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Richfield Public Schools Adopts New Approach to Educating Minority Students

October 02, 2016 06:56 PM

The issue of equity in Minnesota schools has been talked about for years. Ideas raised at the Minnesota State Capitol range from making high-quality, public preschool available to all families; expanding and supporting full-service, wrap-around community schools; and recruiting and retaining more teachers of color and indigenous teachers.

One local school district has decided to take on a philosophical change. Richfield Public Schools is testing a program called "Innocent Classrooms." The attitude behind it is that teachers would have the key to unlock a student’s potential.

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After 23 years of teaching, Stacy Krohm still has the love for it. Over the years, she says teaching has evolved. This school year she is working on closer relationships with an emphasis on her minority students.

"They've got to know that you trust them," she said. "They have to know what they do here, say here, is OK."

Innocent Classrooms is an equity-based philosophy designed around building relationships with minority students. Teachers will go through a six-session workshop. They will focus on changing how teachers think about and engage their students, especially students of color.

"Everybody needs to come to school, know why they're here, know that they can do what they want to do here, they can achieve," she said.

Richfield Public Schools is a widely diverse district; about 71 percent of the students who attend schools in Richfield are of color.  

"We're about 40 percent Latino and about 20 percent African American with about 29-30 percent Caucasian students," Superintendent Steven Unowksy said.

The percentage of teachers of color in the district is somewhere around 10 percent. Unowsky says judging the success of Innocent Classroom is very simple.

"It means high pass rates, high graduation rates and high MCA test scores achievement rates," Unowsky said.

Krohm says she's gone through her orientation and was inspired.

"It was one of those feel good moments where you just listen and go, 'Ah yeah, this is what everyone wants to do,'" she said.

Currently, 120 teachers are participating in the program across all six schools in the Richfield district.

Credits

Todd Wilson

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