Board of Education decided South Dakota’s public schools should operate under a new accountability system that replaces No Child Left Behind.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — In a split vote Thursday, the state Board of Education decided South Dakota’s public schools should operate under a new accountability system that replaces No Child Left Behind.
NCLB-based standardized tests would continue to be used for gauging students’ and schools’ performance, but other criteria would be added for measuring schools.
The new system places significant emphasis on schools improving the test scores of students who are performing at below-basic or basic levels.
The federal NCLB law set a 2013 deadline for schools to have all students performing at the proficient or advanced levels.
In 2012, South Dakota had 75.5 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading, while 76.7 percent were proficient or advanced in math. South Dakota has been stalled at the mid-70s levels for four years. The U.S. Department of Education during the past year granted a waiver for South Dakota to develop its own system to replace NCLB.
The new system sets a six-year target for schools to reduce by half the number of students performing at the below-basic and basic levels.
Board members met for more than 4½ hours Thursday before voting 5-3 to approve a slightly amended version of the state Education Department’s proposed rules.
State Education Secretary Melody Schopp needed 75 minutes just to explain the proposed rules.
About 30 minutes into her presentation, she stopped to take a drink of clear liquid from a clear plastic bottle. “It’s just water,” she said.
The final decision rests with the Legislature’s rules review committee, whose members next meet Sept. 12.
The new system is intended to take effect for the current 2012-2013 school year that begins this month.
Many of the major new components, such as teacher evaluation and school climate, won’t roll into effect until the 2014-2015 school year. Those criteria are still being developed.
The Legislature last winter gave the department and board the go-ahead to proceed with developing and implementing changes through the rules-making process.
The new system would use a 100-point scoring grid for assessing schools’ performances.
There was strong opposition expressed Thursday by leaders for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and the South Dakota Education Association against the scoring system. The School Administrators of South Dakota asked that the new system be scrapped altogether.
Voting for approval were board members Richard Gowen, of Rapid City; Marilyn Hoyt, of Huron; Patricia Simmons, of Sioux Falls; Stacy Phelps, of Rapid City; and Glenna Fouberg, of Aberdeen.
Voting against were board president Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis; Kelly Duncan, of Vermillion; and Julie Mathiesen, of Sturgis.
The three opponents wanted to delay final action until the board’s next scheduled meeting Sept. 24.
Kirkegaard, the Sturgis superintendent of schools, didn’t support the performance scores for individual schools being public information.
He preferred some type of bracket system instead.
“This is a whole different level of high stakes we never had before,” Kirkegaard said prior to the final vote.
Gowen argued against delaying the decision. He said Kirkegaard’s comments raised the fundamental question of whether the board truly wanted to proceed with the new system.
“It’s a major step for the state,” Gowen said.
The federal No Child Left Behind law took effect for schools starting with their 2002-2003 academic year.
Simmons recalled attending a statewide meeting where the program was explained prior to schools starting classes.
“We all knew sitting in that room there were so many problems, so many mistakes,” she said.