The South Dakota Department of Education released its 2020-21 Report Card on Thursday, giving the public a glimpse at the test results, attendance and college readiness of students across 149 districts and 688 schools.
“As we look at the 2020-21 Report Card, one of the things we need to recognize is that South Dakota public schools were committed to providing in-person instruction in a year full of disruptions, and they managed those challenges successfully,” Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson said in a Thursday press release. “While other parts of the country struggled to return to in-person instruction, South Dakota schools understood the importance of tending to a child’s full development – physical, academic, social, and emotional.”
In the release, the Education Department noted that some data in the Report Card are incomplete. Thus, Sanderson cautioned that the 2020-21 report “should be viewed within the scope of the individual school year.”
“Far fewer students took the state assessments in English language arts and math than previous years, for example,” the release read. “This change provides an incomplete picture of overall performance, especially when considering subgroups of students.”
Proficiency on state assessments for English language arts and math in grades three through eight and 11 was down in the Stanley County and Pierre school districts for 2020-21 compared to 2018-19, the last school year to date unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. No data is available for the 2019-20 school year due to the pandemic, and scores on 2020-21 science assessments — administered to students in grades five, eight and 11 — will not be published until January.
The Pierre School District saw 60 percent proficiency in English language arts and 54 percent proficiency in mathematics in 2018-19. Those numbers fell to 55 percent and 48 percent, respectively, in 2020-21.
The Stanley County School District’s marks fell from 58 percent proficiency in English language arts and 39 percent proficiency in mathematics in 2018-19 to 54 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2020-21.
Stanley County School District Superintendent Dan Baldwin, who took the reins on July 1, told the Capital Journal that his district was fortunate to have a “mostly” normal year in 2020-21.
“I believe COVID has a played a role in all the schools. I’m really worried about what the outlook is for a lot of those schools that had a lot of people doing alternate instruction or just getting back into school,” Baldwin said. “Luckily for us, we had mostly a normal year last year and this year’s going real well... When we look at these test scores and we desegregate them, and we look at certain goals to build from, I know like comprehension and reading is a big one and using the informational texts and reading out of the textbooks and so forth is a big deal, and that’ll be a targeted focus for reading, for example.”
Baldwin said his district asked about hiring interventionists with COVID-19 funding, but ultimately did not. The Pierre School District added interventionists at each of its five schools this year to stave off learning loss that may have occurred during the pandemic.
“We’re not going to go that route with a hired person, but we’re going to use our current staff to build on some of those things,” Baldwin said.
Pierre School District Director of Education Troy Wiebe said the district saw “really strong” pockets of success on 2020-21 state assessments, particularly in fourth-grade English language arts and fifth-grade math, even as scores were lower overall.
“I think the biggest deal would be the attendance, whether we have students that are isolated or in quarantine at different times throughout the year or maybe chose to learn remotely or do at-home education and then come back into the school setting, in-person setting at a later date, I think all of those things together have impacted just the continuous education,” Wiebe said.
Wiebe added that the district’s new interventionist staff should help boost state assessment scores in the year to come.
“We think we have some great people in place to support learners that maybe have had some breaks in attendance, and we’re optimistic about those (2021-22) scores,” Wiebe said.
Making the Grade in Central South Dakota
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