New teachers, new classrooms and new course offerings await Mountain View and Los Altos high school students, who head back to school on Aug. 19.
According to officials with the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, things are looking up for the district as both MVHS and LAHS prepare to open their doors for the 2013-14 school year.
Joe White, superintendent of business services for MVLA, said the district seems to be turning the corner on the recession. The district is projecting that it will bring in significantly more money this year than it has in recent memory. It is using that money to hire 27 new teachers and lift a pay freeze on current employees.
The district is also opening 12 new classrooms at each campus and will be offering new courses.
Mountain View students will now be able to enroll in AP environmental science, AP psychology, intro to computer programming, robotics and Mandarin IV. "AP" stands for "Advanced Placement" and refers to a series of classes that allow high school students to earn college credits if they score well on AP exams.
At LAHS students will have a chance to sign up for AP psychology, multivariable calculus honors, statistics, a biotechnology class, health science, intro to computer programming, Mandarin IV and advanced French.
"We are excited to be starting our 112th year," MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves said, noting that this year's freshman class is one of the largest in district history -- nearly 1,000 across both campuses.
Groves said the district will focus on implementing the new Common Core curriculum standards. Introduced by President Barack Obama, the new standards "will result in an internationally rigorous curriculum, featuring more problem-solving and critical thinking" for MVLA students, Groves added.
MVLA will also focus on increasing the number of Hispanic students enrolling in AP courses, according to Brigitte Saraff, associate superintendent of education services with the district.
While the district has long boasted a wide array of AP course offerings, and its students who take AP courses tend to beat national averages on the AP tests, Saraff said that the district would like to see more Hispanic students enrolling in the classes and excelling on the AP exams.
To that end, the district has signed a contract with an organization called Equal Opportunity Schools, which will help the district identify Hispanic and other low-income and under-served students that would likely do well in an AP course, but who would just as likely not sign up for the class in the first place.
Saraff said many very bright Latino students neglect to sign up for AP courses for a number of reasons -- not least of which is that they may feel out of place.
"If you are the only student of color who walks into an AP class that is populated solely by Caucasian and Asian students, that student is going to look around and say, 'Wow, I'm not sure I belong here,'" Saraff said. "This organization is going to help us find those students." Once they've been identified, the district can then encourage and support those students -- helping them live up to their potential.
Saraff said it is important to her and other district officials to ensure that all students know they have the option to take and succeed in an AP course. These classes often spur kids to be more serious about their studies, as they are surrounded by other students who are similarly focused.
Taking these classes also looks good on college applications and can help a student move through their college education faster. In some cases, students who excel on AP exams can shave an entire year off of their undergraduate studies before they even enter a university.