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Our View: State serious about education

There's mixed news lately on South Dakota's education front. First, the state this year showed increases in its average score on the ACT test, as did local schools. In Mitchell, the Class of 2006 averaged a 22.5, nearly two points higher than las...

There's mixed news lately on South Dakota's education front.

First, the state this year showed increases in its average score on the ACT test, as did local schools. In Mitchell, the Class of 2006 averaged a 22.5, nearly two points higher than last year's score of 20.8.

Also, South Dakota last week was one of just nine states to receive a favorable review for efforts to meet No Child Left Behind standards, as mandated by the federal government.

The ACT score increases are great. The NCLB review, however, is interesting because so few states have made progress in reaching the federal standards.

The fact is, states still face large challenges in meeting NCLB guidelines, one of which was to ensure that highly qualified teachers are teaching every core academic class by the end of the last school year. Turns out, no states beat the deadline and the Education Department asked for new state plans, detailing how each state would improve its teaching corps to guarantee fairness to poor and minority children. Every state was given specific recommendations.

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Having highly qualified teachers in the classroom isn't a problem in Mitchell. To qualify, a teacher must hold a master's degree, have a major in the subject they teach or have three years of experience teaching a subject. Locally, Superintendent Joe Graves says 100 percent of the school district's teachers are highly qualified.

Things aren't so good elsewhere, however. In a recent review, it was learned only nine states produced plans that addressed all NCLB criteria, including South Dakota. Some states' plans were so poor that they were ordered to start over.

And Thursday, it was learned that South Dakota students continue to score high on math and reading exams, but fewer schools made the annual progress required of NCLB. State Education Secretary Rick Melmer, however, said statewide test scores held steady and many schools deserve praise for making at least some progress.

NCLB, signed into law by President Bush in 2002, isn't easy. Nobody thought it would be. But it is law, and states must strive to achieve its standards or face penalties.

It is disappointing to hear that fewer schools made the required classroom improvements, as mandated by NCLB. But we prefer to look on the bright side and commend South Dakota for being one of just nine states to receive a favorable review from the Education Department.

We feel the state is serious about NCLB, which means the state is serious about education.

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