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New math curriculum in Park Rapids will give students more options

Park Rapids students entering school next fall will experience a new math curriculum, kindergarten through high school.

School board members were introduced to the textbooks and reviewed changes proposed as a means to prepare students for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

High school math teacher Amie Westberg told board members it's been a two-year process, which has included departmental meetings, heading to other schools, reviewing the MCAII tests and comparing schools of similar size.

"We're getting rid of tech math and consumer math," she reported of classes currently being offered high school students. "They are not preparing students for the MCAII test; they do not meet state standards.

Freshmen will now have the opportunity to take algebra readiness (similar to pre-algebra, which covers linear algebra), nonlinear algebra (same as algebra I) and advanced geometry.

Sophomore math classes include nonlinear algebra, geometry and advanced algebra 2.

The 9th grade advanced geometry and 10th grade advanced algebra 2 classes are intended for students who took algebra one in eighth grade, Westberg explained.

Math intervention will be offered in the winter and spring via individual instruction to freshmen and sophomores who are not succeeding in algebra readiness or nonlinear algebra.

As an incentive to pass the MCAII GRAD test (Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma), students succeeding in their junior year will not be required to take a tenth math credit their senior year, she said.

Principal Al Judson said students and parents will receive recommendations for individual students for class choices.

Second grade teacher Stephanie Mercil said students will now begin the curriculum in kindergarten - with vocabulary and strategies for algebra introduced.

"We're looking for 8th graders to succeed in algebra," middle school math teacher Tom Ahrendt said. "That's big."

He admitted to some trepidation when he first heard of 8th grade algebra.

"Math reasoning has been a low area," he admitted. "There will be intervention."

The new textbooks "break it down," he told the board. "You can't just jump to abstract. The goal is to make it concrete," by introducing linear concepts with real scenarios.

"I'm looking forward to teaching from this," Ahrendt said. And the book is online, with daily quizzes available. "The computer component will be huge," he predicted. "Kids are visual, not auditory, learners. They need to see it, use it hands on."

"How do we get parents to understand we have made a wholesale change at the middle school level?" superintendent Glenn Chiodo asked.

Ahrendt said letters will be sent to parents and teachers plan to host a Math Night to explain the changes.

Algebra is "learning a whole new language," Ahrendt said, noting flash cards will be used.

"We will be tracking kids with daily assessments," he said. Students must pass a quiz before moving on. Ahrendt said the teachers will promote kids helping kids. "We have to make kids accountable."

Principal Bruce Gravalin said Century is looking at a guided study hall. He said the curriculum will be evaluated next year with ongoing conversation among teachers.

Board member Gary Gauldin noted students in high school can now take five years of math.

The program, Westberg told the board, has suggestions for identifying and meeting student needs, including personalized instruction for struggling students. The books offer tiered intervention measures.

The program also has some standardized test questions, with kids going through test-taking strategy skills.

In other action, the board:

n Learned College in the Classroom is a boon for the high school.

"We keep our best students," Judson said, as opposed to students opting for post-secondary enrollment. "That adds to the culture of the school."

Total credits earned this year are an anticipated 816, Judson reported. Classes are offered through the University of Minnesota Crookston, Northland Community and Technical College and Bemidji State University.

Judson said high school counselor Susan Rassier was "amazed" at the number of students utilizing the program, as opposed to PSEO.

He estimated students save $205,664 by earning the college credits in high school.