Between 1997 and 2003, South Dakota’s state education department concentrated most of its technology efforts on improving teachers’ computer skills. But over the past year, the focus has shifted to providing teachers with training to help them integrate technology into their classrooms in ways that will help students meet state goals for improved math and reading achievement.
New projects include the launching of an online tool, the Criterion Referenced Test, that allows educators to access data collected from the results of two years of Dakota STEP tests, the assessments developed in response to requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The CRT Web site allows teachers and administrators to track student progress and pinpoint academic areas that need more instructional emphasis.
At the same time, more public school districts, 159 out of 168 in the state, are using the state’s Dakota Digital Network’s student-information system, called DDNCampus.net. Parents, students, and administrators can access school and student data—such as student test scores, grades, and attendance—from the system.
In its 2005 session, the legislature has considered several bills for distance education. The governor signed a bill in March that would regulate the distribution of free distance learning courses provided by Northern State University in Aberdeen. The new law will allow the state education department to give the free courses to the neediest K-12 schools.
In addition, a $12 million federal grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Education, given out over the past three years, provided professional development for educators teaching courses delivered through distance education. Distance learning has been especially useful for mostly rural South Dakota because the state has so many schools in remote areas, where access to high-quality teachers and courses can be limited.
However, the state might see a $3 million cut in its educational technology programs next year if Congress adopts President Bush’s proposal for educational technology for the 2006 federal budget.
The state provided about $8.2 million in educational technology funding for the 2004-05 school year, and approved the same amount for the 2005-06 school year, says Stacy Krusemark, the director of the office of finance and management in the state education department.