Taft looks to increase minorities in IB classes
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School is looking to increase the number of minority students enrolled in the school’s most rigorous classes.
Taft is part of Equal Opportunity Schools, an initiative designed to ensure that low-income and minority students have equitable access to the most challenging academic programs, which often lead to students receiving college course credit. At Taft, those programs include the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and Advanced Placement classes.
This initiative was discussed at the Oct. 13 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
Hispanic students make up 41.7 percent of the school’s overall enrollment, which is about 3,960, but Hispanic students represent only 23 percent of those enrolled in IB Diploma classes.
Efforts at Taft are being made to better identify freshmen and sophomore students who may be good candidates for IB Diploma and AP classes and enroll them in pre-Diploma classes, according to assistant principals Eric Flores and Jenny Greenblatt. IB Diploma classes are for juniors and seniors, while AP classes are primarily for students in the higher grades.
Currently the percentage of Hispanic freshmen in the pre-IB Diploma program is 31 percent and the sophomore percentage is 27 percent. Both those figures are higher than the 23 percent taking IB Diploma classes this fall and represent a starting point for continued improvement in identifying candidates and providing them the resources and support needed for success, Flores said.
"It’s slowly building, and we will continue to get them" the resources and support needed for success in IB Diploma and AP classes, Flores said in an interview. Currently 368 students take at least one IB Diploma class at Taft, and last school year 742 students took at least one AP class.
Also at the LSC meeting, it was announced that Taft would hold town hall meetings for students monthly. Concerns raised by students at these meetings will be discussed with the administrative team, Greenblatt said.
At the Oct. 20 town hall, students expressed concerns about the 7-plus hours a day that they are spending on their computer for online classes and homework, according to Taft principal Mark Grishaber. The school may look into cutting back on homework, but unlike the remote learning last spring, schools must follow the full-time schedule that they put in place months ago, Grishaber said.
Taft has a Student Voice Committee that collects student feedback on a variety of issues and occasionally brings concerns to the LSC. About a year ago the committee successfully lobbied for the elimination of the ban on wearing hats in classes.
It also was reported that the school is looking into acquiring software that will allow it to live stream home football and basketball games. Taft’s first varsity home football game is scheduled for Friday, March 5, and given that fans may not be allowed, access via the Internet would be more important than ever, Grishaber said.
Also, LSC chairman Kathy Fern said that council elections for high schools will be held Thursday, Nov. 19, and mail-in voting will be allowed. The election has been delayed for months due to the pandemic, and the term of current council members was extended to Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.