Speaking of curriculum standards, the Department of Education has issued yet another rewrite of the Hillsdale College social studies standards that the Board of Education Standards will rubber-stamp for Governor Kristi Noem later this month. The March 30 draft is the fifth draft of social studies standards issued in this review cycle and the third issued in the past eight months.
The document has swelled from 127 pages as issued last August to 130 in its January form to 178 in the March 30 edition. The Department of Education provides two change-summary sheets, but the second change-summary sheet appears to lump all changes from January and March together without indicating clearly what has changed in January and what was changed in March. Anyone wishing to testify at the final public hearing on the standards (April 17 in Pierre) must thus go line-by-line through all three drafts to see if anything they identified as a problem in the first draft has been fixed or whether any new errors or bad standards have been snuckl in since August or January.
The need for time to scrutinize all of the changes made in this latest draft underscores the point I made in January: by revising the standards twice during the review process but offering no additional hearings to the four originally scheduled for the August draft, the Department of Education and the Board of Education are violating state law. SDCL 13-3-89 requires four public hearings on any new curriculum standards over a period of at least six months. The Board of Education Standards held two hearings on the August standards and one hearing on the January standards. It will hold one hearing on the March 30 standards. None of these proposed standards has received four public hearings; thus, none of these proposed standards may be legally adopted.
The Legislature enacted that six-month review period to protect teachers and students from insufficiently reviewed standards and last-minute changes sneaking error and bad curriculum into our schools. The only way the Board of Education may legally approve the latest draft of the curriculum standards is to hold three more public hearings, in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen, on the March 30 draft. The last of those hearings can happen no earlier than October 17. And the Department cannot change the standards again. The Department must settle on a draft and let the process run for six months.