PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — There’s an ambitious plan rolling out from the state Department of Education intended to help teachers bring South Dakota’s new social-studies standards into their classrooms.
A statewide summit in Sioux Falls is set for this summer. Also coming are two road trips targeted for elementary teachers. Participants will receive free lodging and stipends. The summit and tours are planned to happen again next summer, with the road trips expanding to include middle-and high-school teachers.
A revamped website emphasizing South Dakota history for all grades also will debut. And the department has invited publishers nationwide to submit copies of books written for the K-5 level, which a panel of educators will review and the department then will purchase and provide free to schools.
It’s all part of the department moving forward, after a long and contentious fight over the course of four public hearings by the state Board of Education Standards. The governor-appointed board gave its approval earlier this month after a final hearing in Pierre.
The new standards were opposed by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the School Administrators of South Dakota and the South Dakota Education Association that represents classroom teachers and other educators. Now, state Education Secretary Joseph Graves and Shannon Malone, the department’s director of learning and instruction, are taking the next step. Schools will start using the new standards when classes begin in fall 2025.
“We’ll have a good, long implementation period,” Graves said.
Work on revitalizing the history website began last fall through a state contract with East Dakota Educational Cooperative, based in Sioux Falls. Malone said the site will go public in June and information will continuously be added to it.
The “Civics & History Summit” is June 12-14 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Malone said registration is open to 1,000 participants. Those who register for the full event will receive a stipend of $300 apiece plus meals at the center, and complimentary lodging will be provided at a variety of 12 hotels to those who request it.
The “South Dakota Road Trip” is July 17-21 and will have separate East River and West River tours. Each of the tours can take up to 120 participants. Those who sign up for a full tour will receive stipends of $750 apiece, and complimentary lodging and transportation will be provided.
Both events also will offer continuing education contact hours or graduate credit at a reduced rate, according to Malone.
The East River tour includes points of historical significance in Aberdeen, Brookings, DeSmet, Madison, Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Sisseton, Vermillion, Watertown and Yankton. The West River tour plans stops at sites in Deadwood, Hot Springs, Lead, Spearfish and Wall, as well as at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Bear Butte, Crazy Horse Memorial and Wind Cave National Park.
As for the free books that will be given to elementary schools, Graves said educators at that level will help select them. He said audio books could be included, too.
“Largely, it’s going to be laying it out in front of them and have them spend time with those materials,” he said.
One of the complaints against the new standards was that they will take time in an already jam-packed school day. Graves, who started as secretary in January after a long career as the Mitchell school district superintendent, acknowledged that the emphasis has been on math, English language skills and science.
“But you can’t neglect this either,” he said. One goal of the free-books effort is to have teachers use them as part of instruction in those other areas. “And you can get a two-for.”
History and social studies overall have become overlooked in schools, especially in the elementary grades, according to Graves. “For the most part, it’s kind of neglected at that level,” he said. “Recognizing that, we need to engage here.”
The department plans to be more involved on spreading the word about social studies, he said. “It reflects the fact that we know we’re behind.”