In today’s economy, most good jobs require a college education. However, in East Palo Alto schools, which serve primarily low-income students, only a small number of students are currently on track to graduate ready for college. In 2014-15, only 17% of students met or exceeded standards in English and only 12% met that bar for math in Ravenswood School District, which serves East Palo Alto students in grades K-8.
The Majority of Schools in East Palo Alto are Underperforming
Although bordered by the affluent communities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, which boast some of the region’s highest-performing schools, East Palo Alto is home to the highest concentration of low-performing schools in Silicon Valley.
Most elementary and middle school students in East Palo Alto attend one of eight schools in Ravenswood School District, including a small charter school, Aspire East Palo Alto Charter. Ravenswood’s roughly 4,000 students are 82% Latino, 8% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 7% African American. In the district, 95% of students come from low-income households, and 72% are English learners
In Ravenswood, 17% of low-income students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts and 11% in math, compared to a region average of 32% and 24%.
Many Families Leave East Palo to Find School Options
Over 900 students leave their community of East Palo Alto each morning to attend schools in neighboring districts through the Tinsley program, a desegregation initiative started in 1986. The program provides transportation and is very popular with families, but there are only 165 new slots available each year.
The only K-8 public school option in East Palo Alto is East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS). Another option for families is Eastside College Prep, which is private, but tuition-free.
High School Options are Stronger
Most East Palo Alto high school students attend Sequoia Union High School District, which also serves the communities of Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Woodside. Overall, Sequoia Union is doing better than many school districts in the Bay Area at preparing all students for college.
At Sequoia Union schools, as in high schools across the state, students must take and pass 15 classes, called the A-G requirements, in order to be eligible to attend a California state university (UC or CSU). In 2013-14, Sequoia Union’s graduation rate roughly equaled the Silicon Valley average, including the rates for low-income and Latino students, but a higher percentage of Sequoia Union students had completed the A-G requirements.
However, like most districts across California, there are huge gaps between different groups of students and far too many are being left behind. For instance, 39% of Latino students in Sequoia Union graduated eligible for college. While this exceeds the Silicon Valley average of 31% for Latino students, it lags behind the district’s average of 77% of white students and 85% of Asian students.
East Palo Alto houses two charter school options for high school students. East Palo Alto Academy, with only 300 students and scores well below the district average in both English and math. Aspire East Palo Alto Charter enrolls students in grades K-12. Its scores mostly lag Sequoia Union, though it outperforms the district for low-income students in math, with 22% meeting or exceeding standards opposed to Sequoia Union’s 10%.