In the Sioux Falls School District, we talk frequently about providing “multiple pathways” for student success. This refers to an enormous commitment, from kindergarten through 12th grade, to meet the needs of students and parents, engaging all varieties and kinds of learners, and bringing them via different roads toward the same destination: high school graduation. But even more than that, we want to successful equip them with the skills and abilities to excel beyond graduation day, whether that is in institutions of higher education, the military or the workplace.
These multiple pathways can be seen starting in elementary school, where parents and students have choices like our five specialized elementary schools, Unique Learning Experience (ULE) programs, band and orchestra. In middle school, advanced programs are expanded, students gain the ability to begin to choose the courses that interest them, sports and fine arts opportunities abound, and motivated students can even begin earning high school credits in courses like Spanish I.
But it is in high school when the true variety of multiple pathways becomes clear. Not only are students meeting the requirements for graduation in Sioux Falls and South Dakota, they get to explore their interests and talents in a seemingly infinite variety of ways. Accelerated courses, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, the Academy of Finance, Learners to Leaders, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Academy, New Technology High School, summer school, clubs, intramurals, volunteer and community service opportunities and the list goes on, almost forever.
While many students have this incredible palate of choices laid before them starting at a young age, some are not so fortunate. Our astounding team of special education staff ensure that the days of segregating students because of a disability, physical or otherwise, are largely gone. Our physical and occupational therapists work with students of every age, every day, to help overcome challenges. Our counselors and psychologists work beyond their capacity with every imaginable kind of student and background. These offer other opportunities for students.
We told you here why some students attend yet another of our pathways, Joe Foss Alternative School. On June 25th, the School Board will hear a report about another program, Ombudsman, which is helping students, who, for a variety of possible reasons, are not succeeding, or cannot succeed, in a traditional classroom. This program has helped 32 students meet graduation requirements during its first year of operation, a feat that may not have otherwise been possible.
This plethora of options for kids is integral to their success. We no longer live in the world of the one-room school house. Today’s Sioux Falls School District students speak nearly 75 languages and dialects, and many come to us each year knowing very little English. They are surrounded by a constant influx of stimulation and noise from TV, video games, smart phones, and iPads. Kids are inundated with information from the internet and media sources. They come from the entire range of the economic ladder, may or may not have parents who actively participate in their education, might be working one or more jobs to support a home, are struggling to catch up on work missed due to chronic illnesses, are raising children on their own, or struggle with learning disabilities, addictions, or abuse.
Sioux Falls grows more diverse each year, and as that happens, the range of students we are dedicated to serve grows more diverse as well. By providing courses that meet requirements, engage student interest, are applicable to the future, fit life challenges, and offer opportunities for second chances, the District is committed to each and every one.
In the Sioux Falls School District, our diversity is one of our most celebrated attributes. So meeting the needs of a diverse student body is one of our most important priorities.