Foundation praises South Dakota for improved academic content standards

Foundation praises South Dakota for improved academic content standards A private foundation that specializes in K-12 education research has graded South Dakota's academic standards above average, up from a failing grade only two years before.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation reviewed states' academic standards in English language arts/reading, history, geography, mathematics, and science. These were the five essential subjects identified by the nation's governors at a 1989 education summit.

South Dakota received an overall grade of B- for its standards, up from the F the state received in 1998.

The Fordham Foundation specifically singled out South Dakota's mathematics standards, giving them a grade of A. The foundation's reviewers noted these standards "make very clear what mathematics is expected of all South Dakota students, grade by grade."

South Dakota was one of only six states to receive an A grade in mathematics. The reviewers called the South Dakota mathematics standards "the most improved set of standards we have encountered since 1998" and noted that some of the improvements are spectacular."

"The most important task we have in society is to give those who come behind us a quality education," Gov. Bill Janklow said. "I'm glad independent experts recognize all the special effort we're putting in to raise the overall standards."

In addition to the A in math, South Dakota received a B on its science standards. Fordham's reviewers called those standards a "solid piece of work." The review indicated the science standards "provides for steady deepening of the student's understanding as he or she progresses."

"This independent review confirms for us that South Dakota has set clear and measurable expectations for our students," said Ray Christensen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education and Cultural Affairs. "As a result of much hard work by South Dakota educators, curriculum associations, and the state Board of Education, we have a set of state standards that are much stronger than two years ago."

South Dakota's standards in English, history, and geography all received a C grade.

Although the state Board of Education has adopted these standards, Christensen noted the board would continue to receive input, review the standards, and make improvements. "These standards are a work in progress but I am confident that we have a firm base of expectations for South Dakota students," he said.

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