Making the Grade
Presenting Minnesota Monthly’s guide to metro-area high schools—a comprehensive, statistical look at 77 public and 34 private schools. How does your kid’s school compare?
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The Four Questions Every Parent Should Ask—and Every High-School Principal Should Be Able to Answer
Q: What is the school’s overall vision?
Principals should be able to describe the school’s culture and how its values are communicated. “I loved it when parents asked me, ‘How do you make sure everyone shares that vision?’” says Laura Bloomberg, associate director of the Humphrey Institute’s Center for School Change and the former principal of Minneapolis’s Interdistrict Downtown School.
Q: What curriculum is used—and why?
A principal should know what’s happening instructionally in their schools, says Bloomberg, though for very specific information about assessments and other technical matters, he or she may need to find an expert.
Q: Where do your graduates end up?
No school can guarantee admission to Harvard, but a principal ought to be willing to talk about students’ overall trajectory. “High-school principals ought to be able to talk about where their kids are coming from,” says Bloomberg. “Are you preparing my kid for the next step?”
Q: How are kids’ physical and emotional safety effectively safeguarded?
Administrators should be able to do more than assure parents their schools are safe. They should be able to describe specific policies and give concrete examples. What ground does anti-bullying
The New Prep Schools
More than ever, students have real opportunities to cultivate their talents, be it for math or musical theater. Here, a look at eight standout programs preparing kids for life after high school.
Mounds View High School
At Mounds View, hundreds of students participate in the largest annual physics fair in the country. In another event, the Science Olympiad, Mounds View’s team has won four of the last six state championships. At this year’s national Olympiad, the team placed second in ecology and sixth in a competition to design and build a functional robot.
Mahtomedi High School
Thanks to Medtronic, 3M, and H.B. Fuller, the communities served by Mahtomedi Public Schools boast a tremendous concentration of engineers, a profession in short supply throughout much of the rest of the country. Thus was born the Mahtomedi Engineering Leadership Program, an effort aimed at recruiting underrepresented groups into engineering by exposing every student at the school to the field. Students study digital, biotechnical, aerospace engineering; many graduate with college credits.
Park High School
A thriving business- and professional-preparation program at Park is offered in conjunction with Intermediate District 916. Along with students from 10 other northeast metro districts, Park students can learn graphic design, cosmetology, law enforcement, and various medical fields. Last year, students in the construction trades program built a house in Cottage Grove—and sold it.
Minnetonka High School
Given the number of Minnetonka students who’ve graced the stages of the Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre, and Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, it would be tempting to accuse the school of packing its drama program with ringers. Actually, it’s the other way around: The school’s reputation draws budding thespians from throughout the metro area. Last year, Minnetonka students brought home 12 awards from the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s SpotLight Musical Theatre Awards—more than any other school.
Eagan High School
One year ago, Eagan staged 21 performances of The Wizard of Oz—and every one sold out. The school puts on five elaborate stage productions a year, but what really sets its performing arts programs apart is Eagan’s philosophy of intertwining theater with debate and speech, emphasizing a mix of skills that will serve students well in any field.
At Minneapolis’s South High, students can take six different foreign languages, including Latin, Chinese, and Ojibwe, the latter two taught by native speakers. Six levels of Spanish are offered, including Advanced Placement, and college credit can be earned for Chinese, German, and French. The school also organizes trips to France, Germany, China, and numerous Latin American countries where students can test their skills.
Blaine High School
At Blaine’s Center for Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, math whizzes have a chance to apply their skills in several high-tech arenas, including civil, environmental, and biological engineering, as well as computer science. All seniors complete a capstone project, and many students graduate with college credits.
Rosemount High School
Rosemount boasts five concert bands, three jazz bands, a percussion ensemble, and a marching band with a reputation so strong it attracts students not just from other Twin Cities districts, but from other states.
* CHECK THE PRINT VERSION OF MINNESOTA MONTHLY TO SEE HOW YOUR LOCAL SCHOOLS MATCH UP IN OUR DETAILED PUBLIC SCHOOL AND PRIVATE SCHOOL CHARTS.