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Gov. Dennis Daugaard (in dark suit) spoke with former state Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard before testimony began Monday at a public hearing on South Dakota's proposed new requirements for high school graduation. Kirkegaard began July 9 as superintendent for West Bend, Wisconsin, school district. He stepped down last year as superintendent of the Meade school district in South Dakota to take the job in Daugaard's Cabinet. Kirkegaard said he was taking a truck and boat from Sturgis to West Bend.

PIERRE – Gov. Dennis Daugaard made a rare appearance before a state board Monday.

He asked the South Dakota Board of Education Standards to provide more flexibility for students to earn high school diplomas.

More than two hours later the board unanimously agreed.

The board added a requirement that the new rules be reviewed after Jan. 1, 2026.

All of the diplomas would continue to require 22 credits.

But the basic diploma would become more flexible in some subjects.

Three new endorsements also would be added.

They are advanced, advanced career and advanced honors.

The final decision is up to the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee. The proposal goes to the six lawmakers Aug. 20.

The topic stirred more interest than others considered by the board in recent years. The board received 96 written comments through Friday.

At least 15 people, ranging from two Harrisburg students to the governor, testified Monday directly or by telephone.

Board member Kay Schallenkamp of Spearfish called the testimony “fantastic” because the comments helped clarify some matters.

The written comments varied widely, in some instances supporting or opposing the same sections.

Board member Gopal Vyas of Mitchell said some of the opposition seemed to reflect confusion. But Vyas said he also saw why some thought state government was accepting a lower level.

“The changes that are proposed are for the better,” Vyas said.

Daugaard said the new approach reflected long-term data his administration assembled last year. Of 100 students entering grade nine, 36 or 37 eventually received a university bachelor degree, he said.

“We know they are disengaged,” Daugaard said. “They don’t see what they’re learning in high school as relevant to what they are going to be doing in the real world.”

He added, “This proposal is about flexibility, it’s about choice and it’s about exploration.”

The changes didn’t result from a task force, according to Education Secretary Mary Stadick Smith. She said some superintendents began discussing the concept at the same Daugaard’s staff was doing its research.

There were groups assembled that worked informally with her staff starting last fall, Stadick Smith said.

Watertown Superintendent Jeff Danielsen testified by telephone in favor of the proposed changes. He participated in work-group meetings.

“It’s the students on both ends,” Danielsen said about young people who would benefit most, referring to potential dropouts and a workforce shortage on one hand, and students at the high end of their classes on the other.

Danielsen said “the overwhelming majority” of students would continue to follow their current pathways to graduation.

School districts would begin listing students’ choices on their transcripts in 2020. The department would collect data on the results in fall 2021. The board decided it wanted four years of graduation statistics for the review.

Aberdeen Superintendent Becky Guffin said she doesn’t plan to make any widespread changes when classes start in August but there are some students who could benefit.

Guffin, a state board member, said she wants to take time to analyze potential effects, such as how many classes of algebra 1 might be offered.

“This is a change for us. It’s very different,” Guffin said. “It’s great to have a plan, but the execution of the plan looks different.”

Rapid City Superintendent Lori Simon suggested the board should slow its process.

Simon said there wasn’t much opportunity for feedback, worried about students’ ability to shift paths and wanted to know if there was funding.

The math requirements proposed for the new basic diploma and advanced career endorsement don’t seem to align with state standards, Simon added.

Rapid City’s ratio of students per counselor is about 400 to one, Simon said, and mental health needs have been “skyrocketing.” She asked whether the board and department looked at other states.

“We are nervous that the lure of the easier path might be something that a student or family might decide upon,” Simon said.

Simon recommended the board “slow down the process a little bit more” and suggested “a thoughtful study by a task force.” She also expressed concerns about the timeline and recommended the changes apply to only incoming grade-nine students and those younger.

Algebra 1 standards might be inadequate to match current workforce needs, according to Simon, and she called for geometry or some other math course to be required too.

She also questioned the diploma names because three contain the word “advanced” and said more descriptive titles would be better.

“Food for thought,” Simon said. She also suggested expanding the extra-curricular credit to include speech or debate.

Board member Scott Herman of Mission followed up. “The funding part of it, that’s the real question,” Herman said.

“At the state level? No,” Stadick Smith replied.

Board member Lori Wagner of Webster asked how the department planned to disseminate information about the changes. Department official Laura Scheibe said the plan calls for providing talking points, handbooks and a web page.

“We stand ready to support the schools and get as much information out as we can,” Scheibe said.

Wagner said many school districts have open houses in the fall.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Scheibe said.

“Because we’re getting close – I know,” Wagner said.

At A Glance

For Immediate Use Monday, July 16, 2018

Here are the current two sets of requirements for high school graduation in South Dakota and the proposed four sets that offer expanded options. All would still require 22 credits.

The state Board of Education Standards adopted the proposed changes Monday. Next stop is the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee on Aug. 20.

What’s in place now? 

The current standard degree requires 16 specific units:

Four units of English language arts, including one and a half units of writing, one unit of literature, one half unit of American literature and one half unit of speech;

Three units of social studies including minimums of one unit of U.S. history, one half unit of U.S. government, one half unit of geography and one half unit of world history;

Three units of math including a minimum of one unit of algebra 1 or higher;

Two units of laboratory science;

One unit of fine arts;

One half unit of health or health integration starting in grade six;

One half unit of economics or personal finance;

Two units of any required offerings from world languages, computer studies, approved career and technical education courses, other math courses or other science courses.

Up to one unit of a career or technical education may be substituted for a required credit in English, math, social science or science.

What about the Opportunity?

 

The current requirements in state law for a high school graduate to qualify for a state-funded Opportunity scholarship also call for:

Four units of math including one unit of algebra 1, one unit of geometry, one unit of algebra 2 and one unit of advanced math; and

Four units of science, including at least three units in laboratory science, that must include one unit of biology, one unit of physical science, one unit of chemistry or physics and one unit of science electives.

What’s coming?

The four sets are an attempt to simultaneously simplify the basic degree and offer three additional advanced endorsements.

The base degree calls for:

Four units of language arts that must include one unit of writing, one half unit of speech or debate and one unit of literature including at least one half unit of American literature;

Three units of social studies that must include one unit of U.S. history and one half unit of U.S. government;

Three units of math that must include one unit of algebra 1;

Three units of science that must include one unit of biology;

One unit, in any combination, from career and technical education courses,  a capstone experience or world languages.

One half unit of personal finance or economics; 

One unit of fine arts;

One half unit of physical education;

One half unit of health or health integration; and

Five and one half units of electives.

Students seeking a general graduation degree would have the option to substitute one unit of state-approved computer science for one unit of science other than biology.

What are the three advanced endorsements?

They are an advanced endorsement, an advance career endorsement and an advanced honors endorsement. Each has a separate set of requirements.

What does the advanced endorsement require?

 

Four units of language arts that must include one unit of writing, one half unit of speech or debate and one unit of literature including one half unit of American literature;

Three units of math that must include one unit of algebra 1, one unit of geometry and one unit of algebra 2;

Three units of science that must include one unit of biology and two units of laboratory science;

One unit of any combination of career and technical education courses, a capstone experience or world languages;

One half unit of personal finance or economics;

One unit of fine arts;

One half unit of physical education;

One half unit of health or health integration; and

Five and one half units of electives.

What does the advanced career endorsement require?

Four units of language arts that must include one unit of writing, one half unit of speech or debate and one unit of literature including one half unit of American literature;

Three units of social studies that must include one unit of U.S. history and one half unit of U.S. government;

Three units of math that must include one unit of algebra 1;

Three units of science that must include one unit of biology;

Two units in any combination of career and technical courses and capstone experiences;

Attainment of an industry-recognized credential or a National Career Readiness Certificate of silver or higher;

One half unit of personal finance or economics;

One unit of fine arts;

One half unit of physical education;

One half unit of health or health integration; and

Four and one half units of electives.

What does the advanced honors endorsement require?

 

Four units of language arts that must include one and one half units of writing, one and one half units of literature including one half unit in American literature, one half unit of speech or debate and one half unit of language arts electives;

Three units of social studies that must include one unit of U.S. history, one half unit of U.S. government, one half unit of geography, one half unit of world history and one half unit of a social studies elective;

Four units of math that must include one unit of algebra 1, one unit of geometry, one unit of algebra 2 and one unit of an advance math course;

Four units of science that must include one unit of biology, one unit of physical science, one unit of chemistry or physics and one unit of a science elective;

Two units of any combination of either career and technical education courses or modern or classical languages including American Sign Language with the language courses required to be in the same language;

One half unit of personal finance or economics;

One unit of fine arts;

One half unit of physical education;

One half unit of health or health integration; and

Two and a half units of electives.

An additional requirement for the advanced honors diploma is the student must complete all courses with an average grade of C or higher.

When do these take effect?

 

School districts would be required to start listing the tracks on student transcripts in 2020. That means the first group of high school graduates would be affected in spring 2021.

The board added a rule Monday calling for a review after Jan. 1, 2026.

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