After reform bill fails, SD education focus shiftsPIERRE — When South Dakota voters defeated Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education-reforms package three weeks ago, one of the rejected changes would have required school districts to begin evaluating principals.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — When South Dakota voters defeated Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education-reforms package three weeks ago, one of the rejected changes would have required school districts to begin evaluating principals.
That requirement was a key component of the Daugaard administration’s agreement reached earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Education granting South Dakota a waiver from further compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The latest twist came Monday. State Education Secretary Melody Schopp told members of the South Dakota Board of Education that her department won’t ask the Legislature in the 2013 session to restore the principal-evaluation requirement.
She said work is continuing on principal evaluation programming that school districts could voluntarily use, however, and it’s possible that legislation might be submitted for the 2014 session.
Schopp told the state board that the defeat of the 2012 package, known as House Bill 1234 as passed by the Legislature and labeled as Referred Law 16 on the Nov. 6 election ballot, primarily means less work for her staff.
She said they would have needed to shift or add personnel to administrate some of the new programs that would have been created, such as the teaching scholarships and the performance bonuses for teachers.
More than 67 percent of voters marked their ballots “no” and the measure failed in 64 of the 66 counties, prevailing only in Shannon and Todd.
Schopp said her department’s senior staff gathered for a retreat since the election and set out a new approach. She said the emphasis won’t be on “reforming” education and instead the focus will be on “supporting” education.
One step calls for creation of what she called “a delivery unit” within the state Department of Education to work with school districts on making changes.
The broader theme will shift to keeping students on track throughout grade school, middle school and high school, according to Schopp, with a reading achievement level at fourth grade and a math achievement level at eighth grade.
She said remedial needs could be covered in grades 11 and 12 rather than after high school. Currently hundreds of state university students annually must take remedial courses for which students must pay but don’t get college-diploma credit.
Schopp said she’s also appointed a secretary’s advisory council to work with her. Its first meeting is set for early December.
She told the state board that many of the changes will be outlined publicly in the coming weeks. The department’s budget requests in the future will be based on outcomes, Schopp said.
The governor’s budget speech to the Legislature is scheduled for Dec. 4.
“We’ll be excited to share that with you in the very near future,” Schopp said.