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STARS Lining Up for South Dakota Teachers, Students

South Dakota students and teachers fared well in the latest statewide assessment, known as STARS. (Jerry Oster)
South Dakota students and teachers fared well in the latest statewide assessment, known as STARS. (Jerry Oster)
October 14, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. – The STARS are aligning for South Dakota teachers and their students, in the form of an updated school assessment, known as the Student Teacher Accountability and Reporting System, or STARS.

The updated academic assessments show more students and schools making progress, and more qualified teachers in those classrooms. The report said almost 69 percent of schools are progressing, with five-percent in the "exemplary" category.

Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association, said it takes cooperation.

"Everyone in the education community working together to insure that our students have that high-quality education," she said. "And we develop an accountability system that generates the report card, that really puts the students in the center of what's important, but it's very definitely that we are moving in the right direction."

She noted the information in the STARS report is from the new testing known as "Smarter Balance," so it can't be directly compared to results under the old Dakota Step test.

McCorkle said the data now contains more than just test scores.

"It focuses on test scores, yes, but it includes attendance, it includes high-quality teachers," she explained. "There's a number of different components, because all of those things go together and really make a difference for our students. And in the end, what we care about is the best education possible for students, because it's all about our kids."

The report also shows almost 98 percent of core classes are taught by "highly qualified" teachers. McCorkle said that is a significant change.

"What that means is, the teacher who is responsible for that class has the skills and the knowledge to assure that every student in that classroom has the best learning environment possible, and the greatest opportunity possible to do well," she added.

Of the 9,500 teachers in the state, the report said 34 percent have advanced degrees and, on average, 14 years of classroom experience.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD