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School administrators prepare for new state social studies standards


New social studies standards means a new direction in that subject for every para, teacher, and administrator in the state. With the two-year implementation process under way, every school district in South Dakota is on the clock to prepare.

After a rocky road to adoption, the state education community is now looking to the future for social studies standards from all angles.

Spearfish Middle School principal Don Lyon said conversations have already started in school districts.

“The best thing about South Dakota educators, we’re really good soldiers," Lyon said. "We do what we need to do to help kids. As always, the superintendents, the principals and the teachers will work it out, we’ll streamline things, we’ll all work together and put the best product out there for our kids. It will take a lot of work, but you’ve got the right people in there to do it.”

Lyon said he wants teachers to remember they, their administrations and their communities are the ones that drive education more than any set of standards. However, the question of developmental appropriateness remains for some.

In the Tea Area School District, elementary principal Samantha Walder surveyed her staff’s response to the standards. In that document, educators were able to offer their thoughts on the proposal.

“And I had teachers’, kindergarten through twelfth grade, that reviewed the standards to determine if it was something we could teach easily, if it was something that’s not currently at the grade level but we could make work, or we marked it red and said, ‘there’s no way this is really possible in that grade level.’ That work will really lay the foundation for what we do as a team next, and we will certainly be guided by the teachers that are closest to the work,” Walder said.

Examples of standards deemed developmentally problematic by Tea Area teachers include requirements for first grade students to recite the preamble of the Constitution from memory, and the strong emphasis on subjects like the fall of Rome and the Renaissance for second graders.

Walder, who previously served on the standards review commission, said the newly adopted standards package reads more like a curriculum.

“We’re educators, and we’re going to continue to be optimistic about the future," Walder said. "I am still concerned about the fundamental shift of an adoption of a curriculum and not standards by the Board of Education Standards, and I think that I’m rightfully concerned about what happens as we pursue the changes in science and health education standards which are coming next.”

New social studies standards go into effect statewide in the fall of 2025.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture