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Governor's Column: Preparing Our Students For College And Careers


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August has come to a close, and though temperatures are still high, fall is almost here and students have already settled back into their classrooms. This time of year always brings me back to when I was in school. I always enjoyed school. In fact, through seventh grade, I was at the top of my class. Of course, that wasn't too difficult -- I was the only person in my class!

Much has changed since I attended that one-room country school. Back then, a gallon of gas was 40 cents, a new house cost around $25,000 and fewer people went to college -- about 17 percent of people in the U.S. had at least a bachelor's degree. Now, that number is around 28 percent.

Along with the escalating number of people seeking higher education, the increasingly competitive global economy requires today's workforce to have greater skill sets and more education. In order to succeed, our students need to leave high school ready for a postsecondary experience -- at a university, a technical institute or a shorter certificate program -- and, ultimately, the workforce.

How well are we preparing our youth in South Dakota? Recent news indicates we are doing pretty well.

According to the state Department of Education, 74 percent of our students are proficient in math and reading.

Also, South Dakota's ACT scores went up last year, and we continue to outperform the national average -- even though we have one of the highest ACT participation rates in the nation. We also surpass the national averages in each subject: English, reading, math and science.

Still, there are areas where we can improve. Although more of our students take the ACT and attend college, we have a higher than average college dropout rate. As one factor which limits success, some students enter college needing remedial help. To overcome this problem before college, the South Dakota Department of Education and Board of Regents are working to increase college readiness by offering free remedial coursework. Students don't have to retake a whole course, but instead can focus on the specific components of courses where they need some extra help. These courses are available to high school seniors via the South Dakota Virtual School.

I am proud of the quality of education we offer here in South Dakota. Our students do well because we have committed teachers and parents who take an active role in their children's education. As our world continues to change, we will continue to work toward even better solutions to prepare our children for the future.

Here's to a great school year!

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