SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A survey sent out by the Department of Education (DOE) to assess the use of Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEUs) reveals a potential lack of ability among South Dakota educators to teach Native American history and education.

The DOE received responses from 718 total respondents across 125 school districts.

The 125 districts represented in the survey account for roughly 60% of the state’s school districts, of which 149 are public, 47 are private and 19 are Tribal/BIE systems. Of the respondents, 77% (554) were educators, while 13% (164) were administrators.

Of the educators represented, 51 are paraprofessionals and 503 are teachers.

Of the administrators represented, 11 are curriculum coordinators/directors, 13 are instructional coaches and 140 are administrators such as principals.

Attempting to assess whether the survey respondents are representative of South Dakota’s educational faculty, the DOE determined that American Indian/Alaskan Native teachers (6.33%), female teachers (6.12%) and high school administrators (6.60%) are overrepresented.

Meanwhile the DOE states that white teachers (-11.97%), middle school/junior high school administrators (-7.94%), female administrators (-6.33%) and white administrators (-5.23%) are all underrepresented.

Due to the variance in representation, the DOE notes that the survey results should be interpreted cautiously.

Throughout the survey, respondents were asked to rate their responses to statements on a scale of Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, and Strongly Agree.


The first section of the survey dealt with awareness of the OSEUs. The statements along with the results are laid out in the graphs below.


The next section of the survey deals with the respondents’ understanding of the OSEUs.

According to the results, only 22% of educators and 19% of administrators have consulted with a Tribal Elder or Culture Bearer to confirm their understanding of OSEU concepts.

To further investigate the respondents’ understanding of the OSEU concepts, educators were asked if they understood the concepts enough to teach them, while administrators were asked if they understood the concepts enough to provide instructional coaching to their staff.

An equal number of educators (37%) indicated they either did or did not have the needed understanding to teach the concepts. Meanwhile, only 31% of administrators claimed to have enough of an understanding to provide instructional coaching.


The next section dealt with the actual teaching of the OSEUs.

Asked if they had created lesson plans using OSEU standards, an equal number of educators (43%) claimed that they have or have not done so.

Among administrators, only 31% say they have worked with teachers to develop OSEU lesson plans.

While 45% of educators say they have taught OSEU lesson plans, only 33% claim to be confident in their ability to teach them.


After the teaching segment, respondents’ were evaluated on how they assess others’ understanding of the OSEUs.

Over 50% of educators say they do not assess student understanding of OSEU concepts, while only 27% say they do.

While only 27% of teachers assess their students’ understanding of OSEUs, slightly more (30%) administrators say the teachers in their school/district do assess students on OSEU understandings.

When it comes to teachers’ understanding, only 16% of administrators claim to assess their understanding of the OSEU concepts.

Instructional Support

Examining the instructional support provided to respondents, the DOE concluded that there is an indication that implementation of OSEUs is occurring primarily in small isolated efforts. The DOE also notes that these efforts lack systematic support and dedicated time.

Only 25% of administrators say they provide instructional coaching for teachers specific to OSEU implementation, while 38% say they provide instructional support for classroom implementation of OSEUs.

16% of responding educators say they’ve coached their colleagues on OSEU implementation, while 15% of administrators say they coach other administrators.

Only 27% of educators say that the OSEU resources available to them are of quality.

More detailed information on the issues, usages and challenges facing the implementation of OSEU standards can be found in the full survey above.