Officials with the Madison Central School District express some satisfaction that Madison public school students who took the online Smarter Balance exams during the 2018-19 school year performed on average at higher levels than South Dakota students as a whole. They will continue to study the standardized test results to better understand how to improve teaching.

South Dakota's students take the annual state assessments for the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, testing students in grades 3-8 and 11; and for the sciences, testing students in grades 5, 8 and 11. The 2018-19 Smarter Balance test information was released in mid-September in what the South Dakota Department of Education calls the 2018-19 Report Card.

In the area of student performance, the percentages show how well Madison students met or exceeded the state's standards on achievement in English language arts at 59%, mathematics at 50%, and science at 42%. In comparison, the state averages were English language arts at 54%, math at 46%, and science at 40%.

Superintendent Joel Jorgenson noted that Madison's results were all above the state's averages, calling the exams " of many tools that we use to improve instruction."

Jorgenson said Madison educators study many measures of achievement, including end-of-course tests, ACT scores, National Career Readiness Certificate results and Smarter Balance.

"We're looking at all of the different testing results that are available," Jorgenson said.

South Dakota changed its standardized testing system several years ago from the Dakota Step to Smarter Balance. Since the change, state educators have witnessed a significant drop in test scores.

South Dakota currently participates in the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, called SBAC. SBAC operates as a consortium of states working together to develop a student assessment system aligned to the Common Core state standards in English language arts and math.

The State Report Card also reports on what the state measures as student progress. The information is intended to show the progress students have made on the state assessments for English language arts and mathematics since the prior school year.

The state Education Department believes that the percentages of Madison Central students that have met or exceeded state standards of learning and improving stand at 57% in English language arts, 51% in math, and 65% for English learners "on track."

South Dakota also has standards for school attendance and graduation, believing that regular attendance is essential for students to progress through the school grades. Attendance rates are measured for elementary and middle-school students. At the high school level, the graduation rates and readiness for college studies and careers are viewed as important indicators of students' readiness to pursue higher education and employment.

The 2018-19 State Report Card reported that Madison Central's attendance rate stood at 97% and the high-school completion rate was 91%. The factors indicating the Madison students' levels of college and career readiness stood at 67%.

In the area of high school completion, state education officials looked at the percentage of students who graduate within four years of entering high school, compared to the percentage of students who graduate with a diploma or high school equivalent (GED) by age 21.

The MHS four-year, "on-time" graduation was calculated at 86%, while the high school completion rate stood at 91%. The state averages for on-time graduation were 84%, and the state's high-school completion rate was 90%.

The National Student Clearinghouse provided information related to Madison Central and other South Dakota graduates regarding degree and enrollment verification and student education outcomes.

The organization found that 74% of Madison graduates were interested in school beyond high school with 48% studying at public in-state colleges, 10% at private in-state colleges, and 17% at out-of-state colleges.

The top four post-secondary schools that Madison graduates attended were Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Mitchell Technical Institute and Augustana University.

The 2018-19 Report Card also showed that Madison's and South Dakota's average ACT score matched at 22.

The Report Card displays a college and career-readiness measure that provides an indication of the percentage of students who are fully prepared for studies in post-secondary education and/or employment.

Madison's coursework readiness was calculated at 90%, compared to the state's average rating of 68%. Madison's assessment readiness was calculated at 70% with the state average rated at 56%. Overall, Madison's college and career readiness was rated at 67% while the state was rated at 48%.