News

Stanford lecturer headlines counseling panel

Proposed changes to Gunn counseling program is topic of Wednesday event

Denise Clark Pope, a Stanford University senior lecturer, will be the featured panelist in a discussion of Gunn High School's guidance counseling program Wednesday, May 16.

Pope is a cofounder of the Stanford-based Challenge Success organization, which aims to "improve student health and engagement with learning." The group's anti-stress conferences in recent years have filled Stanford's 1,750-seat Memorial Auditorium with interested parents and school teams from throughout the country.

Wednesday's event will include a panel discussion focused on Gunn's counseling program, which currently is under review by an internal school working group, with recommendations for change anticipated in March 2013.

The sponsor of the panel discussion is the parent-led group We Can Do Better Palo Alto. For more than a year, We Can Do Better has urged the Board of Education to have Gunn shift from a traditional counseling system and adopt the "teacher-adviser" counseling model used at Palo Alto High School.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave. in Palo Alto.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

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Posted by Barbara Slone
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 14, 2012 at 10:51 am

Thanks We Can Do Better Palo Alto for sponsoring this event. I really appreciate the diligence this group has put forth in shining a light on the disparities between Gunn and Paly. Without WCDBPA we would not have so much information. This group is potentially saving the lives of Palo Alto's children. At the very least, this community should applaud their efforts in attempting to reduce the stress at Gunn HS. If you have been curious about these issues, this forum would be an excellent event to attend.


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Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

Do the great majority of Gunn students go on to "higher" education?
Are they reasonabley succesful at those institutions?
Doing something different to just show that you are "constructive and forward looking" is not always a good thing.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


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Posted by wow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

This is so typical!! Lets use our kids as guinea pigs!


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Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I couldn't agree more with Barbara Stone's first comment above. WCDBPA has added a tremendous amount of solid information to the policy discussions taking place at the school board. They deserve a lot of credit for all their hard work. It hasn't been easy to try to shine a light on these issues, but they have been both determined and dedicated. The community is a better place for the role they have played on these issues.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Two months ago the Weekly reported that the Gunn guidance model was debated and a direction set by the school board. So why are We Can Do Better and Challenge Success - note that PAUSD and PTA are not sponsors - organizing a public meeting about it after the fact?


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Posted by Gunn Junior
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

As a student I appreciate that community members are invested in making a positive change in the school atmosphere and counseling system. However, I think it is important to not jump to any conclusions and certainly to not vest blind support in any campaign. It would be a waste of the community's resources and commitment to jump onto the WCDBPA train without taking a look at the big picture. The system in place at PALY, effective as it may be, will not necessarily be a good fit for Gunn. I have faith that the Gunn administration will take a look at that option, but will take in as many facts as possible, and include all stakeholders in the process, before making a decision. If you want to be involved, do some research and understand the situation to avoid looking like the unfortunately commonplace "invested community member (without a clue)"


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I cannot believe it. It has been almost three years that we lost our first student from gun at the tracks, and we still debating if we need to make changes on Gunn counseling system. How many more students need to die?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Gun Parent - this a major eye-roller, as the loved ones of the dead still grieve.


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Posted by Wondering
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

And since there have been suicides at Paly as well, does that mean we need to change the Paly counseling system, too?


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Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on May 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

@curious -- You're right that the school board looked at the data and set a direction at its March 27th meeting -- see the Weekly's coverage at Web Link and Web Link. The school board directed Gunn to strongly consider adopting a teacher advisory model in the service of improving guidance services, and Gunn is returning to the board in June with a plan. We Can Do Better Palo Alto is hosting this parent education event in order to inform Gunn parents and students about advisory. For more information, see our website at Web Link, or even better, join us on Wednesday evening at 7:00 at St. Mark's at 600 Colorado Avenue in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I find it interesting that the critics of the Gunn counseling system discount the training and certification that our counselors have in guidance. Why is it better to have teacher advisors who already are responsible for teaching and grading 130-140 students in their own subject area? Guidance counselors have the training and expertise to advise students about academic and social issues. The average teacher does not have this type of training. We reach our students through our passion for our subject matter and we build relationships through the atmosphere we create in our classes. Many teachers also connect with students through clubs, sports, music, theater, and other activities. Gunn is an amazing school with an incredible curriculum and dedicated professionals who care about their students.


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Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on May 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

@Teacher

Thanks for your comments. I agree with you about the dedicated professionals at Gunn, including the guidance counselors. Unfortunately, those counselors are overburdened by the imbalance between 6 counselors trying to serve all of the guidance needs of 2000 students. An advisory system allows guidance counselors to focus on the social and emotional issues of students while enabling teachers to help students with academic advising issues. Bringing more adults into guidance roles -- Paly, for example, has 46 TAs -- results in a more manageable adult/student ratio, and frees counselors to be more effective. It also ensures that all students have a connection with an adult outside of an evaluative context, not just those involved in extracurricular activities.

Too often, though, these conversations are dominated by adult voices talking about students. In the Palo Alto Developmental Assets survey, Project Safety Net found that "few middle & high schoolers feel like they have a voice in the community or that the community cares about them." I urge you to listen to the comments of Gunn students, as captured in the survey they took earlier this year about guidance in response to the question, "What can Guidance Counselors do differently or more to help you and other Gunn students succeed?" Here are a few examples, but you can find the complete set at Web Link.


Sophomore Female:
I have never met my councelor after 1.5 years at GUNN.

Junior Male:
My counselor doesn't know much about me, and doesn't make a strong effort to try to connect with me. Also if I had a dollar for every time I went to his office and there was an "Out to Lunch" sign, I would have 8 dollars. I would be able to buy his lunch and bring it to him while we had a meeting.

Junior Female:
It would be really nice to have some guidance and be able to talk to my counselor about personal issues but I think it would just be awkward because we don't know each other. I would really recommend getting more counselors so the student to counselor ration would be lower. I don't think my counselor would even recognize my face.

Junior Male:
Well at our school, a VERY academically prominent school and one that has been plagued with suicides and other problems, there are fewer counsellors than at almost any other schools... I have yet to find a person who can explain to me. Our counselors don't have time for us and cannot/will not help us. Reform would be great, because this counselor system is helpless.

Sophomore Male:
I have never met my counselor and earlier this year when I had an issue with my schedule I had to look in the yearbook so I could figure out whether they were a man or a woman so that I could properly address an email. I feel like that might point to a small issue in the way the department does things.

Junior Female:
Making counselors more accessible to students would be better. This could be solved by having more than 6 counselors for 2,000 students. Seriously, it sucks.

Freshman Male:
i dont know because ive never been to a guidance counselor.

Sophomore Female:
I know that the Guidance Department is supposed to give me a call slip for a counselor meeting but I haven't gotten mine yet, and I don't know when I am supposed to have received it by?

Senior Female:
I am currently waiting to have a meeting with my counselor even though I arranged it at the start of the semester, so I guess actually having that meeting would be something to change. Apart from that everything is fine.

Freshman Female:
Somehow contact students to tell them who their counselor is.

Freshman Female:
I feel like the counslers are too busy to help me. I also went to the counslers across from the main office to ask about this charity organization and they said they would get back to me in a few days. It has been a month and still no response. . . .

Sophomore Female:
I have never met my councelor after 1.5 years at GUNN

Freshman Female:
I would suggest to make appointments with the students so they know who their student are. I have never actually met my counselor .

We can be doing better for these students and enabling the dedicated professionals at Gunn to be more effective in meeting their needs.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 8:30 am

> Guidance counselors have the training and expertise
> to advise students about academic and social issues.

> The average teacher does not have this type of training.

Interesting. Care to provide some clarification, some examples?


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Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

These students sound like my kids. My daughter graduated 2 years ago, and my son is a sophomore at Gunn now, so maybe he actually is one of these quotes. I asked my son this morning if he knew his counselor, and he said he hasn't met her yet but he thinks he is supposed to next week. This is a ridiculous situation. Why are our students getting 1 meeting a year with a counselor, if they are lucky, while Paly students have teachers and counselors to help them? I'm sure the counselors are great, but if the kids can't get in to see them what difference does it make?
I also don't buy the idea that teachers can't do academic advising. How do you explain Paly then? Come on, we should have an honest discussion about this.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

Here's a post from another thread going on this site right now regarding the same topic that supports the same idea:


Posted by Gunn Senior, a member of the Gunn High School community, on May 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm

I would actually disagree with the claim that "some" kids are well-connected at Gunn. I will say that the vast majority of kids are not connected to counselors or teachers. The fact is, from my experience, you do not get to know your counselor well until senior year. Before senior year, I talked to the counselor maybe once a year, for scheduling. I did not feel there was any connection, and many of my friends shared this sentiment. Only this year, when we actually had appointments where we had to discuss our colleges and our futures did I have some tiny connection with my counselor. But honestly, my counselor has never asked my anything about my personal life (and why would he? It doesn't seem entirely appropriate when we're meeting to discuss college application deadlines).

It is true that counselors are generally available at any time for drop-ins, but honestly, a student who feels isolated will NOT go out of their comfort zone and drop-in "just to chat."

The same applies for teachers. I "know" my teachers in only an academic sense. There is very little personal connection. In my observations, male students don't talk on a personal level with teachers, while I have seen only a few female students (out of many) who do personally know their teacher. Sure, my teachers can write a letter of recommendation for me extolling how I participate in class and am very intelligent, etc., but they cannot attest to my personal values.

I certainly think, though, that trying to increase the level of connectedness among students and teachers will go a long way towards reducing isolation among students.


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Posted by ACS Board Member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

Just to clarify: we're talking about academic advising here, not social and emotional counseling. For the latter services, BOTH high schools (and all three middle schools) have the FREE services of Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS). As it has for the past 32 years, ACS partners with the guidance counselors at all five secondary schools to identify and provide support for students in need. Sometimes this means immediate hospitalization, sometimes ongoing at-school counseling, sometimes referral to outside counselors. Students can get to ACS by going to their guidance counselors, through a teacher, parent or friend referral or simply by walking into the ACS offices on campus. ACS is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization that receives its funding from a broad variety of sources, including corporations and foundations, government and individuals. The PAUSD and the principals at all five secondary schools are very happy with the services provided by ACS. ACS is NOT part of this discussion.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Dear ACS Board Member ~ Thank you for clarifying that social-emotional support is available at both schools by way of ACS and referrals to other medical experts. This is an important distinction from the expectation of the academic guidance counselors. Surely we expect the staff including teachers and counselors to be available in the event a student presents with possibility of mental or emotional health issues and in those situations help the students get the support they need, which is likely to be from physicians or licensed therapists, not from the academic guidance counseling department only.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm

> but they cannot attest to my personal values.

Ah .. but who can?

It strains the credulity to believe that children in high school have a deep understanding of their own "personal values" .. particularly since so many children have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths (whether they believe it or not). So why in the world would a teacher, who may not actually understand his/her own "personal values" be expected to know the "personal values" of 30-100 students who are more "blank slate" than not.

It's clear from the comments of students posted above—most are just children, and don't really have too much to add to this discussion, in the long run.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

The TA system at Paly works pretty well BUT most TA's deal with the academics and college planning of students - not the social or emotional issues. The big advantage of the TA system is that the TA and the student spend more time together - about once a month on average for 3 years. The disadvantage is that there is a huge variation between the TA's and they are NOT trained counselors. Some distribute whatever material they are supposed to cover and dismiss their advisory early. Some really cover the materials and discuss the topics with the kids. Some make a real effort to get to know the students. Some do not.

BUT since Paly has 4 guidance counselors who will now "travel" with the class thanks to PiE $$, the Paly kids have 4 Counselors, 46 TA's, 2 College Counselors and a Career Counselor. I think one College Counselor and some of the Career Counselor are also funded by PiE $$.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Let well enough alone. Add more professional counselors to the staff at Gunn. About 2/3 of Paly students did not find the TA system to be effective. They usually cut the advisory period for the sun in the quad or breakfast at T&C. Gunn staff thinks that the system at Gunn needs some fine tuning, but not a complete over haul.


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Posted by MD
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Each counselor at Gunn has over 300 students in their case load. ADD MORE COUNSELORS to the Gunn staff. The Gunn teachers do not see the value in the TA program. We need more TRAINED professionals on staff. Teachers are asked almost every year to take on more responsibilities. Last year teachers were asked to act as health care providers. Gov. Brown signed into law a bill which require teachers to insert suppositories into a students rear end. How absurd is that? Break teachers a break! Next we will be asked to nurse them (as shown on the recent Time magazine cover).


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Posted by Gunn staff member
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 16, 2012 at 1:02 am

Teen suicides at Gunn were unfortunate and part of a bigger national picture. But Paly's TA system did NOT stop last's year suicide at Paly nor the several other such deaths at Paly over the years. The TA system is only as good as the people who staff it. If you force the Gunn teachers to adopt this system, you can look forward to a lack luster performance. You cannot mandate nor force caring and concerned people to do something which they are opposed to. Yes, we wil do our "job" as most good slaves would do - out of fear, not out of love.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 16, 2012 at 1:14 am

Dear Mr. Dauber,

You cherry picked the student comments to suit your purpose. Shame on you, Ken. What kind of example are you setting for the young people who read this electronic rag? What has you so "dedicated" to this "cause?"

The TA system has no teeth - meaning TA have no leverage to encourage attendance.
Paly kids ditch the Advisory period for the sun on the quad, The Wall, and/or Town & Country. Paly's TA system is NOT the end all, be all.

Has anyone done a fair and honest evaluation of this program? Where are the hard cold facts?


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

Dear "Paly parent":

Not only did we NOT "cherry pick" these examples, these are among the mildest examples from over 700 other comments by students asking for improvements.

As Chris Kenrick's story on the open-ended responses states (Web Link), many of these comments are fairly characterized as "pleading." 1621 Gunn students took the survey and 755 (45%) were negative. Only 3% were positive.

I am a sociologist on the Stanford faculty. I took the time to hand-code all of the responses from both schools and have posted all my coding choices to the web. Not only are the Gunn comments more negative they are also more detailed and longer. The students apparently felt so frustrated by their experiences in a system that is overburdened and unresponsive that they thought writing into the comment box of a survey was their best option for obtained needed assistance. The Gunn responses are quite qualitatively different from Paly responses as well. Paly students who gave negative feedback often wrote short comments such as "more one on one." Gunn students often wrote paragraphs.

To the extent that we "cherry picked" examples it was away from the many disturbing stories of students suffering from serious problems but who were unable to find needed help in favor of less dramatic but more prosaic examples such as those below. Several students expressed that they were in crisis and needed help urgently but because the data was anonymous (and because no one at the district office read it anyway) no help was forthcoming despite their requests.

The only theme that emerged from the Paly data is that some students would like more one on one time with their TAs. By contrast, Gunn students are upset about the lack of access to counselors, would like the onus to be shifted so that students do not always bear the burden of reaching out for help, want better and more information in a more timely manner, more individualized treatment, more emotional support, a lower student/counselor ratio, more responsive communications (probably a subset of access), greater personal respect and more individualized information. Many were very angry.

Many, if not most, students have interpreted the poor structure of the system at Gunn which is overburdened and overtaxed not as a structural problem but as a lack of caring by the adults. While I do not agree with this interpretation, I think it is very important for the community to realize that these young people have come to see the unresponsive system in which they are placed as one in which the counselors do not care about them. Many comments reflect this anger and resentment through sarcasm and irony, as with this sophomore male, who wrote: " actually talking to me might help. hahahaa."

Also exhibiting this anger and frustration, a junior girl who wrote: "He/she does not explain what the classes are, just wants to fill up the table so that you can graduate." Similarly, and more poignantly, a freshman female wrote: "What the guidance counselor has to do is to meet the students, every one of us, and memorize our names. Also, do not lie or blab or make a whole spiel on something you do not even know! JUST DO THE RESEARCH and work hard, and don't just leave and lie that you are sick when I e-mail you that we have a meeting planned a week ago and you confirmed. You should try to be a good counselor that even students from a poor family can go to, not one of those paid-for counselors!!!!!!"

In these examples we can see that the child has interpreted the lack of accessibility brought on by the structure of the system as a personal rejection of her need for support, and has assessed the situation as being about a personal rejection, perhaps on the basis of her class, rather than as a counselor who is too busy and overburdened to provide her with needed assistance.

Another student similarly sees her overworked counselors as hostile and and uncaring, and has interpreted the consequences in her life as the result of the counselor's lack of "believing in her heart" in the student: "i feel that the only way that the guidance counselors can grasp the severity of the choices they help make students do is to look past the silver lining and believe in their heart. Also the councilors wouldent let me change classes. SO ipso facto they are the reoson im not graduating."

It is the job of the school board to reflect the democratic will of their constituents (including these students, who are constituents) and then the job of the administration to provide that leadership and support necessary to implement the decision of the people.

Here are some more typical examples from our youth. I urge all community members, especially, Gunn, Terman and JLS parents to visit this website to read them all: Web Link

Sophomore Female:
We need more counselors to be able to handle the amount of students we have. The Paly model seems to work better than ours, follow what they are doing. Counselors should meet with each student more times and make themselves more approachable. They need to make it easier and evident that they want us to say hi with a tidbit of our personal lives for it to be easier for them to write letters of recommendation. Also, when we ask the same question more than once, it would be nice if you answered the question [the first time] when the question is totally something each counselor would know. (When is my appointment scheduled for?) Make it known for what circumstances and when one should take SAT, SAT II, and ACT tests and what an individual should do to prepare for them. Also, don't say that we won't get in to any college because we didn't do something nobody even told us was important, and then voila, we got in to Harvard. Tell us before freshman year what we should do SPECIFICALLY during our summers, extracirriculars, etc. and be consistent. Nothing that you are doing is working out very well, so why don't you just rewrite your policies, hire people who can actually do the job, and start fresh.

Freshman Female:
Freshman Female: I don't ever remembering them help me academically or with college. The only time I see my counselor is when I need a schedule change. I don't see my counselor as someone to talk to or tell them how I feel or if I'm stressed. I do not think my counselor really cares about me or even remember who I am.

Junior Female:
I had a very difficult time meeting with my counselor. Finally, after many emails from me and my father, I was able to schedule an appointment. It was after I had already decided my classes for junior year and overall it wasn't too helpful. I feel like I barely know my counselor and I do not feel comfortable speaking with her about anything, even school related things, because we are so distant. It would be really nice to have some guidance and be able to talk to my counselor about personal issues but I think it would just be awkward because we don't know each other. I would really recommend getting more counselors so the student to counselor ration would be lower. I don't think my counselor would even recognize my face.

Junior Female:
We need more counselors! My counselor does not really know me, even though I have spoken with her many times. If each counselor had fewer students to worry about, each student would get more attention and probably feel much more comfortable speaking with their counselor. I also think that graduation requirements and college entrance requirements need to be more thoroughly explained.

Junior Female:
I would like to meet with my Guidance Counselor during times other than when I'm struggling with a class or when I want to change my schedule, I haven't had all that much time to really talk about my future goals with them.

Senior Female:
I am currently waiting to have a meeting with my counselor even though I arranged it at the start of the semester, so I guess actually having that meeting would be something to change. Apart from that everything is fine.

Freshman Female:
Somehow contact students to tell them who their counselor is.

Sophomore Male:
when people stand outside there office and even tho there helping someone else, they should take a minute to ask whats wrong or tell the student if its important or a serious issue instead of writing whats wrong in a peice of paper and wait for them to read it and sometimes they dont even call you right away.

Junior Female:
Junior Female: Honestly, I think the Guidance Counseling department does not do anything. To change and drop classes, students have to go around and try to find teachers on campus, which is very time consuming. Also, everyone I know goes to a private consultant for admissions, because they have more knowledge about getting into college and what it takes.

Senior Female:
Answering e-mails would be a really great improvement to the guidance department. I find that my schedule fills up and the only way I can get in contact with my counselor is through e-mail. I sent an e-mail at the beginning of January about help with the FAFSA and other various financial aid things and I still haven't heard back.

Freshman Female:
I feel like the counslers are too busy to help me. I also went to the counslers across from the main office to ask about this charity organization and they said they would get back to me in a few days. It has been a month and still no response. . . .

Junior Male:
I have only met with my counselor twice, i think that more required or more planned meetings would be better.

Sophomore Female:
I think the Guidance Counseling department is seriously flawed. Paly has proven to have a system that works. Gunn needs to take a look at what other top schools have done with their counseling department and model ours after theirs. For example, how many times has the average student seen their counselor by the time they reach 10th grade? Maybe 1 or 2 times. The counselors seem to always be pushing a certain cause the moment you enter their room. ("Don't take this AP class or that Honors class", "Make sure to take a semester of living skills and not during the summer.") They are not flexible and willing to change their views to accommodate the specific needs of students. Ask around. Look at the other survey responses. Everyone knows that the Counseling department is flawed. Sure, we have a lot of Gunn students. But group counseling sessions, 1 meeting a year, etc. is sub-par.

Junior Female:
Be more connected with the students More required visits if students are uncomfortable going by their own accord (about college, other stuff)

Freshman Female:
I would suggest to make appointments with the students so they know who their student are. I have never actually met my counselor . . .

Junior Female:
I think having meetings with guidance councilors on a more regular basis would be helpful. A lot of the time I have small questions, so I feel like it's kind of a waste of time to arrange a meeting just for a 30-second question. Freshman year the guidance councilors would meet with classes (like you'd go during your history class or something). If we could do that more often, it would be helpful because then I feel like a lot of kids would ask questions that they otherwise wouldn't.

Senior Male:
IT is often hard to meet with my guidance counselor in person. I often find that she is out getting lunch or at a meeting during one of the few times a day that I am available to see her.

Sophomore Male:
Provide more meetings every year with individuals. One a year does not seem to be enough.

Junior Female:
They can be more readily available when people make appointments. I have made appointments with my counselor before and have never been called in. I've always had to go in on my own again.

Junior Female:
We need more counselors! I have had my counselor tell me that she does not have time for me, and she does not know my name, even after I have visited her many times. It feels like every time that we talk, it is the first time we have met. I understand that she cannot remember everything about every single student, so it would be a lot easier for her, and beneficial to the student, for counselors to have fewer students assigned to them.

Sophomore Male:
when people stand outside there office and even tho there helping someone else, they should take a minute to ask whats wrong or tell the student if its important or a serious issue instead of writing whats wrong in a peice of paper and wait for them to read it and sometimes they dont even call you right away

Senior Female:
I think guidance counselors should ASK about personal problems because even if they are nice and inviting, it isn't necessarily clear that they are open to discussions. This is mostly because the meetings are usually rushed and focused on academics/college. I also felt that counselors could learn more about colleges to help reduce the list of schools to apply to per student

Sophomore Female:
I havent actually met my new counselor...... I also find it difficult to meet with a counselor because they get back within a week and thats kind of a long time

Senior Male:
I think that the guidance department should at least know their student's names because a lot of students' counselors do not give students adequate time to meet and keep in touch with the counselors and therefore the counselors do not know many of their kids sufficiently.

Sophomore Female:
I have never met my counselor.


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Posted by Another Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Wow, Michele. Thanks for posting all of these student comments.
I don't believe that these various people posting as Gunn staff represent the views of Gunn teachers and counselors. There were lots of teacher volunteers for Titan 101 (which didn't go very well), and I just can't believe that our teachers would write things like "Yes, we wil do our "job" as most good slaves would do - out of fear, not out of love" and "Next we will be asked to nurse them (as shown on the recent Time magazine cover)."
It's so ridiculous. The teachers I know at Gunn care about kids and want to do the right thing. Volunteering to be a teacher-advisor and getting a prep period for it isn't slavery or breastfeeding. I bet these are Gunn students having a laugh or trying to discredit somebody.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Why were the surveys administered to Paly students by their Teacher Advisors? That shows a conflict of interest. At Gunn they were administered by the Math Teachers.

I would never sit there writing a paragraph about advisement in front of my advisor for fear they would think it was negative. I would never write anything negative for fear they would read the survey after I handed it in. Do we really trust the survey comments?


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2012 at 12:07 am

The surveys were entirely anonymous and were completed online on survey monkey. Only the consultant had the password, and no teachers were able to see their responses. Even if they had been able to see them, they would not have been able to tell whose they were since there was no personally identifiable information of any type collected for any of the approximately 3000 respondents at both schools.

710 students (~50%) at Paly wrote specific comments into the survey, so obviously they were not afraid to write comments.

Another piece of evidence that the comments are reliable is that they track the quantitative data almost perfectly. Paly students are about half as negative and twice as positive about their counseling system as Gunn students across both types of data. This supports the idea that the comments reflect actual views of students.

I have no idea why it is that some Gunn counseling administrators are so worried about the fact that Paly students did the survey in advisory. This is a silly red herring that has no evidence of any bearing on survey reliability. Maybe the Gunn students wrote highly negative comments pleading for more attention and contact with adults in their math classes because that's actually how they feel. I suggest just reading the responses and reaching your own conclusions about what they say. Here is a link:

Paly:Web Link

Gunn: Web Link


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Posted by observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

The catagory with the highest number of filled-in responses in the Paly survey was the overall negative column. Negative for GC and TA were about even with the positive. In general responses were shorter, maybe the kids just wanted to leave.

Kids in math class at Gunn could have been stalling math class by writing long responses.


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Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park School
on May 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm

@observer

I don't know what your first two sentences mean. The idea that students decided to write paragraphs about their experience with the guidance system in order to delay math seems unlikely at best. Tom Jacoubowsky at Gunn was responsible for arranging how and when the surveys were administered. I'm sure that he did a good job in setting things up, ensuring that students got the right instructions, etc. I imagine you won't have trouble finding him to follow up if you have questions.

In terms of your larger point: I suppose that you could decide that somehow our students didn't actually mean what they wrote, so we don't have to listen to what they said. As I noted above, in the Palo Alto Developmental Assets survey, Project Safety Net found that "few middle & high schoolers feel like they have a voice in the community or that the community cares about them." I think that we should take that finding to heart and try to correct it here by reading their comments and taking them seriously. You can scroll up the page to find examples of those comments, and a link to the full set.


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