Special Education in South Dakota
South Dakota employs nearly 900 special education students to serve its 156 school districts. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 14 percent of South Dakota students have disabilities, above the national average of 13 percent. Education Week reports that the U.S. Department of Education has given this state its highest rating, “Meets Requirements,” in regard to delivery of special education services. The South Dakota Department of Education (SDDE) establishes policies regarding the state’s public schools. Its Office of Special Education promotes collaboration among teachers, students, parents and others connected to the special education community.
Types of Licenses
Special Education Degrees in South Dakota
The University of South Dakota School of Education features several programs to prepare special educators. If you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary or secondary education, you can opt for double major program that adds special education to your course of study, simultaneously certifying you to teach in a general classroom and a special education classroom. Note that this is a five-year plan and includes student teaching. This university also offers master’s degrees in several areas of special education, but these programs do not include the coursework necessary for teacher certification in the state. The university is located in the small city of Vermillion, and has approximately 10,000 students. Black Hill State University offers bachelor’s degrees in early childhood/special education and K-12 special education. Teachers already holding licenses can choose from several courses of study leading to endorsements. Classes are held at the Spearfish campus, an area with a rich Native American history situated at the base of the Black Hills. Dakota Wesleyan University, located in Mitchell, has a teacher preparation program in K-12 Special Education, as well as endorsement programs in K-12 Special Education, 7-12 Special Education and K-8 Special Education.
For profiles of all the schools in South Dakota that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.
Alternatives to Certification
The SDDE has very limited options for alternative certification. Elementary educators cannot use this option, though secondary educators may be eligible for alternative certification if they have a bachelor’s degree or five years of experience in the area in which they wish to teach. The process begins with candidates receiving a job offer from an accredited school; they must then apply for the Alternative Route to Certification Program. Teachers in this program must complete courses and pass pedagogical and subject mastery tests to earn a five-year certificate. In addition, Teach for America places corps members in South Dakota, focusing on serving the state’s Lakota population.
Special Education Teaching Jobs in South Dakota
- The University of South Dakota’s Professional Development Center (PDC) features a unique program that pairs veteran teachers with pre-service or new teachers. Both parties can earn credits toward degrees or professional development requirements, as well as gain professional experience.
- The SDDE keeps a list of state and national professional development opportunities of interest to general and special educators.
- At the University of Sioux Falls, current teachers can pursue workshops on campus or online that allow them to earn credits toward academic or professional goals.
South Dakota’s Special Educator Professional Groups
- The state teacher’s union, the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA), is open to those working in South Dakota’s public schools, colleges and universities.
- South Dakota Voices for Children funds and manages community outreach, and is involved in research and advocacy projects on behalf of the state’s children and youth.
South Dakota Special Education Bloggers
- Rapid City Journal: The online edition of this newspaper covers educational policy in Rapid City as well as in South Dakota as a whole.
- Wings for Life: This project of South Dakota Kids Mental Health consists of grade-level newsletters about children’s emotional development and how it can inform the daily practices of teachers and family members.
- Lakota Children’s Enrichment: This blog is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting children and families in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Though not a special education blog, posts discusses the unique needs of families from one of the poorest regions in the United States.