The motto "In Pursuit of Excellence" is taken very seriously at Arcadia High School.
So when nine top students from last year's graduating class were denied admission to Stanford University, the Arcadia Unified School District's Board of Education decided to do something about it.
"We have to concentrate on those students trying to get into the more prestigious schools," said board member Mary Dougherty, who suggested Sept. 28 that the district study Stanford admissions guidelines and figure out how Arcadia students can improve their chances of being accepted.
"If people in the community were to perceive that students can't get into Stanford or other prestigious colleges by route of Arcadia High, that would be a terrible disservice," she said later in an interview.
Of the nine students denied admission to Stanford, three went to UC Berkeley, two to Occidental College and the others to UCLA, Pomona College, Tulane University and Westmont College.
The report on Stanford admissions was presented to the board Monday, a month after Arcadia High was honored for having the highest percentage of students in the state enrolled in classes required for entrance to the University of California.
Dougherty said she requested the report after a representative of the Princeton Review, a study course to help students taking the Standardized Admission Test required by most colleges, incorrectly told the board that no one from the school had ever been accepted by Stanford.
Actually, some Arcadia graduates have attended Stanford, but not many, school officials say.
Dougherty said she had also heard from parents concerned about the low acceptance rate of students into Stanford.
But the report, which included transcript reviews, interviews with students and discussions with Stanford admissions personnel, did not seem to provide the board with any new information.
"I wish there had been some key to tell us what we can do to improve our student's chances of getting into the schools they want to get into," said Assistant Supt. Wade Askew, who presented the report to the board.
"Wasn't Stanford recently rated No. 1 in the country?" said Supt. Stephen Goldstone, referring to a survey by U. S. News & World Report magazine in which Stanford was rated first overall among major "national" universities in a poll of university presidents.
The district report, to be shared with counselors, teachers and administrators, suggests that:
Students take a rigorous course load, including honors and advanced placement classes.
Students' applications to Stanford demonstrate their uniqueness.
Counselors and teachers write recommendations that note students' particular strengths.
Students decide by the 10th grade or earlier whether admission to Stanford is their goal and plan accordingly.
Jean Fetter, dean of undergraduate admission at Stanford, said it is not unusual for a high school to assess its performance by examining where graduates attend college. "But it is unusual for a school district to look at one particular college," she said.
Last year, Fetter said, her office denied admission to more than 14,000 students. Stanford received 16,884 applications for only 2,565 openings. The applications came from 4,665 different high schools, she said, "so even if we were to accept one student from every high school . . . that would still leave 2,100 high schools unaccounted for."
Fetter added: "There are many other good colleges they could have looked at."
Dougherty had a suggestion for the next time Stanford recruiters visit Arcadia: "Make sure they are greeted with a welcome mat."