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South Dakota Tanking on Educational Outcomes

The final report of the Teacher Compensation Review Board to the Governor and the Legislature includes a reminder to policymakers that they’d better spend the next few years getting South Dakota’s educational outcomes out of the gutter. Appendix C to that report is the December 2022 report card from the Department of Education measuring South Dakota’s progress toward five DOE goals.

Make that regress: in the last four years, South Dakota’s educational performance has dropped in all 17 metrics:

SD Department of Education, performance metrics, 2022.12.01.
SD Department of Education, performance metrics, 2022.12.01.
SDDOE, 2022.12.01.
SDDOE, 2022.12.01.

Elementary and middle school language arts and math improvement, American Indian learning outcomes, graduation and college readiness—all down, and all but college readiness in math significantly below targets.

The DOE reasonably blames all of those declines on the coronavirus pandemic. That’s certainly a better explanation than the presence of books about gay kids. But we can’t take the same approach to those declines as South Dakota did to the pandemic and just the problem run its course, hoping it will resolve itself. Legislators and the Governor need to come to the 2024 Session ready to talk about South Dakota’s decline on all of the above educational outcomes and come up with money and resources to support plans that will help South Dakota’s young people recoup the learning they’ve lost.


  1. All Mammal 2023-09-20 07:33

    Maybe SD kids are dumb because SD’s leaders are dumb.

    Most of the students are hungry. No assistance for food but plenty for small businesses to train kids for their workforce.

    That is about as callous as promoting dumb grownups to stand in line all day to see dumbass Trump lie to their faces. Try being woke and see if that helps the kids.

    The number one fear of the rally goers seemed to be “Biden’s open borders”. Not a one SD interviewee mentioned the danger of not having promoted leaders in our armed forces, you know, the soldiers who defend our country. They’re all content with having nobody in charge. That is dumbness so thick it is inevitably going to trickle down.

    The 2024 legislative session will be even more cockamamie as the last.

  2. P. Aitch 2023-09-20 07:44

    Hear, hear All Mammal. You make South Dakota better.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-09-20 07:48

    Maybe the metrics need to be adjusted? Hmmm …. You as legislators can make your kids “seem” smarter by just tweaking the way they’re assessed and how that assessment is viewed. #WinkWink

  4. All Mammal 2023-09-20 07:58

    Thanks, P. You remind me of a cool ole hippy turtle riding a massive blue buckin’ bronc. The turtle (you) have one arm raised while the horse bucks, your hat pulled down. I wish I could draw it for you. Coolest bronc bustin, hungover turtle my mind’s eye has ever seenÜ

  5. O 2023-09-20 08:22

    Education accountability and the political implications is a box full of nonsense. Slapping arbitrary numbers on students and calling it “metrics” is not the science it pretends to be. An entire industry has risen to undermine the confidence in public education; that has been to the detriment of the country. Once, education was strong, supported, and valued; none of these measures existed then. If we would direct all these tangential resources to our teachers, students would be the better for it.

  6. Donald Pay 2023-09-20 08:58

    O, I think “outcomes” are important to measure, though I agree that there is a huge industry and one particular political party that seems to be more inclined to go overboard on testing and “accountability measures.” You wonder, especially in South Dakota where there has been one dominant party for 50 years, why the finger of accountability never points to them as the problem.

    These trends are concerning, and they are happening in most schools in the nation. It’s not just South Dakota experiencing these downward slides. The disruption caused by the pandemic in children’s lives is probably the reason for much of the decline. But these are statistics that are averages, and what would be more important to see are the results in various groups of students. If you are a student in a poor family, is the drop in learning more or less than students in higher income families? Many low-income and some rural students lacked adequate internet or computers to benefit from remote learning, so I suspect we all know the answer to that.

    Can we also attribute the decline to the “Trump effect,” where purposeful divisiveness, bullying and disrespect were modeled on a daily basis by the leader of the country?

  7. John 2023-09-20 09:06

    The messages are clear. Get your kids and grandkids out of South Dakota if they are to have a chance in the 21st Century economy.

    If your kids are out of South Dakota, then expedite the inevitably of moving close to them for living assistance in your final years.

  8. sx123 2023-09-20 09:49

    Blaming masks is trendy.

  9. Loren 2023-09-20 09:51

    I think the answer is staring us in the face. Do what most Republicans do, if you don’t meet the standards, LOWER the standards! Or… we could do what Kristi wanted to do to improve COVID numbers, QUIT TESTING. ;-)

  10. P. Aitch 2023-09-20 10:05

    Boston Globe this morning –
    MCAS scores are still well below pre-pandemic levels

    The state’s high schoolers recorded no gains on the state exam versus the prior year, despite over a billion dollars in federal pandemic relief money spent.

  11. P. Aitch 2023-09-20 10:07

    Hear, hear John.

  12. O 2023-09-20 11:12

    Donald, I agree to an extent about outcomes. Back in our day, those outcomes were produced, measured, and acted upon by teachers. Teachers were the experts in class instruction, curriculum, and student evaluation. That has changed. Now outside-of-the-classroom entities (for profit) have become the experts in all those elements of student instruction. Performance levels have been arbitrarily set at impossible levels (see No Child Left Behind) to erode the perception of success in public schools.

    Loren’s quip about “Quit Testing” is well taken in this context. Before the fear mongering and hand wringing, teachers tested their students and determined who should move along and who needed more work; moving that away from the classroom instructor has been one of the downfalls of education.

    P. Aitch’s criticism also brings into focus the question of where money and resources are spent.

    I will bet all the money in my pocket agains any taker that NONE of the academic doldrums attributed to our students are caused by the depiction of LGBTQ characters in library books or any other culture war dogma our GOP friends have inserted into education. It does, however, contribute to the general decline narrative the GOP pushes forward, making reports like this one feel even more weighty.

  13. LCJ 2023-09-20 13:46

    And I bet if educators didn’t have to include teaching lgbtqxyz and other propaganda they would have more time to teach math and reading etc
    Pay up Zero

  14. Donald Pay 2023-09-20 13:57

    LCJ, Please document your claim that educators have to include teaching LGBTQXYZ and other propaganda. I get that you are trying to be hateful, but can you point to anything in the curriculum?

  15. LCJ 2023-09-20 15:07

    But that’s exactly what you want to happen isn’t it groomer ?

  16. larry kurtz 2023-09-20 15:13

    LCJ must stand for Latest Christian Jerk.

  17. larry kurtz 2023-09-20 15:22

    Latent Christianic Jingoist

  18. Dicta 2023-09-20 15:30

    Really dispelling any notions of your own lack of education here, LCJ.

  19. e platypus onion 2023-09-20 15:36

    LCJ, what legitimate proof have you got saying transgenderism is propaganda? Seems the propaganda comes from reality deniers and magats that want to make America a whites only, phony kristian theocracy and burn witches again.

  20. All Mammal 2023-09-20 15:39

    It has been proven time after time the ones who fear empowering teachers and who call teachers groomers are the actual perverts. Gay bashers are usually closet homosexuals. Hitler was a Jew. So thanks for making baseless accusations, lcj. Now we know who you are telling us you are. No evidence, no proof; just confessions.

  21. Dicta 2023-09-20 15:54

    *Says ridiculously stupid statement*

    Others: “You seem dumb.”

    *lol jokes on you i was only PRETENDING to be dumb, i win*

    Yeah, you sure do.

  22. larry kurtz 2023-09-20 15:55

    Losing Closeted Jailbird

  23. Donald Pay 2023-09-20 16:07

    LCJ has nothing factual to provide. Let me help you out, LCJ. Some of Shakespeare’s plays involve cross-dressing. Actually, it’s more complicated than just cross-dressing. Women were not allowed to be part of an acting group in Shakespeare’s day. Young male actors whose voices hadn’t changed dressed as women and acted the female parts. But in some of Shakespeare’s plays, some of the female characters dressed as males, pretending to be men. The young male actors who were acting as women would be now act as men. Interesting gender bending, and very funny situations develop, but the point was that Shakespeare was making an important point about the roles of females in Elizabethan society, a point that Queen Elizabeth herself would certainly have understood.

    Some people want to censor Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. They completely miss the point of the plays, and I suspect LCJ would be one of these people who would have closed down the Globe Theater because he couldn’t figure it out.

  24. larry kurtz 2023-09-20 16:27

    Licentious Crassness Junkie

  25. CK 2023-09-21 09:45

    As a South Dakota educator, the only propaganda I would have to teach would be those cursed Hillsdale standards.

    However, because I work in a BIE school, I was informed by them that I don’t have to use those standards. Joke’s on you, Kristi.

  26. O 2023-09-21 09:50

    LCJ, you may have nipped me here on a technicality. Although there is no mandate or requirement for time spent on LGBTQ+, OTHER propaganda is forcing its way into the interruption of our student’s valuable, limited curriculum time: that propaganda would be the new Social Studies standards and curriculum that force a conservative (imagined, white-washed) narrative of white-guiltlessness and Founding Father deity status on our children. When we teach the history that wasn’t, that is a waste of educational resources.

    By a different metric, ACT scores seem to historically be strong and remain strong for SD students.

  27. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-21 17:43

    Frankly, I think a major cause is the interjection of politics, particularly weird wacko-right politics into the business of the public schools. What’s a teacher to do??

  28. John 2023-09-21 19:35

    Arlo, good question: “What’s a teacher to do?”
    Stand your ground. The long history of the US proves the correctness in pursuing truth. Pursuing truth pre-dates this nation. Pursuing the truth dominated the next Fourth Turning crisis – the US Civil War. Pursing the truth dominated the next Fourth Turning crisis – the Great Depression and WWII (recall that over 30,000 US Nazis rallied in Madison Square Garden in 1939 in their fluffy pretending that US authoritarianism was the only way forward). Charles Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer and advocate. Teachers are one of the front lines of democracy defense, Teachers are often more of a democracy defense than is the advertising driven Fourth Estate. Teachers pursue truth. Teachers are not conservative or liberal. Teachers pursue truth in education.

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