High achievement rates continue,
according to S.D. 2009 report card Ninety-four percent of South Dakota's public school districts made adequate yearly progress in 2008-09, as required under No Child Left Behind. Eighty-two percent of public schools also met annual progress goals. These percentages are identical to last year. "Every year, it gets a little bit tougher to inch forward," said Secretary of Education Tom Oster. "What's important is that this process yields valuable data that schools can use to adapt and improve instruction so that kids can continue to achieve at their highest levels." Under South Dakota's accountability system, adequate yearly progress is determined by students' performance on the Dakota STEP. The test is administered to approximately 63,000 students in grades 3-8 and 11 each spring. In 2009, 75 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math, which is down slightly from 76 percent last year. Seventy-five percent of students scored proficient or advanced in reading. Since the reading portion of the test was new and more rigorous in 2009, it will serve as the new baseline for comparisons in reading. "We expected that students might have a tough time with this year's reading test," Oster said. "New reading standards were in effect, and whenever you introduce something new, it takes time to build familiarity," he said. The test also featured more challenging items in terms of higher-order thinking skills, Oster said. Schools that do not make adequate yearly progress for two years in a row are considered in "school improvement." Eighty-nine schools, or just 13 percent, fell into this category for 2009. Only six districts were identified for school improvement in 2009. Depending on the size of its student population, a school or district may be required to make progress in as many as 18 different cells at three distinct levels: grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. "Essentially, the larger and more diverse the school, the more areas for which they are held accountable," Oster said. Fifteen schools made it out of school improvement in 2009. These schools go through a comprehensive process that involves analyzing data, focusing resources and making calculated changes to improve student achievement. A school must make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years to get off the school improvement list. South Dakota's graduation rate for 2009 was 89 percent, up slightly from 88 percent last year. NCLB also requires that teachers of core academic subjects be "highly qualified." NCLB defines a highly qualified teacher as one with full certification, a bachelor's degree and one who demonstrates competence in subject knowledge and teaching. Only 1.7 percent of classes taught in South Dakota in 2008-09 were taught by someone who has not met these qualifications. Local school district results are reported on the 2009 Report Card, which is available online at www.doe.sd.gov. Click on the 2009 Report Card icon.