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  1. Supporters of a movement to improve education of Native American students in South Dakota suffered a setback when a proposed charter school measure was defeated in the state Legislature on March 2. But members of an expert panel convened by South Dakota News Watch say they will push forward on efforts to reform public education and create opportunities for better educational outcomes for Native students.
  2. Standardized test scores and graduation rates remain stubbornly low for Native American children attending South Dakota public schools, but a new effort is underway to incorporate Lakota Indian language, history and culture into state-funded charter schools modeled on successful immersion programs elsewhere.
  3. A shortage of substitute teachers available to fill open classroom slots in South Dakota schools is pushing some districts to make difficult choices that may make teaching less effective and learning more difficult.
  4. As the state grapples with how and how much Native American history and culture to teach in public schools, a new South Dakota News Watch poll shows that the public overwhelmingly supports inclusion of Native American studies in public schools statewide.
  5. Average teacher salaries rose in South Dakota by 17% over the past five years, mostly driven by a hike in the state sales tax, and for a time the state rose in national rankings. But since then, the state has failed to keep pace and. now only Mississippi pays a lower average wage. Education experts say the state may need to revisit the funding formula for school districts to prevent more teachers from leaving the state for higher wages.
  6. Many aspects of living and learning on South Dakota college campuses appear more normal this fall, but as COVID-19 cases rise statewide due to the highly transmissible delta variant, aggressive efforts are still being made to keep students, faculty and staff safe and some students are feeling the strain of anxiety caused by the pandemic.
  7. Most South Dakota school officials are planning for in-person teaching in fall 2021 and expect that masks and vaccinations against COVID-19 will be optional for students, faculty and staff. But they are keeping a close eye, and an open mind, in regard to outbreaks of COVID-19 and its variants that could prompt changes to safety protocols in schools.
  8. Only half of South Dakota school districts offer formal summer school programs, and some of those that do are seeing increased enrollments as educators and parents seek to help students who fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic catch up or stay on track with their education. Some experts worry that students who faced upheaval in learning during the pandemic may fall further behind their peers and could be unable to catch up.
  9. South Dakota News Watch hosted a panel discussion on April 14, 2021 in which four education experts shared their views on the South Dakota Civics and History Initiative now in development for state public K-12 schools.
  10. Developing a new civics and history teaching initiative will take about two years and cost $900,000.
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