Oft-reported anecdotes about the persistently low numbers of students of color in Advanced Placement classes in the Palo Alto Unified School District are affirmed in a report that the school board will discuss at its Tuesday meeting.
This year, only seven black and Hispanic students signed up for AP biology, 11 for AP calculus AB, one for AP chemistry, one for art history and three for AP statistics, as a few examples, according to the report. More black and Hispanics students enrolled in AP Spanish language and AP Spanish literature (25 and nine, respectively) as well as AP psychology (11 students).
There are 84 black students at the district's high schools (23 at Gunn and 61 at Palo Alto), and 362 Hispanic students (160 at Gunn and 202 at Paly), according to a September enrollment report from the district.
Gunn's total enrollment is 1,885 -- black students account for 1.2 percent and Hispanic students 8.5 percent.
Paly's enrollment is 1,985, with black students making up 3.1 percent and Hispanic students 10.2 percent.
No black or Hispanic students enrolled this year in AP calculus BC, AP physics, AP computer science or AP studio art, among other courses, according to the report.
Last year, black and Hispanic students enrolled at about the same numbers in some courses, while others saw a drop in enrollment and other a slight uptick.
In the class of 2015, 65 students of color and low-income students took 122 AP classes over the course of their high-school years, according to the district. Both of those numbers have dropped in the class of 2016: Only 50 students of color and low-income students have taken 89 AP classes.
Students of color and low-income students show high pass rates on the AP exams they do take, however — performing at a similar level or in some cases better than their peers.
Female students are also underrepresented in some AP courses, particularly in science courses. The most glaring gender gap this year is in a blended AP computer-science class, which is 75 percent male students (down from 85 percent last year). Most science classes that enrolled more male students last year became more balanced this year, according to the report. AP chemistry, for example, dropped from 70 percent male to 54 percent this year.
There are more female students, however, in classes like AP art history, AP studio art and AP English literature and composition.
The report, prepared by district Director of Research Christopher Kolar and Program Evaluation Coordinator Clarisse Haxton, notes that "additional analysis is needed to track AP course-taking — and AP exam-taking and exam passage — over time."
One outcome of the district's elevated "focused goals" this year is to increase the number and percentage of historically underrepresented students in AP classes. A longer term goal is to have proportional representation in all AP classes.
The school board will discuss AP enrollment Tuesday evening as part of a larger presentation on college enrollment and A-G college requirements.
Elementary-school facilities improvements
In other business Tuesday, the school board will also discuss the proposed allocation of $60 million in bond funds set aside for capital improvements at the elementary schools. Staff is recommending that $23 million go to support a project at Hoover Elementary School, $37 million to "multi-use building projects" and $300,000 of that amount used to develop conceptual designs at Escondido, El Carmelo and Walter Hays elementary schools. The unanimous recommendation comes from a subcommittee of three elementary principals — Escondido's ChucK Merritt, El Carmelo's Danae Reynolds and Hays' Mary Bussman — who met throughout the fall.
The subcommittee is recommending the largest amount of money go to Hoover, which was not included in the previous bond because it had not opened at its present site when that bond passed, according to the district. The group has identified the following potential improvements for Hoover: expanded and modernized multi-purpose building, a new library, no modular buildings, modernized classrooms and technology.
The remaining dollars should go to build new multi-purpose rooms at Escondido, El Carmelo and Walter Hays, the principals recommended. These three sites were chosen because other elementary schools already had "extensive modernization" or have forthcoming construction, a report notes.
"Then, based on the sizes of the current multi-purpose buildings as compared to the number of students, the group chose Escondido and Hays, and based on renovation sequencing and phasing, the choice of the third school was El Carmelo," the report states.
The board voted this summer to release the reserve dollars to support projects at the existing school sites.
Before the regular meeting starts, the board will also meet in closed session to discuss a personnel evaluation related to the repeated bullying of a special-education middle-school student in the district.
Open session begins at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.