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Labels for high school graduation tracks drew questions from state board members

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Members of the South Dakota Board of Education Standards said Tuesday they support offering three tracks of additional graduation endorsements for high school students.

But some members questioned labels the state Department of Education suggested. As proposed:

"Advanced" would be for students who intend to enroll at technical institutes and universities;

"Advanced career" would be for students preparing to directly join the workforce; and

"Advanced honors" would be for students in rigorous courses required for state-funded Opportunity scholarships.

The board takes written comments until July 13, with the public hearing July 16 in Pierre.

Member Kay Schallenkamp of Spearfish said there's potential for mix-ups.

Another member, Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, suggested dropping "advanced" from the career label. "We want to make sure people understand," Sly said.

"Somehow we're going to have to figure this out," Schallenkamp said.

"It could get a little confusing" Gopal Vyas of Mitchell, another member, said.

High schools must offer graduation-requirement courses every two years. Students also could use the virtual high school through Northern State University in Aberdeen.

The meeting Tuesday at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion was broadcast on the Internet.

State Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard said his staff would think further about the labels.

If there are new ideas, Kirkegaard said they'll be posted on the agency's website (www.doe.sd.gov) for consideration before the hearing.

In other action, the 2019-2020 academic year is the last for the Smarter Balanced assessments contract.

Kirkegaard said a request for proposals would be timed so the incoming governor's administration can be part of the decision process after the Nov. 6 election.

He plans to have 12 to 15 people from throughout South Dakota look at features and invite comments from all the schools.

He said tribal schools and U.S. Bureau of Indian Education schools generally want a different assessment.

"We are not going to approve a new contract until the new governor is in place," Kirkegaard said. "That's a major happening in our department at this point in time."

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