New data presented to the Board indicates that Palo Alto Unified School District’s (PAUSD) achievement gap persists after high school.
College graduation data shows that historically under-represented (HUR) students from PAUSD who enrolled in college received degrees at a rate 20 percent lower than their non-HUR peers for the class of 2009 and 2010, and more than 30 percent lower for the class of 2008. PAUSD’s HUR students enrolled in college also completed degrees at a lower rate than the national average. The data for degree completion for students in special education is similar to that of the HUR students.
A bright spot did appear in the report: enrollment rates for HUR students in college are similar to their non-HUR peers. For the class of 2012, only around 5 percent fewer HUR students enrolled in college.
“For the Black, Hispanic and Asian populations, our median enrollment numbers are roughly double the national enrollment rates based on the 2014 statistics,” said Christopher Kolar, PAUSD Director of Research. “The national enrollment rates not looking at the 2014 numbers are half of the numbers that we’re putting up their for our schools across all groups.”
Another piece of promising data for the District is the amount of former PAUSD students who graduated from college on time. 77 percent of the class of 2008 and 2009 attending college completed Bachelor’s degrees in four years if they attended a four-year institution and in two years if they attended a two-year institution, almost double the national average.
Additional data presented reveals a gender gap and achievement gap in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. For example, AP Computer Science is 66.7 percent male, and classes such as AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C are comprised entirely of non-HUR students.
Board Member Camille Townsend objected to some of the language used in the report around AP enrollment.
“For the Black, Hispanic and Asian populations, our median enrollment numbers are roughly double the national enrollment rates based on the 2014 statistics. The national enrollment rates, not looking at the 2014 numbers, are half the numbers that we’re putting up their for our schools across all groups.”
PAUSD Director of Research
“One of the takeaways for AP’s is that we need proportional representation by gender, race and ethnicity,” Townsend said. “I always add the language by bringing kids up. Never do we want to be in the position where we’re not trying to bring everybody and if we are trying to bring everybody up let’s acknowledge it. I’d love to see language in the future that captures that mindset that the district has been after because we’ve seen articles where that hasn’t been.”
In addition to the achievement gap, the report shows a sharp decrease in the percentage of PAUSD graduates enrolled in California universities. From 2008 to 2015, the percentage of PAUSD graduates in California universities decreased from 73 percent to 49 percent.
Most of this decrease came from PAUSD graduates shying away from two year colleges. Meanwhile, attendance at private out-of-state universities increased from 20 percent to 34 percent.