Tag Archives: Chanhassen High School

A balancing act for District 112?

The Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) has put its E-8 and high school facility task forces on hold until fall, as the two groups wait for a refresh on demographic projections for the next decade.  A faster than expected recovery in residential construction as well as the Legislature’s recent approval of all-day kindergarten for all students may spark discussions of new facilities earlier than anticipated.

While specific decisions on boundaries and possible new school construction will now wait until 2014, the issues the task forces were wrestling with remain.  On the elementary school level, a permanent home needs to be found for La Academia (the District’s rapidly growing Spanish immersion program) and the Family Learning Center, overcrowding in the three western schools (Victoria, Clover Ridge, and East Union) has to be addressed, and a likely shortage in kindergarten rooms resulting from the Legislature’s approval of all-day kindergarten must be resolved.  At this level, the issues boil down to a numbers game — finding a way to make sure that there is sufficient building capacity to meet enrollment and then drawing boundaries in a way that make the most sense for the District as a whole.

On the high school level, the issue is more difficult and more philosophical.  There’s enough capacity in both high schools to last the District for the next decade.  Chanhassen High School has (and is projected to continue to have) higher enrollment than Chaska High School by 200-300 students and Chaska High’s population is significantly more diverse (on a percentage basis, there are nearly three times as many non-white students and students receiving free or reduced lunches compared to Chanhassen High).

Although the Chanhassen facility is newer, the two schools now essentially provide the same amenities, with the exception of a “black box” theater, after the District has invested nearly $3 million in renovations to Chaska High since 2011.

The feeder system for the two high schools is based strictly on city lines — something that was strongly promoted by city leaders in both Chanhassen and Chaska and is easy to explain and understand.  Could this change?  Well, it’s possible.  The unbalanced enrollment and demographics between the two high schools is an issue which some feel should be addressed.  Does drawing boundary lines based on city limits do the best service to all of the children served by the District?

How could things change?  Well, some have suggested moving away from city boundaries for the high schools and moving to an elementary-school based feeder program (3 or 4 elementary schools could be designated to feed into each high school).  Other thoughts on balancing include using different geographical boundaries to split the District among the two high schools.  But there’s also plenty of folks who would favor keeping things just as they are today.

What do you think?  Take the polls below, and leave your thoughts in the comments.


Hawks and Storm jump to newly formed Metro West Conference

District 112’s athletic and activities programs will jump to the newly formed Metro West Conference, which will begin play in the fall of 2014.  Chanhassen and Chaska High School will join Bloomington Kennedy, Bloomington Jefferson, Robbinsdale Cooper, St. Louis Park, and Richfield in the new conference.

The new conference will provide the Hawks and Storm with opponents closer geographically, similar in enrollment, and many of them (like the Bloomington schools and Robbinsdale Cooper) are multi-high school districts.

Chaska and Chanhassen both leave the Missota Conference, which will also lose Shakopee and Farmington at that time as well (both of those schools are moving to South Suburban, effectively taking the place of Bloomington schools).  The Missota will be down to four schools at that time, and if it fails to add more schools it will be broken up by the Minnesota State High School League.

Creation of the new conference has been rumored for quite some time, as District 112 ran into significant opposition from schools in the Missota over issues like the combined girls hockey program.

You can read the full press release on the District 112 website.

Chaska-Chanhassen HS math test score gap narrows again

Standardized test results from the 2011-12 school year were released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Education.  We’ll have several posts to break down the results, but let’s start by looking at the high school level.  The gap in math performance between the two high schools has been a major concern since the first test results were released in 2010 and showed a 27-point gap between the two schools that was largely driven by Chaska High School’s disappointing 43.6% result.

The 2011 results showed substantial progress, as the gap narrowed to 17 points, and the 2012 results show yet another strong gain, as the gap has now shrunk to about six and one-half points.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education

The 20 point narrowing of the gap over the last two years can be explained by a 15-point improvement in math performance at Chaska High School and a five-point decline in performance at Chanhassen High School over that time.  What is particularly notable is how the 2012 results show that Chaska High was able to pull away from its state average level performance, improving by 10 points in an environment when the state average declined by six points.

From a reading perspective, both schools continued to show performances above state averages.  Chaska High’s reading performance dropped back to historical levels after peaking at 91% last year.  In fact, the nine-point gap in reading in 2012 is larger than the gap in math.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education

Stable enrollment projections for District 112

The Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) released the results of its demographic study this week.  The results show projections of essentially flat enrollment over the next decade.  Current K-12 enrollment is 8,976 students — projections of enrollment in a decade range from 8,925 to 9,123 students.  Even at the high-end of the projection, that’s only an increase of 15 students per year.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the District doesn’t face some challenges going forward.  While the enrollment projections signal no new school construction is imminent, there may need to be yet another look at resetting boundaries at all levels.  Let’s look at some pieces of the data that indicate that may be required.

Three of the district’s elementary schools are currently over capacity:  Clover Ridge, Victoria, and East Union.  The projections show no relief in sight for those schools, and continuing enrollment declines for Chanhassen Elementary and Chaska Elementary.

Data source: Eastern Carver County School District

Keeping Clover Ridge, Victoria, and East Union at 10-20% over capacity isn’t sustainable long-term, especially given the capacity available in other facilities within the district.  The good news is that after several boundary changes in recent years, this change would likely be able to be in place for a long time.

At the high school level, current enrollment of 2,805 students is expected to rise to between 3,000 and 3,100 students over the next decade.  That means that the district’s two high schools (each with capacity of 2,000) will be more than sufficient for that time frame.

The issue at the high school level remains the relative imbalance between the two high schools.  56% of high school students in the district now attend Chanhassen High School, and that ratio seems likely to stay about the same for the next five years and probably through the next decade, which would mean Chanhassen would consistently be 200-300 students larger.   There will need to be a district-wide discussion on whether any adjustments need to be made to bring the schools into closer balance.

Rebutting arguments made against the technology referendum

This week’s Chaska Herald featured some letters and commentary against the Eastern Carver County Schools Technology Referendum.  Let me rebut some arguments and set some facts straight.

There was a letter to the editor by John Brunette that indicated that District 112 had higher per-pupil expenditures than most other neighboring districts.  Brunette’s data is incorrect.  Per the Minnesota Department of Education, District 112 is one of the lowest spending school districts of its type.  Check out the graph below, which shows the actual per pupil funding for the last three years, plus the projected funding for next year if the referendum passes, for like school districts (suburban school districts with +/- 1,500 students).

More importantly, I’d like to address the argument made by Kristi Jackson about voting “no” to enact change.  Jackson argues that she can’t support the referendum because of the inequities between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.  Let’s talk about those inequities and why voting “no” would be precisely the wrong response.

Certainly, as Jackson suggests, Chanhassen High has newer facilities and more advanced technology.  That comes with the Chanhassen High being in its third year of operation, while the current Chaska High School building is now 15 years old.

And, yes, enrollment between the two schools has become somewhat unbalanced.  Why is that?  Two primary reasons — first, the boundaries were drawn before the collapse of the housing market.  Had the housing market stayed afloat, Chaska Township would be undergoing significant residential construction.  The second factor is that parents are taking advantage of open enrollment to have their children go a short distance down the road to a newer facility.

Yes, math scores are unbalanced between the two high schools as well, as has been previously discussed here.  Those variances can be explained largely by the demographic differences between the schools.

Jackson advocates that the District abandon the community-based boundary system currently in place.  While this is a topic that many will have strong feelings about, I tend to agree with the District’s position that we need to give it a couple of more years to shake out.  Constant transition of school boundaries isn’t good for the District, either, and we need to be very solid on the rationale for doing so before we undertake such changes.  (Living here since 2003, we’ve been assigned to three different elementary schools over that period of time.  I’m glad that my daughters were young enough to avoid having to make those transitions.)

As a parent of children who will attend Chaska High School when they get older, I certainly understand Jackson’s concerns.  But voting “no” is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Voting “no” is only going to make it harder for the District to address the technology, facilities, and performance gap between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.

Currently, all the schools in the District are fighting over small amounts of capital improvement dollars.  Allowing technology funding to be supported by this levy will increase the pool of money available to upgrade all aspects of the Chaska High facility.  The district has just posted a school-by-school list of projects in the first two years of technology referendum funding, and Chaska High School is the largest recipient of that funding.

Much of the technology funding will also go to programs specifically designed to address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subject areas.  These programs will only help Chaska High students perform at a higher level over the coming years.

Finally, we need to remember that changing the boundary lines to equalize the demographic makeup of the two schools doesn’t fundamentally do anything to solve the problem — it just moves it around.  While it may look better (and may make some people feel better) to have two schools at 60% proficiency instead of one school at 50% and one school at 70%, we’ve still got 40% of students who aren’t passing the test.  Regardless of where these students are going to school, the District has to find a way to reach them.

It’s understandable that parents are frustrated about some things.  I certainly haven’t agreed with every decision that has been made over the years.  But voting “no” to send a message isn’t going to help students.  There are ways to send a message to the School Board and administration without harming the very goals you are trying to pursue.

Vote “yes”, and give the District the resources it needs to address these issues and then let’s hold them accountable for achieving results.

Math gap between Chaska and Chanhassen high schools narrows

Much was made of the 2010 MCA II math test results for 11th graders, the first such standardized testing for the Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) since the opening of Chanhassen High School.  The test results showed an alarming 27-point gap between the two schools that caused significant community reaction and action by the district to improve math performance at Chaska High School.

Earlier this week, the results of the 2011 tests were released, and the gap between the two schools has narrowed to about 17 points.  The narrowing of the gap represents a good news, bad news situation.  On the plus side, performance at Chaska High was up six points over 2010.  But, performance at Chanhassen High dropped four points from last year.  Chanhassen continues to run well ahead of the state averages, while Chaska remains just slightly above average statewide performance.

Reading results for 2011 were also released this week.  Grades 3-8 and 10 were tested last year, and District 112 was consistently about 10 points ahead of the state average and was solidly in line with neighboring districts.


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