Where Does Our Allegiance Lie?

On November 17, 2014, the South Dakota Board of Education held the second of four public hearing regarding the proposed K-12 content standards for Science, Technical Education, and Fine Arts.This meeting was also the first of four public hearings regarding new Social Studies Standards.

At the September 2014 meeting, I testified regarding the science standards and presented documentation that leads me to believe the state is adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. It is illegal for the Board of Education to adopt any common standards meant for adoption in several states. You can read what I presented to the Board at that meeting here. You can read the letter Dr. Schopp wrote to legislators after I testified at the September meeting, disputing the claims and documentation, here.

Below, you can read what I presented to the Board of Education on November 17, 2014, in response to the letter. You can listen to the presentation here starting at the 1:40:25 mark.

In September I shared with you a few of the reasons I believe that South Dakota is adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

I would like to review and clarify a few things today.

I testified that in the summer of 2013, the DOE offered professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards in which 50% of the state’s middle school and high school science teachers participated.

In the Fall of 2013, after a summer of professional development, Dr. Schopp announced that we were not adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, stating that they just were not right for South Dakota.

On February 13, 2014, Dr. Schopp testified in a Senate Education Committee hearing that we were not adopting the Next Generation Science Standards and that we were writing our own.

Five days after that statement, on February 18, 2014,  Mr.  Shaw of the Department of Education, not only attended the “NGSS Annual Meeting for State Leadership Teams and National Partners” in Atlanta, Georgia, but also gave a presentation called, “A Vision for Science Education in South Dakota” where he spoke about what the state had learned from teachers during the summer of 2013, and how they would use that information to adjust professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards for the other 50% of middle and high school science teachers, as well as elementary teachers. After all, South Dakota is a lead state in the development and writing of the NGSS.

During the 2014 legislative session, there were teachers in the hospitality rooms behind legislative chambers who said that not only are we adopting the standards, we are already using the NGSS. A teacher testified during committee hearing that she currently incorporates the Common Core Mathematics with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Professional Development for teachers to be able to teach the NGSS was being offered by USD as recently as this past summer.

The actions of the state, educators, and our institutes of higher education, seem to be saying that we ARE adopting the NGSS.

The problem becomes, the new state law, SB 64, which prohibits the state of adopting any further uniform content standards drafted by a multi-state consortium, such as the NGSS. However, nothing in this section prohibits this Board from adopting standards drafted by South Dakota educators and professional which “reference uniform content standards,” provided you conduct four public hearings.

The state has said that

  • The standards before the Board were developed by a work group of SD science teachers
  • A significant number of items and formatting are directly from the NGSS
  • The group was diligent about vetting each standard to be sure they were appropriate

(It is important to note that there are separate standards within the science standards and the law prohibits adoption of ANY common standard.) If the vast majority are taken word for word – including the formatting – I would think this would be considered more than just referencing these standards. It doesn’t matter what the process they used for the science standards if the standards being presented to be adopted are from the consortium almost word for word – including formatting and NOT just referenced. By Dr. Schopp’s own words, they vetted the NGSS to ensure appropriateness and relevance. Whether or not they are appropriate and relevant is not the issue as this Board is prohibited from adopting multi state consortium standards at this point in time, PERIOD. 

The group did not develop their own standards for the most part – they vetted existing NGSS standards.

This has nothing to do with the hard work and dedication of SD educators. We all know South Dakota educators work hard and are extremely dedicated. This has to do with whether or not these standards, as presented, are in violation of South Dakota SB 64, and not able to be adopted due to the fact they may be illegal. The legal question rests on whether or not the presented standards meet SB 64’s meaning of the word “reference.”

As I was looking at today’s agenda, I was intrigued by the number of new content standards this Board is looking at adopting. By the end of the 2014-2015 school year, South Dakota will have new standards in not only Science, but History, Fine Arts, and Education Technology. I was struck by what seems to be a rush to adopt new standards. Our teachers are so burdened by the current new standards, the Common Core standards, I don’t understand why the department or this Board would want to further overload them with so many new standards at once.

 As I have been reflecting on this, it has come to my attention, that this Board and the Department of Education, have an even broader question with that question being, with whom do our responsibilities and loyalties lie?

These Science standards, as well as the other proposed content standards, as presented appear to be in direct conflict with the will of the legislature, people and parents of South Dakota, is this a problem for us? And if it is, where do our loyalties lie? Are we willing to circumvent the intent of the law as passed?

Is our loyalty to the consortium, in which we are a lead state or is our loyalty to what is decided in our state legislature, representing the will of the people, parents and students of South Dakota?

There could come a point when the two are in conflict. We have to think about what does this mean? If this isn’t a problem, what is it? I see this could possibly be a conflict between the two right now. Where do our loyalties lie? And in the future, we have fundamental questions that need to be looked at now, in our attitudes towards not only the legislature, but the people, parents, students and teachers in the state.

Has the opinion of the education experts become so important, that even when there is evidence in direct conflict with what these experts say, we ignore that evidence?

Has the opinion of the education experts become so important that when South Dakotans, through referendum, say no to tying teacher pay to student test scores, a pillar of education sent down from on high in Washington, the Federal Department of Education’s response is to direct us to find a way legislatively to circumvent the will of the people just to keep our waiver?

Have we become so enamored with a position that we will hold it no matter what? No matter the cost to our children and teachers? Even when there is evidence to the contrary?

Are we willing to give our legislature respect? Are we willing to give parents respect? Are we willing to give students respect? Are we willing to give teachers respect? Or will we circumvent the will of the people of South Dakota?

 We are at a point in this education reform agenda where, not only this Board and the Department of Education, but also the legislature, the education associations, the local school boards, administrators and teachers, we all have to ask ourselves these questions. It seems to me that we have reached a point where we need to clarify where our allegiance lies.

We are at a point in this education reform agenda where, not only this Board and the Department of Education, but also the legislature, the education associations, the local school boards, administrators and teachers, we all have to ask ourselves these questions. It seems to me that we have reached a point where we need to clarify where our allegiance lies.

2 thoughts on “Where Does Our Allegiance Lie?

  1. Pingback: State Responds to Criticism of Science Standards | South Dakotans Against Common Core

  2. Pingback: Sen. Jensen Seeking Attorney General Opinion on Proposed Science Standards | South Dakotans Against Common Core

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