School board agrees on site for gifted and talented program

logoA new level-four full-day gifted and talented program will debut at Prairie View and Forest Hills elementary schools in the fall of 2013.
The Eden Prairie School Board approved Supt. Curt Tryggestad’s recommendation for the site during its Feb. 4 meeting. It was one of three being considered for the program.
The program eventually will serve students in grades two through six. The first year will target grades four and five, the second year would expand to include grade six, and grades two and three would be added in the third year.
“We believe it is in the best interest of the district and the students to place [the program] in those two buildings,” Tryggestad said.
Prairie View is at 17255 Peterborg Road and Forest Hills is at 13708 Holly Road.
Oak Point Elementary, 13400 Staring Lake Parkway, was one of the options for the program, Tryggestad said.
“There’s certainly nothing wrong with (Oak Point),” he said. “They will have a new principal, and we considered that in the short term.”
But adding a gifted and talented program at Oak Point would bring a second destination program to a building that already is “pretty busy as it is,” Tryggestad said. That location also would be more likely to involve boundary shifts that could reflect negatively on the program, he said.
Since the district already transports 300 to 400 students to Oak Point for a destination program, the superintendent said, he recommended “leaning toward two northern schools.”
Boardmember John Estall said the district has had to keep moving its boundaries farther south over the past decade, a trend that probably will continue.
“This is an opportunity to change that trend and brings students to the north,” he said. “That’s a big consideration.”
Tryggestad said earlier the level-four designation means a classroom dedicated to the highest academically gifted students, a population defined as those at 98 percent and higher in ability and achievement. Rather than being intermixed with other students, the gifted students will be grouped together for instruction tailored to their needs, he said.
Transportation will be provided to the chosen sites. Current gifted and talented services will continue to be maintained at all current sites.
Cost of the program has not yet been determined, Tryggestad said earlier. “Transportation and teachers are the big costs,” he said then. “It’s not that huge a shift. Most of them are our kids already.”
Internal students will be chosen for the program first, though out-of-district candidates could be considered for enrollment in future years.
Parent information meetings were held last week. Applications are due by March 1. Parents will be notified of placements by March 29.
In other action last week, the board:
• Determined that its social studies program is “not making reasonable progress toward achieving the desired results.” Tryggestad said he questions “the statistical validity of using student grades as indicators,” and is “looking forward to a time when more reliable data is used to indicate progress.
“Based on the model and measuring stick used in the past, we are not making adequate progress,” Tryggestad said. “We are well on our way to doing it differently in the future.” We are in the middle of deliberations to create new standards. Now, we can’t guarantee that kids are being measured by the same tool.”
The goal is to create consistency, he said. “If you take U.S. history, the information should be the same no matter who is teaching it.”
District officials are questioning the statistical validity of using student grades as indicators, Tryggestad said.
All Eden Prairie eighth-grade groups showed an increase in the percentage of students receiving As and Bs, Tryggestad said, and eighth- and ninth-grade students did demonstrate reasonable progress. However, he said, “We are concerned that six of the eight indicators did not show reasonable progress. We continue to be concerned about the gap in achievement and are committed to eliminating it.”
Boardmember Chuck Mueller asked about the time frame for work on the social studies curriculum.
“Curriculum work is never fully done,” Tryggestad said. I can’t guarantee it will be done in a year.”
Stephen West, the district’s executive director of educational services, said the district wants to talk further about standards-based grading.
“These are large, large endeavors,” West said. “We will be bringing in many stakeholders.”
• Learned that the district’s enrollment is “holding pretty steady overall,” according to the superintendent. The total 9,160 enrollment at the beginning of second semester is down 0.15 percent over October 2012, he said. Kindergarten and grades 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 show increased enrollment, while 12th grade is down 2.95 percent.
As of Jan. 29, 2013, the district has 4,039 students in K-5, 702 in grade 6, 1,421 in grades 708, and 2,998 in grades 9-12.
• Eden Prairie residents who would be willing to advocate for the district at the Minnesota Legislature are asked to contact the district office at 952-975-7000, or send an email to communications A community legislative advisory committee is expected to be convened on March 8.