Dear RPS Community,
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Education released the 2020 graduation rate data for schools and districts across the state.
We are excited to share with you that the 4-year graduation rate for Richfield High School students increased by 8.4 percentage points. In fact, graduation rates have been on the rise for several years now. In 2012, the RHS graduation rate was just 68.1 compared to the 2020 rate of 89.4. The statewide 4-year graduation rate in Minnesota is 83.8, putting RHS ahead of the state average for the second time in the last three years.
Further, we have virtually eliminated the gap between white students and students of color when it comes to graduation rates! 89.71% of our white students graduated in four years and 89.62% of our non-white students graduated in four years! In 2012, the gap was more than 33 percentage points, making this a remarkable achievement with steady gains over the past few years.
In addition, the 4-year graduation rate for RCEP students jumped 36.5 percentage points! Typically between a 15-20% graduation rate, this year 63.3% of our RCEP students graduated in four years! An alternative program for students who do better in a non-traditional school setting, this is a significant accomplishment for not only the students but for the entire RCEP community.
These gains took place in the early stages of the pandemic when students were first transitioning into distance learning and were at a greater risk of dropping out or failing to complete necessary courses. However, because our 2020 graduates had already completed seven of their eight semesters when the move to distance learning took place, it is their hard work over their entire high school career that paid off, making them academically prepared to complete their senior year online and graduate on time.
When we look at the steady gains in our graduation rates, much of it can be attributed to structural changes that were made in the past few years.
The first change is the 7-period class day we introduced at RHS four years ago. By adding time for extra courses, not only were students provided with the opportunity to try more classes, but we were also able to add seminar classes to support students in traditionally challenging courses, including our college-level courses like Advanced Placement and College in the Schools. This improved student outcomes and also allowed more students to challenge themselves—and be successful in—rigorous courses, building confidence and preparing them for post-secondary education.
Second, we have been working to transform how we teach. All faculty have been trained in a program called Innocent Classroom. This is an ongoing program (not a “one and done” workshop) that helps teachers and staff to build authentic relationships with students to meet them where they are at and see them for all their potential, without stereotypes or preconceived notions.
Lastly, we have invested heavily in social-emotional support for students. Adding counselors and other support staff, as well as integrating more social-emotional learning into classrooms. Adolescence is a unique time and we want to ensure we are here to support the whole child.
Let us conclude by saying that we are so proud of our students for their perseverance and determination, and we are extremely grateful to our staff and families who have supported them along the way. We will continue our work to improve learning for all students and to ensure all students learn, grow and excel in Richfield Public Schools.
Thank you for choosing us for your child’s education.
Superintendent Steven Unowsky
Assistant Superintendent Latanya Daniels