The Palo Alto Board of Education tonight (Tuesday) will discuss a proposal to stiffen high school graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2016 to ensure that more students are prepared for college.
Up to 82 percent of Palo Alto graduates already fulfill the so-called "A-G Requirements," necessary for admission to the University of California and California State University systems as well as to top private institutions.
But school leaders long have been troubled that a number of capable students take a less rigorous academic load, possibly not realizing that Palo Alto's existing graduation requirements fall short of the standards of a full college-prep curriculum.
Under tonight's proposal, drafted by the district's Director of Secondary Education Debbra Lindo, extra assistance as well as an unspecified waiver process would be available to students who are struggling with the extra load or students who are in special education, if needed.
Additional mandatory coursework under the proposed new requirements include two years of foreign language (none is currently required), a year of physical and lab science (Palo Alto currently requires two years of science, without specifying a lab) and an additional year (beyond the two years already required) of math.
Tonight's recommendation does not include a requirement for Algebra 2, which is mandatory both for entrance to UC and CSU. However, Lindo said, "The goal of our staff is to work toward raising the graduation requirement to include Algebra 2 in the near future."
School staff has suggested a June 14 board vote on the proposal. The item tonight is specified for discussion only.
Since 2008, the district has had a strategic plan goal "to better align graduation requirements with college entry requirements" as well as to boost the percentage of students, particularly "underrepresented minority" students, who fulfill the A-G Requirements.
In the class of 2010, 85 percent of graduates district-wide had fulfilled the college prep requirements, up from 76 percent a year earlier. However, only 46 percent (11 out of 24) of African-American graduates and 50 percent (26 out of 52) Hispanic graduates had completed the full A-G course load.
Duveneck parent Sara Woodham, a member of the Parent Network for Students of Color, said she plans to comment tonight in support of the proposal.
Gunn parent Linda Lingg, a member of the school's Site Council, called for more detail.
"Any time graduation requirements are increased in a top school district there is the potential to increase dropout rates across all races and also among special ed students," Lingg said.
"In the case of this proposal, much more detail is needed before an adequate evaluation can be made."
Lindo was not available to comment on how Palo Alto's current and proposed graduation requirements compare to those of other school districts.
In other business tonight, the board will discuss a proposed policy to protect trees on school campuses, a proposal to give three years' notice to terminate Stratford Schools Inc.'s lease on the Garland school site at 870 N. California Ave. and an amendment to the lease of the old Fremont Hills elementary campus to Pinewood School.
The board also will hear a presentation on the budget outlook for 2011-12.
Tonight's public session, which follows a 5:30 p.m. closed session of the board, begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.