87 percent of Palo Alto's low-income grads go to college

School official presents college data on 60 'disadvantaged' graduates from 2011

Low-income students who graduated from Palo Alto's high schools last year were far more likely than their parents to go on to college, school district officials said Tuesday.

In an analysis of the 7 percent of last year's graduates considered "socio-economically disadvantaged" – 60 students in all – at least 52 had plans to attend college, said Diana Wilmot, the school district's coordinator of research and evaluation.

But among the 60, the rigor of their high-school curricula still bore a relationship to the educational attainment of their parents, Wilmot told the Board of Education.

Nearly a third of the low-income graduates of 2011 had completed the entrance requirements for California's four-year, public universities, the so-called "A-G requirements," Wilmot found.

Of those 19 students, 16 had parents with some college experience.

In contrast, of the 20 students who had parents with no college experience at all, only three students completed the A-G requirements.

"The impact of parent education is obvious," Wilmot said. Among all Palo Alto students, about 80 percent complete the A-G, four-year college prep curriculum.

Wilmot noted that the college-going rates of Palo Alto's low-income students far exceeds those of low-income students statewide or nationwide.

"We have something to celebrate here. The vast majority of our socio-economically disadvantaged students will be more educated than their parents," she said.

Of the 20 low-income students whose parents never attended college, 80 percent were going to college, she said.

"This is about social mobility and the American dream here," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said. "These students are exceeding the education levels of their parents."

Wilmot said she recently discovered a database that will enable her to follow students for four to eight years and monitor their actual college matriculation and completion rates.

Of the 87 percent of low-income graduates who planned on college, half were going to four-year schools and half to two-year colleges.

That 87 percent compares to a 95 percent college-going rate for all Palo Alto graduates, a large majority of whom go to four-year institutions.

The four-year destinations of the low-income students from Palo Alto's Class of 2011 included University of California campuses at Davis, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz; St. Mary's; Concordia; Cal Poly and Rice University, the University of Southern California and Southern Oregon University, Wilmot reported.

Wilmot said she selected the 60 students to include in her analysis on the basis of their participation in the federally subsidized school lunch program or because of the fact that their parents did not go beyond high school.

Because parent-education level is self-reported and because not all students who qualify for the federal lunch subsidy actually take advantage of it, the 60 number is imprecise, she said.

Chris Kenrick


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Posted by all we need to know
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

This article is obviously wrong. "We Can Do better Palo Alto" has stated on many occasions that PAUSD is failing economically disadvantaged students and no amount of data can fault their conclusion.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Joel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

Forget college! Become a paramedic...takes about one year. Then become a Firefighter. With salary and overtime, make $150K+ per year! My brother did.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:32 am

I hope Caucasian (sp?) and Asian students were included in this data.

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Posted by Me
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

If they are low income, then they were included in this count. Not all low income kids are Black or Hispanic.

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Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

It's a pleasure to read that Palo Alto schools are doing much better than the average in helping low-income students to improve their future prospects by getting into college.

I can't believe, with such an interesting story, the first two comments were about a grammatical error. Too much time on their hands, maybe?

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Posted by dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

If students go to college and take majors that teach them a useful skill, e.g. engineering, physics, medicine, etc., then it would be worthwhile to get advanced schooling. Piling on student loans to reach an academic dead end has been well documented. Too many take literature, English, social studies, economics, art history, etc., where need is limited, mostly in the teaching professions.

The Joel is right. Learn a useful trade like plumbing, electrical repair, auto mechanics, which require a few years of apprentice training, and you're paid during the learning period! The need for those skills will increase in the future and the pay can be very good.

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Posted by Michael
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm

"Forget college! Become a paramedic...takes about one year. Then become a Firefighter. With salary and overtime, make $150K+ per year! My brother did."

We need to get firefighter pay down to market level (about 60K per year I suppose with a nice 401K match instead of a ridiculous, unsustainable pension) so that we don't lose the next Google guy to this line of thinking. That and the fact that it's irresponsible to throw our tax dollars away catering to well connected special interests.

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Posted by Joel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm

To Micheal from Crescent Park,

My brother-inlaw is a police officer who made over $226k last year with salary and overtime. Throw in a nice pension at the end of 30 years. Micheal, life is not need to deal with it. Oh, don't worry about the next google guy...not everyone can be a Firefighter or police officer.

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Joel
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

To Mary,
So there are no "people of color" that are firefighters or police officers. So tired of the "race card" being toss down.

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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Mary, I agree with Joel on this particular issue. This is not the time to play the race card because anyone can apply to be a firefighter or police officer. In NYC, the percentage of African American officers (in the total force) is going up and has been for the past few years. And all firemen and police officers are subject to the same benefits and gains. Sacramento's fire department chief, Ray Jones (2010), is black (I don't know if he's still the head, however, I'd like to assume he is). Hispanics, many of whom are also low income, make up more (percentage-wise) than their population in the NYC police force (or at least they did in 2009).
Also, I think that Joel said "Life is not fair" in response to Michael's mention of the "ridiculous, unsustainable pension" aka the difference between public and private sectors. The US is not the only country to have a salary difference, just look at Europe. It has little to do with race....
I apologize if this sounds too critical, I just wanted to express my opinion on the subject. I hope it's not too harsh, I didn't mean it to be that way.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm

So what passes as low income in Palo Alto these days?

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Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm


This document shows current family income guidelines for the federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program: Web Link

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