Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students in Eden Prairie Schools continue to show a steady increase over the past four years, according to district data.
Eighty-seven percent of Black or African American students graduated in 2020 compared to 59 percent in 2017, a 47 percent increase over the time period. Hispanic/Latino students graduated at a rate of 85 percent in 2020 compared to 65 percent in 2017, an increase of about 31 percent. White and Asian students graduated at rates of 98 and 99 percent, respectively.
Overall, the graduation rate for Eden Prairie students increased from 87 percent in 2017 to 95 percent in 2020, an increase of 9 percent.
While percentages are often used to tell the story, Eden Prairie High School Principal Robb Virgin prefers to focus on the individual students behind the statistics. “When I came here three years ago we had about 90-some students each year not graduating on time,” he said. So that became a focus for he and his team. “Last year, that number was in the 30s. We have goals this year that we will cut that back to 20. It’s about each kid getting what they need to graduate on time.”
Associate Principal Meg Bennett spent four years as facilitator of the district’s multi-tiered system of support. The key, she said, is getting to know students’ stories when they arrive as freshmen. Counselors, principals and deans all work to get to know the students they work with so that when problems arise there is already history to work from, she said.
“We are incredibly relentless in our work to make sure that each student is heard and seen and known by their teachers and by their student support team,” Bennett said. “What strengths do they have? What sparks their interest? What engages them? What has potentially gotten in the way of them experiencing success in school in the past?”
Students who do not graduate on time continue to be served, Virgin said. The district provides alternative education programs, including Teaching All Students Skills for Employment and Life (TASSEL), a transition program for students age 18 to 21 with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program.
“Some students benefit from being served until they’re 21 and TASSEL is a great program,” Virgin said. “For some, it’s looking at credit recovery, for some it’s alternative programming. For most, it’s just leaning in and doing the individual work.”
Other graduation rates also improve
Graduation rates also improved for other groups of students, according to district data. Fifty-nine percent of students for whom English is a second language graduated in 2020, up from 46 percent in 2017.
Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch graduated at a rate of 85 percent in 2020 compared to 63 percent in 2017, a 35 percent increase. Special education students in the district increased their graduation rate from 53 to 66 percent over the four-year period.