> Division of Assessment and Accountability > K-12 Accreditation
Calendar of Events

 2014 Legislature
 A-Z Index
 About the Department
 Board of Education
 Indian Education
 Report Card
 School Directory
 Statistical Digest

 News Releases


 Contact Us

 K-12 Data Center
 SD Codified Laws
 State Library
 Teacher 411
 Virtual School


   Follow sddoe on Twitter    Subscribe to me on YouTube


K-12 State Accreditation


On March 22, 2005, the South Dakota Board of Education approved new administrative rules for District Accreditation and Improvement. The new Administrative Rules 24:43 outline the process for required school improvement plans for all public and private school districts that wish to maintain or seek state accreditation.


Under ARSD 24:43:01:03, the school improvement plan is identified. An "improvement plan" is a written document developed by the school district, based on local data. An improvement plan sets forth policies, processes, practices, and strategies that are grounded in research and will lead to continuous improvement of student learning. The plan identifies a challenging set of goals and sets forth actions that will be taken to achieve the goals. It specifies the responsibilities of the school district and its schools. The plan includes periodic benchmarks, measurement processes, and evaluation protocols. An improvement plan is the subject of official action by the school board and, after adoption, becomes an official district document. An improvement plan is subject to annual review.

The accreditation process will also include the requirement for a review of each district, in 5-year cycles ARSD 24:43:02:05. The purpose of the review is not only regulatory but also intended to aid schools in the constant school improvement process. Requirements for the review can be found in ARSD 24:43:02:06. All districts must host a review for accreditation. If a district is currently accredited by an external accrediting agency, such as AdvancEd, the district must still host a visit from the State.

There is no one model for a successful school improvement plan. Many school buildings and districts may already have some form of school improvement plan in place. South Dakota Administrative Rule states, though, that accreditation and district improvement is for an entire district. Although not all buildings within a district must be included under the same improvement plan, all buildings within a district must have some form of current improvement plan in place. An accreditation review will verify the existence and implementation of these plans. The Department of Education has also developed an improvement plan template for any district/system use - see "Improvement Template" under "Documents" to the right.

Failure to comply with these regulations may result in action by the secretary of education as outlined by Chapter 24:43:07.

The models listed below fit the improvement plan profile. The state reviewer will inspect the approved school improvement plan.


- AdvancEd
- Association of Christian Schools International
- Baldrige Criteria
- Bureau of Indian Education Model
- Christian Schools International
- Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation
- Effective Schools Improvement Process
- McRel School Improvement Model
- National Association of Private Schools
- National Lutheran Schools Association
- SD LEAP (Indistar®)
- Title I (School-wide Plans)
- Wisc. Evangelical Lutheran Synod School Accreditation

If a school district uses another improvement model, they may request approval from the Department of Education. Please contact Carol Uecker at or by phone at 605-773-4771.


My district is currently AdvancEd accredited. Do I still need to host an accreditation review?

Yes, every district must host a review. If a district is currently accredited by an external accrediting agency, such as AdvancEd, the district must still host a visit from the state.

How did the accreditation and School Improvement process come about?

During the 1995 legislature, over 500 rules and statutes governing public education were repealed. Many of these rules gave districts “more flexibility” and local control. Many of the standards specific to school accreditation were repealed, and accreditation became a process of simply submitting a yearly online set of data regarding staffing, graduation requirements, and school safety. As NCLB came into place, additional requirements were added to the list of “assurances”.

The 2004 legislature charged DOE with the responsibility to review the current accreditation system and to implement a more rigorous model beyond the current submission of yearly data. An advisory group met and discussed the basis of the changes made to administrative rule in 2005: 1) The need for a district improvement plan, 2) The reinstatement of onsite visits to districts, and 3) Allowing districts to use outside accrediting agencies/improvement plans to obtain accreditation.

Current accreditation is still under the authority of:

13-3-47. Classification and accreditation of schools. The secretary of the Department of Education shall be responsible for the classification and accreditation of all public and nonpublic schools under the rules established by the South Dakota Board of Education pursuant to chapter 1- 26.

What happens if we don’t comply?

Districts that do not comply could lose federal funding. This is in statute:

13-1-12.1. Rules and standards for classification and accreditation of schools, for preparation of certified personnel, procedures to determine eligibility to receive state foundation aid, vocation-technical education, minimum curriculum requirements. The South Dakota Board of Education shall promulgate rules pursuant to chapter 1-26 to establish standards for the classification and accreditation of schools within this state, to establish standards for preparation of certified personnel, to set forth procedures for determining the eligibility of school districts to receive state foundation aid effective January 1, 1997, to adopt policies and rules necessary to establish standards and procedures for vocation-technical education and to establish curriculum requirements for both a basic high school program and for a recommended high school program for all public and nonpublic schools within the state.

Are we required to turn any report information in to the state?

Districts are required to submit their Personnel Record Forms and Student Information Management System information online in the fall of each year. Administrative rule relating to the school improvement plans is copied below.

24:43:02:03. Eligibility for state accreditation -- Compliance with regulations and district improvement plan. To be eligible for state accreditation, the school board of a public school district shall:
1. Submit annual regulatory reports and assurances as required by the Department of Education, and in compliance with timelines set and made known by the department; and
2. Establish, implement, and annually review an approved five-year district improvement plan. The contents and format of a district improvement plan, and the timelines for submission, shall be specified and made known by the Department of Education, and shall include all schools, attendance centers, and programs in the district that are registered with the department and counted in the district's annual ADM calculations.

Source: 31 SDR 178, adopted May 24, 2005, effective July 1, 2005

General Authority: SDCL

Law Implemented: SDCL

What are the acceptable improvement options in lieu of the State School Improvement model?

If a school district uses or wishes to use a school improvement model that is not yet approved by the Department, they may request approval from the Department of Education. Use the form "Request for Approval" under "Documents", to the right.

When will a review occur at my school district?

The state will contact the district ahead of time when they are due to host a review.

If you are currently part of an approved accrediting agency or have an approved school improvement option that conducts onsite visits, districts may request the state visit coordinate with their current school improvement cycle.

Check "SD K-12 Accredited Districts Schools" for current status.


As a part of State accreditation rules, each school district in the state will host an accreditation review from the Department of Education. As a part of that visit, a list of regulatory items will be spot-checked. Those items are listed below.

Proper documentation of compliance with all applicable state laws and administrative rules shall be provided upon onsite visit in accordance with ARSD 24:43:02:06.

1. Birth certificates are on file for all K-12 students. Authorized by SDCL 13-27-3.1.

Codified Law states that these must be copies of official birth certificates as issued by the Department of Health. Hospital issued certificates are not official records. A copy of a birth certificate can be obtained by contacting the Vital Records office at the Department of Health.

2. Immunization records shall be updated and on file for all students. Authorized by SDCL 13-28-7.1.

Immunization records do not have to be a part of the student’s cumulative file if they are normally kept in another file in the school. For example, some districts keep their student’s immunization records in the nurse’s office. For an onsite visit, though, the Department representative will need to have access to all records in an efficient manner. If the district keeps their immunization records in another building outside of the school districts, arrangements will need to be made with the Department in how to view those records.

3. A school calendar shall be submitted for all applicable attendance centers, and the on-line calendar updated on a regular basis to reflect actual instructional time. Authorized by SDCL 13-26-1.

Each district is asked to note all of their vacation, holiday, and conference dates on their calendar, as well as school term beginning and end. SDCL 13-26-1 states that the school term for students in attendance for Kindergarten may not be less than 437.5 hours and for grades 4-12 may not be less than 962.5 hours and ARSD 24:43:09:05 states that the school term for students in attendance in grades 1-3 may not be less than 875 hours. As per SDCL 13-26-1, the school board shall set the number of days, and the length of the school day.

For the review, evidence of total instructional minutes should be shown with a copy of the district calendar(s) from Infinite Campus.

4. Course guidelines for the South Dakota academic content standards in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies should be adopted and implemented. Authorized by SDCL 13-3-48.

The Department will be looking for evidence school administration has required curriculum be aligned to the South Dakota Content/ Common Core Standards in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Examples include but are not limited to samples of: curriculum maps, lesson plans, or district-adopted curriculum and/or course guides.

5. Parents and guardians must be notified of their right to withhold certain information that could potentially be shared through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Authorized by 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99.

The Department will want to see that the District made this information public. Suggested methods to share FERPA notification with stakeholders are: local newspaper, parent letter, student handbook, or posted on office bulletin board. An excellent resource for what should be included in FERPA notification can be found at the US Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office.

6. Criminal background investigation of current employees and student teachers should be conducted. Authorized by SDCL 13-10-12 and clarified by SDCL 13-10-14.

Criminal background checks should be on file for each person over eighteen years of age that is hired by the school district. This can be completed by the submission of fingerprint checks to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). More information about how to do this in South Dakota can be obtained by contacting the DCI office.

7. A written plan, for the safety of pupils in the event of a fire, tornado, or disaster, should be on file along with documentation indicating the dates and times of (2) fire drills per semester, and any additional disaster drills conducted, authorized by ARSD 24:43:09:01. In regards to the requirement of evacuation drills, please refer to SDCL 13-25-10.

Good examples of safety plans are:
8. Bullying policy, as per: SDCL 13-32-14: Adoption of bullying policy. If a school district does not have a bullying policy, the school district shall follow the model bullying policy in § 13-32-19 until such time as the school district adopts its own bullying policy. Nothing in §§ 13-32-14 to 13-32-19, inclusive, supplants or preempts an existing school district policy, except that no school district policy prohibiting bullying, whether it is existing or adopted pursuant to §§ 13-32-14 to 13-32-19, inclusive, may contain any protected classes of students.

9. A permanent record of each student's scholarship and attendance, as well as a cumulative record kept for each student through the elementary and secondary schools shall be kept and stored in a safe place where it cannot be destroyed. Authorized by ARSD 24:43:09:02.

10. Each person that is required to be certified shall have a current certificate or plan of intent, or both as applicable, for their current assignment. Staff must have accurate up-to-date information entered on the Personnel Record Form (PRF) system. It is no longer a requirement to have a paper copy of a certificate on file in the administrative office of the school system. The validity of a certificate can be verified through the Department of Education's Teacher 411 website. Authorized by SDCL 13-43-5.

24:43:10:01. Instructional staff. All instructional staff must meet teacher preparation program approval rules as provided in article 24:53, and the school system shall report all of their assignments annually on the personnel record forms provided by the division. Instructional staff and administrative staff shall be assigned to positions for which they are prepared as indicated on their certificates.

In order to assure these requirements, at the time of the review, districts will be asked to provide a current list of all district employees, including instructional, non-instructional, and administrative, along with each employees’ current position/assignment and most recent date of hire.

11. School Improvement Plan. A copy of the required improvement plan for the district and/or each school should be available.

Helpful Information for a “Smooth” Review

The following are just tips, but they are good ones! Please feel free to contact Carol Uecker if you have any questions.

School Improvement Plan Check:
A copy of the district and/or each building school improvement plan for review.

Regulatory Items Check:

The following list is more procedural, and reflects the “small” things that make the review be more smooth and efficient.

- Communication between schools and the reviewer prior to the review really speeds the process up. An agenda should be drafted showing locations and arrival times for the course of the day. Consider where K-12 records are kept and who will be the reviewer’s contact person once s/he reaches each attendance center.

- Have a current roster of staff, including hire dates, and a student list, sorted by grade, available for the reviewer.

- Have a work area so that the reviewer has access to plug in a computer. This needs only be in one place in the district, in the event that the reviewer has to travel among several attendance centers. For example, this may be in the district office or the Superintendent’s office, as long as this location is one where the reviewer can move freely in and out of to record findings.

- For larger districts, having someone there to help the reviewer pull files will facilitate the process as she spot checks student and staff/faculty files.

- Have a checklist of the regulatory items s/he will be addressing
- Safety plan
- School calendar is updated and online (Infinite Campus)
- Course alignment to Standards
- FERPA notification
- Staff files
- Criminal background checks of teachers/student teachers or anyone 18 years or older working in the district (if hired after July 1, 2000)
- Student files
- To expedite the process, especially for larger school districts, please organize cumulative files so that the information being reviewed is readily available in each folder and placed in a consistent manner. This includes birth certificates and immunization records (or documentation verifying its absence)


If you have any questions or comments, contact Carol Uecker at 605-773-4771.