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South Dakota education data mirrors nationwide trends in Nations Report Card

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Visual aid from the most recently published NAEP study. Note that South Dakota Grade 12 students were not tested in the most recent study.

The Nation’s Report Card - known as NAEP -on education has been released for 2022, and the results show a mixed bag. South Dakota remains behind pre-pandemic reading and math levels, mirroring the nationwide trend.

NAEP grades on a 500-point scale and searches for significant statistical increases and decreases over two-year periods.

The 2022 report found significant drops in average grade fourreading and mathematics scores, while grade eightsaw a similar decline in mathematics.

Stephanie Hageman is an educator from Watertown. She looked back at the challenges facing teachers since spring of 2020.

“When the kids have to leave school because they’re ill, when they have family members that are ill," Hageman said. "Some of it is just getting back into the swing of things and getting back in, but when you lose three months of education to online, instead of in person in front of that teacher, you’re gonna see some regression no matter who you are. We see it every year from spring to fall."

Hageman said Covid has been impactful on education at large.

“The pandemics been hard on teachers, families, and students, and we have to understand that the NAEP data is just one snapshot of the child," Hageman said. "We have to look at the whole child over the last two years – I mean we can’t just use one test.”

Despite numbers showing a decline in the states scores, South Dakota remains above the national average for fourth and eighth grade math and reading.

Rapid City Area Schools interim Superintendent Nicole Swigart is optimistic looking toward the future but saidthe echo of Covid can be found other places.

“If you look at Rapid City Area Schools graduation rate, you can kind of see how Covid impacted out high school students the last couple of years," Swigart said. "The graduation rates did go down. I think that was very reflective of the closing of schools in the spring of 2020. We’re really noticing it in kindergarten and first grade. The lack of preschool has been very apparent in kindergarten classes for the last couple of years.”

The report found score decreases in almost every percentile of students in reading and math nationwide.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.