State Education Department Goes Before Appropriations Committee

(WNAX) — South Dakota Education Department Secretary Ben Jones appeared before the legislatures Appropriations Committee in Pierre this week. The committee is holding budget hearings ahead of the 2020 legislative session. Several members questioned current educational standards in light of weak student test scores. Jones says those standards were just revised…

“Every seven years the standard gets revisited and teachers and administrators revisited those standards in 2018. Changed them, modified them. College professors and high school and grade school teachers and ELA and math met. Changed those standards… Some of the methods may be the same, but they changed the standards. Those standards were then accepted I think late in 2018. They’re being taught for the first time this year and the test that will be given in the spring will be the first time that they’re tested.”
Jones says how the standards are applied is a decision made by each school district…

“Curriculum and teaching methods are a local decision. So the standards are a statewide decision, approved by the Board and the methods are a local decision. The curriculum is a local decision.”
Jones says despite the stagnant standardized test scores, other indicators are pretty bright…

“And I think it’s important to note that with raised standards, this year’s South Dakota’s average ACT score tied for first place in the nation among the 26 states with over 50% of the students taking the test. So the Class of 2019 tied for first with Iowa. The ELA college readiness goals for all students which was a former GOAC performance measure; it was met this year, five years ahead of schedule. Math college readiness, that’s one percentage point away from meeting the goal we set for 2023.”
Legislators will decide on the department’s budget request during the legislative session.