R11CC recently welcomed a new South Dakota Lead for the Bright Spots Project. Dr. Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear brings a wealth of research and practitioner knowledge in culturally responsive education for preK–12 schools, and nonprofit sector experience in youth and community participatory action research, leadership, behavioral health, and wellness and workforce education programming.

The high-leverage problem (HLP) team, comprising members of the South Dakota Department of Education, the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, and the R11CC, helped facilitate an in-person work session with a diverse group of educators from K–12 schools across the state. Participants identified concepts for an Innovation Configuration Map, a tool to help teachers integrate the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards (OSEUS) into their instruction.

The HLP team is also helping to shape the South Dakota Department of Education Circles of Reflection plan. An initiative of the National Comprehensive Center’s Native Education Collaborative, Circles of Reflection is a facilitated process for state education agencies to engage local education agencies and tribes in discussions about systems of support for educating American Indian/Alaska Native students. Conversations address equity, the opportunities that exist for Native education, and how state education agencies can advance teaching and learning in ways that put culturally responsive ideas into practice towards improving student outcomes. Currently, the HLP team is reviewing and revising questions that will shape dialogue with stakeholder groups and inform goals, programming, and roles pertaining to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding and priorities.