photo by Barbara Reid
"When we founded the organization 15 years ago we thought it would be a stopgap until the funding got straightened out from Prop 13. Now it's worse than ever - and EPAK's work is more important than ever."
- Jacqui Stewart, EPAK Founder
There is a dramatic and growing gap between public funding provided to the schools in the Ravenswood City School District (East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park) and the resources needed to deliver a quality education. This gap severely undermines the hiring of experienced teachers, causes higher student-to-teacher ratios in the middle grades, and hinders the provision of appropriate classroom resources needed to teach this ethnically diverse, predominantly low-income student population.
New teachers have very little support or materials for setting up a classroom and many schools have libraries that fall dramatically below standards. Field trips occur only if the teacher applies for external monies. Science experiments are uncommon due to a lack of materials. There is little support for typical enrichment activities, such as music and art. Sports equipment and play structures for recess and physical education are in short supply.
The needs of this predominantly low-income, ethnically diverse student population present special challenges to its schools. In 2005, the median household income in East Palo Alto was $41,241, compared to $150,700 in neighboring communities. Ninety-six percent of students are eligible to receive Free or Reduced Price Lunch.
Sixty-nine percent of Ravenswood District’s elementary and middle school student populations are English Language Learners (ELL). Many ELL students have difficulty academically; unfortunately, their parents often are unable to help them with their homework. A large number of families in this community are uneducated. Fifty-one percent of parents did not complete high school. Ninety-six percent did not complete college. The figure below illustrates the ethnic makeup of Ravenswood students.
Ravenswood schools are significantly underperforming compared to the surrounding districts, as measured by the state's Academic Performance Index (API). Whereas Menlo Park Elementary District has an API of 916, Ravenswood has an API of 638 and is in the bottom 3.5% of districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Fifty percent or more of the students, depending upon the school, are operating below grade level in math and language arts. Ravenswood had a 37.5% drop-out rate at its lone campus serving 9th to 12th graders. Most EPA students attend high school in Redwood City or Menlo Park. Of the seven non-charter schools in the Ravenswood District, six have been designated by the State as Program Improvement Schools.
For more information, please read our Annual Report.