'We need to change the system': Richfield High School principal works to address opportunity gap

December 21, 2018 06:33 PM

In Minnesota, state leaders have struggled for years to address the achievement gap. 

Certain groups of students perform better and graduate at higher rates than others. But 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found one local high school working to help all students and finding success.


At Richfield High School, the principal is focusing on an opportunity gap and encouraging more students to get involved in advanced classes. 

Principal Latanya Daniels oversees a school where the student body is 40 percent Latino, 30 percent white and around 18 percent African American. 

In years past, they graduated less than 80 percent of high school seniors. But last year Richfield High School graduated 203 students, just more than 80 percent. 

Minnesota's graduation rate isn't the only category where there's an achievement gap. The statistics below illustrate the gap between white students, African-American students and Latino students in math and reading achievement.

Daniels is actively working to address the achievement gap in her school. She took over as principal four years ago.

“When I looked at students who were in our honors classes, our school was segregated," she said. 

So she asked, “How do we create the opportunity for more students of color to take advanced courses?  Well, we need to change the system.” 

So Daniels revised the registration process. She wanted to make sure students and parents knew about the opportunities available to them, from career track programs to college in the school. Now she says more students of color are taking advanced classes and excelling.

More from KSTP

Around Minnesota the achievement gap holds steady. Eighty-eight percent of white students graduated in 2017, while 69.4 percent of students of color graduated. 

So as state leaders work to address ways to solve the achievement gap, education leaders like Kathlene Holmes Campbell at the University of St Thomas are teaching future teachers how to end it.

"A lot of people have changed talking about achievement gap and shifted to opportunity gap because it's more accurate,” she said. 

Campbell is in her first year as the dean of the School of Education. She is focused on reshaping how educators think about educational outcomes. 

In Richfield, some of those changes are already happening.


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Leah McLean

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