Board of Education hosts first public standards hearing in Aberdeen

The South Dakota Board of Education Standards held the first of four scheduled public hearings in Aberdeen on Monday
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:32 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota Board of Education Standards held the first of four scheduled public hearings in Aberdeen on Monday to allow public testimony regarding the proposed social study standard changes.

Both opponents and proponents were given 90 minutes to provide testimonies. There were 27 proponents scheduled to speak in-person and via zoom. Proponents included parents, school board members, state legislators and members of the 15-person committee that approved the draft of the standards.

One of the largest concerns from the opposition was that there were only three educators on the commission.

“I feel like the educators of South Dakota have been silenced. In the 2021 standards that were rejected, there was a committee of around, I think, 45. A majority of them were educators from South Dakota. This time, the committee is only 15, and only three of them were educators,” said Tamra Huffman, an 8th grade history teacher from Harrisburg, and the 2021 South Dakota History Teacher of the Year.

Huffman says it should be educators that draft these standards, as they will be implementing them.

“We are professionals in our content field, and so we do know what’s happening on the day-to-day aspects of teaching South Dakota children. I just hope that they listen to us, they listen to our concerns and revisit this topic,” said Huffman.

Members of the 2022 commission, however, think having more diverse voices, as well as educators, is for the better.

”There’s been a lot of commentary and criticism of the way the committee was formed. Chief among them has been the comment that it cut teachers out of the process. I don’t feel like that’s the case. In fact, I feel like it let parents in to the process and other people that have valuable perspectives,” said Dylan Kessler, who is a parent and member of the commission.

For the opposition, 35 in-person speakers were scheduled to testify, but the 90 minutes only allowed for 27 of those to get a chance at the microphone.

Another large concern among the oppositions, which was mostly made up of current and retired teachers, was that there was too much content in the new standards to cover in one year.

”According to these new proposed standards, I still would have 13 standards, but now instead of 41 anchor standards, it has been increased to 131 anchor standards. That’s just unrealistic for any educator to adequately cover it in a school-calendar year,” said Huffman.

Age appropriateness and the cost of the standard changes were also concerns voiced consistently throughout the hearing. The Department of Education has stated that $800,000 will be set aside to help acquire new content needed.

During the hearing, the Board of Education announced that it had received over 700 comments about the standards, and 615 of those were in opposition.

Huffman says she hopes that the large amount of opposition at the hearing Monday will send a loud message to the Board of Education.

”I really do hope that going forward, that this Board of Education rejects the proposed standards and looks at, again, the 2021 standards. My question to them is, what was fundamentally wrong with them?” said Huffman.

The second of the four public hearings regarding the social studies standards will be held in Sioux Falls on November 21st.