For the past two years, outside interests have attacked the Edina Public Schools (EPS) and, implicitly, our community. Now, certain residents of our town are also criticizing EPS in an effort to influence our school board race. I’ve had enough of it and did my own research.
Raised as alarming by critics are the number of students migrating out from EPS. Hazel Reinhardt, former state demographer, studied the resident enrollment and enrollment projections for EPS. She projects in the period 2018-2029, EPS resident enrollment will range from 7,393 to 7,499, an increase of 4% to 5.5%. Reinhardt notes some students are choosing other public and private options, but those numbers are consistent with past years and pose no basis for alarm. Our school population is growing, not shrinking. EPS has the second best resident student retention rate of any school district in the state.
EPS was criticized for being second in the state in ACT scores in 2018. In 2017, Edina was first in Minnesota with an average ACT score of 26.6. Trailing were Minnetonka, Wayzata and Orono, respectively. In 2018, with 99% of seniors tested, we were a close second to Minnetonka with the two schools tied for first in the percentage of students meeting all four of the ACT college readiness benchmarks. In 2019, with more than 95% of Edina High School seniors participating, the average ACT score is 26.6, the same as 2017. Six students earned perfect composite scores of 36.
U.S. News & World Report
Much commotion has been made about Edina being ranked 10th in the state in 2018 by U.S. News. Beginning in 2018, the number of ranked schools by U.S. News increased to 17,245 from 2,700. U.S. News states that one cannot credibly compare 2018 scores with any prior year’s scores.
A key metric for me and many Edina parents is college preparedness. U.S. News ranks Edina fourth in college preparedness behind two small charter schools, each with 20 or fewer students in their senior classes — and behind Orono, which consistently measures behind Edina on ACT scores.
Edina ranks 490th out of 17,245 schools in the country in college preparedness. Among the large schools, Edina is first in college preparedness and ranks ahead of all the large Minnesota schools on the U.S. News Top 10 list. Edina also ranks first in the state in students accepted into Ivy League schools. In the district’s last two senior surveys, all 95% of the students surveyed said they felt prepared to take on the next level of education and all planned to attend college.
One could go on and on, analyzing discrete data points that fluctuate from year to year, but Edina rates, on balance, at the top of all large Minnesota schools for college preparedness and educational outcome.
It is claimed property values are “at risk “in this election. Historical data shows otherwise. Single-family homes, in which most of our school age kids reside, went up in value from an average of $500,000 in 2015 to $616,500 in 2019 (source: Minneapolis Area Realtors Association). This increase in values occurred despite the rhetoric critical of our school district over the past two years. EPS is delivering on its promise to give our kids a high-quality education, and that is reflected in the ongoing desire of families to move to Edina.
Behind much of this criticism of the EPS, I fear, is the past politicizing of some activities in the classroom. Political bias or preference has no business in a public school setting. Parents may have examples where this has occurred.
The administration and the school board have put training and policies in place to ensure this is not happening. Putting students first, concentrating on the quality of their education and maintaining a clear and distinct strategic direction for the district is what we want for our kids and our community. I am sure all the candidates running for the school board have the best of intentions in this regard. I respect their desire to serve.
The attempt by some in our community to mislead voters with ill-founded fears and distorted facts should not be the new election standard. Reckless or intentional, it is these corrosive comments about our school district that will have a potentially adverse impact on property values, and our school district is clearly not deserving of the criticisms levied against it.
James Hovland is mayor of Edina.