Edina High School PreAP English 10

Are Academic Standards Being Compromised to Promote Social Justice in Edina Schools?

For several years, a group of Edina parents has been concerned about the content of the PreAP English 10th grade class at Edina High School. At an Edina School Board meeting this Spring, 2 students and 7 parents discussed concerns regarding the current PreAP 10th grade English class. One parent said the class didn’t meet Minnesota academic standards because the required readings were at a 5th grade level.

I asked the school board to provide me a list of the required readings for that class to see if this was true. This is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Required readings:

Title Author Lexile Level Reading Level Comments
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe 890 4-5 grade Covers the impact on Africa of European colonization in the late 1800s
Night Elie Wiesel 570 2-3 grade An autobiography about the Holocaust
Persepolis Marjane Satrapi 380 below 2nd grade Growing up in a Marxist family in Iran during the Islamic Revolution -- a comic book
The Road Cormac McCarthy 670 2-3 grade A father and son in a post-apocalyptic world
The Color Purple Alice Walker 670 2-3 grade A black woman in the 1930s who suffers incest and rape before becoming a woman who can be loved and respected.

Lexile scores measure the complexity of books and tries to match reading level with book level. 9th-10th grade scores range from 1050-1335. 6th– 8th grade scores are 925-1185. 4th – 5th grade scores are 740-1010.

Content also matters. While many of these are rated at 2nd – 3rd grade, the content of these books is appropriate for older students. Vocabulary also matters, as does grammar, and the ability to understand and analyze complex ideas and texts.

At the meeting a school administrator stated that since ACT scores were good, this obviated the concern of low reading levels in 10th grade. Parents at the meeting didn’t buy it. “Tutors”, the parents responded. Meaning they are spending money on tutors to cover the lack of a proper education in this class.

My concern is all the books have low Lexile scores, with only one reaching 5th grade levels of complexity. There needs to be a greater range of difficulty, if our students are to be properly challenged and educated. “The Road” doesn’t use quotation marks when the father and son speak. How can you teach proper punctuation when your books don’t? The emphasis on writing skills is very low in this class with only 2 papers. Other schools, comparable to Edina, require many more writing exercises. These skills are important throughout life.

The school board decided to revise the curriculum before the beginning of the next school year for PreAP 10 English. Students, parents and teachers will have input on the content of this class.

My concern is this consensus approach will result in a compromise less rigorous than it should be. Good ACT scores should not be the goal. They will be the result if EHS focuses on skill in English vocabulary, grammar, and writing for this class. Students need to learn how to think.