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SD board holds second of four hearings on proposed changes to school standards

State government's Board of Education Standards must hold two more hearings next year before members decide whether to further change what South Dakota teachers are presenting to students, its departing leader said Monday.

Board president Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis, made the remarks after the board conducted the second public hearing in Sioux Falls. Board members are considering proposed revisions to state standards for 10 sets of subjects, including math, English and the history and culture of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribal peoples.

The Legislature passed a state law in 2012 requiring the board to hold at least one public hearing in each of Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The board first considered the changes at a Sept. 18 meeting in Aberdeen at Northern State University.

State government's Department of Education plans to present the proposals for public comments at board meetings Jan. 26 in Rapid City and March 19 in Pierre. Kirkegaard said Monday board members could decide immediately after the Pierre hearing whether to accept changes yet that day or wait until May 8 in Vermillion.

"We'd be done with our four hearings," he said.

Kirkegaard is in his final weeks as superintendent for the Meade School District. He starts Jan. 1 as state education secretary, replacing Melody Schopp. Kirkegaard served eleven years on the state board, including the last six as president.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Oct. 13 that Schopp would retire Dec. 15 after seven years in the department's top post.

Daugaard was 15 months into his first term as governor in March 2012 when he signed the four-hearings legislation into law. The measure, House Bill 1128, came after lawmakers realized the state board adopted the controversial Common Core national standards Nov. 29, 2010, during the final weeks that two-term Gov. Mike Rounds held the office.

Daugaard was lieutenant governor at the time. Both are Republicans. Rounds now is the junior U.S. senator for South Dakota. He won the seat in 2014 when U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, didn't seek re-election.

Republican legislators saw the then-new math and English standards take hold in 2011 and reacted to complaints from their school superintendents, administrators and teachers.

Led by Republican Jim Bolin, of Canton, the state House of Representatives voted 66-4 to require four public hearings. The Senate adopted the House version 32-0. Schopp testified in favor at the committee hearings.

Bolin intended to slow down any future standards proposed under the Common Core system through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Five years later, the law remains in effect. Bolin now is a senator.

Administrators at the Sioux Falls New Technology High School hosted the meeting Monday. Board members considered once again proposals to revise school standards for: Health education; Oceti Sakowin essential understandings and standards; business management and administration; capstone courses in high-school career clusters; government and public administration; hospitality and tourism; marketing; transportation, distribution and logistics; English language arts; and math.

Oceti Sakowin is a phrase that refers to "seven council fires." The project began in 2008. The latest revisions represent the collective perspectives of 37 people who came from throughout Indian country that overlaps South Dakota.

Oceti Sakowin focuses on seven understandings: Lands and environment; identity and resiliency; culture and language; kinship and harmony; oral tradition and story; sovereignty and treaties; and way of life and development.

"We have a great website," Schopp said about Oceti Sakowin standards. She said it helps school districts weave Native American culture and history into their courses.

Board member Scott Herman, of Mission, said people of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe were thankful. He is the tribe's vice president.

Kyle Schaefer testified in support of the Oceti Sakowin standards. He is program and development officer for the South Dakota Humanities Council based in Brookings.

Schaefer described the 10 percent of people who are Native Americans in South Dakota as "woefully" misunderstood.

Many school districts including specifically Lead-Deadwood were pleased with additions of hospitality and lodging courses, Kirkegaard said.

The transportation standards drew seven comments. Bill Lindskov from the Northwest Area Schools cooperative, based at Isabel, suggested the small-engine standard should be broader.

Lindskov wrote: "I do not think that we should teach a class called small engines without having standards that address engine construction and operation, disassembly and reassembly, and overhaul procedures.

"These standards should be included so that our students are being taught skills that are at the very core of engine repair."

The committee that developed the transportation standards however responded that the procedures are covered in various areas and didn't recommend changes.

Kirkegaard said there are questions among some school district leaders whether there are too many standards. "I do know that is a concern with of our teachers out in the (Black) Hills," he said.

Board member Kay Schallenkamp, of Spearfish, suggested assessments should be considered. She was president of Black Hills State University from July 1, 2006, until June 30, 2014.

Proposed modifications to the English language arts drew about 30 commenters. One was Northern State University history professor Art Marmorstein.

Marmorstein said eliminating the Common Core label is misleading.

"These are still pretty much the Common Core standards," Marmorstein wrote. "Copy any of the standards, do a Google search, and one gets dozens of hits from dozens of states. It's pretty clear that no-one has yet done the work of cleaning up the awful, jargon-filled language of the Common Core."

He added, "This is the kind of language George Orwell (among others) warned against. Be great to see some of your work-group members read Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and then clean up the standards following Orwell's suggestions."

Sixty people worked on revising the math standards. One goal was to make them clear. They looked at standards for two grades below and two grades above their levels.

Board member Gopal Vyas, of Mitchell, asked why there weren't more comments from more schools. He said he was "really surprised" to see one school comment on math.

Nicol Reiner, a department official, said about one hundred comments on math came during the earlier pre-hearing period.

Schallenkamp said one concern in higher education was the relatively high number of incoming students who need remedial courses in math.

Board member Lori Wagner, of Webster, said the proposal defining the difference between algebra one and algebra two is important. She teaches high school math and is the 2017 South Dakota math teacher of the year.

"I thank you for your time on that, because it's huge — huge," Wagner told Reiner.

The audience Monday included Sen. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls. While a House member in 2014 Stalzer voted for changing the 2012 law to remove references to Common Core, tighten the time period for the hearings to six months from one year and require a quorum of the board to be present at each of the four hearings.

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