Educators say recent shifts aimed at reversing falling reading, ACT scores in South Dakota
'This is planting a tree versus a geranium'
South Dakota schools continue to see a post-pandemic slump in education performance. But state officials are optimistic some recent shifts in how kids are taught here will yield better student outcomes in the years ahead.
The South Dakota Department of Education’s latest “report card,” as well as the recently-released statewide ACT average, show student performance continues to lag — particularly in reading.
The 2022-23 Report Card showed improvement in metrics like science proficiency, attendance, and graduation rates, but just 50 percent of South Dakota students who took standardized tests during the last year were proficient in reading. In math, it’s 43 percent. Meanwhile, average ACT scores for high school graduates in 2023 that take the standardized college admittance test hit a 50-year low.
South Dakota Education Secretary Joseph Graves told The Dakota Scout in a recent interview that he believes the drop in performance in South Dakota classrooms is a direct result of the Covid pandemic, which prompted the closure of schools in the spring of 2020.
And though schools reopened that fall, disruptions in educational instruction remained, he said.
“There’s really no other explanation than the Covid pandemic,” he said. “When you see an eighth-grader experience that time, when they didn’t go to school that one quarter, there’s a cumulative effect.”
South Dakota’s students take the annual state assessments for the subjects of English, language arts and mathematics in grades each year between grades 3 and 8 and again in grade 11, and science in grades 5, 8, and 11. The 43 percent proficiency rate for math matched the rate reported by DOE the prior two years. The 43 percent proficiency rate in science was up a percentage point from DOE’s prior two report cards.
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