SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota School Superintendents Association is calling on the State Board of Education Standards to reject the proposed social studies standards.

Tuesday the executive board of the association released a statement in opposition to the standards ahead of the final public hearing set for April 17 in Pierre. The association itself represents all superintendents in the state.

“Our state motto is, ‘Under God, the People Rule,'” the statement reads. “We respectfully request you listen to the people of South Dakota and oppose these standards.”

Dr. Summer Schutlz, president of the association, said Tuesday that when the proposed standards were released she turned to the educators at her school to see what they thought.

“The majority of opposition that I have been using for my own feedback does come from the educators across South Dakota who are concerned,” Schultz said.

To make something that should be an educational process, political, has just been really disappointing to see.

Summer Schultz

Both current and former teachers have told KELOLAND News that they are unhappy with the standards and the amount of memorization they would require. Like other groups and educators, the SDSSA is opposing the standards due to issues with memorization, an overwhelming number of details “many undergraduate college courses do not require” and being developmentally inappropriate.

“I believe that more facts do not necessarily mean better standards,” Schultz said. “We need every minute of the day that we can to make sure our students are leaving those classes at grade level in reading and mathematics so that they have that strong foundation to be successful academic learners later. If we have to take some of that away, because we have to get through… a large number of standards where kids will be retelling things, not necessarily learning them, but retelling listing memorizing [then] they have a lack of balance.”

Schultz and the association are also worried about what the proposed standards will mean for graduation requirements for high school students in the state.

Schultz expressed similar concerns to KELOLAND News in September and said this week that she’s “frustrated” this is still being debated.

“I feel like we’re in the same place and that’s really what worries me,” Schultz said. “To make something that should be an educational process, political, has just been really disappointing to see.”

The SDSSA is requesting the Board submit the July 2021 standards for review. Those standards were created by a 44-person workgroup comprised of tribal representatives and educators from across the state. A draft later released by the Department of Education removed several mentions of Oceti Sakowin standards and Indigenous history from the initial draft prompting backlash that led to a rewrite of the current proposed standards.

“When you look at the workgroup, it’s a traditional workgroup that represents South Dakota educators and social studies experts and a commitment to having individuals who know how students learn on the committee,” Schultz said. “And that those standards once submitted, did not get to go through this process that we are doing now.”

Schultz clarified that those original standards may not be perfect, but still believes that they should have been put through the public comment process that is currently happening for a different set of standards.

Last week the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition and the tribal education directors of all nine tribes voiced their opposition to the standards.

“The School Superintendents stand with all nine tribes in South Dakota and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association that have passed formal resolutions opposing the 2022 social studies standards,” the statement said.

The statement is signed by superintendents from Dell Rapids, Milbank, Madison, Elkton, Tea, Irene-Wakonda, Parkston, Onida-Sully Buttes, Redfield, Arlington, Oldham-Ramona, Aberdeen, Custer and Parker.

The Aberdeen superintendent, Becky Guffin, previously served on the state board. She became president for the remainder of 2021, after the governor in late April appointed Richard Meyer of Rapid City rather than re-appoint then-president Jacqueline Sly, a former legislator and retired teacher from Rapid City. This year, the governor appointed Steve Perkins of Sioux Falls rather than re-appoint Guffin, who had returned to her previous role as the board’s vice president.