Can Edina’s schools be saved?

The bill comes due for sacrificing academic excellence to a social agenda.

Six years after officials at Edina Public Schools (EPS) decided to view “all teaching and learning through the lens of racial equity,” it’s clear the district administration has taken its eye off the ball of academic excellence. Today, EPS is experiencing across-the-board test score declines—from third-grade reading to ACT benchmarks in math, reading, and science—along with an exodus of families the district can’t afford to lose.

Edina’s experience provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when a school district renowned for academic excellence embraces a social mission that requires viewing students, first and foremost, not as individuals but as members of racial groups. EPS’s controversial mission shift was adopted in 2013 with the goal of closing the district’s racial achievement gap. That hasn’t happened.

Many Edina parents have found it painful and difficult to come to grips with their school district’s challenges. And no wonder: Most families have made financial sacrifices—including paying a hefty premium for a home—to gain access to the district’s once-fabled schools. Increasingly, however, they are troubled at evidence that a social justice agenda is inconsistent with a quality education.

No one wants to see test score declines. In the past year, parents have come together across political lines to work for the good of the children of Edina. Their goal is to return to EPS’s traditional mission of academic excellence for all students, and to ensure that instruction is designed to enable each child to reach his or her highest potential. Unfortunately, continued resistance by the EPS administration suggests extraordinary challenges will remain, so long
as a social agenda takes precedence over instruction in reading, math, and science.

This summer, the Edina School Board will adopt a new five-year strategic plan and in November, the district will hold school board elections. If parents and citizens demand accountability and transparency, they can build on progress already underway to ensure that Edina schools are once again the gold standard of education in Minnesota.

A brief history

EPS students are 73 percent white, 10 percent Asian, six percent black, six percent Hispanic and five percent two or more races. As in virtually all American schools, EPS’s white and Asian students, on average, perform at higher academic levels than black and Hispanic students. With the adoption of the district’s equity- focused “All for All” plan in 2013, EPS leaders made closing this learning gap the district’s highest priority. They defined “educational equity” as “promoting equality of educational results” among all student subgroups and set their goal as “high achievement without predictable links to race or income [emphasis added].”

In pursuit of this goal, the district’s statement on “Racial Equity and Cultural Competence” mandated change of two kinds. First, going forward, EPS must view “all district work and initiatives”— including “all teaching and learning”— through “a lens of racial equity.” Second, it must “interrupt systems of inequity” and “eliminat[e] barriers rooted in racial constructs” to end the racist practices that officials believe to be the gap’s source.

Six years later:
What has happened?

Test scores

Edina students’ academic performance has fallen dramatically since the district adopted the All for All plan. The EPS learning gap has failed to narrow and, in some respects, has widened, despite the fact that white students’ scores are falling.

Between 2013 and 2017, EPS lost ground in reading and math proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs)—which set state standards—in comparison to 1) the district’s own history, 2) the state average, and 3) peer school districts in the Twin Cities metro area. (Peers include historically top-performing districts such as Orono, Minnetonka, Woodbury and Eastview.) White students’ proficiency fell 3.7 points in reading and 3.2 points in math compared to their white peers’ statewide proficiency average. Though EPS administrators often assure parents that Edina is still achieving above the state average, it is losing ground at a troubling rate.

For example, a comparison of Edina High School’s (EHS) 10th-grade MCA reading performance with peer schools in the Twin Cities metro area reveals that from 2008 to 2014, EHS ranked first or second, and once third. In 2015, however, it fell to 11th place and in 2017 ranked 10th. Between 2013 and 2017, students at EHS fell 10 points in reading and 11 points in math relative to the statewide proficiency average. During that time, at the district’s two middle schools and the high school, students in every grade lost ground in reading relative to students across the state.

Test scores in 2017-18 continued this downward trend. The district’s achievement gap failed to narrow as EPS officials had hoped, and Edina High School fell to 14th place in reading among peer schools in the Twin Cities area. Academic performance declined across the board—from third-grade reading proficiency to high school seniors’ performance on ACT benchmarks in math, reading, and science.

Edina assesses third-grade reading in two ways: State MCAs measure proficiency (the ability to read at grade level), and MAP tests (Measures of Academic Progress) measure individual student growth over time. Last year, the district’s goal—set with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)—was to raise third-grade reading proficiency on the MCA by 2.9 points. In fact, proficiency fell 7.5 points to 70.8, the biggest drop in the 10 years for which data are publicly available.

The nationally normed MAP assesses whether a student’s reading level has grown as expected, based on his or her previous performance. Edina’s 2018 MAP data show significant declines in the percentages of students (grades 3-8) who met nationally normed growth targets in both reading and math. Last year, for example, about 24 percent fewer sixth-graders met growth targets in reading and math than met them as fifth-graders.

Educators agree that the ability to read at grade-level in third grade is of vital importance, because reading is the key to success in all other academic disciplines. Edina’s Strategic Plan Assessment Summary Final Report, dated December 2018, cited a “national study” that demonstrated that “students who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers [emphasis added].” “There are other areas in Minnesota that have higher ELL [English Language Learner], poverty, and/or special education program needs,” the report continued, “so Edina has reason for concern on this measure.”

Last year, EPS also failed to reach other academic performance goals it had set in conjunction with MDE. On the MCAs (which are administered in reading in grades 3-8 and grade 10), the district sought to narrow the racial gap by increasing proficiency rates for all students, while raising them more for black, Hispanic and English Language Learner students. However, overall performance went down, black and English Language Learner students improved slightly (1.5 points), and Hispanic students declined dramatically—by 9.5 points.

On 2017-18 career and college readiness measures, the district’s goal—set with MDE—was to have 67 percent of seniors meet ACT benchmarks in English, math, reading and science, up from 64 percent in 2016-17. Instead, the number dropped to 61 percent. EPS did essentially meet its goal of graduating a high percentage of students from all demographic groups, but it is not clear that all graduates are well-prepared.

EPS has failed to significantly narrow its racial achievement gap, despite a six-year investment of time, money and effort, including extra state funding through Minnesota’s Achievement and Integration program. Transparency has been lacking in the district’s reports on vital MAP scores, which do not make year-over-year comparisons possible. In response to a request for five-years of MAP data in the format used for 2017-18 data, EPS communications coordinator Mary Woitte responded that the district “does not maintain data from previous years in the format you are requesting.”

Fifteen years ago, EPS annual reports were detailed performance documents. The 2003-04 report, for example, was 97 pages long. Today, with their limited information on students achievement, these documents resemble promotional brochures. The 2016-17 annual report was a mere four pages.

Enrollment declines

Today, families are steaming out of the Edina schools in unprecedented numbers. The district’s enrollment report released last October revealed that EPS has a drop of 125 resident students and gained 32 through open enrollment, for a net loss of 93 students between 2017-18 and 2018-19. This was a significant unexpected shortfall: The district’s February 2018-19 “Budget Parameters” had predicted “steady enrollment, with zero percent to a small amount of growth per year.” In 2018-19, 321 students open-enrolled out of Edina into other public schools – a 28 percent increase over the previous year.

Faced with this exodus, the Edina School Board last summer commissioned the district’s first-ever survey of “outbound” families to determine why so many are leaving. The “most important factor” cited by parents who enrolled their children in other school districts was that EPS had failed to “meet” their student’s “learning needs.” Another important reason parents gave was that they wanted “no liberal agenda.” The Morris Leatherman Company, which performed the survey, told the school board in November that this survey marked the first time in the company’s lengthy experience that Twin Cities metro area parents have named “liberal agenda” as a reason for leaving local public schools.

A significant number among those who departed were high-achieving students. “Gifted students, in particular, suffer from the academic dilution resulting from EPS’s changing focus away from academic rigor,” one parent commented on the survey performed during the district’s strategic planning process. Special education students have also left in large numbers. At school board meetings, parents of dyslexic students have repeatedly expressed frustration at what they describe as the district’s failure to provide reading instruction tailored to their children’s learning needs.

This exodus has significant financial consequences for the Edina schools. The district is already facing worrisome budget cuts, and the loss of state aid resulting from the recent drop in students is adding to the problem. Making matters worse, the number of kindergartners enrolled in Fall 2018 was 100 fewer than the EHS graduating class of 2018. Edina has a “relatively large aging population that will likely not provide school-aged students into the future,” according to the Strategic Plan Assessment Summary report. Going forward, a continued outflow of students spells trouble for EPS.

What is going on?

Are EPS’s declining academic performance and its growing loss of students related to district leaders’ embrace of a social mission in 2013? The goal of the All for All plan was straightforward: to transform the Edina schools. What are the consequences of six years of looking at “all teaching and learning” through the “lens of racial equity?” One transformative change occurred in 2013 when the district expanded and revised a pedagogical model called “personalized learning” in conjunction with the new equity mission. A district document describes this new approach to teaching and learning as a major shift (and a “core belief”) aligned with “three key words that drive the district’s strategic work—All for All [emphasis
in original].” “Only by applying a lens of racial equity to all district work and focusing on personalized learning” will Edina Public Schools “truly advance its core mission of All for All,” declared the district’s statement on “Racial Equity and Cultural Competence.”

EPS’s personalized learning model differs greatly from “the structured education system that has been in place for generations,” according to EPS’s FAQs on the topic. The new approach “redefines the role of the teacher to that of a facilitator of learning rather than a deliverer of knowledge,” in the words of the district’s statement on personalized learning. “The end goal,” it notes, is to give students “voice and choice about what is learned, when it is learned, and how it is learned.”

Many school districts have adopted some form of personalized learning.
The approach can have beneficial results when its primary goal is to help children thrive individually. But it can undercut student achievement when it is used as a vehicle for engineering demographic balance in every classroom, with attention to individual needs taking a back seat.

A prominent advocate of personalized

learning is the New York City-based Century Foundation. The foundation believes that minority and low-income students can only learn effectively in “heterogeneous” classrooms balanced by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and opposes grouping students by academic readiness or ability (or “tracking”). Personalized learning is the central tool in the foundation’s “toolkit” for “reducing segregation among classrooms in a school—whether those divides fall along academic, racial or class lines—and exploring the needs of all students within integrated settings.”

Schools that take this approach, of course, must find a way to use the same curriculum to educate students of widely differing abilities and readiness—some well above grade level and some well below—without undermining individual students’ ability to reach their highest academic potential. The solution the Century Foundation, like other “equity” proponents, advocates is to combine “classroom integration” with “differentiated instruction,” according to a 2019 report entitled “Integrating Classrooms and Reducing Academic Tracking” on the foundation’s website. In this model, schools can use pullout sessions or flexible student groups that attempt to offer both “enrichment and support.” They can also use “embedded honors”—an arrangement in which “all students take a class together, but students who choose to may take the class for honors credit by completing extra assignments.”

Since 2013, the Edina schools have devoted enormous resources to personalized learning. The district has promoted heterogeneous classrooms, minimized ability/readiness grouping, and in many cases attempted to differentiate instruction by “embedding” or “deepening” rather than accelerating instruction.

Overall, the district has embraced the pedagogical vision laid out in a book entitled Detracking for Excellence and Equity, by Burris and Garrity. This book was distributed in 2012 to key EPS personnel by then-Superintendent Ric Dressen to use as a guide in implementing EPS’s shift to an equity mission. “In a detracked school,” the book explains, “instruction—not curriculum and not standards or outcomes—should be differentiated for learners in heterogeneously grouped classrooms.”

Edina’s approach to personalized learning minimizes “direct instruction” with a teacher and gives students autonomy that many are not ready or able to use productively. This photo featured on EPS’s online “Flexible Learning Environments” page.

The problem with this

To date, there is little evidence that personalized learning improves educational outcomes. No one has studied personalized learning more closely than the RAND Corporation, Education Week reported in 2017. “And RAND is unambiguous about what its research shows,” the magazine stated.

“The evidence base is very weak at this point,” John F. Pane, the group’s distinguished chair in education innovation told Education Week. “I would not advise schools to dump massive resources into going fully into personalized learning,” added Laura S. Hamilton, the associate director of RAND Education. “Experiment with some new approaches that might be a good fit for your particular school or district, but monitor it very closely.”

In contrast to this advice, EPS implemented personalized learning “throughout” the district, “at all learner levels,” according to the EPS website.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that in Edina Public Schools, personalized learning has led in many cases to inefficient, ineffective use of student learning time. The approach gives students a degree of autonomy that many are not ready or able to use productively. Students can choose, to a good extent, how they wish to “access information,” “engage with” lessons, and “show mastery,” according to EPS promotional materials. Traditional “direct instruction” from a teacher is often minimal, with students working on their own or in small groups unmediated by an educational supervisor. Technology, including substantial screen time, plays a central role. Adding to students’ disincentive to apply themselves, in many classrooms, those who fail a test— or in some cases, even get a sub-par grade—are allowed to take it again.

One parent who has removed her children from the district explained how her middle-school daughter spent a lot of time with her computer in the hallways, “fooling around with her friends. She had to check in with the teacher at the end, but as long as they had done part of the assignment, she was golden.”

EPS’s personalized learning model also risks under-use of teacher talent, a school’s most valuable resource. Its most fundamental shortcoming, however, may be that it promotes a fragmented, rather than an integrated, approach to education. Students learn best when they are taught new information in a way that allows them to incorporate it effectively into a larger, well-integrated body of knowledge, according to education research. Many critics have pointed out personalized learning’s tendency to expose students to new material in “bits and pieces”-one off projects-which can make understanding and retention much harder.

In EPS’s outbound survey, the number one factor parents cited in their decision to leave was the schools were not meeting their student’s “learning needs.” The district’s embrace of personalized learning likely plays a major role here.

Average students can easily fall through the cracks in EPS’s new instructional regime, as teachers struggle to meet the needs of learners at both ends of the educational spectrum. Special education students who need extra time and attention can also lose out. RAND’s research “has consistently found that even in the best-supported personalized-learning schools, teachers frequently say there’s not enough time to truly tailor the learning experience to each child,” according to Education Week.

Parents of high-achieving students complain that their children, in particular, seem to suffer in heterogeneous classrooms, where all students must study the same thing at essentially the same pace. Those who finish a unit early get extra work – called “going deeper” – or are expected to help classmates who struggle rather than move ahead themselves.

At the November 2018 school board meeting, one frustrated parent explained how this is holding back her gifted children in elementary and middle school. “There is no acceleration, differentiated curriculum or direct instruction for students who have mastered the material,” she said. She called for more rigorous pathways in middle-school language arts, science and social studies, like the one available in math. Her concern, she emphasized, was the “PL is an attempt to make heterogeneous classrooms appear to work for all students.”

As Edina’s statement on personalized learning makes clear, this is, in fact the case.

While the personalized learning model often holds back advanced students, it also encourages other students to take demanding courses with our regard to their academic preparation, in order to achieve demographic balance in the classroom. The All for All plan set an “equity” goal of “no more than five percent difference” between minority and low-income students and other in gifted programs and Advanced Placement classes. But encouraging academically unprepared students to take such courses can hamper their progress, undermine their self-confidence and waste their time.

It can also harm their high-achieving classmates. In AP classes with a number less-prepared students, teachers may unable to cover as many topics, and may find themselves compelled to assign fewer and shorter papers than if all students were high performers.

Nationally, there is evidence that policies aimed for improving low-performing students’ achievement are hurting the brightest students. For example, a 2011 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation found that high-performing students are increasingly losing ground in terms of growth from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school. Often, these students fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their average and below-average classmates. According to Education Week, the study “raises questions about whether” the “widespread dismantling of policies that group students by ability” has forced schools “to make a trade-off.”

In 2016, Randy Smasal, EPS director of teaching and learning, stated that with EPS’s embrace of personalized learning, “outcomes will be consistently high for all students—that is the system we are building.” Unfortunately, six years after the adoption of this transformative model, falling test scores confirm that hope is not being realized.

Goal two:
Shaping students’ beliefs


The second major change the All for All plan brought to the Edina schools was a commitment to give priority to a new social mission: To “interrupt systems that perpetuate inequities” and “eliminate barriers rooted in racial constructs” within EPS. What are the consequences?

In practice, this shift in focus has meant teaching that white racism is a primary cause of the learning gap, and prompting white students to acknowledge their “white privilege” and repudiate “white supremacy.” To ensure this,

the district committed in the All for All plan to “recruit, hire and retain” “racially conscious teachers and administrators.”

EPS has woven a “racial identity” narrative throughout its curriculum.
At the elementary level, for example, K-2 students at Highlands Elementary School have participated in the “Melanin Project,” which teaches them to view themselves and their classmates in terms of skin color. Edina High School’s Pre- AP English 10 course—required of all sophomores—was designed to “guide students through difficult discussions of race, racism and Whiteness,” according to English teacher Jackie Roehl, a course architect. Students devote the bulk of their class time to topics such as “Social Constructions of Race, Class and Gender,” “Colonization” and “Immigration.”

As a result, academic rigor now often takes a back seat to efforts to shape students’ beliefs on social issues, according to many Edina parents. They cite what they view as a telling example from Fall 2018.

As the 2018-19 school year opened, parents were alarmed and surprised to learn of EPS’s dramatic drop in third-grade reading proficiency. They called on the district administration for urgent action to address this looming academic crisis, including a plan to get teachers the training they need to teach a recently adopted reading curriculum effectively.

Parents were frustrated by what they viewed as the district’s lackadaisical response at school board work sessions and elsewhere, and its failure to mobilize quickly to produce an effective plan of action. They were disturbed to learn, around the same time, of the administration’s plan for an elaborate, seven-part training series “open to all employees” called “Re-examining Equity”—scheduled to run from October 2018 to April 2019. Topics included “White Privilege and White Fragility,” “Implicit Bias and Microaggressions” and “Equity Traps.” Prominent EPS administrators and personnel from the Department of Teaching and Learning were involved, and teachers were informed they would earn Continuing Education credits.

The administration’s response to the third-grade reading crisis stood in stark contrast to the enthusiasm with which it promoted “Re-examining Equity,” parents say. At the school board’s November 2018 meeting, Donna Roper, EPS director of research and evaluation, seemed to downplay the troubling implications of the drop in reading scores, describing it as “not a surprising thing.” She said the new reading curriculum, implemented in 2016-17, might have played a role. “When you do a large-scale implementation with new resources and new pedagogy, just a lot of complexities to that whole thing,” she said.

In its report to MDE on its 2017-18 progress on “World’s Best Workforce and Achievement and Integration” measures, EPS acknowledged that teachers did not receive the training necessary to implement the curriculum effectively. It also stated that teachers need time to review relevant data with colleagues. But “trying to make time for these kinds of professional development sessions becomes very difficult,” according to a statement the administration sent to the Edina Sun Current. Why? The statement cited a “statewide shortage of substitute teachers,” who may be required to fill in during such training. Many parents regarded the district’s response as complacent, irresponsible and unacceptable.

EPS officials cancelled the “Re-examining Equity” training shortly before it was to begin. Not enough teachers signed up, according to EPS communications coordinator Mary Woitte. If so, this suggests that many teachers, like parents, believe that academically focused professional development should be the district’s top priority. Parents believe pressure from a community letter-writing campaign also played a role.

Parents have worked for reform

The 2018 EPS Strategic Plan Assessment report, prepared by Tampa-based MGT Consulting Group, reached a clear-cut conclusion: As the district prepares to adopt a new, five-year strategic plan, “Maintaining high academic standards is ‘Mission Critical.’” Today, parents who agree are coming together to demand accountability and transparency. “I don’t care about people’s politics,” one explained. “I care about them as a parent, a neighbor and a citizen. We all care about our kids.”

“Sometimes it feels like the administration against the rest of us,” the parent added.

Parents have held community meetings, called for curricular reviews, challenged data put forward by the administration, and taken their concerns directly to school board members. One important tool, they say, is EPS Policy 606, which requires that students hear “all sides” on controversial issues and bars teachers from using their position to advance their personal politics.

“We tell parents to ‘Keep your eyes out for 606 violations, in assignments, hall displays, wherever,’” a parent explained. “When you see a violation, speak to the teacher, file a policy violation form, report it to administrators and copy school board members. It’s not just rumors when you can attach a document or photo.”

But monitoring what goes on in the classroom can be challenging. Parents of middle-schoolers and high-schoolers often don’t see assignments, tests, papers or teachers’ instructions because so much is now done electronically through students’ password-protected school portal. A key, parents say, is to “get your kids’ passwords and monitor on a daily basis.”

Parents say they are sometimes accused of not supporting teachers when they report violations. “We support our teachers,” a parent emphasized. “We have many wonderful teachers in Edina who want to focus on academics. But when the administration prioritizes a social mission over academics, I fear we may lose some of them.”

The administration’s response

As a result of parents’ efforts, school climate has improved in the 2018-19 school year, parents say. “There is less overt political correctness; the hallways are much better,” observes one parent. “I don’t see Black Lives Matter posters, Valley View Middle School’s display of biased political cartoons and caricatures is gone, and there are American flags

in the classrooms.” Several teachers who were involved in partisan political advocacy in 2016, including high school English teachers Tim Klobuchar (who is on leave) and Sally Larkins, are no longer teaching in the district.

But the administration’s allegiance to its social mission remains deeply entrenched. The EPS equity office’s online list of recommended “equity resources for families,” for example, is a cornucopia of political advocacy. The following are typical:

A book entitled White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. According to Amazon’s description of the book, “White fragility” refers to “the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially” and is “characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence” that “prevent any meaning cross-racial dialogue.”

  • An essay by Minneapolis middle-school teacher Tom Rademacher, entitled “Everyone Keeps Talking About Implicit Racial Bias But What Is It?” “Implicit bias” is “all the ways that we are racist, even when we are super sure we’re not,” writes Rademacher. “We all have some racist-ass shit crawling around in our heads… That racism, the sneaky hidden shit… is killing our kids of color.”
  • An essay from the United Church of Christ’s “New Sacred” site entitled, “So you say you’ve got white privilege. Now what?” The piece lists “10 ways you can actively reject your white privilege” and advises white readers to “recognize that you’re still racist. No matter what.”
  • Two YouTube videos, both named “Black Parents Explain/How to Deal with the Police,” in which parents reduce two young girls to tears of despair by assuring them they are in great danger from the police.

The challenges parents face

The challenge parents face in making their voices heard is illustrated by events in connection with EHS’s Pre-AP English 10 course. EHS 10th-grade MCA reading scored have dropped substantially since the new course was adopted in the 2012-13 school year, in conjunction with EPS’s equity focus. All students are required to take the course, which replaced two previous language arts options for sophomores: regular and enriched. Classrooms are homogeneous; all students use the same core curriculum and texts. The curriculum includes little complex writing, grammar or emphasis on vocabulary, and deals largely with contemporary political themes.

In 2017-18, a group of parents spent several months analyzing Pre-AP English 10’s syllabus and curriculum. They reviewed Common Core and College Board standards, and AP and ACT requirements, as well as peer district curricula, and even purchased a textbook for EHS’s Department of Teaching and Learning to consider. In the process, they determined that texts used in Pre-AP English 10 were, on average, at the fifth- grade reading level, using data from Lexile.com, the website of the organization that developed the Lexile Framework for Reading. District officials agreed to review their concerns after a meeting attended by more than 70 parents, and asked several of them to participate.

The “study group” to which the parents were invited included 10 parents and 10 students, along with five or so EHS English teachers who never attended, according to people familiar with the process. The district hired a lawyer/facilitator, Paula Forbes, to run the group. When asked why teachers did not attend, EPS communications coordinator Mary Woitte responded, “We do not retain data responsive to your reques[t].”

The review Forbes facilitated did not focus on the objectives and standards appropriate to a 10th-grade English course, or consider research data. Instead, it resembled a 1960s-style, feelings-focused “encounter group,” according to those familiar with the process. Participants were told there was no need to prepare for or bring any materials to meetings. They sat in a circle—an “ancient form of meeting,” says a hand-out—and were told comments should move to the left, since “that’s the flow of the heart.” Attendees were invited to place an object in the center—such as “flowers, a bowl or basket, a candle”—to “represent the intention of the circle,” according to the hand-out. Speakers who felt a need to be “grounded” were invited to pick up a rock, while those who wished to talk could pick up a “talking stick,” according to those familiar with the process. To “rest in a space of silence,” the hand-out says, participants could request the “group guardian” to ring chime-like bells.

Parents strongly objected to district officials and the school board about the study group’s unprofessional nature and lack of analytical rigor. In July 2018, the board approved the district’s plan to redesign certain elements of Pre-AP English 10, in reliance on the district’s assurance that it would add an “embedded honors” component by January 2019. A pilot is now underway; students who participate will not receive honors designation on their transcript. The Department of Teaching and Learning is currently in the process of revising the course. While writing, grammar and vocabulary instruction may be enhanced, it appears that core texts will remain largely the same.

A return to excellence?

EPS administrators are currently attempting to address some aspects
of the district’s declining academic performance. For example, there are plans to develop an accelerated middle-school class that would compact science standards into a two-year sequence, and a compacted algebra course for 8th grade, according to a “Secondary Course Design Framework” dated December 6, 2018. The district is also taking steps to enhance early reading instruction. Overall, however, the steps being considered to address high-achieving EPS students’ needs include standard “equity”-inspired differentiated instruction, such as “tiering” courses and embedding honors, and so may not bring the rigor that is sought.

In Summer 2019, the Edina School Board will adopt a new five-year strategic plan, and school board elections will take place in November 2019. Both offer an opportunity to demand accountability and transparency from the EPS administration, which appears to be seriously out-of-sync with the citizens of Edina.