The Board of Education Standards meets in Aberdeen today to hold its first of four public hearings on not one but two sets of proposed K-12 curriculum standards. In addition to the widely panned Hillsdale College social studies standards, the board will take comment on the proposed career and technical education standards.
Like the Hillsdale standards, the CTE standards involved spending at least $200,000 on out-of-state consultants to guide the standards revision process. According to an August 2022 summary of the revision process, the state engaged consultants from three Indianapolis-area firms—Advancing Connections Inc, Inspire Success, and Thomas P. Miller and Associates—to facilitate. TPMA lead the effort, assembling the team from the other two orgs as part of its $200,850 contract with the state. That’s comparable to the $200,000 Hillsdale College professor emeritus William Morrisey is getting for writing South Dakota’s social studies standards.
But unlike Morrisey, TPMA was not contracted to write the standards itself. While Morrisey’s contract charged him to develop the standards himself, TPMA’s contract directed its team to “Develop a research-based, repeatable standards revision and unpacking process, including training and meeting facilitation, that will produce content standards and related resources that are in alignment with South Dakota’s workforce needs and industry standards….”
The process TPMA used to fulfill that commitment was far more complicated than Morrisey’s process of writing what Donald Trump wants. TPMA actually reviewed South Dakota’s current CTE standards and labor market needs, surveyed South Dakotans, and recruited South Dakota educators and businesspeople to work on five revision teams, one for each CTE cluster:
I count 23 South Dakota educators on those teams, plus a couple members of the business lobby and a couple bureaucrats from the Department of Labor and Regulation.
The experience and commitment those educators have shows in the results of their work. Instead of completely throwing out the existing, tested standards and replacing them with a completely new, idiosyncratic document, their proposed revision builds on and improves the existing CTE standards in a logical, explainable fashion that will not require South Dakota’s CTE teachers to throw out their old curriculum and develop new materials and lessons from scratch. The CTE workgroups are able to present their changes with summaries of notable changes and clear comparison grids showing the current standards for each major area and their proposed revisions side by side. For example, here is the comparison of the first two main standard areas (“Indicators”, the new revision labels them) for “Introduction to Business“:
The proposed revision preserves the current standards’ labeling of standards by level: Recall, Skill/Concept, Strategic Thinking, and (not shown above, but further down in the document) Extended Thinking. The Hillsdale social studies standards do not offer any level guidance, perhaps because they are all at the same rudimentary level of rote memorization.
The Hillsdale standards offer no comparable side-by-side comparison, because, as the SDEA demonstrated with its attempt to align the proposed Hillsdale revision with the current social studies standards, there is no such alignment: Hillsdale radically abandons current practice and imposes its own template on South Dakota social studies education.
The proposed CTE standards revision make no such radical departure from the current standards because the CTE standards revision process made no radical departure from the established practice of trusting South Dakota educators to revise the standards. Thus, where the radical Hillsdale standards have provoked outcry from hundreds of educators and other South Dakotans who were essentially ignored by Dr. Morrisey as he wrote the standards, the proposed CTE standards revision appears to have drawn just one written comment, from Rapid City business and computer teacher Britney Lewis, who suggests moving database standard BCA 6 from Business Computer Applications to Advanced Business Computer Applications.
Engage stakeholders throughout the process, get a better product—that sounds like a basic concept the CTE teachers probably cover in Introduction to Business. We can see the application of that principle in the involvement of South Dakota teachers in revising the CTE standards and the fruits of that principle in the clearly explainable, evolutionary, and apparently uncontroversial revision of the CTE standards that the Board of Education Standards will begin hearing today.