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Kristi Noem severs ties with controversial education consultant amid concerns about social studies standards

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Gov. Kristi Noem is hitting the reset button on South Dakota's proposed social studies curriculum, discarding her administration's previous standards and changing up who crafts the new ones.
Friday's announcement comes a week after she said the revision process would be delayed for up to a year. Noem's office told Fox News that it had severed ties with consultant Beth Ratway and the C3 framework – both controversial influences that raised concerns about left-wing content later surfacing in schools.
“I have asked the Department of Education to restart the process from the beginning,” Noem, a Republican, said in a press release Friday. “I want to ensure we propose standards that accurately reflect the values of South Dakota.”
“Our kids deserve to learn both America’s and South Dakota’s true and honest history, taught in a balanced context that doesn’t pit our children against each other on the basis of race, sex, or background. More work needs to be done to get this right, and we are committed to seeing that process through.”
SOUTH DAKOTA'S NOEM DELAYS SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS AMID CONCERNS OVER LEFT-WING INFLUENCES
Noem had encountered backlash from both sides, with Native Americans upset about removals that were favored by conservatives.
Her latest move followed a warning by Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, about Ratway's influence on the Department of Education as well as what he called the “action-civics-based C3 Framework.”
Kurtz also pointed to Ratway's video presentation on social justice, which has since been removed from YouTube. Obtained by Fox News via Kurtz, the PowerPoint employs plenty of language reminiscent of controversial equity trainings seen throughout the U.S.
For example, under “Connecting Social Justice and Social Studies,” Ratway's slide reads: “We define social justice education as the pedagogical practice of guiding students toward critically discussing, examining, and actively exploring the reasons behind social inequalities and how unjust institutional practices maintain and reproduce power and privilege that have a direct impact on students' lives.”
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She also cites Paulo Freire, a well-known advocate of “critical pedagogy” who has been criticized by anti-CRT advocates like James Lindsay. The ties to left-wing ideas don't end with her presentation. In 2020, Ratway co-chaired an Advancing Social Justice conference, which featured a speech from the controversial “1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Friday's release pledged to “create a new workgroup of stakeholders to develop standards. This group will propose new social studies standards, and everyone who has expressed concerns will be a part of the process, including Native Americans. The new proposed standards will be reviewed and adjusted based on input from the public, the DOE, and, ultimately, approved by the Board of Education Standards.”
“The DOE will also hire a new facilitator to oversee the workgroup process. The DOE will work with the Board of Education Standards to approve a new timeline to ensure the standards are adopted after sufficient time for the workgroup’s action and public input into the process.”
Ratway's employer, The American Institutes of Research, did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment but previously provided a lengthy response defending its work.
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Dana Tofig, managing director for corporate communications at AIR, told Fox News: “We conduct and apply research and our work is informed by data and evidence. We have successfully consulted on standards reviews and rewrites in nearly every state in the U.S. – inclu..