Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How are the proposed standards different from the Current Standards?
The standards are written by out of state interest unlike the draft standards last year that were written by South Dakota Educators. They discourage inquiry-based learning and emphasis rote memorization. The proposed standards wildly deviate from current standards and will upend the curriculum for every teacher, every classroom and every school.  They lack any robust geography standards and simply ask students to identify certain locations on a map.

Are these proposed standards really standards?
Standards should help teachers guide students as they develop skills over time while giving them the freedom to explore the topics and historical events they care about. The proposed standards are solely based on their ability to memorize select facts, which were chosen by a small group of political appointees. The proposed standards do not challenge students’ ability to analyze events and historic texts, explore their communities and cultures, or problem-solve challenges they identify. The development of these higher-level thinking skills is vital for students to be successful in their post-secondary education and or their workplace and communities.

What are social studies standards?
Standards are the learning targets or goals for students as they progress in their education. The standards set the expectations of the skills and knowledge students should obtain at each grade level.  They are the guideposts for learning. Social Studies standards set the expectations for student learning in the areas of history, government, civics, geography and economics.

How do teachers use standards in their classrooms?
Standards should help teachers guide students as they develop skills over time while giving them the freedom to explore the topics and historical events they care about. Standards help schools and teachers select curriculum, which are all determined at the local level. They inform, not dictate, a teacher’s lesson plans.  Standards should not be a list of things for students to memorize rather they set the expectations of the skills and knowledge the students should obtain.  

Are South Dakota and Native American History included in the proposed standards?
While some South Dakota and Native American history standards are included in the proposed standards, they are mostly afterthoughts or lumped in with other standards. There is no other opportunity for students, especially at the lower grades, to immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of our great state and the Native American tribes of South Dakota.  All students should be afforded the opportunity to have at least a semester of South Dakota and Native American History, not just those who reside in a school district that can afford to offer it as an elective at the high school level.  

Why are the proposed standards not age-appropriate for students?
The lower-grade standards call for a level of memorization that is not cognitively appropriate for our state’s early learners, and the upper-grade standards fail to challenge students’ critical thinking skills through standards that encourage analysis and evaluation of the world around them. The early grade standards also focus on many violent events in world history.  Young children cannot and should not be asked to comprehend such events.

Who wrote these standards? 
Governor Noem appointed 15 members to the so-called social studies commission. Unlike the previous standards review work group that was comprised of mostly professional educators, this commission only had three certified K-12 educators who teach in South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Education also paid, William Morrisey, a retired Hillsdale College Professor of Political Science, $200,000 to ‘develop’ the social studies standards and ‘facilitate’ the commission’s work. Hillsdale College is a private conservative Christian college in Michigan that does not have an accredited teacher preparation program.  

Can school districts afford these standards?
Educators who have reviewed the proposed standards warn that school districts will have to do a complete overhaul of K-12 curriculum costing them thousands of dollars for each grade level.  This would come at a time when schools lack the resources to meet the challenges of an educator shortage and see increased costs due to inflation. It should also be noted that the only known developed curriculum or textbooks that would align with the proposed standard were developed and sold by Hillsdale College. 

Who decides if these standards will be adopted? 
The South Dakota Board of Education is responsible for setting academic standards for South Dakota’ Schools. Board members are appointed by the Governor. The Board will hold four public hearings where the public can submit comments either in person or in writing. Public hearings will be held in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City. 

September 19, 2022 – 9:00 AM, Dakota Events Center, 720 Lamont St S, Aberdeen
November 21, 2022 – 9:00 AM, Carnegie Town Hall, 235 W 10th St, Sioux Falls
January – TBD – Pierre
March – TBD – Rapid City

After the Board has held the legally required hearings, it will vote to accept or reject the proposed standards.

How can I help oppose the adoption of these standards?
Join our Freedom to Learn Campaign – at to learn. Come together with educators, parents and concerned citizens as we demand standards that teach students a full history, including the good and bad while helping them develop the critical thinking skills that enable them to be productive citizens who are committed to the great promise of our Country; that we are all created equal.  

You can also voice your opposition to the proposed content standards by submitting comments online by following the links below. Written comments may also be mailed to the Department of Education, ATTN: Public Comment, 800 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501. You may provide testimony by appearing in person at one of the four public hearings.