Local Blogs

Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

E-mail Sally Torbey

About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to the share the good times and discuss the challenges of...  (More)

View all posts from Sally Torbey

Delay in de-laning Paly 9th grade English is unfortunate

Uploaded: Feb 11, 2014
The Paly English department's recent proposal to de-lane 9th grade English has generated a lot of controversy. Today, as reported in Palo Alto Online, Paly principal Kim Diorio announced in an email message that the pilot program has been postponed. There was no mention as to when it might be revisited.

The lack of support for this proposal from the school board and PAUSD parents is surprising to me. Differentiating within 9th grade English classes already happens successfully at Paly. Three of our children, each with different abilities, learning styles, and academic interests, took 9th grade English at Paly. Since they were all in the TEAM program, their 9th grade English classes were not laned, but differentiated within the classroom. Being in a diverse mixed-ability class was a positive experience for them. The course was reading and writing-intensive with ample opportunity for discussions and class presentations, and a great basis for their future studies in high school and beyond. Our kids benefitted from a wider range of voices and perspectives in discussing literature than they would have had in a laned class. One of our students later wrote for a Paly publication and two of our students went on to AP English and writing-intensive college majors and careers.

The Paly teachers and principal made a very convincing case at the January 28th school board meeting for a single lane of accelerated 9th grade English. The current laning of 9/9A is not serving the needs of lower ability students. In clustering these students together in a lower lane class, teachers are stretched to ensure each student gets the support they need. In recent years, Paly has implemented a number of successful strategies for supporting struggling students, and the English teachers feel they will be better equipped to meet these students' needs in accessing the available support systems if these students are evenly distributed throughout the 9th grade classes, rather than clustered in lower lane classes.

Ironically, while the lower lane has some students who are struggling because of ability, the majority of students in the lower lane are self-selecting away from the accelerated English class, despite every indication that they are capable of the level of work. Some students seem to be choosing the lower lane not because of lack of ability, but because they are taking high level math and science courses and they want an easier English class to balance their workload. This is a larger school issue, as it would be preferable if 9th graders could take appropriately challenging courses in all subject areas, and still have enough hours after finishing homework to eat, exercise, and sleep. There are also students who self-identify as lower ability when they are not. None of these groups of students are served by laning, as they are capable of more challenging work in English class.

There was discussion at the board meeting about students and parents desiring choice in class selection, and yet poorly informed choices do not serve students. Spring of 8th grade is too early to make a fully informed choice in choosing a high school lane of English that might label students as having insufficient skills, and lead them away from taking higher level humanities courses or participating in the stellar journalism program. There is no downside to waiting a year before sorting students by ability. After giving students a year of high school classes, and an additional year of maturation and growth, Paly English teachers can better assess students and their educational needs. In the meantime, all students in 9th grade, regardless of ability, are well served in a mixed-ability English class.

At the board meeting, Ms Diorio related a conversation with one of the district English teachers, who described how in English class "the content area lends itself naturally to differentiation". The teacher also commented, "You are talking about literature, themes, and our culture. To have greater diversity leads to a more natural conversation, and different points of view on which students are able to capitalize." As my kids experienced in their mixed-ability classes, it is a richer environment for learning for students of all levels. It is my hope that the Paly English department continues to educate parents and the school board about the benefits and effectiveness of a single lane of 9th grade English for all students.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Karen, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

It seems contradictory to me to have one lane of freshman English in the same high school that has five lanes of freshman math.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Karen,
Thanks for bringing up that point. Yes, it does seem contradictory. The teachers addressed this issue briefly at the board meeting. They felt that English as a subject matter lends itself to differentiation within the classroom where as perhaps math does not as readily. Reading and writing are done individually, and critique of writing is also very individual. The analysis of literature done when speaking and listening in an English class, however, is enhanced by the variety of views in a classroom with a variety of backgrounds and abilities. My high ability kids were fully challenged in their 9th grade mixed ability English class. Perhaps your kids have had a different experience, though.

It was also suggested by the board that the English dept look to the math dept as a model to help them be more effective in "sorting" 8th graders into lanes. I do take objection to that. I don't think the math dept is particularly gifted at "sorting" or predicting which 8th graders will do well in which lanes in high school. Of my three kids who have been "laned" into high school math, two ended up switching lanes in 11th grade (one went up a lane and one went down, they ended up in the same lane in 12th grade). Switching lanes is not ideal. I don't blame the math dept for where my kids were placed initially. I use this as an example of the difficulty in predicting precisely the optimal math track for a student in high school when they are only 13 years old. The former well regarded Jordan math instructional supervisor talked a lot about how math "clicks" at different times for different kids, which makes math placement, even if seemingly done very objectively by testing, an inexact science. Kids' interests also change during high school, the more flexibility that can be maintained for future course selection the better. I feel kids are better served, particularly in English class, by educators spending less time and energy worrying about how to predict their future success, and more time devising techniques and skills for classroom management and successful differentiated teaching.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kirsten, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Sally,

Thanks for keeping us up to date on this important issue. Paly has high standards for writing, and I would listen to the voice of the instructors who advocated for this change as they are the experts in teaching writing and grammer.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Kirsten, for reading and commenting. Particularly with the recent emphasis by the district on "site-based" decision making, I found it surprising how dismissive the school board members were of the well-researched, well-thought out proposal. Then again, it was 12:30 am by the time the English department presented the proposal to the school board. I hope it is revisited in the fall so there is plenty of time to discuss the issue with incoming 8th grade parents. The timing of the proposal was difficult with 8th grade high school course selection this week.

Interesting though, that when the 12th grade English lanes were collapsed this year, it was not a news story.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Fascinating and thought-provoking! Thanks, Sally!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, PR!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Hi Sally,

Thanks for your in depth and thoughtful post on this subject. Some of the push back I heard at the board meeting was from parents who feared this was a step towards de-laning all English. In fact a major goal of the redesign of Freshman English was to prepare all students for honors, journalism or AP if they decided to follow those paths. As you allude to in your posting the English department does not want students to be limited by choices they are making during the middle of eighth grade. These choices can affect their high school and college placement.

I agree with you that English lends itself to differentiated instruction much more readily than Science and Math. You have pointed out the ease in differentiating on writing assignments. In addition almost all of the reading is currently and will continue to be differentiated to the student\'s individual reading level. There are just two required texts for Freshman English, "Romeo and Juliet" and "Of Mice and Men". The reading is supported by watching movies of both texts so that all students can participate in the classroom discussions. The balance of the reading and discussions around texts are done in small literacy circles according to reading abilities.

For those who are concerned that special ed students will reduce the rigor of the class or they won't be able to keep up with the rigor, Paly has numerous scaffolding strategies in place to support the struggling student both in and outside of the classroom. All of the writing is done in the classroom under the teacher's supervision. Special ed students are allowed modified assignments and may enroll concurrently in a writing lab course. The plan was to have resource teachers co-teaching in many of the classrooms which is a bonus for all students. AVID and FOS programs also provide support outside of the classroom. In addition there is a Restart class taught second semester for a small number of students who need greater intervention.

My children were also in TEAM in the heterogeneous English classes that combined regular and accelerated English. They too benefited from the diversity. The English teachers have commented on the rich discussions that ensue with diversity in the classroom that are often missing from the homogeneous 9A classes.

The Paly team that presented this proposal was very impressive and it was heart warming to see how committed they are to the success and well being of our children. I hope they will prevail in the future.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by GC, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 12:17 am

Thank you Sally and Sally for your well thought out, comprehensive explanations of English taught at Paly and why delaning for 9th grade would benefit all. I had listened to and read discussions on the topic and did not "get it" until both of your write-ups. THANK YOU. Literature circles in 5th grade are working well and producing varied and interesting discussions (thank you Schoology). Also, I have seen that our kids are benefiting tremendously from the extra in-class support that has happened due to this years' move to inclusion. On a personal note I had laning for math in 8th grade and no laning for English in any grade and it worked beautifully. There was depth of learning in English and in math it was full steam ahead. Again, Thank You both.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thank you, Sally, for sharing the specific strategies for supporting students who find the material more challenging. I also hope that as district parents become more aware of the advantages of mixed-ability classrooms in 9th grade English they will support such a change in the future.

Thank you, GC, for sharing your experiences in 5th grade with literature circles and the extra support available with inclusion at the elementary level. I initially had concerns about inclusion this year, but there has been great support for all the kids. I've been very impressed how successful the program is in my daughter's class.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

Fred is a registered user.

Putting aside the merits of the proposal (let's assume it has some merit), the reality of PAUSD is that there is a large portion of quite conservative parents who are suspicious of change generally and anything that implies a less challenging curriculum. As a result, changes like this (or Everyday Math, or the calendar change) take time and energy to be sold in - far more time and energy than required in most other districts. Parents will want to have their say and have the issue fully vetted; the school board will reflect and support this. Usually this happens very late in the process and frustrates the staff and others involved, which is unfortunate but seems to be the way it is.

My sense is that this proposal isn't dead (or doesn't need to be) but it does need to ripen and give parents and school board members time to assess, digest, and get comfortable with. It is The Palo Alto Process, high school edition.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Thank you for taking on this subject matter Sally!

As always, I appreciate and value your perspective. And I agree with your thoughts on this one for sure.

I think we, as Palo Alto parents, too often forget the value to our children of being surrounded by (and importantly) learning from people from all different perspectives and abilities. English, in particular, lends itself to expanding one's world view. By reading other kids' work, by hearing other kids' take on literature, all kids can grow. A future AP English student, in particular, can gain a lot from working with and learning from a child with different gifts and background. I'm sorry to hear the Board and some vocal parents aren't listening to and trusting the Paly English teachers.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Fred,
Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you are right and that the English department will have a chance to present their proposal again. Their presentation was very illuminating, but more folks need to hear it to have their concerns addressed.

Dear Mom of 3,
Thank you for articulating more great reasons for mixed ability classes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm

It would be interesting to see how it would work. I am inclined to support changes that the teachers propose.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi LJ,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Usually the school board supports the teachers, but on this issue it appeared they had their minds made up before the proposal was even presented.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 7:14 pm

"they had their minds made up before the proposal was even presented"

@Sally Torbey - that's probably right. The board members had likely determined based on what they had heard by email, phone, and conversations that the parents / community had too many questions and concerns to permit moving ahead. It's different to be "not ready to support" a change vs. being "actively opposed." It was perhaps unrealistic to expect to sell-in such a change in one board meeting (or even a couple), esp. without socializing with the parent community beforehand.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Fred,
Yes, the teachers need to get the message out as to why they feel this change would enhance the education of all students at all ability levels.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Truedy, a resident of Midtown,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 11:39 pm

What I'm concerned about is grading. I understand that with a single-lane English class, laning will still exist within the class and two grade books will be maintained by the teacher. I think it is unfair that a student will have to work harder for the same (or lower) grade than another student who is in the lower-laned grade book. If a college looks at their transcripts, it will not show that one student actually took a more challenging course than the other; it will look like the same class.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:10 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Truedy,
Thank you for reading and commenting. My understanding of differentiation is that equal effort is required by students, since each student is challenged at their own level.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:18 am

Sally,

Another interesting thread.

My understanding is that TEAM lets students choose English 9 or English 9A.

Paly's English teachers are proposing something different. They want to only offer advanced English. Regular English will not be available to any 9th graders, in or out of TEAM.

That sure seems contrary to the path Paly has been on. Just the other day I read something where Paly said that is trying to reduce the heavy academic demands placed on students. Yet in the email Paly just sent out was a link to the report it gave to the school board which said that English 9A would not be watered down and Paly was sure that all incoming 9th graders "can handle more rigorous coursework."










 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:15 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Parent,
Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, TEAM does offer 9 and 9A in the same classroom. According to my kids, the only distinction between the lanes was different essay prompts, although they remember the 9 students choosing the 9A prompts if the topic looked more compelling. In their board presentation, the teachers mentioned that all 9th grade teachers were teaching 9 and 9A sections concurrently so they could all compare what was being taught in the two lanes. It was almost identical, thus their recommendation to combine the lanes. The intention is not to make the 9th grade curriculum more difficult. The intention is to spread out the students who do need some of the scaffolding support that Sally Bemus describes in her comment above.The teachers believe struggling students will be more successful since teachers will have more time to help them and access any other support those students need. The teachers are also convinced that the lanes can be combined with out reducing the rigor of 9th grade English.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hermia, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 6:45 pm

"This is a larger school issue, as it would be preferable if 9th graders could take appropriately challenging courses in all subject areas, and still have enough hours after finishing homework to eat, exercise, and sleep."

What a grisly, ugly life we envision for them if this is the dream. Seriously? Young adulthood is a prison if this is the best we can offer.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Sally,

Once upon a time the reason Paly had two different names for its English classes was that 9A students, at least those not in TEAM, were assigned much more work than English 9 students.

Maybe that has changed and now what Paly teachers teach in 9 is as you say almost identical to what they teach in 9A, which means that 9 got lots harder or 9A got lots easier. But that doesn't seem to jive with Paly's School Board report that says 9A remains more rigorous than 9 and not watered down.

The course descriptions in the incoming 8th graders' registration packets used to explain the differences so students could decide which English course they wanted to enroll in and probably do this year too.







 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Thank you Sally for your excellent post. As it currently stands, the English department IS and teachers have stated that they have aligned the curriculum between the courses and they are being taught identically. At this point, the students in English 9 are doing the same work, have the same homework (homework in both lanes is minimal) and do precisely the same things. However, they do not receive honors credit for that work on their transcripts.

That is unfair, and it is particularly unfair given that they are predominantly minority (there are few or no minority students in 9A, a coincidence that requires some explanation. They are also predominantly students on IEPs, another issue that makes it very unfair that they are doing honors work but not getting honors designation.

This was a name change. The actual change to the material has already taken place. Why? Because Paly heard about the racial segregation in its English program from the visiting WASC committee and asked these english teachers to do something about it. They were asked by the district to fix a problem, they fixed it, and then they were humiliated for having done it by the school board.

In response to Fred, yes that is what Barbara Mitchell said at the board meeting. But if that was a serious plan to build public support for this program over time and then come back then there would be a schedule and a timetable and a plan for doing just that over the next year to roll this out in the fall 2015. That is not in any way the plan. The teachers have been told that this is over, and that they will not be returning to the board and parents have been told that this will not be happening. This is not being rolled out. There is no plan to do anything.

The teachers feel betrayed and demoralized. They were asked to solve a problem involving racial discrimination. They did so, and were punished. Perhaps "Fred" would like to reply to that.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm

@Edmund Burke - not sure why you are "calling me out" - as I tell my kids, I don't make the news, I just report it ;-)

In this case, the news is this: there are a fair number of parents who are resistant to changes like this; there didn't appear to be much effort to bring parents and the community up to speed on this ahead of time (at least not a wide effort - it seems it was a fairly new idea to most people); those parents reached out to the board to express concern; the board slowed things down. I don't know if the proposal was good or bad - that's just my interpretation of what happened.

The above is all fairly well known and predictable, so I'm not sure why the teachers proposing this, along with the principal, Dr. Young, etc., didn't see it coming. Maybe they were naive; maybe they didn't anticipate how the proposal might be viewed; maybe they thought those who disagreed were dumb (or worse) and should just be ignored. I really don't have any insight on that one.

Nor do I have any knowledge of what the teachers and administrators are doing with the proposal now. Since they appear to believe in it, I hope they are working to socialize it more with the community and the board. If they didn't plan for the community socialization, it may be too late to get it done for September (it is mid February), which might explain why it is on the back burner for a bit.

I guess I'm surprised that folks seem to be angry at the board for not just agreeing. Burke said the teachers were "punished" - I don't see it that way. It's the Palo Alto Process, high school edition - given the desire to take community input into account, and the number of active voices out there, it takes longer than it probably should to get just about anything done.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Fred I appreciate your "report."

I believe the answer to Fred\'s question: "I\'m not sure why the teachers proposing this, along with the principal, Dr. Young, etc., didn\'t see it coming." The reason is that Kevin Skelly failed to provide the proper leadership. He is superintendent and it was his job, and no one else\'s, to ensure that proposals brought to the board with his recommendation to adopt, which this was, should be ready for adoption. They should be rolled out with sufficient community support that the board can feel that it can be adopted without causing them a political problem.

Anyone would know that a proposal to de-lane would take substantial groundwork to get the community ready and also to rally the support of segments of the community such as minority students and families in favor of it, like A-G. None of this was done. The community did not know and reacted with surprise and also fear. There were few voices present to support it.

Kevin Skelly has frequently brought things to the board that were not ready in the same way -- the calendar change, A-G and Everyday Math are all examples of his failure to adequately prepare the ground. So I agree with Fred that the problem was that the ground was not laid. The person who was supposed to lay it was the Superintendent and his team including Young, not the teachers. Diorio reports to Skelly. If Skelly had instructed her to hold parent meetings and prepare the community she would have done it. He decides when things come to the board, not the teachers or Diorio.

The teachers wanted to pull this back and do the kind of work that Fred suggests, but Skelly refused to allow that and required them to go to the board on January 28. When they got there, it was clear that the community and the board itself had been surprised by the proposal.

Skelly should have been, for example, alerting the board in his Weekly communications about the situation at Paly and the plan to remedy the race discrimination found in the WASC. He should have brought this to the board as an information item a year ago. He should have been bringing them along, and also educating the community. He should have lead on the issue, not just said "give it a shot."

The WASC found that Paly was maintaining a segregated 9th grade english program. The teachers were told by the administration to fix it. They spent enormous amounts of time over the past two years fixing it. They fixed it. They were told that they had to come to the board on January 28. When they came they were kept until 1:00am and instead of being thanked for taking on this difficult issue and doing well, they treated very disrespectfully and their work was dismantled.

They should be given another chance to bring this work with the appropriate preparation for the community by Dr. Skelly and Dr. Skelly should tell the board and community that he is committed to it and is proceeding that direction.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm

@Edmund Burke - it seems like some people blame President Obama for the things they don't like, and others blame Dr. Skelly ;-) I'm sure he could do a better job, like most of us. It's hard to evaluate any particular case without quite a bit more detailed knowledge than a humble citizen like me has.

I agree with you that if the teachers believe this is a valuable proposal, that it would be good if they continue to work on it and socialize it with the community. I don't share your concern with whether Dr. Skelly or the board publicly commits to further work on it - it is hard to judge how it fits among other initiatives and I leave that judgment to them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Fred, my last comment on this is that you do not acknowledge or address the fact that the teachers were asked by the district administrators to do what they did in response to a negative WASC comment. Why doesn't that fact change your portrayal of this as "their" proposal? Is it just that failure has no father or is it an unwillingness to have accountability?

Whose responsibility do you think it is to ensure that there is adequate groundwork before a proposal is brought to the board?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:06 am

This approach - take two very different classes, make them almost identical, and then use the argument that they are the same for getting rid of one of them - begs this question: why isn't Paly discussing unraveling the dismantling of English 9 and 9A and making the classes different again?

Paly's course enrollment system centers on student choice. No one is forced to take the regular lane class and, as the Paly teachers say, support is available for anyone who wants to take 9A for the extra challenge.

Lack of heterogeneity is a red herring. Everyone at Paly can observe that lots and lots of whites are in both lanes and minority students take English 9 and 9A. Paly teachers were emphatic; both lanes have students with a wide range of abilities in them too.

So where is the beef? Students choose where they want to put their extra effort. Some want to devote more time to harder English classes and others to challenging Science/Math.

Listening to the video of the board meeting, the driver sure seems to be that Paly teachers only want a few special education students in each class so they can support them better, an admirable goal.

If 9A is really the best class for them and meaningful supports are in place, convince their parents to enroll them in 9A and let English 9 and 9A stand as is (or as was) so you don't take the choice away from others.

If it turns out that 9A hasn't been watered down and is more rigorous than special ed families prefer for their child, get the teachers teaching 9 more help.

If it is that Paly wants everyone to be in class called "advanced," name one Advanced 1 and the other Advanced 2.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear parent,
The English dept does not want to make the two lanes different again because the teachers have determined that the vast majority of Paly 9th graders can succeed with the accelerated curriculum. Choice is desirable except, as in this case, when it ultimately limits choice. Students who enroll in 9 also tend not to enroll in challenging courses in English or the social sciences, nor participate in journalism, when they are upperclassmen. Students in 9 seem to feel they don't have the skills to go on to take more challenging classes, even if they do.Is half way through 8th grade the ideal time to make a choice about English ability or interest that reduces the likelihood of a student enrolling in AP US History, AP Psych, American Lit H or writing for the school newsmagazine during junior or senior year? Why not ensure all students have a stimulating classroom environment and accelerated curriculum in 9th grade that gives them more choices for the rest of high school?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Wow, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Parent, Paly

"This approach - take two very different classes, make them almost identical, and then use the argument that they are the same for getting rid of one of them - begs this question: why isn't Paly discussing unraveling the dismantling of English 9 and 9A and making the classes different again?

Paly's course enrollment system centers on student choice. No one is forced to take the regular lane class and, as the Paly teachers say, support is available for anyone who wants to take 9A for the extra challenge.

Lack of heterogeneity is a red herring. Everyone at Paly can observe that lots and lots of whites are in both lanes and minority students take English 9 and 9A. Paly teachers were emphatic; both lanes have students with a wide range of abilities in them too.

So where is the beef? Students choose where they want to put their extra effort. Some want to devote more time to harder English classes and others to challenging Science/Math.

Listening to the video of the board meeting, the driver sure seems to be that Paly teachers only want a few special education students in each class so they can support them better, an admirable goal.

If 9A is really the best class for them and meaningful supports are in place, convince their parents to enroll them in 9A and let English 9 and 9A stand as is (or as was) so you don't take the choice away from others.

If it turns out that 9A hasn't been watered down and is more rigorous than special ed families prefer for their child, get the teachers teaching 9 more help.

If it is that Paly wants everyone to be in class called "advanced," name one Advanced 1 and the other Advanced 2."

Parent @ Paly you nailed it. Wow.

Sally Torbey,

There are many reasons to not take APUSH, American Lit H, or Journalism, and they are not all sinister. In the most recent meeting about the Social Justice pathway, and Sports pathway, Eric Bloom spoke very eloquently that the pathways may not allow for students to take AP's or certain Honors classes.

Students can distinguish themselves in many ways, and AP is not the only way.

What many students want is to be college ready, fairly pass their English credits, and not lose A - G eligibility because of that missing English credit.

It's actually pretty salty that the same teachers who have been responsible for the litter of Ds and F's in English on hundreds of transcripts, depriving students from A-G eligibility, would now be concerned about these same students taking APUSH.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Why would the teachers make 9 and 9A identical except to make things easier for themselves? They don't need to keep track of two different classes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Feb 21, 2014 at 7:44 pm

I have had two children go through Paly and the only thing I can say about the English department is that they give almost no individual instruction to students. My kids have turned in paper after paper, some longer, some shorter. They received grades -- some better, some worse -- but almost all had little to no comments or guidance from their teachers on what they could do to improve. When they would ask their teachers for guidance, they would tell them to look at the rubric. The writing instruction at PAUSD's secondary levels is abysmal. The only time my kids got constructive and regular feedback that improved their writing skills was in elementary school. I don't trust that having one lane in 9th grade will give the kids any better instruction, instead it will be dumbed down and the kids on the lower end of the spectrum will feel worse and the kids on the higher end will be bored and not challenged. The whole English curriculum and how it is taught needs to be revamped.



Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:

Follow this blogger (Receive an email when blogger makes a new post)

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Best High Dives to Watch the Game
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,516 views

Flirtation
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,388 views

King of the Slides
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 1,072 views

The Future of our Parks: Public Workshops this Week
By Cathy Kirkman | 0 comments | 524 views

NO MEAT ATHLETE Workout/Running Group
By Max Greenberg | 2 comments | 402 views