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South Dakota students met most achievement benchmarks last year but statewide assessment scores have remained flat the past three years, South Dakota’s recently released No Child Left Behind report card shows.
The South Dakota Report Card is based largely on the test scores of approximately 63,000 public school students in grades 3-8 and 11 who took the Dakota STEP, or State Test of Educational Progress, last spring.
Seventy-four percent of all students tested in 2007 scored proficient or advanced in math, compared to 73 percent last year. Eighty-two percent scored proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 83 percent last year.
School districts are expected increase the number of students that meet proficiency targets, with an ultimate goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014. Next year, students will also be tested in science.
For elementary grade groupings – grades 3-5 and 6-8 – saw jumps in both math and reading proficiency. Proficiency at the high school level, where only 11th grade students are tested, slipped slightly in both areas.
Education Secretary Dr. Rick Melmer was generally pleased with the results.
"South Dakota students typically demonstrate high levels of achievement, and this year is no different," Melmer said in a Department of Education news release. "Educators and students should be proud of their accomplishments."
ASBSD Executive Director Wayne Lueders agrees.
"Nearly 600 public schools in South Dakota are meeting rising expectations," Lueders said. "And schools identified for improvement made gains and are already implementing plans to build on successes."
Lueders also pointed out that the number of distinguished schools and districts - schools and districts that consistently perform at the highest level - has also increased since last year.
While scores remain high, they haven’t improved since 2005. It''s a trend that illustrates the challenges of meeting rising expectations.
"We didn’t see dramatic increases at the all-student level, but we didn’t expect them either," Melmer said. "When you get up into these higher ranges of proficiency, it becomes more challenging to keep the needle rising."
As districts implement plans using current resources, Lueders hopes state policymakers are looking to the future.
"Benchmarks are going to rise sharply in coming years," Lueders said. "The state needs to provide districts with the support necessary to continually improve student achievement."