Despite scoring among the top six K-12l school districts in California, Palo Alto failed to make "adequate yearly progress" in a state Accountability Progress Report issued Wednesday.
The results underscore the failure of certain subgroups -- socioeconomically disadvantaged, Latino, African-American and students with disabilities -- to meet growth targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"Our scores for these particular subgroups are very similar or higher than last year, but the expectations have risen as well," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.
"In order to not be failing, you need to meet the standard overall, and in every group, and if you miss it for one you're considered failing."
The Academic Performance Index scorecard illuminates a well-known achievement gap in Palo Alto's high-performing schools.
Palo Alto is one of 17 out of California's 1,000 school districts to be labeled by the state Department of Education as having "significant" overrepresentation of minority students in special education.
"It's certainly an area we're making a big effort in," Skelly said.
"We'd like to be doing well with all of our subgroups."
The Oakland-based Education Trust West, which works to close "opportunity and achievement gaps," said Palo Alto's results indicate problems.
"When we look at why Palo Alto did not meet AYP, we get an even clearer picture of how low-income students and students of color are faring in their district," Education Trust West spokeswoman Valerie Cuevas said.
"Their Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged, student with disabilities did not meet the federal targets of getting just two-thirds of students to proficiency in English Language Arts and math.
"Slightly more than half of Palo Alto's Latino students were at grade level in English Language Arts and math, and just 50 percent of African-American students were proficient in math."