South Dakota is among more than 30 states taking steps to move away from the former education standard known as No Child Left Behind. South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp says while the state will no longer use the federal standards, schools will still be held accountable.
"The good thing that we're carrying over is that we lay out the standards of what we need to know. And then we assess on if schools are meeting up to those standards. That piece of No Child Left Behind was positive. I think it helped us focus in on what needed to be done and where we needed to go," Schopp said.
But one of the first major changes that will start this fall is how those standards are measured. Schopp says No Child Left Behind didn't work for South Dakota schools because it used just one standard to check on how schools were performing. South Dakota's new system will consider factors such as student achievement, students' level of preparedness for college and graduation rates. However, it will look outside the box for students earning degrees in non-traditional ways.
"We know that schools are doing the right thing by keeping kids in school. Whether or not it's for a GED or whether it might take that student four-and-a-half or five years. So, we're giving them credit for that as well," Schopp said.
Schopp says there is work to be done before the new system is fully in place for the 2014-15 school year. However, she's already confident that it will be much more practical for districts across the state.
“We always said everybody has got to be here. Now schools will be able to say, 'we really need to focus in on this group to be able to move this far in a period of time,' because before the goal was so lofty, the schools just gave up," Schopp.
And that is an unintended consequence the state education department is working to avoid.