The South Dakota Board of Education Standards unanimously approves changes to the state’s high school graduation requirements after a public hearing in Pierre. The changes allow students more flexibility without changing the number of credits required for a diploma.
The changes include three endorsements that can be added to a student’s high school transcript. Each endorsement requires particular courses to fulfill existing credit requirements, but students don’t need to choose an endorsement in order to receive a basic high school diploma.
Proponents of the changes include Governor Dennis Daugaard, Board of Regents VP for Academic Affairs Paul Turman, and representatives from multiple school districts. Kevin Mutchelknaus is the principal of T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre. He calls the changes a “wising up” rather than a dumbing down of high school curriculum.
“The new requirements combine the opportunity for all students to engage in curriculum that is rigorous and provides the flexibility to provide more time in the area of the curriculum that most interests them,” he says.
But some proponents also voiced concerns about implementing the changes. Rapid City Area Superintendent Lori Simon notes that the additional course paths will require school counselors to play a more active role in scheduling. She says the current student to counselor ratio in the Rapid City district is 400 to 1.
The two opposing testimonies focused on the need for well-rounded students. Tonchi Weaver of South Dakota Citizens for Liberty says education should be about enriching minds and not just supplying future workers.
“Modern education has disintegrated into a controlled system by which to sort and label children so that powerful people in favored industries can anticipate where those children will fit into their planned economy.”
The board also heard summaries of the 96 public comments on the proposed changes. While many were negative, members believe it was a result of miscommunication on the actual changes being made.
The changes now go to the legislative Rules Review Committee for final approval.