South Dakota Social Studies Revision Meeting Draws Nearly 900 Public Comments
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The South Dakota Board of Education Standards is preparing for its second meeting since unveiling the revised social studies standards, which once again sparked controversy this past summer.
Just one day before the official deadline to register or submit public comments, the Board has already received close to 900 comments from various stakeholders, including teachers, school board members, parents, and school administrators. Additionally, the Belle Fourche School Board has approved a resolution opposing the proposed social studies standards.
The standards initially faced criticism in 2021 when the state removed over a dozen references to the Oceti Sakowin in the first draft. As a result, Governor Kristi Noem ordered a restart of the standards revision process in 2022.
The Department of Education released the revised standards in August, but they immediately faced backlash once again. The South Dakota Education Association claimed that the standards discourage inquiry-based learning and prioritize rote memorization. They also expressed concerns about the limited focus on Native American history and South Dakota history, which appear to be secondary to other topics.
The association stated, "These proposed standards deviate significantly from the current social studies standards and will completely disrupt the curriculum for every teacher, classroom, and school. The proposed standards include an excessive amount of specific time periods, raising questions about how teachers would address teaching current events."
An analysis by the Argus Leader found that the 2022 document is much more detailed and specific compared to the broader 2015 standards.
According to Tim Graf, superintendent of the Harrisburg School District, the revised standards have become "politicized." The changes were influenced by a conservative college and implemented by a 15-member committee. All three educators on the committee opposed the revised standards.
Graf expressed his concerns for the future of public education in South Dakota, particularly with the governments involvement in selecting standards and curriculum. He emphasized the importance of acknowledging and respecting teachers as professionals, stating, "I am greatly concerned about the future of public education if it becomes just another political issue. It worries me that if we lose teachers because of this, we will struggle even more to fill our classrooms with qualified educators. This will only exacerbate our existing concerns."
Another representative from the Harrisburg School District, along with a member of the Harrisburg School Board, also plan to share their opinions during the public comments section of the upcoming meeting. Graf encourages parents of South Dakota students to review the revisions themselves.
The South Dakota Board of Education Standards will hold its next meeting on Monday at 9 a.m. at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. During this meeting, board members will listen to public comments on the issue.
The first public meeting regarding the revisions took place in Aberdeen and received 707 written public comments, with the majority expressing opposition to the standards.
Individuals interested in providing in-person or remote public comments must register with the Department of Education by emailing Ferne.Haddock@state.sd.us by 2 p.m. on November 18. Those who prefer to submit written comments must do so online for either the Social Studies standards or the CTE standards by the end of the day on November 18.
Each side, both opponents and proponents, will have a total of 90 minutes for public comment. However, in the previous meeting in Aberdeen, although there were 35 opponents signed up to speak, only 27 of them were able to fit within the allocated 90-minute time slot.
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