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Park Rapids working on changes to math books, curriculum

Park Rapids Area School faculty members are in the process of adopting a new math curriculum for next year.

Century School principal Bruce Gravalin gave an update on the process of working on Annual Yearly Progress. The senior high math cohort has been meeting to work on adoption of new curriculum. The middle school and elementary will also be meeting.

"What they do ... they have representative textbooks from the major textbook companies," Gravalin said. "They're looking at our curriculum we wrote this summer and are matching our curriculum with the best textbook they can find."

So far, none of the groups have made recommendations for textbooks. Recommendations will be made by spring, he said.

The groups are doing a lot of research and looking at other schools.

A data mining session will be held for faculty for grades five through eight.

Someone will come into look at the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II tests and break down the data.

"So these individual instructors can take a look at individual students," Gravalin said. "Look at their scores and then through conversation, 'this is what is right, this wasn't right, here's what we can do better.'"

In December, another person will come in to work with Century Middle School and elementary school staff to help develop a professional learning community. They will discuss teaching strategies and sound instruction with each other.

The professional learning community will start with discussions among staff in one grade level. It may expand to cross curriculum and across grade levels.

Some Title I funds are available to pay for substitute teachers to accomplish some of the goals, Gravalin said.

"The goal is improvement in instruction in both reading and math," he said.

Century assistant principal Jeff Johnson said that along with the math cohorts, a literacy cohort is starting.

At the high school, principal Al Judson said senior high math is different than the middle and elementary school.

"We've got very good ACT scores, we've got the college classes in place," he said. "What we're struggling with is getting everyone to the Algebra II level."

Staff is looking at different schools that have had some success in math, Judson said. Many schools throughout the state are struggling, though, he said.

"It's an impossible goal, it's one that we're still working on," Judson said. "...It's kind of that carrot that drives us in terms of how were changing curriculum in the high school."

Gravalin agrees that it's nearly an impossible goal.

"Is improvement possible? Yes," he said. "And we will improve."

In other business, the school board:

-Heard from Bruce Gravalin that the transition from three administrators to two at Century has gone well.

"Yes, we're working very hard, we're very busy, but we think things are going OK, better than OK," he said.

-Heard from Gravalin that a number of Native American students have had difficulty transitioning at Century. These students will receive some transition services from White Earth Mental Health.

-Heard about an idea to have physical activity before school for students who are dropped off early. The program will be called "Play 30," a take off of "Play 60" from the NFL.

A program is being developed to create games and activity, along with instruction in eating healthy.

"We'll have students who are supervised, plus they'll have some activity," Gravalin said.

The program is run through Community Education. It will cost $5 per student for a two-month trial period.

-Heard that parent/teacher conferences went well. Judson said that the high school had nearly a 50 percent turnout of parents.

"It's probably the best turnout we've had in years," he said.

-Received an update from business manager Carol Hutchinson about the Johnson Control project, which is looking at replacing ventilation, heating and other building improvements at the high school.

She told the school board that the district is qualified for stimulus funding in 2009 but the district might have to get on the list for 2010 because the bonds would need to be sold by the end of the year.

-Accepted the resignation of food service worker Brenda Reichly as of Nov. 1.

-Approved the first reading of a lift and transfer policy.

-Received a donation of a color enlarger in the amount of $700 from John Syverson.

-Honored October Student of the Month, Heather Goodwater.