South Dakota’s State Legislation 13-3-55 currently requires every public school district to annually administer the same assessment to all students in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade eleven to measure each student’s academic progress. Further, all students in at least two grade levels will take an achievement test to assess writing skills. The Department of Education (DOE) will provide assessment instruments, determine timelines for administration and grade levels to be assessed for writing, and require all state-designed tests be correlated with state content standards.
House Bill (HB) 1093 seeks to amend 13-3-55 by adding that no student is required to take any assessment administered pursuant to the above if the student’s parent or guardian, or, if the student is emancipated, submits a request for exemption from the assessments on DOE forms to the superintendent of the school district within one hundred eighty days of the start of any school fiscal year. No school district or school district employee may take any punitive action against a student, including preventing participation in extracurricular activities, due to the student’s testing exemption.
South Dakota is a large state, but has only two cities with more than one public high school (Rapid City, 2; Sioux Falls, 3). Many towns have a K-12 school or only two buildings, combing elementary/middle or middle/high. Current achievement tests and their results are designated as important to educators who ready their students for testing.
Still, while general score results are publicly distributed, in reality they effect little change. Other states can impose various warnings or sanctions to schools consistently producing low scores, but as South Dakota’s school configurations and distances between areas is often great, such options are unavailable. In tandem, educators and schools do not receive recognition for high scores.
As SD is a rural, and graying, state, it is already wary of increased and high-stakes testing. Allowing students to opt out of standardized tests could impact accreditations and thus post-secondary admissions, scholarships, and other items dependent upon exams. Having more students requesting exclusion, without fully understanding later ramifications, is also a possibility. House Bill 1093 was introduced on 1/26/15 and is scheduled for hearing on 2/11/15.
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