News

Editorial: The Paly English kerfuffle

Mysteriously, a plan more than a year in the making goes from being recommended to being shelved, all in two weeks

It was hardly a surprise that a proposal to combine the two "lanes" of freshman English into one would meet some resistance in a school district like Palo Alto. Parents love choices, and especially those that allow their high-achieving kids to be challenged to the max.

What was stunning, however, was how dismissively a carefully developed, well-researched teacher proposal was handled by the school board and how quickly the administration turned its back on a plan it had endorsed and brought to the community for adoption.

We don't pretend to know whether the idea of "de-laning" Paly ninth-grade English is a good idea or not. But if we entrust our kids to the teachers of this self-proclaimed lighthouse district for their education, then we owe them the benefit of serious and respectful consideration of a carefully developed proposal.

If our pediatrician or accountant, having come to know our kids or our finances, recommends we do certain things based on their professional judgment, our first reaction isn't to stop talking about it and reject the recommendations because we think we know better or because it's causing angst in the family.

It should be to learn more, ask questions and understand why the talented people we have chosen to trust and educate our children hold such strongly held opinions.

That attitude was nowhere to be found among school board members, or the administrators who capitulated and turned their backs on the teachers at the first signs of resistance.

The Palo Alto High School English department has over several years developed major concerns about the negative effects of having two lanes in freshman English.

They say that kids and parents are selecting between English 9 and English 9A ("Accelerated") for the wrong reasons, ranging from a fear of failure to anxiety about high school pressures to what their friends are doing. Although they didn't say so explicitly, they also are concerned about English 9 being heavily skewed with minority students, and the fact that there has developed a strong stigma attached to being in English 9 that can have strongly negative impacts on student attitudes and motivation.

But more importantly, they point to research showing that students at all levels, even the very top students, do better when in a classroom environment that is diverse in abilities, particularly in English, where much of the curriculum is aimed at students exploring and discussing ideas and learning how to express themselves. It is the ideal subject and year of school for embracing mixed ability classes, they say, and it then allows all students more options for the rest of their high school years.

These teachers, led by Instructional Supervisor Shirley Tokheim, who has a Ph.D. in education policy from U.C. Berkeley, have been working on this plan for more than two years and have been allowed, if not encouraged, by district administrators to move forward with it. All the needed district staff committees green-lighted the pilot program.

With the strong support of principal Kim Diorio (who was vice principal of guidance before being promoted to principal) and the tepid endorsement of Superintendent Kevin Skelly, the proposal was scheduled for 10 minutes on the agenda and finally came before a tired and cranky school board on Jan. 28 at 11:30 p.m.

Six parents spoke; three supported it and three expressed concerns. Four of the five school board members made clear they had received an earful from parents prior to the meeting and felt the proposal hadn't received sufficient public airing and needed more parent buy-in. The board also conveyed they weren't persuaded it was a good educational move.

Then, after agreeing at 1 a.m., at Superintendent Kevin Skelly's urging, to have the matter return to the board later this month for more discussion, it was announced by the district this Tuesday that the proposal was dead and there would be no changes in freshman English.

In what has become an all too common occurrence, decision-making came out of nowhere, the result of unseen, unheard and undocumented deliberation taking place out of view of the public.

How is it that at one meeting of the school board a decision is made to give the teachers time to work further on the proposal and bring it back for further discussion and then the entire issue is unilaterally pronounced dead by the superintendent a few days later?

When decisions suddenly get made or reversed outside of public view, with no explanation, it is fundamentally undemocratic and disrespectful of all stakeholders. The result, as seen in this case, is everyone feeling bad and a lot of thoughtful work getting jettisoned. That is not the governance model we think this community wants.

Comments

Posted by FGS, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:36 am

I know the board should ignore that "earful from parents prior to the meeting". What on earth is the board doing listening to parents!


Posted by Which Parents?, a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

It isn't about parents--it's about constituents. Which parents are being listened to and which parents aren't is the question. Presumably they didn't listen to the three parents who attended the initial discussion who supported de-laning. Nor did they listen to the parent who spoke last week in support of de-laning. If the argument is that they were listening to parents, then they should prove it. Produce the emails. Or find a better way that more accurately and transparently polls the majority of parents in the Paly community. Are we to believe that the parents/guardians of the nearly 500 students in the current Freshman class emailed the board? What about the larger community of close to 2000 families at Paly? Or the rising 9th grade class? I think it's naive to believe that anything even close to an accurately representative group of people contacted the board. The board is supposed to look out for everyone and not just the vocal minority. If these emails gave them pause, then that's what should have happened. A pause. Not a full clean sweep of the entire proposal off the agenda. Speaking of which, what is the procedure of removing an item from the agenda?
It's too easy to say "Parents said so and so." Quantify. Qualify. Don't ask us to take your word for it.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

If the teachers really think diversity in the classroom helps learning, then I trust the parents to make the decisions.


Posted by FGS, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by defacto, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

...and if Wasc believes diversity/non-segregated classes are best, do you still trust the parents over the accrediting body?


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:56 am

The thing is, you could turn the weekly's argument around completely. The English department spent two years planning that program without one single word to the Special Ed community. Why are they ignoring that segment of the population which would least benefit from the change? It is very suspicious. The first time anyone in that community got wind of it was a mere few days before the board meeting. Why is that? And it didn't come from English but from Admin. Why is there so little communication at Paly? Is it any wonder parents would want more information?


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:04 am

In January 2013, in a room full of 8th grade parents ready to register their child for 9th grade at Paly, Principal Winston surprised parents with the announcement that Paly would only be offering English 9. Soon after that was an email to Jordan parents saying that, on second thought, both 9 and 9A would be offered.

Like in 2013, this year Paly was so confident that this would finally happen -- except this time it was only offering English 9 Advanced -- that it sent the 8th grade course catalog with the one 9th Grade English class to print before the board, students and parents heard about the proposal.

In neither year did Paly give the school board time to understand it and get their questions answered before 9th grade registration started and ended.

Getting it to the board so late probably had lots to do with why it was pulled. Just getting the public airing that the Weekly mentions takes lots of time since PTAs and Site Councils only meet once a month.

Paly has a full year until registration 2015 to re-propose it. If it starts this Fall, doesn't rush things, and is open to input, the third time may be a charm.


Posted by RIK, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:12 am

I would like to know Who, exactly, decided the 'proposal was dead', and that there would be no changes to freshman
English, period.
This was a two-year researched proposal and should be taken seriously.


Posted by Julie Lythcott-Haims, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:25 am

Excellent piece. Here is what I found most salient: "But if we entrust our kids to the teachers of this self-proclaimed lighthouse district for their education, then we owe them the benefit of serious and respectful consideration of a carefully developed proposal. If our pediatrician or accountant, having come to know our kids or our finances, recommends we do certain things based on their professional judgment, our first reaction isn't to stop talking about it and reject the recommendations because we think we know better or because it's causing angst in the family."

As many in our community know, my perspective as a former Stanford dean and current Palo Alto parent is that we parents are over-involved in the lives of our kids. The more educators I speak with about this issue, the more I hear, "Parents don't trust us. They're constantly questioning our authority." Whether it's teachers, principals, referees, coaches, (etc.) the old mantra of question authority has gone into hyperdrive; we parents seem to think we know better. About everything. It's tiring and tiresome. Yeah we do have one of the top school districts in the country, and the best teachers are attracted to it. How bout we let them do their jobs, and if they dare to innovate (how very Palo Alto of them) let's encourage that and see what happens. If it turns out to be a disaster our kids can write about that 'hardship' on their college applications. LOL. But seriously. Teachers are educated professionals. Let's treat them that way.

PS/I use my real name when I post because though the arrows will no doubt come my feeling is if I have an opinion and choose to blast it all over the community, I ought to own it. I encourage my fellow Palo Altans to do the same.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:27 am

I wonder how much the detractors of this proposal actually understood about it. Maybe a lot, but I have my doubts. Presumably the concerns are mostly about the more talented students and whether they would be sufficiently challenged. I note with interest the article in the Paly Voice about this (Web Link), which says,

"Under the new system, teachers would provide a level of difficulty tailored to the needs of each student, who would progress through the class together and then choose their lane going into tenth grade.

"We will be differentiating within the same classroom," [Kindel] Launer [leader of the freshman English teachers] said. "Students with an advanced profile will be pushed to discuss more advanced ideas, and perhaps to revise more often… differentiation in an English class happens in the moment for each person."

I like the idea. I certainly think it's worth more than 10 minutes of consideration. And I am absolutely appalled if in fact after "agreeing ... to have the matter return ... for more discussion", the district simply killed the proposal. This smacks of the worst sort of back-room politicking. Teaching begins with teachers. If you're not even going to listen to what they have to say, just tell them not to bother caring about it. Oh, I forgot. You just did.


Posted by senor blogger, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

Sounds to me like Skelly and the Board could give a Damn. Can the Board be Recalled?


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

Many times differentiation means the accelerated kids teaching the struggling kids. That is something we see over and over again in the elementary and middle school combined classrooms. It is ineffective and humiliating. Why would we trust the high school to be any different


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:46 am

This is a good editorial. However, it fails to take into account one salient point that I think must be reported. The WASC Accreditation committee specifically called out the 9th grade english class as racially segregated. As it currently stands there are few or no minority students (self-identifying as Black or Latino) in English 9A. They are all in English 9. The only white students in English 9 are special education students. This is a big problem because it results in de facto segregation by race and disability. It strongly suggests that the 8th grade counselors at Jordan are engaged in racial and disability based steering of students into the 9 class.

WASC wanted that fixed, and the district specifically asked our English teachers to fix it. They fixed it. First they attempted to eliminate 9A. That produced a firestorm of protest from 9A parents who wanted honors level work for their gifted children in 9th grade, not 10th grade -- as suggested by Dean Julie above. Then they went back to the drawing board and found that when they raised expectations for all students by offering the same rigorous curriculum of 9A to the disabled and minority students clustered in english 9 they raised their performance. As if by magic the number of Ds and Fs being received by those students fell.

When a higher exepctation was given to those students, they performed to the expectation. With this finding, supported by academic research, was presented to the board as support for raising the bar for all students, instead of the applause these teachers should have received for "thinking outside the box" and bringing research and data into an important conversation -- that is, for doing what we want them to do, they were treated shamefully.

It is not a problem when the board gives a serious consideration to the teachers, the district recommendation, and the parents and then sides with parents. It is a terrible problem when the teachers get no respectful hearing in the first place and instead are just shot down at 1:00am.

Another piece of evidence that must be considered is the startling admission, made at 1:00 in the morning, by Dr. Tokheim, that Paly english is currently "out of compliance" with federal special education law. There are currently so many special ed students clustered in English 9 that the district is required by law to have a special ed certified teacher in the room. That is now a special ed classroom. Of course, the black students in there are not special ed, so they are being taught in a de facto special ed class even though they are not special ed at all, raising questions about why all the black students are in a de facto special ed classroom (possibly also in violation of disproportionality).

The current California State Special Ed Compliance Auditor should be informed that the district has admitted to the school board that it is "out of compliance" and the board shrugged.

Meanwhile, it should also be noted that Mary Vincent, the co-chair of the Special Ed CAC supported the proposal.

The information about de facto segregation was not presented to the community or to the board. Why not? Who at the district covered it up? The Weekly should be following up and doing a news story about that and about the "we are out of compliance" admission and I hope it is.


Posted by Gunn Mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Thank you PA Weekly for another timely, specific and well deserved critique of our PAUSD school board. I am not surprised, but extremely disappointed this effort was dismissed in such a perfunctory way. The teachers conducted extensive research, had data to support their positions, and found other high achieving schools to demonstrate that "laning" for enlish had no impact. Unfortunately, when the board should actually have a spine and stand up to school administrators and get them to do the work that the board specifically asks for (e.g. Gunn Guidance improvements), the board lavishes effusive praise and conveniently looks the other way.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm

@Ed
I don't believe your numbers on the SPED kids. There aren't enough of them to fill all of those sections. You say that none of the URM kids in 9 are SPED - that must mean all of the URM SPED kids are in 9A?
And the magical grade improvement - could it just be grade inflation?

Jordan and Paly really need to do some overhauling but without taking choice away and without grinding all SPED kids of all races into the ground.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Having a team of one standard and one SPED teacher is not out of compliance and does not turn a classroom into a SPED - it is called "inclusion", something Paly has striven for since Phil started there.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Beautifully said. It must be remarkably maddening to teach in this district.


Posted by Been tried k-8, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Non-laned English classes (and most other subjects) are the norm for kids throughout the district until the end of middle school. If they had some tremendous ability to level out academic skill, I would think they would have worked their magic before ninth grade.
My high schooler was grateful to finally reach laned classes in high school. I agree that there shouldn't be a stigma to taking the "regular" level class. It should be a quality offering. But eliminating the higher level option for students who are ready for it is not a good solution. Differentiation within the same class always sounds good on paper, but sadly is rarely actually acheived in the classroom. You want to ask who really knows? Ask the students who have just spent the last nine years of their life in aggregated classes.

The school board was understandably responding to the community's lack of trust in a proposal that had not seen adequate daylight.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm

@Edmund Burke - English 9A is not an honors level course, it is an "accelerated" course. I have a child who is now a junior and was in English 9. He was not a special ed student and neither were his many friends that were in his class. None of them were minorities. All of them took 9 instead 9A because they were concerned about the additional work load of 9A. That same year, there were enough disruptive students in another section of English 9 that Mr. Winston team-taught the class with the teacher, I have no idea whether the kids were special ed or just disruptive.

If there is sufficient differentiation in an English classroom, which would require the teacher to be very proactive in leading discussions, I can totally see how all students could be both challenged and supported. That would require prompt editing and returning of work by the teacher (rules out Mr. Hinton teaching freshman English) but it could certainly work.

As said above, if the teachers put so much thought into this, with the mandate from WASC that we desegregate classes [portion removed], we should trust them to implement it.


Posted by paparent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

@Voter -- yes, you are right, there is a problem with trying to do the best we can for our special ed students. I know of a student who struggles with reading and writing, gets a B in English 9 at Paly, but the writing is nearly incomprehensible. Maybe the teacher feels it's best to be encouraging, but there are no suggestions made on the essays on how to improve. Even if there were suggestions, that would not be enough. With a situation like this, the student needs a special tutor, but does not get one with a B grade.

This is why I question the wisdom of the teachers' judgement in going to one lane English. It is not a good system as it is now if special ed students are not getting the help they need.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Am I missing something?

Where is the data on which English classes special education and minority students are enrolled in and in what numbers and who is and isn't getting Ds and Fs reported - pre and post-raised expectations -- that teachers brought into this conversation? Someone asked for the breakdown but no one shared it, at least in view of the video camera at the board meeting that night.

Taking your view on a course's racial composition to its logical conclusion, are we to presume that all lanes in all subjects in all grades in all K-16 public schools that are not racially balanced are that way because teachers are racists and the school district is left with just two choices: prove that its teachers aren't bigots or eliminate all lanes?

How about this option: allowing all students to take the class level they want and let them change during the year if the one they chose is not the right fit (what PAUSD does now)?


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

wouldn't segregated mean that no urm students were allowed in either the 9 or the 9A? wouldn't it also mean that no white or asian students were allowed in a classroom with the urm students? i doubt that is the situation at paly. this is an overcorrection and a misdirection. it masks the real problems with differentiation and counseling at the feeder schools and at paly. it masks the lack of willingness on the part of language arts teachers to grade papers all along the k-12 path.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

@voter

"Having a team of one standard and one SPED teacher is not out of compliance and does not turn a classroom into a SPED - it is called "inclusion", something Paly has striven for since Phil started there."

The teachers were adamant that there is not currently co-teaching in the English 9 classes and that they did not have the resources to have co-teachers. I believe that this is the "out of compliance" issue.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I don't understand why they instituted inclusion if they did not have the staff to support it. That is cheating the SPED students and burdening everyone.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

"wouldn't segregated mean that no urm students were allowed in either the 9 or the 9A? wouldn't it also mean that no white or asian students were allowed in a classroom with the urm students?

There is a difference between de jure segregation, which is segregation required by law and de facto segregation. What you describe is de jure segregation. What the 9th grade english program at Paly encapsulates is de facto segregation. When you see that in 9th grade a great disproportion of minority students in one class that raises a concern about de facto segregation.

The visiting 2008-09 WASC committee found that this was a concern, noting in the section of the report regarding closing the achievement gap (p.66-67) that "integrating the two lanes" was a remedy for the achievement gap that needed to be accomplished in order to "provide a wider diversity of students
with the skill sets necessary to be successful in its higher level selective courses." The WASC elsewhere notes that the English department took a full day to discuss and evaluate laning." See: Web Link

Thus, the visiting WASC committee noted 6 years ago that the English 9 laning was de facto segregated and that the lanes needed to be combined in order to ensure that everyone had the skill sets to be successful in higher level courses. That was in 2008 (6 years ago). This has been under study for a long time. It was not secret. It was in the WASC. The Site Council was involved, the WASC committee was involved. Three principals were involved. This has in no way been hidden from the community.


Posted by Which Parents?, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

@FGS: Thank you for your clarifying question. No, I do not mean to imply that a decision should be based on 3 parents--just the opposite. I mean to state that according to this article and last week's board meeting, the public has only actually heard from fewer than 8 parents. If a consensus is to be made, it should be made publicly. I would like substantive evidence that this actually was a parent-based decision.

As for "pack[ing] out the meeting"--waiting until midnight or later in order to have their voice heard (whatever side of the debate they fall on) is not an option for many people. Furthermore, the 3 people who did show up to voice their opposition against de-laning hardly constitutes evidence that there is strong community support against de-laning.





Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I guess site-based decision-making only happens when it's convenient for Skelly and the Board.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm

If this change to the way English is taught takes eighteen months--then it would seem that this is too long for any group of teachers to spend under a basket dreaming up things that they would like to do. There should have been a timeline for this project, with milestones established where the Administration would have outlined, at least, the direction that those involved in the steering committee were heading.

This sort of organizational management does not speak well of those involved with running the schools.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Just because the WASC visiting committee suggests one way to "desegregate" the classes does not mean Paly needs to do it their way. The more direct way and more beneficial way would be to deal with the issue in elementary and middle school classrooms and counseling departments at all three levels by getting students ready to fulfill their potential and directing them to the correct lane in 9th grade.

This delaning idea is still a band aid on the NPA culture. Much better to deal with the race problems head-on than to rob struggling students of an appropriate education. I'm betting the WASC visitors did not get the full story from staff or committee. Had they had all the info they would have realized that the pull to the advanced side is too strong in PAUSD for teachers to resist.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm

The Board is a laughingstock. How many sordid events can you have in 1 board meeting?! First preventing an 8-th grader prevented from speaking. And now this. Boot 'em. And Skelly.


Posted by FGS, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

WASC report: Web Link

"[...] there is no evidence that all students have equal access to all classes, including AP classes. Nor is there any evidence provided that African-American and Latino students are equitably represented in AP classes. On the other hand, they are over-represented in lower lane classes. "Laning" continues to be a topic of controversy"

Well, at least they got the last sentence right.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Editor,

"Then, after agreeing at 1 a.m., at Superintendent Kevin Skelly's urging, to have the matter return to the board later this month for more discussion, it was announced by the district this Tuesday that the proposal was dead and there would be no changes in freshman English."

Editor you failed to mention that between the Jan 28 1 a.m. meeting and this Tuesday, 100 parents attended meetings at the Paly library to learn about the English teacher's proposal.

Apparently "differentiation" did not work out handling different parent concerns after these presentations.

What a mess. As Bob points out "This sort of organizational management does not speak well of those involved with running the schools."

The student selection issue with English 9 is also mischaracterized by your editorial and by the teachers. If there was a "stigma' associated with English 9, high scoring students would not be choosing the lower lane.

This speaks to your incorrect assumption that this community "love choices, and especially those that allow their high-achieving kids to be challenged to the max." Students and parents have been choosing to NOT be challenged to the max, and the teachers are pushing the advanced lane.

Try as you might, pitting parents against each other will not work. This is a story about colossal management disorganization. Thrown in union concerns as well, because no matter how bad it gets, nobody can get fired.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Edmund Burke,

Thanks for the link to the WASC report.

If you read that 2008-09 report carefully you will see that the recommendation of "integrating the two lanes" was written by the Paly English Department after spending a day looking at the issue, not by the independent visiting WASC accreditation reviewers. So that doesn't add anything to the discussion beyond what we already know - some Paly English teachers don't like that Paly offers students two levels of rigor.

What the independent WASC reviewers said in their 2009 report is that different lanes in both English and math are one of Paly's "areas of strength." They say make it so that all classes are open to all students and exert more energy in encouraging minority students to take higher level classes. No where that I saw just now do they say that all students should be forced to take English 9A, which is Paly's January 28th proposal.

Am I missing something here too?

It doesn't mean its a bad idea, it just means that it wasn't WASC's.

Web Link






Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Edmund Burke,

"It strongly suggests that the 8th grade counselors at Jordan are engaged in racial and disability based steering of students into the 9 class. "

Weekly, you should be deleting such outrageous charges, unless you can substantiate them.

Reminder: "the 9 class" is the class of choice for even the highest scoring students.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm

@moderator - may I suggest to consider adding this thread to the Schools & Kids category?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:13 pm

@been there

The 2008-09 WASC Visiting Committee Report is very interesting. First of all, it does not state that lanes in 9th grade English are an "area of strength." On the contrary, the very next paragraph to the one you quote from states that "the English Department is looking at combining 9th grade honors and college prep courses as one way to address the achievement gap." (page 18). This shows that the WASC committee was aware that the Paly english department was delaning English 9. If they thought would interfere with the strength of the program certainly they would have noted that concern there. Indeed, it seems that they were aware of the change and took it into account.

The reason they supported that change is clear from reading the remainder of the report which is filled with concerns and criticism over the fate of minority students under the laning system (see pages 20, 33).

The Paly WASC committee report includes the delaning proposal as part of the need to address the "critical areas for improvement" of improving the educational outcomes of minority students. The Paly english department, unlike the school board, took the WASC seriously and attempted to comply with it. For that, they were treated deplorably rather than lauded.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Julie Haims,

Maybe you haven't listened to the video of the board meeting yet and are just basing your observations on the Weekly's article summarizing what happened that night. Take an hour or so and listen to it. It's illuminating.

I agree 110% with your call to respect teachers and it troubles me too when parents complain. Teachers know far more than I ever will about content and how to inspire students to learn. For that and so many other things teachers do, I am grateful and remind my child to think of it as an honor to have had the privilege of being in their classrooms.

But the decision of whether to offer English 9 or not is different. It is setting curriculum which under law or board policy, or perhaps both, our elected school board is the authority. The teachers understood that, which is why they stayed up so late that night. Teachers asked the board for permission to not offer English 9. They were very polite and deferred to its authority. The teachers may have been disappointed but no one, not teachers and not board members, was disrespected.

As for the "carefully developed proposal," part of what seemed to cause the board consternation was that the response to many of its questions, including the cost for additional supports the teachers called for, was "that is something we know we still have to figure out."

I suspect next time Paly teachers will return with answers to their questions.


Posted by I was there, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm

The teachers were in fact disrespected. There isn't going to be a next time.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm

It should be embarrassing to be reciting plans from 2008 - 2009.


Posted by Management please, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm

It's exactly correct to be citing plans from 5 years ago. An organization should be able to set long term goals and execute on them. It is apparent that board members are not guided by the strategic goals that they set. They are more about rhetoric and appearance. That was a common complaint of Barbara Klausner and I think she was right.

If course the teachers were disrespected. They were met with halfbaked pedagogy and anecdotes from board members. I suspect there will be some exits from the Paly English department as a result of this episode.


Posted by I was there, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

It should be embarrassing not to have accomplished goals from 2008-09. That's what should be embarrassing. Gah this is so corrupt.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Seems like the disagreement is on how to close the achievement gap, not that it needs to be closed. Has de-laning worked in our major cities after all these years of trying?


Posted by Answers, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I'm familiar with some of the names being dropped here who supported the de-laning:

Kindel Launer (9th grade English lead): She "taught" 9A but it was so easy that it should not have been labeled an accelerated class, so perhaps this is why she thinks it's acceptable to combine the classes.
[Portion removed.]

If we lose English teachers after this upset, I hope the new teachers teach our children how to write. With tweeting, our children need to learn how to write properly. Unfortunately, our current English teachers are too busy to spend time after school correcting papers, thus, they aren't effectively teaching English. The School Board must know that the Paly English Department is deficient from all the parent feedback in emails.

To reduce the proposal to a minority/special ed argument is ridiculous - this isn't a race issue - minorities are not forbidden from enrolling in 9A. English 9 is about 50 percent minorities but it's their choice to enroll in the regular lane.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I really don't understand the logic behind the Paly English teacher's proposal. They want all students to take the advance lane because the regular lane has too many kids who need extra help in the regular lane.

They say the regular lane teaches everything that the advance lane teaches. Perhaps that's the issue - shouldn't the regular lane be course curriculum be different?

The solution appears to be very teacher-centric, rather than focused on the students.

Each student chooses which lane they want to be in. There is no discrimination.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:32 pm

If the accusation Edmund Burke makes about Jordan counseling would be true, this assumes the schools do not talk with each other about how to lane students.

Whose job is it to do this?

How many meetings have the Jordan and Paly English teachers had in the last 5 years?


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 7:04 am

There were two or three very articulate, mature URM students who were coming to the school board the last few years. I highly doubt they were in English 9.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2014 at 7:37 am

These are the steps for going forward, some stats, etc taken off of the January 28th school board meeting video.

1. On the work the Paly English Department still wants/has to do:

- Better serve all students when teaching a wide disparity of abilities in one classroom ~ Paly's English IS

- Figure out a way to require struggling students to go to tutorial and get support ~ Paly's English IS

- To evaluate the pilot's success, get 40 hours of district time to devise quantitative metrics and gather suggestions of ways to gather qualitative information from students and parents ~ Paly 9th Grade English lead

- Bring English class sizes down - #1 priority ~ Paly principal

2. On information Paly English teachers said would be helpful to know:

- Why 8th grade students select 9 instead of 9A and why students in 9A who are scoring 3s - not proficient - chose 9A instead of 9. ~ Paly 9th Grade English lead

- How the 13 English 9 students, who tested below proficient and still need more resources to succeed, are doing now ~ Paly's English IS

- Parents' thoughts and concerns ~ Paly's English IS

3. Paly's Observations:

- 73% of English 9 students are overqualified for that class, 27% are not.

- 56 9th grade students at Paly have IEPs/504 plans. IEP and 504 students are enrolled in both 9 and 9A.

4. Mentioned but details not shared:

- Education research that supports the English 9A proposal

- How resources will be allocated to better support struggling students

- Paly's revised English 9 alignment and pacing plans

- Paly's plans for de-laning other grades and subjects


Posted by Am I missing something?, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

The Paly English teachers come to the school board and say "We've looked at freshman English, and we don't think students benefit from laning. There is no reason, given the actual spread of abilities, to have a basic and advanced class. And it gives students in the lower lane a false message about their ability, and keeps them from attempting more advanced classes in the future."

School board: "What about advanced students?"

Paly English teachers: "They do as well or better, in fact we have advanced students in the lower lane so we're already teaching everybody the same class and differentiating to meet individual student needs."

School board: "Can't you just get better about sorting students into lanes?"

Paly English teachers: "No, that's not the point. In 9th grade, all students do better when they are in a class where they can seek their own level, and take whatever class is best in 10th grade and later."

School board: "Sorry, based on our educational intuition and random conversations with our own kids we don't believe you. More importantly, our friends want an advanced class for their kids to take. It's not advanced if some other kids aren't taking a lower lane. Go away (and don't bother coming back)."


Posted by I was there, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:51 am

@been there thanks for the FUD. The superintendent said this is dead and not coming back. It's over. Delaning will not happen at Paly just like TA will not happen at Gunn. Both decisions made in secret not in public.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

The editorial got it right. School board members care more about their friends than minority students. Jon Foster, Lauren Janov, and Louise Valente all spoke against the proposal. They are all politically and socially connected to the board members. The students who are being hurt don't have an inside track. All you have to do is watch the video to see that the board members were just going through the motions.


Posted by delete the idiot, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Am I missing something?

Yes, you are. 500 parents were informed about the proposal after the board meeting, 100 showed up to have their questions and concerns addressed.

Many are objecting to losing the choice to NOT be in an advanced class. Reduced work, reduced speed are choices that many families would like to have, in this already overly high expectations district.

The Editor and Lythcott-Haims have it backwards. Even your pediatrician, accountant, and financial advisor expect you to make informed decisions. It's arrogance to expect professional opinions to go unquestioned.

This being said, the teachers should have had their proposal, and department problems challenged long ago (unless that happened, and they refused to listen). Skelly, Young, and Baker failed everyone here but students have been the most failed for too long, literally.


Posted by Tried both lanes, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

People who supported the proposal are either parents who have no experience with the two lanes (children are too young), parents who are playing the race or elitist card, or those who are blindly supporting the teachers. None of these are good reasons to support the proposal.

The Paly catalog states the workload differences between the two lanes, and students with 650+ SAT verbal/writing scores should not be mixed with students with 350 SAT verbal/writing scores - it's a disservice to students on each end of the spectrum. What the English department needs to improve is the teachers following the workloads as stated in the catalog, and tougher grading standards for 9A. Some 9A teachers teach the class as if they are regular lane. Maybe this is how they have concluded that both lanes are the same.


Posted by paly mom, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Just to clarify, Dr. T. has only been teaching high school English for maybe three years. She has not been in the trenches long enough to be making major curriculum shifts. I have been teaching public high school English in Bay Area for 23 years. My child will be the second to graduate from Paly soon. I am a product of tracking, going into English teaching due to Aragon H. S.'s phenomenal AP program I experienced years ago. I am pro-tracking if all students are offered the choice to be in the top lane. Paraprofessionals in the classroom have helped me significantly in my regular lane English classes where special ed students need accommodations. Doesn't Paly have them? My concern is great pieces of lit. being cast aside for watered down high interest nonfiction. Why not pair August Wilson's Fences with Death of a Salesman for a multicultural take and exposure to award-winning classics? Why not teach Greek tragedy to brown children? Believe me, they can handle it. As a Paly mom and English teacher with decades in the trenches, I am against the proposal brought to the board. (BTW, my children's favorite Paly English teacher was/is Mr. Sharp.)


Posted by Which Parents?, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm

The adage about cake and eating it comes to mind as I read through these threads and others over the years. Even amongst advocates of laning, I have read varying accounts of what is wanted out of a 9A class. Follows is a list of interests demanded of the teachers according to these threads:

1) Teach 9A more rigorously.
2) Don't stress kids out.
3) Make sure there are more As than currently given.
4) Ensure that the "whole" student is being taught (a la the Campanile article)
5) Don't assign "too much" homework (which is defined as a range between any and more than 30 minutes a night).
6) Assign "enough" writing (defined as 1-2 pages a week by some parents, 1500 word essays by the state, and 7-9 page research papers by polled Paly graduates).
7) Make it relevant to each individual student's life goals.
8) Don't make it boring.
9) Don't kill kids' love learning.
10) More?

Many of the above are not mutually exclusive for a highly skilled educator. Some are incompatible. To assume that everyone (parents/students) in 9A want the same thing seems to be incorrect from these threads. So which interests are catered to and which are tossed? Who gets to dictate what becomes institutionalized practice?

For me, it isn't about this individual issue of laning, it's about the process for making the decision. I think it would help everyone if there was a more transparent process of making decisions--some parents knew about the proposal a year ago via Winston, the 8th grade parent night and site council. Others only became aware after the board meeting or during the follow-up parent meetings with the department.

The teachers were caught in the cross-fire here. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be to be charged with balancing disparate agendas only to have the proverbial rug pulled out from under you.


Posted by future former Paly parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Start with teaching good, solid, basic writing whatever the lane system is. This is not currently done at Paly I was shocked to find out that, after 3 years in high lane English classes at Paly, my son could not write a decent essay. This realization came with his college essays. A bit late.


Posted by explainer, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

I learned a few things from reading this. Thank you "which parents" for your summary. It seems right to me, particularly your conclusion.

I learned that the driving anxiety that upper class parents feel about whether their kids are going to get into the right colleges extends down to 9th grade, something I should have known but did not. Parents want their children advantaged in the 'race' and are very scared and worried about every aspect of their education. Are they really getting set up for 'success' narrowly defined? If not, where do the schools fall short?

We interrupt our usual programming of "Our Wonderful Schools and Our Wonderful Teachers" to bring you a loud episode of "Angry Dissatisfaction With Our Truly Mediocre Schools and Lazy Teachers". This isn't what we are used to hearing at all. We are used to getting 24-7 PR about how great it is in PAUSD. We have wonderful staff, we have wonderful curriculum, everyone is above average, our 25% percentile is the 75% percentile in the state. We are fantastic and all is well.

Now what we see is that parents are very angsty about English. They are extremely nervous and discontented with whether or not the teachers are teaching their kids to write. This seems to start in elementary and middle school, where people seem to think the education is all but worthless. Once 9th grade starts, this argument goes, the real deal is supposed to begin. Now we get the return on those dollars! We have been putting up with untracked BS, lousy no writing, zero real value education and now we are going to leave all the losers behind and get Junior ready for Harvard. Except it is not working! Why not? The teachers are not teaching Junior to write well -- he writes so badly that mom and dad will have to help with his college essay (but not too much otherwise Dean Julie might be able to detect that help and foil the whole plan). I can feel the breath of a billion Chinese on the back of my neck as I read these comments. Do you feel it English teachers?

So what are our takeaways of parent views? What does this little survey of our parent community tell us (and please remember that these are also the views of 4 out of 5 board members surveyed and caught on video camera in an especially unguarded 1:00am board session)?

1. The schools are horrible. They are not teaching anyone gifted to do anything. The mixed ability groupings in elementary and middle school are worthless for smart kids, because teachers are incompetents who cannot actually be counted on to "differentiate" the instruction. They just teach lazily to the middle and low performers and the high performers are left to be bored.

2. This has been tolerated in lower grades because really, who cares. But once the rubber meets the road in high school we have lanes not because we are against educational research. If our teachers were at all competent we would be happy to let them apply research all day long. But our teachers are terrible. So we have to have laning to ensure that our high performing kids are ready for the high-stakes competition.

Laning is NOT because we're racist. Laning is because our teachers suck and can't or won't do differential instruction. And if they fail to do that, our kids won't get into good colleges and that is not a risk we are willing to take. It doesn't have to be Harvard. Williams will be fine, thanks. But Cal State is not. If that starts happening, we will turn into Sequoia Union and we will take our kids and put them in Sacred Heart and Menlo. We didn't sign up for Measure A and donate to PIE because we planned to send our kids to private school. This is a bargain. We, the rich parents of gifted kids made a deal. We kept our end. You keep yours, PAUSD.

3. In sum, our teachers are not evidently viewed by the majority of the influential 400 citizens of PAUSD as good, or great. They are viewed as terrible. Laning prevents white flight from the district and it is the devil's bargain that makes Measure A and PIE and all those things holding up your property values even possible. If laning goes, the bargain goes. Not because they're bigots but because the teachers are seen as terrible.

Board, don't give us any more praise of the staff. Your true views of the staff have now been revealed. You think the staff is pretty incapable. Melissa Caswell said it best: "this might make it easier for teachers but I don't think it will be better for kids." Aha.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:08 am

paly mom, college terrace

"As a Paly mom and English teacher with decades in the trenches, I am against the proposal brought to the board."

In any other school, would you know what the difference would be between a regular English lane and an Advanced lane? Where is the biggest difference to be found - hours of homework, level of writing, remedial time, discussion themes? As you point out, all kids can handle a broad range discussion of literature, so that cannot possibly the difference.

How are expectations "lower" for a regular lane? It's disturbing, but this proposal seems to say that it's the make-up of the class that defines expectations. At Paly, high scoring students have been happy to sign up for the regular/lower lane to avoid advanced, faster or harder work (like in Math). This group is now being told "you can do better" with no metrics of what that means, other than the change in the mix of students.

It's likely that the teachers have not changed much about 9A and 9 curriculum (everyone can work more/less now), and the fix of expectations is a cosmetic one to dilute the amount of struggling students in any one class. They mention that in the video themselves.

Without any way of measuring results, this means writing instruction may not improve at Paly. You will enter and exit as good or struggling student as you came in, unless you got lucky with the teacher. If you're unlucky, hold your peace for one year.

It's interesting that many of the parents posting here supporting de-laning English at Paly are from Gunn (which has three lanes in English?). What did WASC say about laning at Gunn?

Surprising also is that the speakers who represented Special Ed at the Board meeting would not have immediately asked about what appears to be an urgent need for classroom resources to support special ed students in English, or that the English teachers have not advocated for these resources before. The district is flush with money, putting resources to work shouldn't be waiting for another round of theater about lanes. If they actually get more staff, will these resources know how to teach writing?


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

explainer,

Some kids just want to have the English credit to be A-G college ready, and if you get a D or an F in English you could have done everything else, but that one class could mean everything.

It's not about Harvard. Others want to learn.

You are disrespectful of the students.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:41 am

explainer,

Your rant about "white flight" and lanes is also not supported by the evidence which the English teachers presented.

Nobody avoids the lower lane, people have actually been flocking there. The teachers are "mystified" about why so many high scoring students choose to go into the advanced lane.

People are mystified that many high scoring students don't want to go to Harvard?




Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:47 am

EDIT

The teachers are "mystified" about why so many high scoring students choose to NOT go into the advanced lane.

Students/parents have been voting to NOT go advanced.

Now these same students are on AUTO being placed in the advanced lane, supposedly by your rant the Harvard elite lane.



Posted by explainer, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

Gee 100 parents [portion removed]
1. Your first post exemplifies exactly what I describe. For example, you wrote: "Without any way of measuring results, this means writing instruction may not improve at Paly. You will enter and exit as good or struggling student as you came in, unless you got lucky with the teacher." Don't blame me, I'm just summarizing the posts of you and yours.

I like your effort to somehow say that the parents supporting the elimination of lanes are from Gunn. [Portion removed.] Everyone's a taxpayer, and everyone can comment on whether education in our district is working. That was the beauty of a system that allowed the same people against de-laning to come out against TA at Gunn. Paly PTA: Is dying by the sword less fun that living by it? Surprise! Anyway you're just wrong as a factual matter. Mary Vincent is a Paly parent (and CAC co-chair, and former PTAC) and she is for it. [Portion removed.]

2. Your second post presumes you are right as a factual matter that kids who struggle will do worse in 9A than they do in 9. You have zero evidence for that. The teachers told the board that the number of Ds and Fs went down when expectations rose. Now, are you right that once struggling kids are salted throughout the delaned sections and are in the same room with gifted and advantaged kids that they will fail? The teachers disagree and say that they will have sufficient supports. The research supports them. [Portion removed.]

3. Your third post is my personal fave. All those black and brown kids are "flocking" to the lower lane. How dare I and the teachers suggest there is any issue with that. [Portion removed.]


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

explainer,

"3. Your third post is my personal fave. All those black and brown kids are "flocking" to the lower lane. How dare I and the teachers suggest there is any issue with that. [Portion removed.]"

If the teachers had data that the color of the high scoring students is brown and black, would they have not had the responsibility to present that?

[Portion removed.] I find it a stretch to accuse an entire community of being racist, and obsessed with Harvard because of this proposal. Not everyone is obsessed with Harvard.

It sounds like you and I would like to see the students do better though. This proposal addresses your racism charge, but it does not go to the heart of the problem, which appears to be resources. Instead of waiting 5 years, 2 years, or for the next chance to bicker about lanes, I would think resources are urgently needed for supporting special ed, and the students who are struggling.

Why are people waiting to help these students?

To be fair to the community, if this proposal was to make a racism charge, saying "we do not know why" high scoring students are choosing the lower lane is not enough.

The Weekly has not taken down Edmund Burke's charge "the 8th grade counselors at Jordan are engaged in racial and disability based steering of students into the 9 class."

I'm not an expert on the legal implications about this, but I imagine Edmund Burke will let us know soon enough.

And if that is the problem, they could have fixed counseling 5, and 2 years ago as well.


Posted by explainer, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:58 am

100 parents

You should go back and read my post. I said that the parents opposed are NOT racists. It appears to me that IF they thought that the teachers were good enough to teach to a broad range of abilities they would be fine with this proposal. But they think that the teachers are too weak to do that. They think that:

1. if you put their own highly advantaged and ambitious kids into the same class with very disadvantaged kids the result will be greater failure for the low-performing kids and less good education for the top. It is hard to teach to a big spread and our terrible English teachers won't be able or willing to do it.

2. We tolerate that in elementary school and middle school because everyone knows (eyeroll) that tracking is bad and (possibly) racist. But once you get to high school, that is over, we are serious now, and tracking is on. High school is "going on your permanent record" as they say and while Harvard is not required (read above) something good is. There better be a damn pot of gold at the end of this bloody rainbow that I have been paying out the nose for to PIE and Measure A. If not, someone's got some splainen to do. Hint: Kevin Skelly and the board.

3. The citizens seem to be saying: All this theory of ending tracking is awesome if you are talking about highly qualified and smart and capable teachers. Have you seen our English teachers? They can't teach anyone to write. Take a look at your kid's writing he can't write an essay worth a damn. I don't know who's fault that is -- maybe middle school. I'm gonna go with high school English teachers who seem lazy. They probably just want to do this to make their own jobs easier and get those special ed kids sprinkled around. But whatever their motives, I am taking no chances with high school. This is a high stakes college competition and I moved here for advantages. Deliver some advantages or I will come for you, school board and I know where you live (next door to me!).

What to do, what to do. I would say that the teachers tried to bring a good proposal but the parental fear over competitiveness and the sense that the English curriculum in the district is already crap and watered down defeated it. That's a shame. What should be done?

It's obvious, isn't it? Board permission isn't really needed for this because of our system of choice and the fact that the teacher ultimately controls the classroom. Kevin Skelly should just tell the Jordan counselors as part of our A-G effort that the default class for all special ed and minority and special ed 8th graders is 9A and that in order to change it the parents will have to have a face to face conference and have an explanation that this choice for English 9 will disadvantage their student from going to college. If the parents don't come in and have that meeting, the child goes to 9A. Since their parents aren't well-informed about college-going, the district should simply make that default election for them with an opt out.

For Asian and handful of white kids who currently elect 9 because they want an easier class, they too should be placed in 9A as the default unless their parents attend a meeting and sign a special form waiving their right to the 9A placement. Some of them might want 9 anyway. Maybe 1 section a year.

Then the teachers should teach the classes identically.

Problem solved. No board permission required. Can no one develop a strategic thought at 25 Churchill?


Posted by Check Out Blog Post, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Sally Torbey has written an excellent blog post on this topic, and has lots of interesting public comments posted in response. Check it out at this link:

Web Link


Posted by Board watcher, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Not sure I buy all of Explainer, but much is in the money. The school board, Caswell especially, had no trouble delivering these teaches a kick in the teeth. No talk of our wonderful teachers this time around. Lesson: be careful whose ox that is that you're goring.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm

RIK: "This was a two-year researched proposal "

Edmund Burke: "supported by academic research....bringing research and data into an important conversation"

Gunn Mom: "The teachers conducted extensive research, had data to support their positions"

Explainer" "the research supports them"

Weekly: "well-researched"

Where did you all see Paly's research?

At the beginning of the teachers' board presentation, they mentioned research but said they did not bring it with them that night. Their written report to the board didn't mention anything either other than a mention to an East Coast high school which de-laned (all?) classes up to or including 11th grade.

Is that the research everyone is referring to?

Mentioned at the board meeting was that struggling students at that high school are required to take two English classes a day to Paly's one and classes there have half as many students in them as Paly's do. The extra small classes and double time on task - something Paly's proposal doesn't call for - could be the reason for students' success at that school.





Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Board watcher,

I agree this is about money, but that was not in the teacher proposal. Other schools have more money and resources devoted to supporting special ed and struggling students in English. At Gunn, someone posted PIE money goes to pay for such resources. Why is this public knowledge and not reported or advocated for by the English teachers, for years.

explainer,

Re-sorting without the board's and 100+ parents' questions could have happened (maybe still is, per the auto enroll and opt out) without a blip about the glaring lack of resources. The teachers had no number for this. Do you think Skelly was offering up some cash for special ed or struggling students support? No, I think the planned re-sorting would have been a low cost event, and that may be why Skelly did not even care.

It's too convenient too talk about changes without showing how curriculum changes will help. This was not even a curriculum change, was it? It's a plain budgeting event, resources nobody wants to pay for and the teachers should have just called it like it is.

Will that improve writing instruction at Paly for the middle?


Posted by explainer, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm

@100 parents

I think that your last question is interesting. IMHO middle school in PAUSD is pretty terrible. But don't believe me, look at the hordes of PAUSD parents dying to get into private middle schools. This year reportedly over 2/3 of Walter Hays 5th graders applied to private middle schools. Sadly, the drama of the gifted child continues, and there are not enough slots in the 5 or 6 desirable middle schools in the area: Sacred Heart, Menlo, Castilleja, Crystal Springs, Nueva, and the less elite alternatives of GMS and Priory.

The kids arrive at high school not very good at writing. You can have different theories about that -- here's mine. Writing can't be taught by a tutor very easily. Unlike math and science where you can purchase the time of a Stanford grad student to pump your kid full of information, the critical thinking skills necessary for a humanities and liberal arts course like English can't be tutored or crammed. And when do these overscheduled, over prepped, overcooked kids get that kind of reflective, thoughtful time? In the car on the way between the club volleyball tournament and YCS?

Our students exit middle school pretty awful writers. Now what? We have 4 years to get them ready for the great race. How will that happen? Who should we crap on if it doesn't?

Let me change the subject a bit here, but it will come back on point. What are parents most worried about after "why Johnny can't write?" It's why doesn't Johnny have a damn A and why are there so few damn As in this class? The falsely constricted distribution of As is a big deal here, and rightly so.

Now, what's the best way to increase Johnny's grade? Put some kids in the class who will likely get a lower grade! The curve will shift up. Your child getting a C will get a B. The child getting a B will get an A. The bottom will get Cs because we can't have Ds and Fs, so the kids from 9 who struggle will get Cs (good enough for A-G. Your dullard will get a B, the new C. And so forth. So cheer up, anxious competitors. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Julie, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

@Julie Lythcott-Haims

>Yeah we do have one of the top school districts in the country, and the best teachers are attracted to it. How bout we let them do their jobs....

The math department at Paly composed a letter a couple of years ago, expressing their expert opinion that watering down math classes to only match "basic benchmarks" would hurt the overall quality of math education at Paly, as well as its reputation.

Do you support that letter from the Paly teachers? Those teachers were the object of much criticism from parents.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm

@explainer has a good point, kids are not taught to at Jordan. I think both of my kids did more writing in 4th and 5th grade than in their 3 years at Jordan. I know my youngest didn't write much of anything at all in 7th and 8th grade english (same teacher both years). The first substantial think either of my kids had to write was a research paper in 9th grade history.

Jordan has implemented some writing support and I think JLS is using some kind of similar rubric for all the english and history teachers.

There are some good English teachers at Paly and then there are those who don't teach much writing and don't hand back papers for months. Literally.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 3:18 pm

explainer,

The first thing the Paly teachers acknowledged is that middle school is doing a good job, it's the only data they had.

The Paly curriculum for writing has been questioned for a long time. Surveys, the A - G graduation rates rates for URM have identified other weaknesses in the Paly English department (compared to Gunn). Too many D's and F's are more problematic than few A's at Paly. Yes this matters to get into Harvard, to go to any college, and to graduate from high school.

I repeat that you are disrespectful of students because you dismiss what are legitimate concerns, to graduate, to be A-G ready, to learn, and conveniently lump it all into a Harvard obsession.

Your focus on the "white and rich" is not even representative of Paly's or Palo Alto's actual demographics.


Posted by future former Paly parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

@Explainer

Your posts seem to be, in part, a reaction to what I said about my son not learning to write a decent essay in PAUSD. You may be right that the problem starts with instruction before high school. This is not acceptable either!

The point is I did not realize that until I saw his college essays, and here is why, and also where you have it wrong, at least about my son:

He always got As and Be in English. Thus, I was not worried, and hence my late realization of this sad state of affairs.

He was never tutored for anything, and we are not rich, just middle class. No stock options, IPOs or family trusts, etc. in our family.

An English class should not be just about reading and discussing literature, sorry. We should have an outcome of students being able to write a decent essay upon graduation from our school district (or any school district for that matter). And like it or not, the lack of emphasis on writing does make our teachers come across as lazy. Discussing life is more fun, easier, and less work, than teaching sentence and paragraph structure and grading essays.

It's much like not teaching multiplication tables in elementary school because teachers have more "fun things" to do in math class. I was actually told this by an elementary school teacher here years ago!

Last point: If it's expected that all parents should hire tutors to teach the basics, we should be told so upfront. We are not. Again, in our case we are a family that cannot afford tutors or private schools.

And no, we did nor write his college essays for him even though it was tempting.

PAUSD does not do its job teaching our kids to write.


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Explainer,

[Portion removed.] It may help people if they were given the Paly teachers' research that they, the Weekly, and 4 other posters mentioned. I could not find it.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

@been there

The packet, which is here Web Link, starting at page 106 contains a lot of research and data about Paly students and their achievement.

This is "well-researched."

However, I believe what you are asking about is not research into Paly's data but research in the educational literature on the benefits of de-tracking for underrepresented minority achievement (and indeed, overall). Here are a few things:

Web Link

Web Link

Oakes, J., Gamoran, A., & Page, R. N. (1992). Curriculum differentiation: Opportunities, outcomes, and meanings. In P. W. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of research on curriculum. New York: MacMillan Publishing.

Bibilography on this subject:
Web Link

To summarize this extensive literature (my friends in the ed school should correct me where I err) it has been known for at least 20 years that tracking is detrimental to the outcomes of minority students. As far back as 1988 (under President Reagan) the DoE published a warning on the negative effects of tracking and ability grouping on minority students. This is such a well-known piece of information at this point that it has moved beyond theory to fact. The effects on upper-achieving children of detracking are also found largely to be positive or neutral.

The chief controversy in the de-tracking field is the tension between the persistent findings from research that it is harmful, and does not deliver the desired benefit to the high end (results flat or harmful) and the absolute cultural stickiness of the practice. School districts refuse to detrack due to irrational belief it the practice despite the repeated and consistent findings from peer-reviewed, published research.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I will agree with explainer to the extent that I do think you could have found all of this on your own by typing "de-tracking research" into the search box.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Edmund Burke,

The laning research does not really have relevance to a poor writing curriculum, teacher quality, or meager resources for special-ed.

Getting rid of the lanes at Paly may dilute the concentration of IEP's for the teachers (as they explained), but simply labeling a class advanced and doing grade inflation (per explainer's suggestion) does not provide visible or measurable improvements in instruction for anyone.

We know the advanced students can take care of themselves, so this re-sorting may just make it easier to hide problems which have nothing to do with laning.

Would your ed school have an opinion about that?


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Edmund Burke,

I am looking for the Paly teachers' research, not yours. They said they had it. You said they presented it (their "bringing research and data into an important conversation"). A few others said they were convinced by it too.

The teachers said there was more research than what they put in the board report which mentions their "a research-based understanding of the benefits of requiring all students to take 9A for freshman English" but no studies were mentioned.

Paly English teachers also mentioned in that report that they examined examples from the field and the most compelling study came from that New York school which eliminated all tracking up to eleventh grade. That was the school with lots of extra supports in place for students who struggled.


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Are we sure that the research in this field is not akin to the tobacco company funded research which did not find a problem with cigarette smoking?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I apologize. I mistakenly thought that you were interested in knowledge and research on de-tracking. The board packet references the book De-Tracking, and there was a lengthy discussion about that book at the board meeting. The first linked article above is a discussion of the book and that case study in NY.

But if you want to ask the teachers, including Dr. Shirley Tokheim, who has a PhD in education from UC Berkeley whether she is familiar with the state of her own field, I am not sure why you are querying TS. I suggest that you start here: Web Link


Posted by been there, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 16, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Edmund Burke,

Maybe whether something is well-researched is a matter of opinion. I don't see studies mentioned in the report. You say it "contains a lot of research" calling it "well-researched."

Usually folks can find research that supports any conclusion they want so of interest is what Paly teachers found compelling.

Curious, I looked at one of your links and in it is a link to the 1998 Government report you say is a well-known warning on the negative effects of tracking and ability grouping on minority students.

That report doesn't speak to the negative affects of those practices. It reads to me like the government supports ability grouping and tracking as long as "the criteria used by schools to assign students to ability groups or tracks [are] nondiscriminatory. Students must be given the opportunity to move from one ability group to another, or in and out of assigned tracks according to their progress."

Paly has lanes, not tracks. Students choose, are not assigned to, their lanes.


Posted by explainer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm

@been there
"Research" includes all the data and evidence on Paly students in the report. Ed told you that but you were so busy grinding your axe that you couldn't hear. You like tracking that's fine. We get it. Leave Ed alone, I enjoyed reading what he kindly took the time you could just have found for yourself. Evidently it's not only the Paly teachers who could be lazy.


Posted by explainer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

"Are we sure that the research in this field is not akin to the tobacco company funded research which did not find a problem with cigarette smoking?"

Yes, it is exactly like that except without the multi-billion dollar multinational publicly traded companies that stood to lose trillions in profits unless they funded research saying that their product was safe. Except for the fact that no one profits, no one benefits, there are no financial interests, and the only beneficiaries of the research are poor black people instead of mega corporate interests -- except for that they are exactly alike.


Posted by loopy, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm

omg after all this, Explainer agrees that the research is the same as the tobacco company funded research. Say it ain't so, Ed.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm

It appears that explainer has engaged in sarcasm.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The document to which "been there" refers is a 1998 guidance from the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This document is extremely interesting relative to the de-laning controversy. It states that

"If ability grouping or tracking results in classes with substantially disproportionate enrollments of students of one race or minority group, school districts must be able to demonstrate that there is a valid educational justification for their ability grouping or tracking practices.

All ability grouping and tracking "practices," including those in use in PAUSD in which teachers and counselors recommend the lane, are subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

In PAUSD's case, it is quite possible that if OCR looked at Paly's 9th grade english classes it would find a Title VI violation. That is because the 9th grade teachers have already stated to the Board of Education, in writing and on video, that they do not believe that there exists a "valid educational justification" for the ability grouping. Indeed, they have stated that all of the valid educational justifications support eliminating the lane system.

There is no safe harbor for practices that use self-selection, but in any event self-selection is not the only practice that PAUSD uses. It uses teacher and counselor recommendations as well as self-selection. While it may be true that students CAN elect out of that recommendation if in reality few do so, and the result is a disproportionate assignment of certain racial groups to lower tracks, that may violate Title VI. If a complaint were filed, it might well go badly given the teachers' statements to the board.

The right course is to have another board meeting on this subject, consider the racial data, and develop a strategy for addressing it. Perhaps an opt-out and 9A default is the correct result. However, it is unreasonable to maintain a system of practices that disproportionately assign minority students to the low lane and which the teachers have admitted does not have a "valid educational justification" in potential violation of civil rights law


Posted by Corporate lawyer, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

The document that Burke is referring to is Web Link.

During the board meeting, the teachers acknowledged (in response to a comment from a community member) that black and Hispanic students are disproportionately taking English 9. The fact that the Paly principal, not only the teachers, acknowledged that the laning is not educationally justified, and that it has substantial negative effects on those students, puts this into the territory of a plausible violation of Title VI.

I was myself very surprised to see the school board members pass over this issue during the board meeting. The racial component to this situation obviously connects it to relevant civil rights law. I would think that this district in particular would be sensitive to that connection.

Something like what Burke suggests seems prudent. It would be far better for the district to acknowledge and address the problem voluntarily than to do so as part of an OCR enforcement action.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Edmund Burke, corporate lawyer,

Interesting, the old English 9 class was previously not an advanced class (more work, more reading), and until then, there may have been a "valid educational justification" for ability grouping?

Not sure when, the teachers changed the classes to become identical, so now with identical classes, a disproportionate assignment of certain racial groups to lower lanes (not tracks?) could be a violation.

The auto enroll/opt out (which the English IS mentions on video was her husband's idea), is a way to now correct the injustice of racial segregation in English 9.

Or is it that the old system, which in theory was led by the same English teachers since 2008-2009 that had the practice of racial segregation as well?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:46 pm

The teachers and principal of Paly appear to have come to the gradual conclusion, based on data and research into the outcomes and achievement of Paly students, that the English 9 class no longer had a valid educational justification for continuing to be taught (if it ever did). They now have concluded that its main current function is to track and create feelings of inferiority and incapability (labeling effects) in minority students. This labeling effect results in a disparate impact on those students in that they do not go on to take more challenging classes in the upper grades and that translates into worse outcomes for them.

The teachers do not seem to believe that tracking in 9th grade english serves a valid educational purpose. They believe that all students in 9th grade are fully capable of doing the work currently being assigned in 9A. The classes are not that different, and therefore the laning serves no purpose other than the assignment of stigma. That is exactly what OCR says you cannot do.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:14 am

Edmund Burke,

Let me guess. If the classes would be made different again (if they ever were, or it was just all a label to make higher lane students feel superior, and lower lane students inferior), then there would be a claim that the classes were being made different again to segregate racially.

Not sure, but on video the teachers admit to the fact that the re-labeling change achieves the dilution of struggling students in any one class, and distributes what is described as a burden on teachers. The benefit of reducing the burden for teachers is highlighted by the IS. Simply re-labeling in effect may shortchange the classrooms with struggling students of necessary resources which other laned schools provide for more successfully, including Gunn.

Just saying,if the focus is on students, the OCR may want to look into the drivers for the proposal more broadly. In particular, the claim that English 9 students do not go to advanced classes because of segregation in English 9, and the claim that Jordan is steering students by race would have to be confirmed.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:50 am

Just to clarify, I said above that the evidence of disproportionate numbers of minority students in English 9 'strongly suggests' that counselors are influenced by race in making recommendations. Whether that influence is subconscious or otherwise, the strong correlation between race and lane is circumstantial evidence for that fact. If there is other evidence that could explain the gap, then it would defeat that inference.

You are substantially correct in the rest of your post. There would be no basis for making these classes different given that the teachers and principal have eschewed any educational purpose for that. Merely because parents believe in the existence of something (tracking helps everyone) does not make it true or educationally valid as respects 9th grade ELA. If the principal and teachers, including one with a PhD from UCB, think that it has no valid purpose I believe that would tend to establish that fact by a preponderance (OCR's standard on investigations).

More resources are always a good thing. But if they aren't forthcoming a district is not allowed to break federal law in order to channel what resources it does have in a discriminatory fashion.

The "drivers for the proposal" were given by the teachers -- to improve outcomes for all students, especially those who are URM and currently overrepresented in English 9 (the low track). OCR has no basis to investigate whether the teachers are lying about that motive unless you have some evidence for that that is more than just the conjecture by Melissa Caswell in that regard. In point of fact, distributing the special ed students is also a valid goal from OCR's perspective since clustering them into a class dominated by special ed students would defeat the legal requirement to educate them in general education wherever possible (LRE). This is the "inclusion" idea in PAUSD and it is a district priority. So distributing the special ed students to make them less clustered would not only NOT be seen by OCR as an ulterior motive, it would be a valid purpose for detracking of itself.

It does appear that PAUSD may be well on its way to have gotten itself into trouble with OCR and the Civil Rights laws yet again. Regrettable.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 1:27 am

Edmund Burke,

A central driver for the proposal is that students in English 9 are later not going into advanced classes.

To prove this, you will need specific correlations. English is probably the least popular subject for AP or advanced levels at Paly. Students of all races and levels choose other subjects over English, and there is likely evidence that it's not because of English 9 placement. English 9 also does not prevent you from taking advanced coursework in other subjects.I believe that 12th grade does not even offer an advanced English lane besides AP. The other driver which is the accusation of racial steering by Jordan, as you say, would also have to be proven and I notice you may be back tracking on your earlier assertion that they are.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 1:54 am

I didn't back track, I quoted myself. You said that I stated that it is happening, I pointed out only that I said that the evidence "strongly suggests" it. It doesn't much matter one way or the other.

The harm that is occurring to these students as a result of being placed in English 9, is acknowledged by everyone at the school and district. The minority students aren't taking challenging upper division courses and aren't graduating a-g. That's a serious consequence and no one disputes that it is happening and that English is the strongest impediment.

To be honest, it would probably be a hard case to dispute if it was brought. The standard is just whether the process the district uses to assign laning is resulting in disproportionate assignment. It is. Then the inquiry moves on to whether there is valid educational purpose for that. The teachers say there isn't. I don't know what the district's lawyers could do with that given the absolutely definitive statements of the principal and teacher that there is no good reason to teach these classes and distribute the students this way.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 2:23 am

Besides the Instructional Supervisor (Zalatimo) Jordan's English teachers are absolutely terrible because they are too lazy to teach writing skills and to write comments on essays. Most of Paly's English teachers are the same. When one decides to become an English teacher, it's assumed he accepts the duty of spending extra time outside of class to grade papers. What is more important than learning to write? Everyone should know how to write properly. Algebra, biology, physics, chemistry, geometry, history - NONE affect everyday life as writing does. Good writing skills are the most important skill students should learn from school and our teachers are failing our students. Writing skills are even more important than basic math calculation skills.


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

EB

Not sure the OCR would be in with you on this one.

There is no information on how these two course shake out ethnically. My child says half the 9th graders take English 9 and the English 9 class is awash with white kids so your premise that English 9 is a ghetto has not been established. If teachers lead you to that conclusion, I suspect they were embellishing. A few of Paly teachers' words on that, like their view that a school in New York with 3 times the supports for struggling kids is similar to Paly's, may just mean that they overstated facts to support their request.

Assume you are right that the two classes have the same content. What do minorities or any students forced to take 9A have to gain? Moving out of smaller classes with the extra teacher time into larger classes aka less teacher attention + more high ability students making it harder to stand out and earn good grades. Teachers said the content is the same so it is not as if students in 9A read more books and know more vocabulary as a result of the switch.

Is it the mindset thing - the names Paly puts on the classes - that you think will bother the OCR? Pretty sure that OCR has better things to do with its time than take issue with semantics and engage in psychological assessments of ego and self-esteem. It will look at the substance and focus on whether students access the same curriculum.

Back in the day, the course descriptions for the two classes were different so the classes, save a rogue teacher or two, could be different. In your view different content is a big problem too.

But according to the US government quote above, it seems OK by the feds for low-scoring students to be in lower laned English 9.

So what is left are high scoring minorities who were told to take English 9 instead of 9A and did. I bet there are none to a just few. For those few, are they in English 9 because of PAUSD's low expectations? The teachers on the video said that they heard that high ability students pick English 9 to be with their friends. Parents said they pick English 9 because they want less homework.


Any 9th grader coming from Jordan will tell you that 8th grade teachers are very anti-stress and err on the side of recommending that students - regardless of skin color - take regular English at Paly which points to Jordan teachers not discriminating who they dole "low" expectations out to. The OCR would first have to establish that Jordan teachers had lower expectations of minorities which it doesn't seem they do.


Why you see many of those students taking 9A instead of 9 is that some students have parents who override Jordan's recommendation. Are parent overrides within the OCR's purview?

I bet most teachers and parents take great issue with English 9 being referred to as "low" BTW. It is a UC approved college-prep class taught by credentialed teachers many who have advanced degrees and have taught for years. Students have desks, textbooks and supplies. We aren't talking inner city and emergency credentials here.


Posted by Corporate lawyer, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

The Superintendent and the school board have created an interesting legal situation for the district. The teacher have said that English 9 and 9A are substantially identical classes at this point because that best meets the needs of students. That leaves PAUSD without the ability to say that the racial differences in the class compositions has an educational rationale.

In rejecting the teachers' proposal to merge the two classes, the school board is now informed of this situation but choosing not to rectify it. That leaves the district in a potentially vulnerable state.

The board could direct the school to reduce the level of instruction in English 9 to "relane" but that runs the risk of being seen as a transparent effort to create an educational rationale for disparate racial compositions without an actual basis, if the racial composition of the classes did not change. The WASC language encouraging raising of standards in English 9 compounds this problem. It seems that such a relaning would have to be accompanied by an ongoing and effective effort to move a substantial number of minority and disabled students into English 9A, if that impression were to be countered. Defaulting all students in English 9A with an option to move to English 9 might be an appropriate mechanism, if that resulted in substantial numbers of minority and disabled students in English 9A.

It will be interesting to see how the Superintendent and school board decide to address this situation.


Posted by Corporate lawyer, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:44 am

@"again" says, "There is no information on how these two course shake out ethnically."

One of the teachers during the school board meeting said in response to a community member that minority students are concentrated in English 9. That is the basis for the idea that this proposal mitigates the achievement gap. I have not seen a precise breakdown in public, but if that is true then the Superintendent at least has access to the demographics and can be presumed to be aware of it.


Posted by cry wolf much?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

It's now a "Title VI of the Civil Rights Act" issue?

I might even take it seriously if Edmund had any kind of record in identifying civil rights issues:
- Here he claimed a rights violation and wrote a 5,000 word dissertation (Web Link) only to find out here that the person turned up late to the meeting and missed the open forum!(Web Link)
- Here he encouraged numerous people to file OCR complaints (Web Link) only for the Feds to find no civil rights violations {Web Link}!

His current brilliant idea holds about as much water. I wonder why he doesn't mention the AP courses!

Edmund has had very poor results identifying actual OCR issues. It's nothing more than throwing mud and hoping some will stick. [Portion removed.]


Posted by voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

Well suppose for a moment that 9 and 9A really are the same class. That would mean that the students from either class should be encouraged by the TA's to take upper division honors and AP classes. This is clearly not the case. It must mean that the TA's at Paly either don't know the curriculum as well as they should or that they are using race as a main factor to steer students into their futures.


Posted by Play parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 8:51 am

@voter, many/most TAs at Paly don't encourage students to take anything in particular. The hand out forms, review class selections to make sure they are done correctly to fulfill grad and potentially Uc refs, but they really don't individually counsel the kids. Advisory is more like home room for announcements and paperwork, then free time for the kids to head to town and country.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

Edmund Burke

"The minority students aren't taking challenging upper division courses and aren't graduating a-g. That's a serious consequence and no one disputes that it is happening and that English is the strongest impediment."

It may not mean anything to you, but at Paly there is zero consequence to graduating A-G, if you do not take 10A, 11H, or AP English in 12th grade. The driver of taking "challenging upper division courses" as the biggest impediment to minorities graduating A-G makes absolutely no sense, but please explain if you get it. The Dec 10 report on a-g completion points to reducing D's and F's as a top priority, there was nothing there about increasing expectations.

The only thing you and corporate lawyer may have a point about (regarding resources) is the inclusion for special ed. I would imagine however that when you call a class "advanced" there is educational purpose to not force special ed students into an advanced class. I personally would not accept it without the resources that are clearly missing, and the district should provide to support struggling students, now that they have auto enrolled them into 9A.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2014 at 10:14 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

Edmund Burke,

It's also misleading to generalize. There are many Hispanic and Afr. American students who are graduating A-G. They were presumably not hurt by English 9. It would help to have numbers of those not graduating a-g, and their specific reasons for initial English 9 placement. Moving lanes after 9th grade is in the control of the English teachers, over four years.

The teachers can't have it both ways, to complain about few going into advanced classes and then saying these labels are reducing expectations. You'd have to eliminate the advanced classes altogether, and prove that the non-advanced classes are as bad as they say they are.


Posted by Paly parent too, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

There is a big shortfall in the number of minority students graduating with A-G, that was why Paly and Gunn changed their graduation requirements. I'm pretty sure that the most common shortfall was in number of years of English (4 is required). I don't know if that's still the case with the new grad requirements.

I think A-G graduation is not the big issue anyway. If 9 and 9A are the same class with the same expectations, why are we talking about relaning to make 9 easier? We can talk all we want about moving minority kids into 9A but what happens if we lower expectations in 9 and minority students are still concentrated there since nobody seems to know why this is happening now? Aren't we just lowering expectations for minority students at that point? Why would we want to do that?


Posted by Vicki, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Below is a summary from the staff report that was presented to the board on January 28th. It lists the many supports already in place for struggling students. I'm not sure why some board members questioned this at the board meeting. Perhaps it was based on parent emails that are reflected in some of the comments above. In addition to what is listed below special ed students who are writing below grade can enroll in a separate writing course,English Language Arts Lab. There is also a safety net class called Restart for any students who fail the first semester.

This year 9 and 9A were taught with the same curriculum. This was achievable through differentiation in both reading and writing. The report points out that in many schools Freshman and Sophomore English classes are successfully combined as is the case with all Freshman and Sophomore English classes at Gunn High School.

The English department proposed merging the two lanes so that they could spread out struggling students, so that there would only be 2-3 students per class. This is another strategy that supports struggling students. Currently in English 9 there can be as many as half of the class in Special ED. This adds an undue burden due to case management both during and outside of classroom time. This year there are 44 students who scored basic or below that would be spread over 18- 20 sections of English.

Here is the summary from the report:
(See discussion 18 Web Link )

"While there is more work to be done, efforts to date include the following:

• Teachers developed common expectations and methods for teaching writing and used a common
rubric with descriptors of quality work.

• All freshman English teachers have taught or currently teach both English 9A and English 9, by
design, to ensure staff recognize and strategically address the needs of all students while continuing to
have high expectations for all students.

• At the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, the freshman team will have created a rigorous
curriculum pacing guide to address all the Common Core content areas, which include: Reading,
Writing, Listening and Speaking, and Language.

• The instructional delivery model is currently designed to challenge the most advanced students.
The small number of students (44 students, spread throughout 18-20 sections) who need additional
support will continue to receive this support through co-taught classes, case managers, tutorial, and
programs such as RESTART, AVID, and FOS that will enable them to succeed

We have also examined practices at similar high schools in neighboring districts. Many high schools with
demographics similar to Palo Alto High School have organized their English classes by combining students
in English classes at both the ninth and tenth grade levels."

I like the suggestion above to have all students enroll in 9A unless they schedule an opt out conference with the English IS.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm

The upcoming graduating class at Paly will be important to watch.

I would encourage all minority students currently with D's and F's in English at Paly (9th, 10th, 11th and 12th) to ask the teachers and the district to not wait for ongoing 9 and 9A discussions to support them. Ask the district to avert their becoming another statistic of missing a-g eligibility because of missing English credits. Not by simply accepting grade inflation as suggested by explainer (appalling suggested fix); get additional instruction. Although for juniors/seniors, get what you can.

Enough has been said with the help of research from 1986, 1998, and so forth, but really? High School has more years than middle school and almost as many as elementary to teach students. The data is saying middle school is doing a good enough job. These same students are completing all other a-g credits, including Math, World Language, and Science.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

@again: Anyone with experience at Paly knows that although students are taught the same curriculum, the same class can either be difficult or easy, depending on the teacher. While one teacher might outline the Industrial Revolution in a lecture, another might assign a 5-paragraph essay on the subject of how the economy was affected by the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, although English 9 and 9A teach the same curriculum, 9A requires more reading per night and deeper analysis. Some teachers (such as the Freshman English lead, Kindel Launer) don't even assign SAT vocabulary words to learn (appalling) even in 9A. Others do assign vocabulary words and assign more words to the 9A lane, less words to the regular lane. And to those who think being in the regular lane "hurts the self-esteem" of the students, where is the data on how many regular lane students actively reach out to the teachers for extra help?


Posted by KIndel Launer, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm

@Parent,

I have followed this critical topic with much interest while refraining from adding my thoughts primarily because this can be a fairly raw forum in which to do so. Given that, I must correct your assertion that vocabulary is not taught in my classroom. I use a rigorous and direct instruction technique developed by Dr. Kate Kinsella: Web Link.

This type of vocabulary instruction goes to the heart of academic English. Academic English is the English spoken in the workplace, secondary and post-secondary classrooms and laboratories. Outside the classroom, it is rare for students to speak in the formal register. In order to achieve fluency, young people require teacher-modeling, practice speaking and writing, and frequent, daily review of academic, high-utility words. Some words are those found on the SAT, others are words that provide adolescents access to the world of ideas.

I would be happy to invite you into my classroom so that you might see better how vocabulary is taught - active student engagement with speaking, listening, and writing practices that go beyond Quizlet and SAT lists.

Respectfully,

Kindel Launer


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Ms. Launer - As a parent of one of your former students, I want to thank you for your enthusiasm and dedication when it comes to your students. We always felt that you were doing your best to push your students in the right direction while also supporting them. As for it being "appalling" that SAT vocabulary words were not an emphasis in your class, many/most of those words students will never use in real or their later academic life...


Posted by explainer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Minority students and low income students fail to graduate a-g at acceptable rates from Paly. That is a well-known fact and it is why PAUSD changed its graduation requirements to be higher than state "diploma" requirements. As part of tracking this issue, District statistician Diana Wilmot prepares an annual board presentation. In that presentation she breaks out the numbers and shows which a-g requirement is being missed by students. Many are missing more than one. More students are missing the a-g requirement for 4 years of english than any other requirement (math was a close second).

The relationship to English 9 is that students feel unsure of their abilities, and are not comfortable taking harder classes after English 9. That sorting and stigma carries forward into their performance (low expectations produces low performance) in their 10th grade course selection. They then begin to have trouble passing 4 years of english and ultimately do not have 4 years of english on their transcripts. The english department is trying to address this problem by greeting every student at Paly with the sense that they can achieve, are expected to achieve, and will achieve. Tracking them in 9th grade english undermines this effort.

And, since it is racially disparate and serves no valid educational purpose, it also may violate Title VI. It is hard to see why it would not. The principal and the teachers stated that the course tracking has no valid educational purpose. It doesn't matter what people on TS think of whether they can fabricate a purpose or not. We already have the principal and teachers on record.

It's obvious what the right course here is, but equally obvious that it will not be taken by district leadership.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm

'The relationship to English 9 is that students feel unsure of their abilities, and are not comfortable taking harder classes after English 9." How do you know this? Maybe they just hate English.


Posted by explainer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

EB

Been asked and NOT answered: stats that show ethnic breakdown of 9th grade English classes at Paly. You say: the two lanes are "racially disparate." Based on what?

You also say that English 9 "students feel unsure of their abilities, and are not comfortable taking harder classes after English 9. That sorting and stigma carries forward into their performance (low expectations produces low performance) in their 10th grade course selection. They then begin to have trouble passing 4 years of english and ultimately do not have 4 years of english on their transcripts. The english department is trying to address this problem by greeting every student at Paly with the sense that they can achieve, are expected to achieve, and will achieve. Tracking them in 9th grade english undermines this effort."

See Gunn HS. It does what you say Paly does but shouldn't and it has high a-g pass rates and college-going percentages. Ergo: two lanes of English in 9th grade is NOT the reason Paly students are not matriculating with the stats PAUSD desires.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:36 pm

[Portion removed.] I know plenty of kids who are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who took 9 because they disliked English. They were white. Believe it or not, it was recommended to them by their middle school teachers/counselors because they did not perform well in middle school english. People on this thread are trying to find a simple answer (de laning English) to solve a very complex problem. I agree with "again" who points out that Gunn with three tracks has more kids complete a - g.


Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Why are English lanes of such controversy? To me, as a student, the most important issue is class size -- can't we do something about that?

Beyond that, whoever said SAT vocabulary isn't practical beyond the SAT is wrong. As I reviewed for the SAT, I came across many words that I'd seen before and was unable to define (though I was able to estimate their meaning). SAT vocab comes up all the time in texts -- Take a look at "The 100 Most Common SAT Words" here. I think that a majority of these are quite practical. Web Link Looking back, I wish I had been given more vocabulary quizzes in HS (this is probably not a belief many students share; I was given few vocabulary quizzes throughout HS while my friends had many).


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Gunn's higher a-g pass rate is due in part to having fewer of what William Julius Wilson called the "truly disadvantaged" in its minority student population. Gunn's minority population looks different than Paly's and has fewer disadvantages and more strengths. Just on the surface, Paly has nearly three times the percentage of African American students, and 20% more latino students. It also has more students who are low income.

Reaching below the surface, more of Paly's disadvantaged students come from East Palo Alto and do not have the advantages that minority students who live in Palo Alto have. Even controlling for income, students living in Palo Alto are better off in that they live in a safe community that does not have gun violence or gangs as a feature of daily life. They also do not have to take a bus a long way from home to start and end their day. But beyond those visible issues, there are invisible disadvantages involving absent or incarcerated fathers, addiction, community disintegtration, and other issues that affect youth from severely underprivileged backgrounds. Those EPA students who come through the VTP program likely share many unobserved variables that make them somewhat better off given that their families had the drive and ambition to sign them up for VTP. But they are more disadvantaged, on average, than those who attend Gunn.

These differences in level of disadvantage are reflected in the a-g statistics from the 2 schools to some extent. For Latino/a students, in 2012 41% graduated a-g from Paly versus 61% from Gunn. For African American students, 53% graduated a-g from Paly versus 67% from Gunn.

There isn't any evidence that Gunn's minority students are graduating a-g at a higher rate because of 9th grade english laning. If that is your hypothesis please provide a shred of data to support it. Given the academic research on the harms of tracking to minority students, it is highly likely that tracking at Gunn is harming minority students there just as it is at Paly, and that if it was reduced the a-g rate at Gunn would be higher. Even though it is higher than the rate at Paly it is still very significantly below that for white and Asian students.

Likely implementing College Pathyways at Paly and reducing tracking at Gunn would both be good interventions. The former will likely happen but the latter will likely never occur given the swift death meted out to this idea.




Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Edmund Burke,

"It's obvious what the right course here is, but equally obvious that it will not be taken by district leadership."

Well, it's obvious what has already been done. The teachers have merged the two lanes with the claim of racial segregation, and a need for special-ed inclusion. Both claims are supported by the dismal stats on English for a-g graduation, and research on de-tracking. Never mind that there is data to prove less sinister reasons for people choosing 9, but that's not important.

What is masked by the proposal are the issues which cannot be explained by de-tracking research. Curriculum, uneven teacher quality, and supports. "Differentiation" is already happening with the uneven teacher quality, and their unique practices - luck of the draw, you lose or gain a year here and there if you lucked out with the teacher who grades papers, or the teacher who has the better vocabulary method.

While it's heroic that the better teachers want to guarantee that it will all work out, it's hard to miss explainer's suggestion that merging classes will basically result in grade inflation, problem solved for the teachers. A community is accused of elitism and racial segregation by the same people who have been managing the system for years.

This item not returning to the board is additional bonus for the teachers.

So, the only way to measure the new system is to see how many more students will choose to take advanced coursework and pass the English AP exam.


Posted by Parent of Senior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Ms. Launer didn't teach vocabulary when my daughter was a freshman; perhaps it's changed. SAT words are important because SAT scores impact college admissions. It's easier for students to learn vocabulary words in school versus studying on their own. My Paly graduate had teachers who did quiz on vocabulary, but not nearly enough words. When I attended Paly, we had vocabulary quizzes each week.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I think what I would say about this is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That is why the teachers proposed this as a pilot. If after 3-5 years it was not producing better outcomes for those students, then a learning organization would do exit interviews with students, talk with parents, analyze data, and come up with another solution. To be frank, it sounds like there is so much dissatisfaction with 9th grade english as a whole that I don't see how it could be worse from critics' perspectives.

I would propose that we bracket the concerns about tracking and agree that segregation, to the extent it exists, is bad and should be addressed.

I would then propose that these other concerns about curriculum and consistency among classrooms of the same course and level be addressed separately. There are many people, including friends of the de-tracking proposal, who have voiced persistent critiques of such things as the length of time it takes to get essays returned, some teachers being hard while others are easy (horizontal inconsistency), differences in curriculum, differences in grading -- all among teachers in the same class/lane. These appear to be concerns worth addressing. But should they hold up the de-laning issue? This seems entirely unrelated.

To me, it appears that people who are for a variety of reasons dissatisfied with these issues have voiced disagreement with an unrelated proposal in order to get attention for their concerns. Perhaps these concerns are valid. Inconsistency between teachers teaching the same lane/class is one area where the district falls short, and this is true across the schools as well -- Chem 1 should be Chem 1 in PAUSD. Regardless of teacher, regardless of school. The number of As is also a fair concern that should be consistent across teachers and schools. Similarly, there are concerns about the writing curriculum. Do students write enough? Is the literature they read relevant to them or current enough?

However, what does any of this have to do with de-laning? Isn't there a better way to raise these issues without shooting down a proposal that would increase equity?


Posted by Realist, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:19 am

The proposal isn't coming back to the school board because it was clear the first time that board members didn't know what they were talking about. Dana Tom and company are not anxious for a repeat performance.


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:43 am

The foundation of this proposal/pilot rests on the "fact" that English 9 and 9A are the same course.

That begs lots of questions:

who is responsible for the decision to make the two courses - one regular and one advanced - the same given that not that long ago they were very different in content and homework load?

where was the ask to the school board - responsible for curriculum and content changes - for its blessing before the Paly English Department effectively dropped a 9th grade English lane from its class offerings by morphing the two classes together to be the same?

which class survived - an amped up 9 or a watered down 9A?


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:50 am

Not tracking the permanent scar of low expectations argument here either.

About half the students in our district take English 9 each year so say about 500 students/year. Last count shown in one of the links, 96 students did not graduate with 4 years of English / btw no information on which grades were missing. Ergo, most students who take English 9 enroll in and pass 4 years of English, complete a-g and go on to college.

So this is not about the permanent and long lasting stigma of being placed in a class called "regular" because 80% or more of the students who take that class do fine.

This is about a belief that this will get more seniors to take AP English so more can go to the Harvards, Stanfords and UC Berkeley's of the world. Paly's report to the board:

" Highly selective colleges prefer students who have taken rigorous high school courses—specifically AP English and AP U.S. History. With all students taking English 9A, all students will become more competitive for selective colleges. We believe all students should receive the accelerated instruction that will prepare them for future accelerated classes should they choose them." Web Link

I'm all in for students being challenged and, for those who like summer homework and reading and writing at the college level before college, having AP English available to them. But taking away choice and making pretty big changes to core subject content so that all students can be Harvard admittable is not a district goal nor will it ever be because everyone else in our community and our schools seems to have a broader definition of student success.


Posted by English Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:54 am

EB asks:" Isn't there a better way to raise these issues without shooting down a proposal that would increase equity?"

Ummm, no.

I have raised some issues with Dr Tokheim, and she completely ignored me and my child. These are structural problems related to managing a group of professionals for consistent outcomes. That does not happen in PAUSD.

So you can yell at the wall, post in the paper, or get a tutor.

I just wish someone would have told me at 6th grade start that teachers are here to present, not teach. And if your kid falls in the middle they will be lost and no help is forthcoming.

Get yourself a tutor.

The district is broken.


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:32 am

Edmund Burke,

I think I have your argument down:

1. All minority students are enrolled in English 9 (no data on that tho).

2. All frosh in 9 get and internalize the message that being in the "regular" class means that they are not smart and will not graduate college-ready.

3. That mindset holds them back from passing the 4 years of English needed to graduate.

4. Therefore, 9th grade English courses need to be merged together to offset that stigma and the disadvantages East Palo Alto students bring with them to the classroom from home.

The numbers don't bear that out.

50% of VTP students pass a-g just fine.

So even if all VTP frosh are in English 9 - your facts - the stigma of the "regular" English class is not preventing half of them from meeting a-g.

We are talking about 14 VTP students who did not meet a-g. Why do we need to run an experiment on the whole grade that might or might not work? Can't those 14 students' needs be immediately and more appropriately addressed individually?

BTW your take on East Palo Alto students (VTP students come from gang ridden neighborhoods, have absent or incarcerated fathers, and struggle with addiction) differs from ours. My child's VTP friends come from large families who dote on their kids, with fathers who are at home (not in jail) working (not getting high).


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

Realist,

"The proposal isn't coming back to the school board because it was clear the first time that board members didn't know what they were talking about. Dana Tom and company are not anxious for a repeat performance."

It was not a proposal. The two classes were already made one lane this year. The rest is artificial posturing about placement for incoming 8th graders, including one that gets you a sit down with the English IS.

It probably was confusing that the D's and F's in Wilmot's report which Dana Tom asked about only need a 3-5 year trial to test the single logic of expectations. It is the board's fault though to not know how the conclusions of the WASC report were being handled by the teachers, for five years. Can't everyone put this kind of thing on a reminder on their cell phones? If the still unsubstantiated racial steering practices by Jordan middle are what's been burning in the minds of Paly English teachers, why wait five years to let everyone know, and why then use that to fix a special-ed inclusion issue?


Edmund Burke.

"what does any of this have to do with de-laning? "

The easy answer is what @again said "two lanes of English in 9th grade is NOT the reason Paly students are not matriculating with the stats PAUSD desires."

Pick one or two items from the issues you seem to be well aware of, and any one of them could account for the stats. These issues are already in "brackets." They have guards on each side, including politics. Surely explainer had a laugh about legitimate student concerns about SAT vocabulary (so Harvard), yet SAT scores impact scholarships, UC eligibility, many other things, and it can matter even more for the students who are in the middle to struggling. But hey, we're not the experts, so these questions are probably out of order.

Your suggestions of how to measure the pilot are interesting, maybe some of these metrics will be available for the instruction trial that already happened this year.


Posted by English Teacher, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:51 am

I do not work for the district, but have students here. Much of the problem with students arriving at our high schools is the direct result of the absence of any discernible English program in Palo Alto middle schools. With 'peer reviewed' writing assignments, from which they learn nothing, to assignments that include filling in all the background with colored pencil, it is no wonder that the first year in high school English finds many students ill prepared and reluctant to take on a challenging class. As the result, high school English teachers are overwhelmed with remedial problems instead of being able to teach a prepared group of students. Although English skills are extremely important in life, this district acts as though math was the only thing that matters. This is evident when they dismiss the entire high school during math testing for only the highest lanes. Badly done. It is no wonder the English teachers are struggling to find a way of teaching English in this district that they can live with.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:05 am

Edmund Burke,

Your take on Paly VTP kids who missed English credits to be a-g ready at Paly is pretty bad, especially when you're well aware of the issues you suggest bracketing. These same students completed all their other classes in Math, WL, Science, everything except English. And we actually don't know, but hey may have had to overcome the many bracketed issues in English to still do well in their other classes. Blaming the students and their families is out of order on this one.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:15 am

English teacher,

"high school English teachers are overwhelmed with remedial problems instead of being able to teach a prepared group of students."

The teachers are not saying that. They are saying that this is an issue of racial segregation and special-ed inclusion. They said the middle schools do a good job.


Posted by cry wolf much?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:30 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:54 am

@again

Don't forget the number of white students who were unable to graduate a-g ready because of the missing English credits at Paly. Ed may think they were from broken homes, or Gunn has more advantaged white students.


Posted by English Teacher, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

100 parents, Whether they are admitting it or not, it is a fact. The teachers are in an awkward position. They are trying to solve a number of problems with this de laning proposal. Again, by the time students arrive at our high schools, unless they learned the skills elsewhere, they are ill prepared for high school level English classes. Therefore, as has been stated above in many different ways, they do not sign up for the higher lane English class. This has little to do with aptitude and everything to do with the many years of school they have already had, in which they were not taught English effectively. If the high school English teachers admitted this, they would be in a lot of hot water. Somebody who will not face retaliation, create a scandal, or have their career ruined needs to tell the truth about this, which I am trying to do here. If the teachers could say it, I believe they would, as it is true.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:31 am

As a parent of several Jordan then Paly students, none of my kids received much writing instruction from ANY English teacher at Jordan. Their best writing instruction came from one of the Jordan History teachers who two of my kids were lucky enough to have. I would be curious what percentage of the students that did not pass 4 years of English with C's or better were from Jordan and how many were from JLS.

One of the issues that the English teachers at Paly are experiencing is that the regular lane of English contains classrooms filled with kids with IEP's, 504's and disadvantaged kids. They would - sensibly - like to spread these students out between all the sections rather than concentrate them in just a few.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

English Teacher,

"If the high school English teachers admitted this, they would be in a lot of hot water. Somebody who will not face retaliation, create a scandal, or have their career ruined needs to tell the truth about this, which I am trying to do here."

This was supposed to be a well researched proposal, and the only slide the teachers presented happened to highlight high scores from middle school. Please see the video to hear what they said about middle school.

Data about writing levels from middle school should not be kept in political, friendship circles or TS. It effectively gives justification for Edmund Burke's Paly English bracket list to remain bracketed, and it leaves students to rely on the mercy of the teachers who have not given up on teaching writing.

Your honesty is what would be expected and should be rewarded, but instead we have a proposal which may just fix the stats cosmetically. The district has enough money to support so many initiatives and yet the teachers say they already have many supports. Do you think a writing evaluation of all incoming 9th graders could help?


Posted by English Teacher, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

That's a good question, 100 Parents. I'm afraid what would help is not more testing. I believe the district still uses the ERB, which is not effective because the prompts are created by people who have no idea how to elicit a creditable response from any student anywhere. What would help is, as you say, honesty, which is in short supply in this district. In order for things to improve, we would have to be willing to face the truth behind the myth of Palo Alto's great schools, which has inflated our real estate values, piled pressure on our students, and been falsely propped up by a dependency on tutoring. The resulting high test scores cause a constant influx of people who want the best for their children, and when they find instead a hodgepodge of great teachers doing their best among not so great or burnt out teachers, all of whom are under siege, they bring incredible pressure to bear on all district personnel to make the myth true for at least their child. As long as we care more for the myth than for the students and the quality of our community, we will continue to squabble over the many ways students fall through the cracks - that is - any student whose parent is not hiring tutors and spending their days on campus, or at school board meetings lobbying for their child alone. English should not be taught by peers. It should be taught by teachers who are free to teach at their full capacity. Palo Alto will not be able to do anything but move the pieces around on the board until this reckoning takes place. It will be too late for my children, who, in spite of many excellent teachers, have also had to be home schooled while dodging the pitfalls of our self congratulatory district.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I am not blaming the VTP students and I think everyone knows that. I am saying that Gunn has a less-disadvantaged pool of minority students than Paly and that makes sense out of the differential a-g rates. That's why it may take more heroic effects, such as de-laning, to assist them in achieving. Gunn's students would also benefit from de-laning, but that will never happen.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm

English teacher,

What about 3 lanes with smaller class size, placement based on a joint evaluation by Paly and Jordan. The teachers at both schools can use their judgement to recommend placement - including special ed inclusion. Maybe even hire an outside consultant to help out. Each lane would have the objective to allow a student to advance according to their personal goals. It is a flawed objective to base an entire program on what "highly selective colleges" want. Many kids want the credit and a ticket to out of here. But everyone deserves a writing curriculum, and SAT help. Explainer commented that English is the place to have "thoughtful reflective" time, and certainly literature is a great way to do this, but most all students take the SAT. Would it hurt to teach to the test sometimes? I know heresy, but for the kids in the middle, those without tutors, English could be the best place to get standardized testing instruction.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm

@ 100 parents "Don't forget the number of white students who were unable to graduate a-g ready because of the missing English credits at Paly. Ed may think they were from broken homes, or Gunn has more advantaged white students."

First, students who do not graduate due to missing English are generally also missing other things, not just English. Only a few are missing just English and you can tell that if you look at the tables and do the math. It is generally the case that white students who do not graduate a-g due to missing English have IEPs or 504s or are otherwise struggling or dealing with personal issues. Of course not all disabled students have a disability that would interfere with a-g and the district should not cavalierly decide that they cannot make it and write them off as it appears to do currently. There is also the occasional student who does not graduate a-g due to "choosing" not to, however most of these decisions are non-decisions. The big transformation in the graduation requirements is to make the default a-g in order to turn these non-decisions into informed consent.


Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Nothing will satisfy all the contributors here. Everyone wants what's best for his or her student, or is just a permanent malcontent with a grudge.

>>if you put their own highly advantaged and ambitious kids into the same class with very disadvantaged kids the result will be greater failure for the low-performing kids and less good education for the top. It is hard to teach to a big spread and our terrible English teachers won't be able or willing to do it. <<

Your teachers aren't terrible. They're educated, trained & human. Can they satisfy multiple conflicting aims within a public school? Probably not. Racism! Elitism! More SpED help! Does it benefit already high-performing kids to be in a class with others who don't even know parts of speech? NO. Does it help less well-prepared kids to be in a class where their deficiencies will be even more obvious by comparison? NO.

The charges of racism are insulting to teachers. Is it possible that a "green" or "purple" child who wasn't born in the U.S., whose parents aren't literate in English or even in their native language, might not do as well as kids who've grown up learning English as a primary language? Absolutely! Why pretend otherwise?

It would also help to let the teachers teach, instead of having to spend time with idiotic parents insisting that because they have their own advanced degrees in some subjects that their offspring are surely gifted and should get higher grades on essays. One Paly mom bragged about her PhD while insisting that her kid's paper had to be better than a B- because "I spent 2 weeks helping write it." Duh. This stuff happens all the time.

What about the Latina recently caught having inflated the grades on her transcripts, thereby enhancing her chances of admission to upper tier schools? This is blatantly criminal & indicative of a lot of the cheating that goes on. Ask Skelly about that.

Grow up, people. Get racial politics out of the classroom & accept the fact that some kids are academically "brighter" than others. Nothing personal, just statistically true. If you don't like it, go private & pay a school to design a program perfect for your kid.


Posted by Emma Isabella, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

@English Teacher--your last comment was so spot on. It is very difficult for the average child in PAUSD to be successful without tutoring. That should be a huge red flag that the teaching is at best uneven, notwithstanding the "highly qualified" teachers in this district. Whenever I have raised this issue with administrators, however, I get the response "there is nothing wrong with tutoring," and "we can't stop people from hiring tutors," which is not at all the point. The point is, if the teaching from top to bottom at PAUSD is so superior, there would be no need for the current Tutoring Industrial Complex we see in Palo Alto. I have been forced to hire tutors myself just to get my child through certain math and science classes at Paly with a C+ or B-.

@Explainer is also correct--it is much harder to teach kids how to write well and think critically, which is why the tutors have not been as effective in this area as they have been for math and science.

Finally, the poor English instruction in the earlier grades along with the hyper-"rigorous" math and science classes at Paly are both contributing factors in some "high achieving" kids choosing the lower lane of english. They have seen their siblings struggle with ridiculous workloads in math and science and even have to teach themselves, or hire tutors, to do well in those classes. They then make the understandable calculation to give themselves a break and take the easier english class in 9th grade to counter-balance the difficult math and science classes. I hope that when Paly de-lanes freshman english it also figures out how to teach math and science without requiring half the student population to hire tutors just to keep their heads above water.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

@watcher,

You just quoted explainer. The "hard to teach to a big spread and our terrible English teachers" is explainer's imaginary parent talk.

If you're trying to make a point on behalf of teacher's what's the point? That parents with PhD's are insufferable and Latino's cheat? Not even sure how a student can "inflate" grades on a transcript, but you must be in the know.

Your suggestion "accept the fact that some kids are academically "brighter" than others. Nothing personal, just statistically true. If you don't like it, go private & pay a school to design a program perfect for your kid." Ummm, that would be convenient, just leave the brighter students to teach in public school.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Emma

"it is much harder to teach kids how to write well and think critically, which is why the tutors have not been as effective in this area as they have been for math and science."

Do you happen to have data that English tutors are not effective?


Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

100 parents -
Yes, I am in the know & you could be too. Ask Skelly. Ask the principal. Look around at entitled parents who pass that attitude to their kids - the ones we teach.

Instead of fretting about lanes vs. no lanes, why not work on an all-inclusive value system in which all are entitled to receive the best education they're able to absorb? Work on ethics & honesty, as in parents not doing the kids' homework then being dumb enough to complain about the grade the parents' efforts merit. This helps kids how? Will they have profs on speed dial when the little darlings go to college?

How about ethics & honesty in Board & Admin. Worry about king-sized holes in IT which lets kids hack the system & change their transcripts. Worry about whether your kid at a 3rd tier school really would have been at a 2nd tier or better had it not been for his classmates who altered their own transcripts.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm

@watcher,

I'm not in the know. You can trace back to see what my issues are with the Editorial and it's always fun to catch Edmund Burke on his OCR ambulance chasing.

I agree with you that transparency and vigorous policing of ethics & honesty are necessary and important, it's all we have, which is why this proposal bothered me - it masks and sort of misleads. The hacking, cheating, parents doing kid's homework, and whacky stuff that goes unpunished, all frustrating. We all, especially the students see it happening, and that could be a new thread. Sounds like it would be fun to go out for a coffee or drink with you, and maybe that's what this situation needs. It's easy to confuse what explainer calls "anxious competitors" and parents and kids acting entitled with just trying to get kids through this college board ruled system. Another reason to not have superficial equity fixes. I rather like my idea of doing some SAT prep in English, and promise it's not because I want my kids to go to Harvard.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:06 pm

One of the huge differences between the Paly English Department and the Paly Math (and somewhat Science) Departments is that the English Department cares about what their students learn and the Math Department worries about the prestige of their department/teachers and the math awards they can win.

We also live in such a math centric district (with talented engineering parents) that our efforts as a District focus on math to the exclusion of many other subjects.


Posted by Future former Paly parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:29 pm

@ watcher

"What about the Latina recently caught having inflated the grades on her transcripts, thereby enhancing her chances of admission to upper tier schools? This is blatantly criminal & indicative of a lot of the cheating that goes on."

Can you elaborate a bit on this statement, please?

I'd like to know more about the alleged hacking, cheating, and grade meddling. As the parent of a senior who has never cheated and whose parents have never done such things as write his essays for him, I find this kind of news so disheartening. Is there no hope for honest families and kids any more?


Posted by perfect alignment, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 6:29 am

[Portion removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 7:27 am

It seems to be the season for seeing vast conspiracies.

A few fact corrections. Michelle Dauber didn't speak at the board meeting on English 9/9A, and the line you quote above was directed at some Town Square posting, not at the Paly math letter.

Care to defend the Paly math letter, by the way?

As I read it, Burke isn't threatening to turn any teachers into OCR based on Paly's desire to eliminate the dual English lanes. He is saying that the school board is creating a problem for the district by insisting on having two identical lanes, one with a disproportionate number of minority and disabled students.

I bet OCR doesn't need Burke's posting or anyone to "turn us in". OCR knows where to find us at this point. That's thanks to Skelly, Young and the school board, not to Burke.


Posted by perfect alignment, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 7:53 am

Fact Check,

Check here for Michelle Dauber's comments at the School Board meeting under the caption "English 9A Pilot":

5:14 Web Link

"When de-laning has been studied, what has persistently emerged from the research is a quite persistent finding in education research over long periods of time studied in many different settings that children at the top do better...because they have the opportunity to help teach ...[pointing to the Paly teachers she says who are nodding and "who know"]"

For more along those lines, read Edmund Burke above: "To summarize this extensive literature (my friends in the ed school should correct me where I err) it has been known for at least 20 years...The chief controversy in the de-tracking field is [that it] does not deliver the desired benefit to the high end "

Dauber's words "bigoted racist claptrap' were directed at a middle school teacher.


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:05 am

You're right, Michelle Dauber did speak at the school board meeting, about the academic research showing that tracking doesn't necessarily benefit even advanced students. That's the same research that the Paly English teachers cited, presumably. Unfortunately, our school board doesn't read or care about academic research, so this is all beside the point.

Since the nasty slurs directed at minority students that Dauber was criticizing were on Town Square, here's hoping that they didn't actually come from a middle school teacher. On Town Square, no one knows you're a dog.


Posted by the truth is out there, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:29 am

The board reads a lot of academic research. They have far more experience in it than random members of the public speaking at board meetings.
Odd that you should believe otherwise.


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:32 am

@the truth is out there

Wow, that's interesting! Can you point me to an example during the discussion of the delaning proposal? I heard a lot of assertions about pedagogy from the board members, but no citing of any academic research. But I would love to be proved wrong.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:43 am

Fact check,

Research from 1986 and 1998 is pretty irrelevant if you compare it to Edmund Burke's list of deficiencies in the English department which even "friends of de-tracking" admit to.

Dauber was happy to support the teacher proposal with no other data to support what the teachers said, other than the chart saying middle school is putting out kids with high scores, which the teachers explained they "don't know" why these same students choose to take the lower lane.

The entire proposal was to get more students to take advanced lanes "later" and they had no observations as to why that may never happen anyway.

Anyway, it was not a proposal. In a non-transparent way the teachers already merged the two lanes, and the rest is about artificial posturing of placement. These same teachers asked for out trust that they will handle it form here on out. Let's just say that is not going to help getting more students to take advanced lanes, unless maybe they think that the offer of grade inflation will help.


Posted by Get it right, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:53 am

Here's the whole quote from TS that Professor Dauber called "bigoted racist claptrap." I think I will leave it to readers to decide whether (1) a teacher would really say this and (2) her description is problematic. I think she's on the money. This was during the math letter controversy.

"I have to say as a middle school math teacher in another district (not PAUSD), I am finding that some minority students will not do the work no matter how much I make myself available to provide additional help."


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:01 am

fact check,

Oh and there was talk about expectations at the board meeting. A person who is "in the know" @watcher, has an interesting take on expectations. "accept the fact that some kids are academically "brighter" than others. Nothing personal, just statistically true. If you don't like it, go private & pay a school to design a program perfect for your kid. "


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

Get it right,

The two comments from teachers (Math middle and @watcher) are too familiar.

Given what we know about English, you cannot blame students, race or anything to get a job done. That teacher may have just been making excuses. So far, we have the following reasons for not taking higher lanes in English at Paly. Sports, friends, parents, Math, Science, broken homes, PhD parents.

My theory is that students do well and learn in an environment they like. Good classrooms develop a good reputation and that's how you attract students. For struggling students you need the supports, and any one teacher can't give up on a student.


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

A few days after Paly teachers pushed for de-laning, with We Can Do Better/both Michelle Dauber and Ken Dauber supporting the proposal at the board meeting, Burke whose positions are often aligned with WCDB's said that the authorities should be alerted to the Paly English department's poor practices based on three words an English teacher said at the board meeting.

Burke: "the startling admission, made at 1:00 in the morning, by Dr. Tokheim, Paly english … California State Special Ed Compliance Auditor should be informed " Web Link




Posted by Fact check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

So rather than board members being experts in academic research (talk about hiding your lamp under a bushel) turns out that academic research doesn't matter. 25 Churchill can safely remain a fact-free zone, where anecdotes about your own kid rule the day.

Attacking English teachers for paying attention to research and trying to provide equal opportunity for all kids, while defending the math teachers who were trash-talking minority students to keep them from graduating A-G, is pretty bad. I'll leave it at that.


Posted by again, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

Is Paly taking up Burke's suggestion to enroll all students in 9A and force students who want 9 to "opt out"? Seems so.

Not a surprise since this was Paly English Department's idea too. Vicki, writing above in the teachers' voice, is promoting it: "I like the suggestion above to have all students enroll in 9A unless they schedule an opt out conference with the English IS."

The thought here is that an opt out will ensure that English 9 dies from low enrollment.

Students will wonder what the difference between the two classes is. The course catalog only lists one course, so that doesn't help.

So 500 incoming 9th graders will, as Vicki suggests, meet individually with Paly's one English Supervisor - the teacher who told the board that 9A for all is the way to go - before registration ends next week.

That English teacher will probably tell those students what she told the school board: there is only one difference in the two classes - the name.

And then she might ask Susie whether she would prefer a class that says "advanced" on her transcript or one just called "regular"?

Susie might ask "how will that work?" And the English teacher might say that "we give everyone the same curriculum - same books, same words. But Susie, we differentiate. That means that if you are a quick learner we will give you 4 times the homework we give Mary, who is struggling in the class and works at a slower pace. You both can get As in the 'advanced' class on your transcript if you meet the differentiated work expectations - 'high' or "low' - we set for you. The beauty is that it is all subjective so everyone wins."


Posted by no name, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

@ watcher and Future former paly parent: Those are good questions to ask - you should look into it. I wonder if that was an isolated incident or if there are multiple students who have been able to alter their transcripts and evade legal consequences.


Posted by Get it right, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

I just want to clarify that I agree with Prof. Dauber that the comment from the supposed teacher was biased and based on race. I think it helps to see the quote:

"I have to say as a middle school math teacher in another district (not PAUSD), I am finding that some minority students will not do the work no matter how much I make myself available to provide additional help."

Do you have any white kids who won't do the work? Why say this about "minorities." It is racist and Prof. Dauber rocks for saying it like it is. Funny that no one on the board had the guts to call out the math letter which said the same thing.


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

Get it right,

Not sure if the irony was caught here, but by trying to rule out ALL other possibilities for the dismal stats for English graduation rates at Paly, and given that everything else is "equal" that means that the only reason English 9 should be eliminated is because it had minorities in them. It is like saying the expectations for English 9 were never bad, it was just who was in there.

At this point it's all repetitive, but I will point out that Editor conclusion

"When decisions suddenly get made or reversed outside of public view, with no explanation, it is fundamentally undemocratic and disrespectful of all stakeholders. The result, as seen in this case, is everyone feeling bad and a lot of thoughtful work getting jettisoned. That is not the governance model we think this community wants."

This can very easily refer to the fact that there was no transparency with the teachers merging the instruction of 9 and 9A,this past year, it was done without board approval (?), and the artificial placement conversations are pretty funny. There is a likelihood of no real equity happening other than a convenient re-sort, and no honesty about other very real issues (Ed Burke's bracketed items) which can do more for equity than all the talk about the still unsubstantiated racial steering practices by Jordan middle.


Posted by the truth is out there, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:19 am

@Fact checker, so you really do believe that "random public" is more informed about pedagogy than members of the school board some of whom have been serving the school district for nearly a decade? That is truly interesting. Please continue.


Posted by Fact check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi "truthiness", yes i believe that the Paly English teachers and some members of the public are more informed about pedagogy than school board members. I believe that because I have heard them discuss and cite academic research on the topic. Please provide some contrary evidence.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I'm glad I look at these forums sometimes. This has been one of the most fascinating school threads ever. I hope you can urge others to read the entire thing - a lot of high quality input.


Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 19, 2014 at 4:56 pm

@ future former parent & no name -

One Paly student was recently caught altering her grades. She had been doing this for 2 years. She did not originate the means to do this and it has happened an unknown number of times. Comparison of teacher grade books with current transcripts sent to college admission offices show that some grades had been inflated more than once. Skelly refused to expel her & gave her a 1 week suspension.

PAUSD has evidence that this practice is not unique to this student & has been happening for at least 2-3 years. Where is the follow-up investigation of this criminal fraud? All transcripts sent for fall 2014 college admissions need to be rechecked & corrected. There are undoubtedly some recent Paly grads who won't succeed at their chosen colleges because they were admitted based on falsified transcripts showing a higher performance record than is true. Ask the registrar, ask the principal, ask Skelly, who may be removing himself just in time to escape some legal issues. Paly has done everything possible to squelch this, including not notifying PAPD, in order to avoid a nationwide academic scandal which will rightfully damage the school's reputation. I cannot believe that the board doesn't know.

Steps are underway to prevent this from happening in the future, but this must be dealt with openly & everyone should know. Criminal charges for all participants are appropriate. It is grossly unfair to honest students. It is grossly unfair to honest parents. It is unfair to the teachers. It's an unconscionable reward for heinous behavior which undermines any ethical standards. Tell us again how great Paly schools are? Would you like to buy a high-speed rail system?


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 6:19 pm

watcher,

Skelly is still around, you seem to have access to the Principal, and you could also have the Weekly do the public records search.

Instead of keeping this on the hush hush, why are you not doing something about it?


Posted by Future former Paly parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm

@ watcher

Thanks for the info.

This is so disheartening. Could that explain why my student is on a waiting list at a university where another student was surprisingly admitted recently?

The only solace I can find is in the fact that my older children, who are past Paly, and who never cheated and that I never helped cheat, are now doing very well.

It is unbelievable that PAUSD did not notify colleges regarding the doctored grades. The potential college admission for this student should have been rescinded, rightfully so. I guess maybe they were worried that all Paly grades would be considered suspicious if they reported that one student. All this is a huge disservice to honest students and sends a message that not cheating is stupid.

Since we will be done with PAUSD as of May 2014, I won't look into it any further, but I am really, really disgusted.

:-(


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Edmund Burke,

Last question, I suppose this is for the merged classes this year - the one we were not aware of.

" by offering the same rigorous curriculum of 9A to the disabled and minority students clustered in english 9 they raised their performance. As if by magic the number of Ds and Fs being received by those students fell. "

So, the D's and F's it had nothing to do with the stigma of being in 9?

And if everyone was still supposedly "clustered" this year, how did differentiation actually work?


Posted by no name, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:04 am

@watcher and Former paly parent. To make you feel better, the colleges WERE notified. The student WAS expelled. The police were not called because at least one of our superintendents did not want them involved. The district is more concerned with public opinion and avoiding lawsuits than they are with "justice" in situations like this, and as a result kids get away with things they shouldn't get away with, unfortunately.

It would help if parents didn't hire attorneys to help their children evade consequences. If parents were willing to let their children suffer a little and learn their lessons, the district could handle disciplinary situations more fairly. And if parents would stop obsessing about their kid's grades, stop harassing teachers about grades they don't agree wtih, and were willing to let their kids go to the kinds of colleges that are in line with their kid's work ethic and abilities instead of pressuring them to go to Stanford (just a hypothetical example), perhaps the kids wouldn't be so driven to cheat.

People SHOULD be asking what the IT department has done to prevent transcript forgery from happening again and what the school has done to check current senior's transcripts for authenticity.


Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm

no name-

She wasn't expelled. Her attorney had her withdraw from Paly & enroll at a private school. She'll reapply for other colleges from her new school. Maybe the new schools to which she applies won't check deeply into her Paly records? Lesson she's learned is that if she gets caught doing something wrong, her parents will get a lawyer to protect her from consequences. Terrific value system in that family.


Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm

@ 100 parents -
I did do something about this. The rest is up to you and other parents. I've spread the crumbs for you to follow. maybe I have a family to support & don't want to lose my job? What do you have to lose?


Posted by 100 parents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:11 am

watcher,

While our individual parent requests often go unanswered, the Weekly sending a question will get an answer. It seems your question and that of Former Paly parent helped.

Web Link


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