District receives D+ in supporting minorities

Despite the undeniable successes of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), recent attempts to close the discrepancy in achievement between minorities and Caucasians and Asians have shown little effect.

After continually receiving an overall grade of D and D+ for the past four years in educating minorities from an annual report by an Oakland-based education advocacy group, PAUSD has invested resources into solving this issue.

“We have some new things that are already in place,” Principal Kim Diorio said. “We’re looking at a lot of blended learning, some flip classrooms, some online open educational resources to supplement and help students that are struggling.”

Despite the static grade PAUSD received in the most recent report, released April 8, this past year yielded the greatest increase in Academic Performance Index (API) scores across African-Americans, socio-economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities. All underrepresented subgroups continue to

surpass the state average, yet remain under the 800 API benchmark implemented by the state of California last year.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly drew attention to the B rating PAUSD received for achievement amongst underprivileged students, one of the highest in the state. However, the district failed to improve upon their achievement gap grade, acquiring an F.

“When your district has the highest, or some of the highest, white and Asian scores in the state, you’re going to have a gap,” Skelly said. “It’s a fact that our students of poverty are more likely to be students of color, you’re going to get an F rating.”

However, Skelly also recognizes the crudeness of these numbers and the many opportunities PAUSD gives to low-income students.

“If you look at our kids whose parents didn’t finish high school, who are English language learners and are poor, what they’re able to do after 12 to 13 years in our district is extraordinary,” Skelly said. “Our kids don’t drop out; they finish school.”

But in an attempt to offer more equal opportunities, the administration is implementing many new strategies to provide students with more assets.

“We’re looking more at the master schedule and see how that’s set up, ‘is there a better way to schedule classes?’” Diorio said. “Also, we’re having more co-teaching next year, special-education teachers in the classroom with regular-education teachers so you have more support for kids.”

In addition, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes are being changed, with Elizabeth Mueller taking over the program.

However, PAUSD’s new graduation requirements will provide even more challenges to already struggling students. At least one year or level two of a world language, as well as Algebra 2, is now required for all students.

“Essentially, our graduation requirements are going to mirror the UC and CSU entry requirements,” Diorio said. “So we’re looking at that data and saying, ‘Okay, we need to really make sure they’re able to meet that criteria to graduate.’”