A survey of many S.D. teachers found Oceti Sakowin standards aren’t taught in their schools

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s teachers and administrators need more professional training and support for the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards to be taught more broadly in South Dakota’s K-12 schools, a state Department of Education official said Monday.

Joe Moran presented results of a department survey on the use of the standards to the state Indian Education Advisory Council.

A state law passed in 2007 requires that new teachers, teachers from out-of-state and teachers certified after 1993 take a three-credit course in South Dakota Indian studies. Another state law requires the Indian Education Advisory Council consult with the department on the Oceti Sakowin standards.

It was unclear how widely the Oceti Sakowin standards are used by South Dakota’s universities in providing the course. Janice Minder from the state Board of Regents staff said she would check on the public universities and report back to the council.

Fred Osborn, who is director of Indian education in the state Department of Tribal Relations, said Black Hills State University includes the Oceti Sakowin standards in its course and the University of South Dakota plans to add it. 

Osborn said some of the teachers participating in his office’s Wookiye Project had received training in the Oceti Sakowin standards and some didn’t. “I know that is an area they are trying to work on,” Osborn said.

Ann Robertson, a member of the advisory council, said she teaches the Oceti Sakowin standards at Augustana University and University of Sioux Falls for the Sioux Falls School District.

Megan Deal, an advisory council member who teaches second grade in the Pierre School District, said veteran teachers agree that the Oceti Sakowin standards need to be taught and there needs to be professional development opportunities.

Moran said the survey found 27% of teachers who responded said they assessed students’ understanding of the Oceti Sakowin standards and 30% of administrators who responded said they assessed teachers’ use of them.

The survey found that the use of the Oceti Sakowin standards resulted from small, isolated local efforts and tended to be tied somewhat to a school’s proximity to an Indian reservation. Creating a central repository of materials could be helpful, Moran said.

Moran said he wants to continue the survey on an annual basis and didn’t plan to report individual districts’ results back to the districts. 

Jacqueline Sly, a retired special-education teacher from Rapid City who is president of the state Board of Education Standards and serves on the advisory council, agreed that pre-service and experienced teachers need the training in the Oceti Sakowin standards.

Sly suggested using the state’s annual Indian Education Summit to promote the training. “I think this survey has lots of benefits,” she said.

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