ACHS commencement 2017

Graduating seniors at American Canyon High School waved as they marched into Wolf Den Stadium for June’s commencement ceremony.

Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

The Napa Valley Unified School District has doubled the number of students completing college-required classes, with nearly 50 percent reaching this important benchmark for university readiness, according to a 10-year study.

But the same study also showed that Hispanics — who make up the majority of NVUSD students — lag behind when it comes to completing classes required by the University of California and California State University systems for admission to their schools.

District officials and trustees offered a mixture of feedback after reviewing the data, which was produced in a study by the Education Trust-West.

“This is something for our district to celebrate,” said David Damico, NVUSD’s executive director of achievement and innovation, at the Sept. 21 school board meeting.

Damico pointed to statistics showing that the percentage of district students completing public university required courses — known as A-G — more than doubled from 23 percent in 2006 to 48.5 percent by 2016.

A-G involves taking multiple years of English, math, social studies, science and foreign language, plus one year of visual and performing arts to qualify for admission to UC or CSU.

School board trustee Robb Felder congratulated the district for establishing A-G courses a decade ago, saying more students over time have taken the classes and put themselves in a position to attend college.

“We raised the bar, and these kids responded,” said Felder, who called the percentage increase “impressive.”

“We are really, truly giving students opportunities they didn’t see they had,” he said. “That’s the fundamental goal behind the initiative” of creating A-G in 2006.

Other trustees were more muted in their remarks, noting that progress among Hispanic students, who comprise 54 percent of NVUSD, was not as strong compared to students overall, or white or Filipino students.

Thirty-seven percent of Hispanic students completed the A-G program in 2015-2016 — a far lower rate than Filipinos (69.3 percent) or whites (57.6 percent) that same school year.

Also, only 30.6 percent of migrant education and 35.9 percent of socio-economically disadvantaged students, many of whom are Hispanic, successfully tackled the A-G classes.

“Progress is being made,” said Trustee Elba Gonzalez-Mares, who pointed out that when she attended Napa High School in the late 1990s, she was often the only Hispanic in her honors classes.

But Hispanics “are the majority of the kids” now in the district, “and yet they’re the ones falling behind.”

“I know we do a lot with the [Hispanic] community” in terms of special programs, she added, “but I think we can do more.”

Damico acknowledged “performance and opportunity gaps persist” in the district among certain students.

“We know we need more Latino, socio-economically disadvantaged and migrant ed students to be able to meet those A-G requirements,” Damico said, “and have opportunities to get into those high interest and high academic rigorous classes.”

Trustee Thomas Kensok said the district shouldn’t be satisfied with 48.5 percent of students completing A-G coursework.

“Yes, doubling it is good, but I’m still a bit concerned that we’re still lagging behind where we could be,” said Kensok. “I would like to see us above 70 [percent] myself.”