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Duluth Public Schools Pushed to Update Curriculum Standards

Updated: 03/14/2014 6:12 PM
Created: 03/14/2014 4:53 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Standardized test scores are up at Duluth's Laura MacArthur Elementary, but a parent said it is coming at the cost of a complete education. The Minnesota Department of Education has put pressure on the district to update curriculum by fall.

Students at Laura MacArthur have done will on reading and math, but Alanna Oswald said questions from her fifth-grade daughter got her worried last year.

“She loves science. She lives for science so all year long she was asking me and kept asking me, 'When are we going to do science? When do I get to do science?'” Oswald said.

In addition to being a parent, Oswald is a substitute in the district as well so she started asking around about the issue. She said administrators told teachers to focus on reading and math so students like her daughter had little to no exposure to science or social studies.

“What I was finding from the conversations I was having with other teachers saying that they weren't able to teach anything else. They were directed explicitly to focus on raising test scores and only test scores, and they were not allowed to do other things,” Oswald said.

She filed a complaint with the Department of Education a few months ago. The agency has forced the district to update curriculum standards by fall.

“This is work that we'd already planned on doing. We're just doing it a little bit faster than we originally though we would be,” Superintendent Bill Gronseth said.

Gronseth said curriculum fell behind due to tight budgets in recent years, but he said students have still been improving.

“We've made increases in student achievement, our graduation rates have come up, we've made progress on improving the achievement gap, it's not a question of whether we are teaching kids what they need to know to be successful, but we do need to be completely up to date on state standards,” Gronseth said.

Oswald worried that is not enough.

“Whether they update the social studies curriculum or science curriculum really isn't going to matter because they aren't using it anyway,” Oswald said.

The district has until next fall to change course, and the school board is expected to vote on Tuesday to spend $275,000 on the curriculum updates.

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