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.