State education secretary explains details of S.D. plan for updating K-12 history and civics

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A group of more than 50 school teachers, university faculty and historians from diverse perspectives will start in June on revising South Dakota’s social-studies content standards, according to state Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson.

State law requires the state Board of Education Standards to hold a series of at least four public hearings on proposals to change or add standards. The social-studies hearings begin September 20 in Aberdeen, continue in Sioux Falls on November 15, and finish in 2022 at Pierre and Rapid City.

“They’ll go through our current standards for social studies in South Dakota and make revisions to those. Their recommendations at the end of summer will go before the Board of Education Standards starting in September,” she said.

The board will decide at the March 2022 meeting what to adopt after considering all of the public comment that’s come in throughout the process, according to Sanderson.

A separate committee will be assembled this summer to help develop South Dakota instructional materials for the revised standards.

“Currently in South Dakota there’s not a one-stop shop with resources for classroom teachers with lesson plans, primary source documents, videos, interviews with experts, they can easily pull into the classroom and enrich what students are learning in social studies,” Sanderson said.

“The South Dakota instructional materials development work will bring together experts across the state, teachers in the classroom to help develop lesson plans, and videos and other resources that will help enrich students’ experience and understanding of the great history we have here in South Dakota. That work will be underway throughout the next year and a half or so,” she continued.

The instructional materials project will start when the committee on social-studies revisions gives its product to the state board to start the public hearings. Sanderson said people can apply to serve on the instructional materials panel.

Also tied into the history and civics work is a teacher development initiative, whether the person is at elementary, middle or high school level. “Starting this next school year, there will be many options available for teachers who are in social studies or in elementary classrooms to learn and grow in their own understanding of the content and skills needed in social studies curriculum,” she said.

The Legislature during the 2021 session appropriated $900,000 for work in several areas of social studies preparation: teacher professional development, pilot grants in supporting and strengthening history and civics education within South Dakota’s K-12 schools, and development of the South Dakota instructional materials.

“When that work is done there will be a website where the public and educators can go and grab lesson plans, classroom resources, primary source documents, videos, interviews with experts, that will allow students and the public to learn more about South Dakota’s story — the good, the bad and the ugly — and how we go forward together,” Sanderson said. “There are great stories of people and places within our state and this is an opportunity for our students to learn all the ins and outs.”

If the Board of Education Standards makes any changes to the recommendations it receives from the revisions committee, there will be accompanying changes in the instructional materials, according to Sanderson. “But the work will happen in tandem. The public hearings and development of lesson plans and resources for classrooms will come together in the 2021 and 2022 school years,” she said.

The instructional-materials group will be assembled from applications in June into August and the committee members will be identified to start work this fall, Sanderson said.

“One of the questions I’ve gotten frequently is, Is everything predetermined or set? Or can people be involved? Are educators part of the process? And I think that the most important thing to understand is that all of the work that’s happening over the next couple of years to strengthen history and civics education in South Dakota involves many voices at the table to identify what’s best for our students in South Dakota to learn,” Sanderson said.

“That starts with setting expectations for learning through the standards revision process and carries out through things like teacher professional development, or the curriculum that local schools choose to use within their classrooms, ensuring that’s aligned to our learning expectations for students. And certainly with the South Dakota instructional materials development process, many South Dakotans from all corners of the state will be involved in the conversations about what of our South Dakota history, our geography, our government, is important for our students to learn and how can we translate that into the classroom for really rich understanding and learning.”

Sanderson encouraged people who are interested in the instructional materials project to apply to be a member. “We haven’t done a process like this before. We would certainly expect we’ll take some pieces forward to the Board of Education Standards and give an opportunity for the public to weigh in on what’s being developed for South Dakota students,” she said.

“It’s really important to me that, throughout this process, South Dakota values and South Dakota’s history and our geography and our key facts and figures are reflected accurately and help students understand the many perspectives and the contexts that make up those stories. And so we can’t develop all of that without many people at the table and many voices weighing in. And so I want to make sure there are some really timely opportunities for the public and for experts to weigh in.”

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