Report: Rapid City graduates unprepared for college

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Normally, it's the students who take their report cards home to their parents. Now, it's the school district taking its report card home to the tax payers, and the news isn't good.

A report from the South Dakota Department of Education shows the Rapid City Area School District struggling to prepare students for life after high school.

What's in and what's out of our classroom curriculum is more than just controversial. It's life changing.

"When I went to high school I was not ready for college at all and I struggled. I struggled immensely," said Valeriah Big Eagle.

Big Eagle was a top performer in high school, but her education seemed to fall flat when she got to college.

"I was valedictorian and I felt like it was probably school. I did do the homework but it wasn't what it needed to be," Big Eagle said. "I didn't have the opportunity to take dual credit or AP classes or else I probably would have."

It's a sentiment echoed in the DOE's district report card. Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Matthew Seebaum, said he saw rough drafts of the report and knew it wasn't going to be good.

"When we saw the final [draft], we were obviously very disappointed. Our scores were pretty flat across the district. We haven't seen an upward trend or a major downward trend," Seebaum said. "For us, we were expecting this in many ways because we are in the second year of a really ambitious strategic plan and last year, 2017-18 year, was a planning year for us. This is the first year of implementing the strategic plan.

In Fact, the Rapid City Area School District failed to meet state averages across a majority of the major categories.

"We're looking at our mathematics," Seebaum said. "That was probably our biggest disappointment is the mathematics scores going down so much. We're looking at our alignment of curriculum and we are looking at our elementary, middle, and high schools - how can we better align to standards with mathematics."

One of the most shocking results is in a category dedicated to what students do after high school. The report suggests only 32 percent of high school graduates are ready to either go to college or enter the workforce - something Big Eagle can attest to.

She's now the Student Success Advisor for Black Hills State University's Rapid City campus and sees all kinds of students.

"If they're in dual credit and they've been taking AP courses and they've been on top of it they do fine, they do extremely well," Big Eagle said. "Whereas, we have some students that come right out of high school that didn't take dual credit and they haven't necessarily taken AP courses. I have seen those students struggle more and have to take remedial classes."

Big Eagle said her remedial classes are full, with many students needing extra help in math before they're ready for the college entry level math.

The Rapid City Area School District does offer AP classes and there are opportunities for dual credit, which is one reason why Seebaum is asking how the Department of Education generated the college readiness number. However, that's not the district's biggest concern.

"Our on-time graduation rate should be much higher," Seebaum said.

The report shows Rapid City students graduate at a rate 11 percent lower than the state average. Seebaum says that is simply not accurate.

"The state is using a new system for the state report card. I am not sure on the mathematical end of that what may have happened but we looked at our numbers today of graduates and we did the math and believe that the state did not count some graduates who actually did graduate on time," Seebaum said.

Either way, there's some light at the end of the tunnel.

"We have a couple major initiatives underway that we believe will actually make some major changes in the coming years," Seebaum said.

You can take a look at the report for yourself here: School Report Card