The ESSA plan and Native American students

It’s uncertain whether state government’s current education secretary will be retained by South Dakota’s next governor come 2019. It seems more remote that Secretary Melody Schopp would still be in the job 13 years from now, when South Dakotans re-evaluate the new federal standards in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The current governor, Dennis Daugaard, appointed her in 2011 when he took office; she was deputy secretary at the time.

State government’s response on ESSA, which needs finalization by the department and the governor’s approval before it is submitted, shows how hard Schopp and her staff at the state Department of Education toiled. Here are the goals, and the timetable to reach those goals, verbatim from the department’s pending filing to the federal government:

“In five years (2022-23), the proficiency expectation will be that all student groups, schools,
and subpopulations will demonstrate both mathematics and English language arts
proficiency levels equal to the all students proficiency percentage as measured at the 50th
percentile of public schools on the 2017 summative assessment.

“In 10 years (2027-28), the proficiency expectation will be that all student groups, schools,
and subpopulations will demonstrate both mathematics and English language arts
proficiency levels equal to the all students proficiency percentage as measured at the 75th
percentile of public schools on the 2017 summative assessment.

“Goals are set with the expectation that all student groups and subpopulations will perform
at these levels with the intent that in 2030-31, the aspirational goal is that all students will
demonstrate both English language arts and mathematics proficiency.”

Notice the words “all students.” The department is pledging to eliminate the performance gap for Native American students. South Dakota’s public schools have a big hill to climb. The 2016 statewide report card showed big gaps:

In English and language arts, for all grades tested, 49.44 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. Statewide the number for all students was 22.14 percent; and

In math, for all grades tested, 54.60 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. Statewide the number for all students was 25.10 percent.

Take Todd County school district as an example, with 96.90 percent of its students shown as Native Americans on the annual listing by the Office of Indian Education.

In English and language arts, for all grades tested in Todd County school district, 70.03 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. School-wide the number for all students was 69.35 percent.

In math, for all grades tested, 73.54 percent of Native American students in the Todd County district performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. School-wide, the number for all students was 72.78 percent.

The performance gap for Native American (or American Indian, as you prefer) is recognized throughout South Dakota’s ESSA plan. However, so are some of the successes, such as the use of career and technical education (CTE) classes to engage more students:

“During the 2015-16 school year, students who participated in these programs, taking two or more CTE classes during their high school career, graduated at a rate of 97 percent, compared with the statewide average of 84 percent. This same trend of success has been demonstrated within the American Indian subgroup. During the 2015-16 school year, American Indian students who took two or more CTE courses during their high school career graduated at a rate of 86 percent compared with the statewide average of 51 percent.”

It’s not hopeless. It will take more than what South Dakota has been doing. Schopp’s plan seeks to take some of those new steps.

This entry was posted in SD Government on by .

About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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