The Palo Alto school board tonight will discuss a proposal to stiffen high school graduation requirements, and to offer customized "alternative requirements" for students who do not wish to meet them.
The move, tentatively scheduled for a final vote May 22, would take effect with the Class of 2016 -- today's eighth graders.
The change would align Palo Alto's high school graduation requirements with entrance criteria for California's public, four-year universities, the 10-campus University of California system and the 23-campus California State University system.
It also would provide negotiable "alternative graduation requirements" for students who decide, with their parents' approval, that the standard requirements are "not in the student's best interest."
The proposal would not affect the large majority of Palo Alto students, 80 percent of whom already meet or exceed the UC/CSU entrance criteria, known as the "A-G requirements."
But officials hope the new rules would boost A-G completion rates for the 20 percent of graduates who consistently don't fulfill them, a group that is disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
Minority students and parent groups, including the Student Equity Action Network and the Parent Network of Students of Color, have embraced the proposal as a strategy for boosting expectations for -- and achievement of -- minority students.
The proposal would increase the required units of foreign language from zero to 20, but also offer the option of testing out of the language requirement. It would boost the math requirement from 20 units to 30 units, mandating at least Geometry for the Class of 2016, and Algebra 2 for the Class of 2018. It would change the science requirement from "20 units of science" to "20 units of lab science," and boost the total number of units to graduate from 210 to 220.
Those choosing the alternative path would meet with school officials to devise a curriculum "based on the particular needs, interests or potential career plans of the student." The alternative path would have to meet state graduation requirements and comprise at least 220 units.
Students and parents would have to sign an "understanding" about potential consequences of their choices on admission to UC or CSU.
Among other business tonight, the board will be asked to vote on a construction contract for $12.6 million in new construction and upgrades to Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and on a set of "principles" to guide community discussion on the future of Cubberley Community Center, as well as membership of a Cubberley Policy Advisory Committee.
Following a dinner with students and a closed session to deal with legal matters, the board will open its public session at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. (View the school board agenda)