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EP math curriculum topic of Dec. 2 meeting

By Merrily Helgeson
Sun Newspapers

Eden Prairie parents dissatisfied with their children?s math instruction have called a public meeting Dec. 2 at St. Andrew Lutheran Church.

At issue is the Eden Prairie Schools? elementary school math curriculum, "Investigations," which the parents blame for third-graders' declining math scores in statewide testing.

According to Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) results on tests administered last spring, only 49.3 percent of Eden Prairie's third-graders were performing at or above grade level in math. Comparable percentages in other districts were Bloomington, 58.3; Edina, 67.1; Hopkins 59.6; Minnetonka, 65.1, and Wayzata, 71.5.

"We're in a southwest suburb paying big taxes, and we're not paying for Minneapolis scores,?" said Annette Berg, one of the meeting organizers. "Something is wrong."

Fifth-graders, tested at the same time, exhibited more stable scores. Another meeting organizer, parent Rick Anderson, thinks that?s because fifth-graders had the benefit of another math curriculum before they were switched to Investigations.

Investigations is in its third year of use in the Eden Prairie district. It also is used in Hopkins, White Bear Lake, Shakopee and Anoka, according to Larry Leebens, the EP district's director of teaching and learning.

Anderson, an engineer, said he has been working with his third-grader at least three nights a week. "I know some other parents who are hiring math tutors," he said.

He said when he asked for help with his fifth-grader, he was given a math book the district no longer uses. Since then, he said, she has been placed in enriched math, which doesn't use the Investigations curriculum.

Anderson said he sees the effect of the Investigations curriculum as "shifting everything toward the middle." Scores for the lowest-achieving children are higher, he said, but scores for the highest-achieving have declined.

"My real concern is that this is not just data," Anderson said. "Every one represents a student" and two of them are mine.

"If they continue with this curriculum, this is a train wreck waiting to happen. When they have to do algebra and geometry, they'll be completely unprepared."

Berg said that fear is shared by many of the 25 parents who held an initial meeting two weeks ago. "We're hearing that they don't think the kids that are doing Investigations now are going to be ready for high school, much less SATs and college."

As were the parents, Eden Prairie Schools officials were taken aback by the MCA results released in early October. Acting Superintendent Melissa Krull said Leebens will be leading a study aimed at making improvements before the district's third- and fifth-graders take the test again next March or April.

Berg thinks that's not an answer.

"I don't want them to teach my child to take a test," she said. "I want them to teach my child to do math."

What's next: Eden Prairie Schools' elementary school math curriculum will be discussed at a meeting scheduled from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 13600 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie.

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