Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed one of the members as an elementary teacher. Samantha Walder is a elementary principal.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Despite intense criticism throughout much of the past year, the South Dakota Department of Education has stood by its process for revising the state’s social studies content standards, even though some involved in the process have not.

Speaking before public comments at hearing on the standards on Sept. 19, 2022, DEO official Shannon Malone (starting at 55:16 in the recording) defended the process, saying that it is not that different than that of other standards revisions.

Malone’s statement echoed the state’s response in the ‘frequently asked questions’ section of the revisions page, which claims, “Content standards always start with a draft from which to work. Professor Morrissey provided a draft based on work by Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college in Michigan. Over the course of several meetings, commission members applied this draft to South Dakota. The group eliminated some items, added some items, and edited many others.”

The description of Hilldale as simply a ‘liberal arts college’ (Dakota State University and Black Hills State University are also liberal arts colleges) leaves out the fact that Hillsdale is also a private, conservative, Christian college whose president served on the 1776 commission created by former President Trump, which produced the 1776 report, which was widely panned by historians.

Some members of the group disagree with this characterization of their work, however. Rapid City Middle School teacher Shaun Nielsen, one of only three current, certified South Dakota K-12 teachers on the 15-person commission, does not support implementation of the standards.

Members of the commission say they were mailed packets containing a complete set of standards from former Hillsdale professor of politics William Morrisey, who is being paid by the state to facilitate the revision. He authored the draft.

While Malone and the DOE describe this as only a draft that was then carefully tailored to South Dakota, Samantha Walder, another commission member, and the principal at a Tea elementary school, describes it differently.

“The process was hijacked and reduced the commission to essentially proofreading or randomly interjecting content to a bulleted list of exhaustive curriculum topics while the Governor’s Chief of Staff not the Secretary of Education had to approve each change of the document,” said Walder in a set of prepared remarks for the Board of Education Standards.

Walder went on to note that whenever there was an attempt to make a significant change to Morrisey’s draft, they were dismissed by the chair. “This is the classical form of education that the Governor wants,” she recalls being told.

The commission also never voted on whether to approve the full set of standards, according to Waldner.

Aside from the protests by members of the commission assembled to revise the state’s social studies standards, there are also concerns shared by the public at large. The DOE received 682 public comments online and in the mail; 615 were in opposition to the standards and 67 were in support. There are also concrete differences between how this revision process differs from others.

At the public hearing on the education standards, the board also discussed the revision of the states Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards. Less than an hour of the nearly 4-and-a-half hour meeting was spent on discussion of the CTE standards.

The DOE webpage for the CTE standards also looks largely different than the page for the social studies standards.

On the page for the CTE standards revision, there is a brief description of the process, followed by a link to a detailed breakdown of the process, including lists of the members of workgroup clusters who worked on each individual subsection.

After that, there are links to both the proposed and existing standards for each subsection of the standards, as well as a link to a comparison of the two, and one for public comments.

The final thing on the page is a timeline of the process.

CTE Standards revision process webpage

The page for the social studies standards contains a brief description of the process and purpose of the revisions as well, but has far less in terms of information readily available to the public. There is a single link to the proposed standards, a FAQ link and a link for public comment submission.

Despite being in the same public hearing stage as the CTE standards, there are no links to additional materials, but simply a note that they are ‘coming soon’.

There is no timeline available on this page, and no link to the existing standards or a comparison between the two.

Social studies standards revision process webpage

A look at the groups behind the standards also shows a difference. The Social Studies commission is made up of 15 people, few of whom are certified South Dakota K-12 educators.

The CTE group comprises 40 people:

  • Kristin Larson – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Jane Gubrud – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Brianna Dines – Thomas P Miller & Associates
  • Alyson McIntyre-Reiger – Advancing Connections
  • Peggy Wild – Advancing Connections
  • Matt Fleck – Inspire Success
  • Anika Russel-Manke – Mitchell Technical Institute
  • Brenda Merkel – Presentation College
  • Kristie Olson – Madison High School
  • Kerry Stager – Lake Area Technical College
  • Tiffany Batdorf – Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Drew Bunkers – Dell Rapids High School
  • Ryan Kroger – Harrisburg High School
  • Andrea Albrecht – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Megan Tatum – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Ben Carter – Inspire Success
  • Bert Falak – Northeast Technical High School
  • Coleen Keffeler – Sturgis Brown High School
  • Jolene Konechne – Huron School District
  • Sean Binder – Rapid City High School
  • Sheila Anderson Britton-Hecla School District
  • Tara Bartekoske – South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation
  • Rebecca Long – South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation
  • Amber Rost – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Charlotte Mohling – Wessington Springs School District
  • Cindy Gerlach – Mitchell School District
  • Tim Goldammer – Mitchell Technical Institute
  • Ellen Hohbach – Plankinton School District
  • Joe Dalton – Waverly South Shore School District
  • Kisha Jordan – Pierre School District
  • Seanna Regynski – South Dakota Retailers Association and South Dakota ProStart
  • Brianna Fabris – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Jamie Boettcher – South Dakota DOE/CTE
  • Andrew Hiles – Mitchell High School/MCTEA
  • Dave Lingle – Western Dakota Technical College
  • Don Ryswyk – CTE Academy
  • Eric Becking – Aberdeen Central High School
  • Justin Tostenson – TF Riggs High School
  • Thor Green – Lake Area Technical College
  • Todd Dvoracek – Yankton School District