To the Editor:
Your article “School Boundary Debate Divides Minn. Suburb” (Oct. 5, 2011) did an exceptional job of capturing the challenges and emotions around the Eden Prairie, Minn., school board’s efforts to redraw enrollment boundaries so that low-income students aren’t concentrated in one school. But largely overshadowed by the recent controversy is an earlier chapter that set the stage for the boundary plan and the successful 4-3 vote of support by the school board.
The enrollment of African-Americans, Latinos, and English-language learners has been on the rise in Eden Prairie for several years. While the staff and community embraced the new diversity, in the early years these students consistently performed behind their white peers, and achievement gaps did not narrow. Unfortunately, our concern for all students was not adequately translating into stronger relationships, higher expectations, and relevant instruction. We needed partners to help us be more thoughtful and deliberate. In 2006, we teamed up with the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education and Pacific Educational Group to tap their expertise.
Much has improved since then, but there were a few catalysts: We recalibrated professional development to break down barriers to high expectations; we drew from neuroscience research to create curriculum that acknowledges student cultures, strengths, and high intellectual performance; and we built support across all levels of the district and throughout the community.
Today, Eden Prairie is closing achievement gaps. From 2008 to 2011, reading scores on state tests improved 21 percentage points for black students, 12 points for Hispanic students, 14 points for special education students, and 28 percentage points for limited English speakers. Some of the gaps have been reduced by nearly 50 percent when compared with scores of their white peers, which rose 5 percentage points.
I share this background because many suburban school districts are struggling to take “embrace diversity” beyond a slogan. We started that important process long before proposing the boundary changes. We likely would not have gotten this far without first committing to new and bold ways of working in the classroom, central office, and community.
The writer was the superintedent of the Eden Prairie, Minn., public schools from 2002 to September 2011. Ms. Krull supported boundary changes in Eden Prairie during her tenure.
A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Former Chief Adds to Eden Prairie Story