My attention was recently drawn to a ranking of the best private schools in Minnesota. Taking a variety of factors into consideration – such as student-teacher ratio, matriculation rate, and SAT/ACT scores – the ranking listed Blake, St. Paul Academy, Breck, Mounds Park Academy, and Trinity School at River Ridge as the best private schools in the state.
However, judging by academic factors alone, Trinity School, the fifth place finisher, quickly moves to first place with a composite SAT score of 2100 and an ACT score of 32.
What drives these impressive scores? Judging from Trinity’s website, the academic rigor of its literature selections could certainly be a factor in its success. The ninth grade alone boosts an impressive reading list:
Contrast this list with the literature selections at Eagan High School, Trinity’s neighboring public school. Eagan High School offers three ninth-grade English courses and the following lists describe the content of these courses:
English 9A and Honors English 9A –
-Short Stories (3 weeks)
-The Odyssey (4 Weeks)
-Library Skills/Debate (3-4 weeks)
-Vocabulary Study - Orange Level D Units 1-5
English 9B and Honors English 9B –
-History of Theater (2-3 weeks)
-Speech (2-3 Weeks)
-Romeo and Juliet (5 weeks)
-Independent Novels (Honors)
-Vocabulary Study - Orange Level D Units 6-10
English 9C and Honors English 9B –
-To Kill A Mockingbird (3-5 weeks)
-Additional Novel (Honors) (2-3 Weeks)
-Critical Reading (1-2 Weeks)
-Poetry or Seminar Novels (3 weeks)
-Vocabulary Study - Orange Level D Units 11-15
From this list it appears that every student at Eagan High School – honors enrollee or not – reads at least 3 novels: Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Like students at Trinity, they are also exposed to a few short stories. If they are lucky enough to be placed in an honors class, they also may encounter a few other novels, but even that seems lacking compared to the breadth and depth of the works that Trinity ninth-graders read.
It seems public schools need to step up their game.
Or perhaps it’s simply time to put the money a public school spends per child into the hands of his or her parents. If only 90% of the $13,000 the Eagan district spends per child were placed in the hands of parents (as is often the case with an Educational Savings Account), parents would have more than enough money to send their child to a school like Trinity, which currently charges a tuition of $11,475.
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.