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Add math, subtract the Civil War?

School District 833 has a math problem.

The district keeps adding new high school courses but it has not been getting rid of classes that are outdated or that have lost interest among students.

As a result, when high school students showed up for school this fall, 95 classes were canceled because not enough students signed up. There was a flurry of activity to reschedule, according to a report presented to the School Board Oct. 19.

"Part of the problem is that we haven't taken anything off the list," said Superintendent Mark Porter.

The existing Program of Study worked well to get secondary schools through the change to a six-period day, but needs to be aligned with "Pathways to Excellence," the new district strategic plan, said Rick Spicuzza, assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment.

Paring down the list of courses is not as simple as it might seem. Some courses need to be dropped and others realigned with new standards. Courses need to be rewritten and updated, Spicuzza said.

There are teachers on special assignment in his department who will work on this task.

Courses to be added for next year include four new math classes, to be taken after completing algebra II, that include: college readiness probability and statistics, college readiness algebra, college preparatory math, and discrete math. All are one trimester except for algebra, which will be offered for a full year.

Additional math is needed, Spicuzza said, to keep up with what colleges are requiring. For example, the University of Minnesota, in the year 2015, will require four years of high school math for students to be admitted.

Currently, 80 percent of the district's high school seniors are taking a math class.

Of last year's graduating class, 76 percent of Woodbury High School seniors registered to attend college and 65 percent of Park High School grads enrolled. There are no statistics available for East Ridge High School, Spicuzza said.

Two additional College in the Schools courses, through the University of Minnesota, are being added. Writing Studio, will be taught and could be an alternative to senior English classes.

CIS public speaking is also being added.

CIS classes are $145, not including books.

Fine arts photography II is also being added.

Courses that have not run in two or more years, and do not align with the strategic plan, are being dropped, as is keyboarding because most students have mastery.

Also on the list is black and white photography, creative writing II, which is now a CIS course, problem solving math, human relations, creative sewing, mock trial, Microsoft Office applications, modern world novels, natural disasters, inquiry into contemporary issues, Civil War, gender studies, communications A&B and manufacturing technologies, which is now included in Project Lead the Way engineering classes.

Driver's education is being considered to move to Community Education.

Some are hesitant to cut too many courses.

"I don't want to take away classes that might be interesting to kids not going to college, such as Civil War, mock trial or human relations," said School Board member Jim Gelbmann.

Mock trial can be offered as a co-curricular activity after school, Spicuzza said.

"Is the Civil War no longer relevant in U.S. history?" said Gelbmann.

"That's the point," Spicuzza said. "It's part of the U.S. History course. It was thought that the Civil War is too specialized to be offered as a separate class, he said.

Offering classes should be market driven, according to Gelbmann. If there are enough students for a full class, it should be considered.

"Even if 100 students sign up for keyboarding, it's still not relevant," Porter said.

School Board member Marsha Adou said she supports the list of courses being dropped because it's endorsed by the high school principals.

School Board member Tracy Brunnette said the list should be approved because the classes don't align with the strategic plan. "They could come back in a different form," she said.

The list of added and dropped classes is up for approval at the Oct. 27 School Board meeting.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600