February is Career and Technical Education month

CTE Academy Principal Jim Kayl and Beverly Rieck with the Dell Rapids School District shared the proclamation with me last week. Kayl is the president-elect for the South Dakota chapter of the Association for Career and Technical Education, and Rieck is the president. Photo of the two and the governor’s proclamation below.



S.D. fails Michelle Rhee’s school reform report card

StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s education reform outfit, issued an F grade to South Dakota and 10 other states today in its first ever state policy report card.

With B-minuses, Louisiana and Florida got the top grades. So much for grade inflation.

StudentsFirst contributed $50,000 in defense of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s reform bill, HB1234 or RL16, which voters rejected last year.

Here is their summary of South Dakota education policies:

Currently, South Dakota’s education policies do not prioritize great teaching, empowering parents with quality choices, or using resources wisely to raise student achievement. The state legislature enacted legislation in 2011* to strengthen efforts to attract and identify excellent teachers, but that legislation failed to pass a voter referendum. Unfortunately, South Dakota educators are still without meaningful evaluations and their performance does not play a role in any personnel decisions, including tenure, dismissal, and salary decisions. Seniority still drives layoff decisions, leaving effective teachers at risk.
South Dakota also does not provide parents with meaningful  information regarding school or teacher performance, and parents have no educational options when their children are trapped in  low-performing schools. Finally, South Dakota should establish state authority to intervene in low-performing schools and districts and should offer teachers a more attractive, portable retirement option.

* That should say 2012. They also identify the state as North Dakota twice on the report card.

Notably, South Dakota gets an F on empowering parents to get their kids out of low-performing schools. It’s hard to compare policies across all 50 states, but you’d think Students First would have recognized and given credit for South Dakota’s open enrollment policy.

Another thing to consider is South Dakota generally supports local control, so it’s rare - although less so in recent years - for the state to get involved in things like teacher compensation policy or class size mandates. Reformers would like to see the state legislature step in and say, “We know what’s good for you.”

The New York Times quotes Richard Zeiger, California’s chief deputy superintendent, as calling its F rating a “badge of honor.”

“This is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” Mr. Zeiger said of StudentsFirst. “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”

Top 10 South Dakota education stories of 2012

From my perspective, these were the year’s biggest stories in K-12 education in South Dakota:

10) Longitudinal data system – The state DOE finally has a data system linking students and teachers, along with a range of other indicators. It will enable the state to answer such questions as: Which teachers get the most out of their students? Does class size matter? Are online courses working for students? Which colleges produce the best teachers?

9) Project-based learning – Innovation Labs schools in southcentral South Dakota are dramatically changing the way those rural schools are run. Students learn through projects, taking advantage of technology, while teachers serve more as facilitators. Sioux Falls New Technology High isn’t rural but it’s a similar model.

8) Privatizing the school district – Working with the Sioux Falls School District, a company called Ombudsman opened a high school program for ELL students at the downtown Multi-Cultural Center. Next year, Ombudsman is taking over Joe Foss alternative high school, which will merge in 2014 with Ombudsman’s two-year-old alternative high school.

7) Spanish immersion – Parents of current, future and wait-listed students persuaded the school board to expand the Spanish immersion school, adding two kindergarten classes at Robert Frost Elementary. The board later agreed to give Spanish immersion its own elementary school in northwest Sioux Falls in 2016.

6) Teacher training – The Board of Regents decided every teaching candidate must spend a full year teaching alongside a veteran teacher before they graduate. The goal is to have them ready for their own classroom on day one. Private schools may soon follow.

5) School lunch – The Congressional health kick hit schools hard as athletes and other big kids left the cafeteria hungry. The USDA relaxed its rules a bit this month, lifting the cap on meat and grains.

4) ‘No Child’ gets left behind – South Dakota received an Obama administration waiver from No Child Left Behind and installed its own point system for keeping schools accountable.

3) School consolidation – The Sioux Falls School Board voted to close Longfellow and Jefferson and replace Mark Twain elementary.

2) Tax measure fails – A 1-cent sales tax increase to undo the funding cuts of a year ago failed at the polls, guaranteeing K-12 funding will be a top-three issue before the Legislature for years to come.

1) Reform fails – South Dakota lawmakers briefly caught the reform bug, passing by a single vote Gov. Daugaard’s bill that would have changed the way we evaluate and compensate our teachers. The teachers union gathered the signatures to refer the law to voters, who overwhelmingly rejected it.


Honorable mention:

Common Core Standards implementation begins.

ELL students – DOE doesn’t think English learners should have to take the Dakota STEP, and some lawmakers want to give schools more money for ELL students.

Naughty teachers – The Argus Leader revealed details of educator misconduct, surprising school officials who thought those records were secret.

Legislative Audit raised legal questions about fees for summer school.

Should we be happy or angry about SD’s budget surplus?

It’s hard to criticize a governmental body that finishes the year with a budget surplus.

Free money! Yay! Think of all the wonderful ways we could spend it!

But is it really a reason to celebrate, or does it mean our bureaucrats are kind of bad at budgeting? Shouldn’t the goal be to break even?

Granted, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to projecting revenues and expenses. And I won’t blame the finance folks for skewing to the safe side.

But it doesn’t do us much good when government sits on our tax dollars.

The City of Sioux Falls had $4 million left over this summer and is spending it on parks, road projects (one of which has the water at my house shut off all afternoon today) and some other stuff.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard today is celebrating a $48 million state surplus.

As the education guy, I’ve watched the Sioux Falls School Board make and break plans to spend down its fund balance. In FY11, they planned to spend $4.7 million more than they took in; they wound up deficit spending by just $1.2 million.

The school district’s fund balance is now more than two times the size it should be, according to a group of volunteer finance superheroes the district calls the Finance Action Network.

EAG is betting HB1234 survives

Some time ago, unsolicited emails from the Education Action Group started arriving in my work inbox.

Based in Michigan, most of their messages highlight stories from across the country of teachers and teachers unions doing illegal, unethical and um, unpatriotic, things.

Frequent guests of Fox News, they describe themselves as follows:

EAGnews is a non-partisan non-profit organization with the goal of promoting sensible education reform and exposing those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Today, they weighed in on HB1234, South Dakota’s education reform law, and its referral to voters in November:

 Teachers union officials argue the program would hurt the quality of education because teachers might stop collaborating to help students as they compete for bonus money, according to [an Associated Press story].

     That should never be a concern. If there is any evidence that any teachers are refusing to work together for the benefit of all students, they should be quickly terminated.

     In the meantime, American students continue to struggle compared to kids in other nations, particularly in crucial subjects like science and math. It’s clear that public schools can no longer continue to function the traditional way.

     Teachers are not interchangeable parts, as the unions want us to believe. Some are more effective than others. The best should be encouraged and rewarded, while the lacking should be pushed to improve or find the door.

     On Monday, Daugaard said, “I’m not surprised that the teacher bonus bill was referred because the teachers union put a lot of work into collecting signatures. I look forward to furthering the discussion with the people of South Dakota on this very important topic.”

     Our bet is that the people will side with the governor.

HB1234 work group members named

The members have been chosen for three of the six work groups created under HB1234, the education reform bill signed in March by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Education Secretary Melody Schopp was tasked with choosing the people to serve on the teacher evaluation work group, principal evaluation work group and the local teacher reward plan advisory council.

All important committees, no doubt, but the most interesting is the last of the three.

The local teacher reward plan advisory council will develop one or more models for rewarding good teachers financially. School boards will be able to choose one of the model plans, Gov. Daugaard’s plan or one of their own.

Under the law:

"The local teacher reward plan shall reward certified teachers in the district based upon one or more of the following criteria:

(1) Demonstrating an impact on student achievement;

(2) Demonstrating teacher leadership; or

(3) Market based needs of the school district based upon critical teaching area needs of the school district.

Have any suggestions? Call these folks:

Nick Gottlob, Lead-Deadwood 6-12 principal

Tami Hummel, Dakota Valley elementary principal

Tim Mitchell, Rapid City superintendent

David Pappone, Brandon Valley superintendent

Jarod Larson, Timber Lake superintendent

Tim Pflanz, Tri-Valley 7-12 principal

Tanya Czepull, Brandon Valley teacher

Brett Distel, Douglas teacher

Becky Lockwood, Brookings teacher

Mary Schneider, Armour teacher

Joann Stephens, Belle Fourche teacher

Amber Stout, Pierre teacher

David Haagenson, Baltic school board

Neil Putnam, Mitchell school board

Mary Williams, Wall school board

Find a full list of all work group members here.

Photo caption contest!

It’s Gov. Dennis Daugaard at his desk, pen in hand. What’s going on? You decide.


5 p.m. update: You might have guessed that the governor is pictured signing HB1234 into law. The photo came by e-mail today from the governor’s office.

The SD Democratic Party tweet-noticed the absence of any teachers or school administrators in the photo. (Pictured are chief-of-staff Dusty Johnson; DOE finance director Tami Darnall; policy/comms director Tony Venhuizen; general counsel Jim Seward; Ed Secretary Melody Schopp; and DOE lawyer Bobbi Rank)

My thoughts:

First, Pierre would have been a fairly long drive for Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves.

Second, if the governor’s office had been able to find some educators to pose for the picture, it probably wouldn’t have done much to combat the perception inside education that this is bad legislation.

Third, the tweet got me thinking about past bill-signing photos I’ve seen. Such as this 2010 AP photo of President Obama signing a bill that gave states $10B for education, ostensibly for saving teachers’ jobs, and $16B for Medicaid.

Notice all the teachers gathered ‘round, making sure the Southpaw-in-Chief doesn’t smear his signature:

Wanted: 93 people for education boards, work groups, advisory councils

Fifty-eight elected officials voted for the final version of HB1234 – 59 if you count Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is sure to sign it into law soon.

But perhaps the more important work will be done by the 93 (!) members of the six work groups, boards and advisory councils created by HB1234.

Here’s how the membership of those groups breaks down:

28 school administrators

25 teachers

13 school board members

8 parents of K-12 students

8 lawmakers

2 business people

2 Melody Schopps

1 Board of Regents

1 from the technical institute

0 journalists

5 not specified


Interested? Here’s who you’ll need to lobby for an appointment and what each group will do (the last one sounds like the most fun):


Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship Board

Task: Choose up to 100 college students each year to receive free junior- and senior-year tuition for teaching in a critical teaching needs area

Appointed by: Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Five members: Anyone can apply



Local Teacher Reward Plan Advisory Council

Task: Develop one or more model plans that school boards might use in rewarding teachers

Appointed by: Secretary of Education Melody Schopp

15 members:

Six principals or superintendents representing two elementary, two middle and two high schools

Six teachers, two from each grade grouping

Three school board members from districts of varying sizes



Local Teachers Reward Plan Oversight Board

Task: Approve and deny local teacher reward plans

Appointed by: Senate president pro tempore Bob Gray, House speaker Val Rausch, Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Seven members:

Education Secretary Melody Schopp

A state senator (appointed by Gray)

A state representative (Rausch)

Two business people (Daugaard)

An educational association representative (Daugaard)

A current or former teacher (Daugaard)


Teacher rating system work group

Task: Develop standards and a model evaluation tool for the four-tier teacher rating system

Appointed by: Education Secretary Melody Schopp

20 members:

Six teachers, two from each grade grouping

Three principals, one from each grade grouping

Two superintendents

Two school board members

Four parents of K-12 students

One representative of the South Dakota Education Association (presumably president Sandy Arseneault)

One representative of the School Administrators of South Dakota (presumably director John Pedersen)

One representative of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota (presumably director Wade Pogany)


Principal rating system work group

Task: Develop standards and a model evaluation tool for the four-tier principal rating system

Appointed by: Education Secretary Melody Schopp

20 members:

Six principals, two from each grade grouping

Three teachers, one from each grade grouping

Two superintendents

Two school board members

Four parents of K-12 students

One representative of the South Dakota Education Association (presumably president Sandy Arseneault)

One representative of the School Administrators of South Dakota (presumably director John Pedersen)

One representative of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota (presumably director Wade Pogany)


The work group that could end all work groups (aka South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council)

Task: Tell the Legislature how they screwed up in HB1234 and further examine education reform issues including teacher compensation; recruiting, retaining and training teachers; and other ideas for improving student achievement

Appointed by: Senate president pro tempore Bob Gray, House speaker Val Rausch, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Board of Regents, technical college presidents, SASD, SDEA and ASBSD

26 members:

Education Secretary Melody Schopp

Three state senators, including one from each political party (appointed by Gray)

Three state representatives, including one from each political party (Rausch)

Three superintendents (Gray and Rausch)

Three principals, one from each grade grouping (Gray and Rausch)

Five teachers (Gray and Rausch)

Three school board members (Gray and Rausch)

One member of Board of Regents (the board)

One representative of the technical colleges (tech school presidents)

Somebody selected by SASD (presumably John Pedersen)

Somebody selected by SDEA (presumably Sandy Arseneault)

Somebody selected by ASBSD (presumably Wade Pogany)

Opposition to HB1234 could use some nuance

I can understand objections to the $8,000 math and science teacher bonuses and phasing out continuing contract status, but why are educators and Democrats still complaining about the performance pay piece of HB1234?

Gov. Daugaard’s original HB1234 would have paid $5,000 bonuses to the top 20 percent of teachers at each school district. The best 20 percent would be determined in even parts by test scores and administrators’ observations.

It’s understandable that this plan raised a lot of concerns:

Are tests a fair way of measuring teacher quality?

Will teachers stop working as a team with bonuses on the line?

Can the new teacher evaluation system really be objective?

Will small-town politics color administrators’ decisions?

Teachers, school boards and administrators complained, and a hoghouse amendment was crafted that would allow local boards to create their own performance pay plans, even ones that gives bonuses to an entire school staff, not individual teachers.

(School boards could even refuse to participate if they so choose. I doubt any will refuse. It’s another $1,000 per teacher that school boards get to hand out in prize money.)

Still, some of the teachers testifying last week insisted that bonus pay would hurt collaboration. In their defense, they probably prepared their remarks before they saw the amendment.

The Democratic Party this morning said the hoghouse amendment made “minor changes” to HB1234. On performance pay, I can’t agree.

Obama’s $5B plan to elevate teaching

I’ve said before that SD Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education reform plan is in line with President Obama’s views. We got more evidence of that today:

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are back with another competitive grant program designed to reform several aspects of the teaching profession.

Obama’s proposed 2013 budget includes a $5 billion challenge they say will help states and school districts make teaching the most respected profession.

“For far too many of us, people who love us dearly tell us not to go into education,” Duncan said this afternoon.

One significant difference between Daugaard and Obama is that the federal program was designed with a good deal of input from educators.

Details of the RESPECT Project (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teachingare few, but here are some of Obama’s and Duncan’s objectives announced today:

-          Make teaching colleges more selective and more effective. “We basically allow anyone to teach and then we train and support them poorly,” Duncan said.

-          Link teacher pay more closely to their performance, not just longevity and credentials

-          Pay all teachers more and especially those who work in “challenging learning environments.”

-          Improve teacher training and provide more time for collaboration.

-          Improve teacher evaluation systems based on test scores and other measures

-          Reforming tenure to raise the bar, protect good teachers and promote accountability.”

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