News

Paly's new 'academic integrity' policy kicks off larger debate

Pressure to excel fuels pervasive 'culture of dishonesty in Palo Alto,' student says

Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio says she wants to send a strong message about school culture with the unveiling this month of a new "academic integrity" policy for the school.

The policy -- which for the first time includes a "restorative justice" option, in which a student accused of cheating may opt to go before a panel of trained peers -- was crafted by teachers and students and has been vetted by department heads, Diorio said.

Teachers were to discuss the new policy in staff meetings this week before presenting it to all Paly students in school-wide discussions set for Aug. 29, she said.

While the new policy offers greater clarity than before on what constitutes cheating and what the specific consequences are, Diorio said it does not address larger questions concerning "what we're doing as a system that makes kids feel they have to" cheat.

"How do you create an environment where getting a B or a C is an option as opposed to getting an A? That's really hard," she said in an interview Aug. 1.

The tougher questions -- involving homework load and "grading for learning versus grading to rank students" -- are "conversations we need to have as a school," she said.

Meanwhile, a student has called for local schools to tackle the root causes of cheating in the wake of a Paly incident in May that forced Diorio to invalidate more than 100 algebra finals after cheating was discovered.

The May incident at Paly was just one manifestation of a "larger culture of dishonesty in Palo Alto caused by incredible pressure to perform well academically in our district," Vivian Zhou, a junior at Gunn High School, wrote in a letter to the editor published July 11 in the Palo Alto Weekly.

Work on Paly's new academic honesty policy began more than a year ago, well before the cheating incident in May.

Diorio said discussion about aspects of school culture that could contribute to students' temptations to cheat will be considered as part of a self-assessment Paly will undertake this fall in preparation for renewal of its seven-year accreditation with the Western Association of Schools & Colleges.

"We as teachers can say that ('don't cheat') to our kids, but the students just feel there's so much pressure to go to the elite universities. It's a shame," she said.

Zhou said certain forms of cheating -- such as verbal exchanges of information about contents of a test -- are a common practice that's not even considered cheating by some students.

Students don't necessarily share a common understanding of what, exactly, constitutes cheating and that they hear incomplete and inconsistent messaging from the schools, she said in a phone interview.

"Before a test teachers will say, 'We don't want cheating; we're all honest here,' but there's actually very little discussion about what exactly it is," Zhou said. "There's the handbook, but we don't go over it in school or anything. They try to discourage us from being dishonest, but it's not a complete discussion."

She suggested that a mandatory online class covering the specifics of academic integrity and penalties for cheating could be helpful for all students, particularly so or English-language learners who are new to the country.

More importantly, steps to ease Palo Alto's high-stakes academic culture -- for example, by having teachers coordinate test schedules, as they do in middle school -- could make a difference, Zhou said, citing research by Stanford University senior lecturer Denise Clark Pope.

"She (Pope) talks about how we have this thing where results are the most important and the means to get there are not as important," Zhou said. "We've got to have perfect test scores and a great transcript, and to get there sometimes the means get a little murky."

Pope, who has extensively researched the culture of high-achieving high schools, said studies indicate between 80 percent and 95 percent of high school students admit to some form of cheating.

She cites multiple studies, including a 2010 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey of 43,000 public and private high school students in which 59 percent said they'd cheated on a test in the past year and more than 80 percent admitted to having copied another student's homework. In 2011, David Wangaard and Jason Stephens of the School for Ethical Education surveyed 3,600 high school students and found that 95 percent reported engaging in some form of cheating during the previous year.

The most common forms of cheating are copying another student's work, allowing another student to copy work, getting questions or answers from another student prior to a test and working collaboratively when asked not to, Pope said.

"If you ask students, they'll say 'We know it's wrong to cheat,'" Pope said in an interview. "Everybody knows it's wrong, but they feel that getting the A is more important, so they compromise their values.

"They'll even say to us, 'My parents would be really upset to know that I cheated, but they'd be more upset if I didn't get an A.' That's how the kids are perceiving the parents' value system because of the messages they're receiving from their families, the schools, the colleges and the system writ large," Pope said.

"They have this sort of continuum, where they'll say, 'I know that buying an exam or breaking in and changing grades are really egregious, but if someone just happens to tell me a question on the test, I can live with that.' It literally is this continuum, where kids will say, 'I'd never do that, but I'd do that' -- they're making these granular value choices on a daily basis," Pope said.

How schools teach and assess "has a big impact on cheating," she said. There's less motivation to cheat with project-based learning done in the classroom, where students cannot download answers from the Internet and the teacher can see all the iterations of the work.

"More frequent, lower-stakes assessments and performance-based assessments also help," she said, "and parents need to do the same.

They need to explain to the kid that it's more important to be

honest and have integrity, even if that means you're not going to get as high a grade. Most parents, if you ask them, will say, 'Of course,' but that's not necessarily the message they're sending."

She pointed to Saint Francis High School in Mountain View as a model of a school that has taken steps to "make the honor code part of its culture," including clearly defining cheating, being transparent about enforcement and discipline and allowing students to learn from their mistakes.

Students sign the honor code on all major exams and large assignments, which reinforces the culture, she said.

"It starts with education," Pope said. "When students are aware of the issues and consequences and feel well-supported, many infractions can be prevented and, when it happens, students can learn from their mistake instead of having a fear-based system that results in lying."

Comments

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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2014 at 10:47 am

"incredible pressure to perform well academically in our district"

Students:
65% say that they are the major source of their own stress
33% say it comes from their parents
28% from peers
16% from teachers

The solution to relieving this pressure has to include helping students and their parents make informed choices and not include limiting that choice by, for example, only offering one level of a required class like Paly's English 9A only proposal.

Cheating

Pope: "studies indicate between 80 percent and 95 percent of high school students admit to some form of cheating."

Local numbers suggest that there is a problem but half what Pope says happens outside our bubble:

Students on number of students who do NOT cheat: 57% (Gunn), 44% (Paly) which means that the percent of peers students think DO cheat would be 43% Gunn and 56% Paly. Often perception does not match reality so the number who cheat here could be even smaller.

Web Link


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

random thoughts,

"65% (students) say that they are the major source of their own stress"

The fact that 65% of stress is self-induced (not parents, teachers or peers) begs the question what do all of these kids have in common? For example, they have the same school culture, the same systems to operate under (from bell schedule to homework loads), Some of the self-induced stress can be good, up to a point.

As adults, our job should be to look out to see what is good, and bad about the self-induced stress that is being experienced by students. Instead of deflecting blame (not my fault, it's them), look to see what can be improved.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2014 at 8:58 pm

> The policy -- which for the first time includes a "restorative justice"
> option, in which a student accused of cheating may opt to go before a
> panel of trained peers --

And do, or say, what?

What is this "panel of trained peers" supposed to do?

The whole concept of "restorative justice" seems to be rather difficult to understand--even though it is only two words. Shouldn't the direct product of education be to clarify, rather than obsficate?

Seems like this is another scam to find ways for kids to cheat and not end up having to suffer any consequences.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2014 at 9:22 pm

"We as teachers can say that ('don't cheat') to our kids, but the students just feel there's so much pressure to go to the elite universities. It's a shame," she said.

This merits some conversations about how the pressure to go to elite schools works. I'll offer my take. Colleges run like a business, and statistics are everything. There was a recent event at Paly with three admissions officers - Michigan, Northeastern and Lehigh, I think, and the panel revealed pointers about how a student can stand out in an application, but the bottom line was grades. Academic record is what counts the most, for obvious reasons. Class rigor next, and taking higher level classes of course also rests on grades. These aren't Ivy leagues, but all colleges just want the best statistics.

Paly and Gunn have a very high number of students who could do very well in the best schools in the country, and the credibility to apply to one tier school and the next rests on those As. I heard somebody say that for the borderline A/B students, SMU is suggested. SMU is not a bad school, but how much sense does that make in terms of options?

A bunch of kids wanting to make A's should be a good thing, but it has turned into a bit of a bad game, where we are saying save your sanity, go to SMU, forget the A's. I think something is missing in this conversation, not sure what, but it's not the kids who made this up.


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Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm

The problem is that some teachers make As incredibly difficult to attain. Some teachers notoriously give only a couple of As. Others allow for more A grades (such as 6), but what if half the class is capable of earning an A but the teacher still refuses to distribute more As? The teacher piles on the homework, projects, or increases the difficulty of the exams, just so they aren't dispersing "too many As." Some teachers are fine with distributing plenty of As if they are earned, yet other teachers feel the need to limit the number of A grades because of their egos. Teachers have too much power over our students' mental health. In lesser school districts, more of our students would be in the top 1%, but in PAUSD, they are not.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2014 at 7:59 am

In my opinion, all teachers should aim for all the class to attain an A. That means the teacher is teaching well. If a class is only attaining a few As, then that teacher must be a poor teacher.

Teaching and education is to teach all the kids in the class the material so that they can be tested and prove that the whole class have reached the required standard. Anything else shows failure on the part of the teacher.

Or am I missing something?


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Posted by Hi
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 16, 2014 at 10:18 am

Why are we so sanctimonious as if we all don't cheat. I cheat when I'm speeding, or rolling through a stop sign. I cheat on my diet, and a little on my taxes. So do you all! So our kids will, too. So what!


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 11:04 am

Experienced parent,

I agree. That well known line which is kind of insult to injury - "your B from PAUSD is an A anywhere else" If only college recruiters agreed, but they can't because they can use only the best statistics.

Should we call Paly and Gunn outstanding schools if we don't also aspire for the students to go to the best schools? There is a mis-match in messages. Students work really hard but it's become almost sinful to aspire to elite or highly ranked schools because that means "you" (self-induced) are stressing yourself out. 33% say it's parental pressure, how much is that about money for example.

If the message is in fact, you need to look at colleges and universities off the radar, then academic pressure should be able to go way way way down. Those 6 kids at the top of the class will be at the top no matter what, at least then the rest can relax and maybe even do more fun things outside of school besides homework.

Most people love to work hard for the right reasons (it's not even stress), but the balance has gone off kilter with very risky rewards at the end. Much of the cheating is to get out of doing so much work. Even if you'd decide to be a C student, you're then risking going to a college that is not worth paying for, or not going to college at all.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 11:25 am

about self-induced stress,

You seem to be assuming that only a small set of colleges are worthy of PAUSD seniors' consideration.

Half of a Paly Class has a 3.5 or better and something like half attend a well-known and very respected state university or Harvard and its ilk. That leaves plenty of other students who end up going to many other exceptionally strong colleges like USC, CM, NYU, etc.

The assumption I've also heard - that somehow giving more students As will get more PAUSD students into Harvard - is false too.

Even for 4.0 students, admission into the Harvards and their ilk is a lottery. Valedictorians and 4.0s get rejected from these schools ALL the time. The difference between an accept and a reject could rest entirely on the time of day your application is read. There is no straight path and luck plays a role.

All that giving almost all students As is make Harvard question the rigor of Paly's classes and wonder if students graduating from it are not as prepared as before.

If it doubts that there is meat behind Paly's GPAs, all those As will make things worse for Paly students since Harvard will accept fewer of them and look instead at students attending a high school down the road which has high standards and students they know – do not have to guess - can handle college work.

Even if somehow the entire Paly graduating class was filled with brilliant 4.0s, Harvard will admit the same number as before - 1 to a few - because it only has X number of seats and lots of high schools to pull students from.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

random thoughts,

"Half of a Paly Class has a 3.5 or better and something like half attend a well-known and very respected state university or Harvard and its ilk. That leaves plenty of other students who end up going to many other exceptionally strong colleges like USC, CM, NYU, etc. "

The numbers I have seen over the years is that more students go to Foothill than Harvard (by a large factor), Gap year is growing, and maybe 2 actually go to Harvard and the like any given year (2 students out of classes ranging in the 300-400s). My point was that most high tier colleges want applicants with Harvard type statistics, even though they are lower ranked. This means everyone who is not going to Harvard needs high grades (half of Paly class 3.5 or better).

So Harvard is a lottery but you make the case that teachers and the schools should decide who applies or goes to Harvard for fear that giving more students A's will dilute the PAUSD brand.

I think the brand runs zero risk if it the learning is excellent. There seems to be agreement that much work needs to be done to improve assessments for learning. The brand will be putting their name to the fact that students are capable and well prepared. This could mean more students with A's - will those A's become B's to protect the brand?


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm

The self-reporting of "cheating" at was 43% Gunn and 56% Paly. But I wonder how the question was asked. Most kids think of cheating as copying on a test. But if the question was "have you ever copied someone else's homework or let them copy yours" and "have you ever collaborated on getting homework or a project done when that wasn't the assignment" or "have your parents ever done any portion of your homework" I think you would get a far different answer.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

"Academic integrity" has nothing to do with performance. It is about honesty and, well, integrity.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Nayeli,

"Academic integrity"

Performance has crept in because academic integrity is about a system of academic achievement which is closely tied to academic performance.

Obviously integrity and honesty are basic to anything, but if the integrity of a system is kind of broken in some ways already, there could be a tendency for people to take it upon themselves to draw lines as to what is ok or not. Asking students to admit to their personal failures in a high stress environment doesn't contribute to integrity. But, if that's the start, it's of course at least a start to address the overall problem.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2014 at 1:35 pm

FYI Foothill is a great option for students. Its priority placement into the UCs gives a student 2 years of basically tuition-free education in small classes with ample teacher access AND, if he does well there, the same UC major and UC degree to put on his resume as the Paly kids who go straight to the UCs from 12th grade.

If the number taking gap years is growing, we are talking about a few more students a year out of 500. It is not anything to peg a meaningful trend to.

You said: "most high tier colleges want applicants with Harvard type statistics," and everyone going there needs 3.5s or better.

This is a problem because of your definition of what college is good - a subjective call and, in your case, a very narrow group of schools.

Having more students with stronger grades does not equal more spots for them at the colleges on your short list because, again, the number of seats is fixed. Even if everyone got all As all the time, still only a few would get into your "good" colleges.

College admissions is competitive and colleges will always be seeking the most qualified candidates from this reality: a growing international pool of qualified candidates.

If what you are saying is that if all Paly kids get As then Susie's child will have the same chance of gaining admission into Harvard as the kid who would have been valedictorian but for the 90% valedictorians-4.0s now, then you aren't looking at the whole picture. SAT scores will become more important and perfect 800s will rule. More kids thinking that their GPAs are strong enough will stress out in other ways to distinguish themselves like trying for a rare Intel win, concert performance at Carnegie Hall, etc.

Bottom line: grade inflation won't make it easier to get in to Harvard, will amp up stress, and will bring down the quality - real and/or perceived - of a PAUSD education because, for all to get As, it will have to be easier for all to get As.

I am btw not a fan of teachers who only give out x As regardless of the class ability, but most teachers get it right which is why 1/2 the class has a 3.5 or better. Back in the day, teachers graded on a curve and only 10% or so got As, maybe 15% Bs, and a C - in the middle - was the average grade in the class.
Web Link

PAUSD's bar with half getting As (3.5 or better) is considerably more forgiving.


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Posted by Curious about placements
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I would love to see PAUSD's college placements. Is it public? I don't have a kid in PAUSD - but I'm paying taxes and I'm curious. I hear so many mixed things, I would like to know the truth. Where can a citizen without kids in PAUSD find this information? It seems it should be public - all the private schools list acceptances (not the same as matriculation, I know) but still, it gives one an idea of what's going on, but on the PAUSD website I can't find anything.

I'm not trying to compare Gunn to Paly or get in some sort of "this is better than that" conversation, I would simply like to know how many kids are accepted to various UC's, how many opt out of state and where, how many go in state private, etc. etc. Fair question, I think.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 3:47 pm

In the past, the PAUSD has not been very specific about the college placements, providing only a few statistics that were not all that helpful in understanding where the PAUSD grads were accepted to college.

On a couple of occasions, the PAUSD has actually listed the schools, and numbers of accepted students, if memory serves.

You can make a public records request from the PAUSD web-site. It can't hurt to ask for that information. They will either give it to you, or they won't.


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Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2014 at 3:48 pm

@random thoughts: Your stats are way off base. Half the students do not get As! Last year, according to the graduation program, only about 1/3 of the students earned a 3.5 GPA or better. Grade inflation is defined as: "the tendency to award progressively higher academic grades for work that would have received lower grades in the past." We are asking for students who perform at A level to be able to earn As, and B level students to earn Bs. What sometimes happens here is that A students earn Bs and B students earn Cs because the teachers insist on using a curve or they simply expect too much from the students (ie: they think the students should spend the most time on their class than other classes).

In addition, the posting from "random thoughts" stating community college "is a great option for students" is also off base for many PAUSD students. Yes, CC is fine for some who choose to slack-off and avoid the SATs, or for those who wish to save money. But PAUSD students don't aspire to attend CC. Foothill is the default option, and while it is fine, most students would prefer to attend a 4-year university if they could.

@Curious about placements: The Paly newspaper (Campanile) has the data in their May issue each year, and this has been published since the 70s. But it's all on the honor system so students aren't always honest about where they're going - I know of many people who have lied, and it's a shame that they feel the need to lie. The tradition should be ended because it causes stress on students and only the top 1% relish in the publication. In 2011, it was posted online but I think that was a mistake and it's been removed.

One thing is clear: to be accepted into Stanford from Palo Alto, there needs to be a connection (parent who is a professor, parent who is a highly respected Stanford employee, legacies) because so many students have connections already that there's no room for others without connections to be accepted since they limit the number accepted from PAUSD. The students with connections doesn't necessarily have the highest stats.


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Posted by Curious about placements
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for these quick responses. Perhaps PAUSD could just provide an acceptance for all high school students and not name Paly or Gunn. My interest is not so much how many get into Stanford, it's how the middle of the bell curve is doing. Where is the average kid - the kid who studied and also had a life outside of school and is in the MIDDLE of the distribution - where is that kid going?

Part of my curiosity comes from the trend in my neighborhood to move kids out of PAUSD and into private - and the reason given is "less stress" I've come to learn that many of the private school parents around here are not expecting their kids to go to Stanford, and not even thinking about it. They're happy to send their kid to a small liberal arts school out of state - and they say that the pressure at PAUSD high schools is too extreme for the average kid. There sending their kids to wonderful small schools with no cut sports in middle school and big arts programs. It's caused me to wonder how crazy PAUSD has gotten. So I wonder, what's going on? By the way, I know that some of the private schools are pressure cookers, and I'm not talking about those.

thank you.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2014 at 5:06 pm

By my count half (52% to be exact) have an A minus or better average by the end of junior year. There is info about college placements here too .

Web Link

I know parents who sent their child to private middle school to up the challenge so it goes both ways.


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Posted by Curious about placements
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Thank you for the weblink.

I'm sure you're right - it goes both ways - but I'm interested in the families looking for less stress and the average kid.




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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

random thoughts,

"I know parents who sent their child to private middle school to up the challenge so it goes both ways."

For middle school I think the issue is more to find the place that will prepare for high school. Once in high school, PAUSD students are breaking the mold in challenging themselves.

Your messages are not really random. It's the messages that are given to students (all those working to challenge themselves). Don't sweat it, there is a school for everyone - what a shame that you want to stress yourself out to apply to top tier schools. In a logical world, I'd say why else?! We want saints who labor and toil and who never make mistakes. We have restorative justice for them now if they should be morally flawed.

The question from curious about placements is very legitimate - there is confusing data about where the middle goes. Can you name a few of the top schools which the middle go to? What GPA is considered middle. And what about that in between the top and the middle (the B's who are really A's somewhere else), do they go to where the middle kids are going, or where the top kids anywhere else in the country are going. What is the middle of the curve? No data.

In private school there seems to be more transparency about where kids go. I'm not sure how one even calibrates the system without knowing the end game.


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Posted by about self induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 6:29 pm

random thoughts,

Can you post where you get the information for last year's Junior class' grade average? Would you also have average GPA for the class as well?

The question is what did this class need to do to get those grades. One suggestion appears to be cheating, the other is that they shamefully stressed themselves out to get into elite schools, and the other is that they worked way above necessary because if a Bs an A everywhere else, these guys worked at AA level. The next question should be - what for? No real data on where most students go to college. Or what grade distribution makes up the other half, if half are A's? With a better analysis about what the end game is for our outstanding schools, we'd know if the issue is that students are self-inducing stress or there is something else going on. I tend to think the system is calibrated for Harvard, where you end up is a crapshoot, and the messages surrounding this story are confusing.


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Posted by Curious about placements
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Well, at least now I know I'm not the only one who is confused. It seems to me that, since the middle of the bell curve is the majority of the kids, then the majority of the parents/community would be interested in understanding where the majority go to college. The lack of data/interest is a puzzle to me.

Every year when the PiE people come asking, or it's time to vote on a bond, everyone wants those of us without kids in the system to contribute/vote. Okay, fair enough. The future is our children. But in return, I think it should be easy for me to do some fact checking, and I shouldn't have to make a public records request just to find out if the average kid in PAUSD is ending up with a good outcome. One measurement of good outcome is college placement.

This lack of information is exacerbated by the overbearing people on both sides who are either selling PAUSD as the best district in the country, or the most corrupt. It's truly impossible to know where on the spectrum the truth is.

I am becoming more and more hesitant to be supportive - after all - I have no idea what I'm supporting. This year I'm considering give my money to a different charity - one that provides donors with outcome data.


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Posted by about self induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm

random thoughts,

I still can't wrap my head around the 52% of the junior class having an A- or better. I wonder what that feels like for the other half of the class. Kind of intimidating. If I was a B student and half of my class had A-s or better I'd be kicking myself for not having tried even harder. I am not advocating for grade deflation, actually more like why not have 75% of the class with an A- or better.

So, curious got me more curious - would you know why college acceptance data is not revealed or tracked by PAUSD? I can see how it would be difficult to know where students eventually go, but can't the district write a mass letter to all the schools which students have applied to (or would likely apply to) and ask -how many Paly and how many Gunn students have you accepted this year? Do all public schools refrain from collecting this type data? We usually see things like how many get a diploma, how many go to a 4 year college, and how many drop out, but that seems like very little information to understand pausd schools. More information could help answer the question, "How do you create an environment where getting a B or a C is an option as opposed to getting an A? "


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Posted by about self induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2014 at 10:57 pm

random thoughts,

"More kids thinking that their GPAs are strong enough will stress out in other ways to distinguish themselves like trying for a rare Intel win, concert performance at Carnegie Hall, etc. "

Very true, but are you saying that there is no stress associated with getting a strong GPA?

I'm trying to get to the 66% of students say stress is "self-induced." I think it does go back to where everyone wants to go, and the stress of getting to less than, after what by all appearances was hard work. As excellent as CC is, many students work hard for a 4 year college. What would be the problem with knowing what the range of "less than." actually is. And then, what is the difference in admissions requirements. What is the range of schools where B's and C's are options? Without more information I think what happens is that the relaxed people relax, the rest charge forward, and stress has not been reduced.

My humble suggestion would be that until there is more information, 75% of the class should have As, and let that be the safety valve, and it can always be adjusted.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2014 at 6:39 am

about self induced stress,

Why draw the line at 75%? Under your view - that teachers' first priority should be to give grades that build self-esteem -- no lines should be drawn and 100% should get As so no one feels badly.

Turns out that 52% getting As is actually quite high, much higher than when parents were in school here, and higher than local high schools - where the average grade is a B, not an A.

If your end game is amping up grades to get your child into the most competitive colleges, think hard before having your child fill out all those applications. If Paly is too stressful, what will life be like being a Paly-kid-in-the-middle attending a school where everyone, but you, took 10+ APs in high school, got As that were earned, while traveling the world performing concertos.

You write as if Paly is this little bubble where Bs are As elsewhere etc. There are plenty of high schools which offer rigor all around the US of A. Paly isn't even in the top 100. Web Link

Whether academic stress is bad for a child depends on the kid, it depends on the frequency, and it depends on what's going on at home. Some kids find that school work is not stressful, some need the stress to remember and perform to their abilities, some thrive on it, some don't.

Latest on stress and self-esteem: the old studies which were anti-stress and pro-self-esteem were flawed.

Sound research results show:

Po Bronson who spoke at Paly a few years ago: Web Link

"Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person…anything potentially damaging to kids' self-esteem was axed… in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. …Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn't improve grades or career achievement. It didn't even reduce alcohol usage. … He will soon publish an article showing that for college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem-building praise causes their grades to sink further. "

And

Stanford's Kelly McGonigal "the stress hormone cortisol appears to boost the brain's receptivity to learning"

There's lots more on this out there. Google it.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2014 at 7:10 am

"are you saying that there is no stress associated with getting a strong GPA?"

I am saying that giving everyone As will not get everyone into the top colleges, which was your initial premise. Colleges that get 40,000+ applications for 4,000 slots have to sort kids. If grades are not helpful, they'll find something else and that will increase pressure on students with those pursuits.

There is real data on where Paly students go to college. You get it when your child gets to Paly. The college center, book stores, college websites, and the internet have tons of information on each college's admissions standards so no, no one is hiding any information.

Students have choices on their quality of life which is in part related to the classes they sign up for (load or don't load up on APs). There are plenty of paths and there is value in each of them. Absent some glaring problem (which 52% getting As is not) it is a personal issue with a personal solution.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

random thoughts,

The data on stress, which I'd also pointed out (8/15 "Some of the self-induced stress can be good, up to a point") can be tricky. Good stress can also get out of hand. Not to mention that the combination of kids who thrive on stress with kids who crumble with stress can't possibly be a good thing.

You mentioned your'e "not a fan of teachers who only give out x As regardless of the class ability, but most teachers get it right which is why 1/2 the class has a 3.5 or better." I'm going to assume that with half of the junior class having and A-s average there are many high ability students. Unless the curriculum is made even harder, or there is grade deflation I don't see how a school with many high ability students would create an " environment where getting a B or a C is an option as opposed to getting an A."

I just don't see how you celebrate Bs and C's with respectful consideration of what students are striving for in terms of the colleges they aspire to.

Cynically, we can say students don't have a choice, it's a lottery, but students know which colleges are better or worst and they apply if they meet the statistics. Colleges though don't lower their admissions requirements based on their own institutional ranking (school #30 asks for the same things school #1 does), and they also want students to "stand out." Somewhere in between the statistics of where most pausd students are going to college, and what the overall stress levels are to get into these schools, there may be some room to at least clean up the messages.

As it is, the messages from Denise Pope to challenge success by bucking being a statistic in a school where the overall statistic is that half of the class is high ability, makes me even more stressed out. To then use this expert voice to change the system to have more Bs and C's makes it sound like everyone has already agreed that challenging success is in fact not becoming a statistic for elite schools. I maintain, what's the point of working so hard if you are not shooting for the better schools.

Without college placement data, we know that the better schools want the best academic records, and the students who can demonstrate that they are stand outs. By the way, I didn't start out advocating giving out more A's. I was just looking at the self-induced stress point and I have appreciated the debate.

After thinking about the options though, I will disagree with your fear that more strong GPAs would make students "stress out in other ways to distinguish themselves like trying for a rare Intel win, concert performance at Carnegie Hall, etc. " I think this outcome is much better than trying to force statistics which the high schools think will be ok for the brand (not too many A's); or for teachers to individually choose who is going to have the right statistics or not; or for the sake of culture, everybody will now be asked to embrace Bs and C's; my least favorite is to window dress lesser ranked schools to make them sound appealing for the sake of reducing stress.

There is every reason to believe that this community does in fact have a huge percentage of high ability students. There is every reason to believe that the curriculum and standards are solid. There should not be any surprise that there are 50, 60, 70% of students capable of A's. Teachers who are giving only 6 A's are the ones who are way off base. Colleges should see the stack of applications and say, they are all great, they are all good, and they can do their work to see who stands out etc. What they will be faced with is that each student can only go to one college. This all just works better to make students feel positive about their work, and it's a more positive incentive.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

random thoughts,

Stronger GPAs would also be an incentive for the half which doesn't have A's. They would be getting credit for being in a competitive environment. It's not jus that the increase in better grades would come from gifts - there are many learning oriented practices which can raise performance.

In a perfect world there would be no grades. Well, the best opportunity for that is not to make more distinctions between grades (celebrating Bs and C's over As) but to raise all the grades as a positive incentive, and to not balk at most of the class having great grades.


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Posted by curious abourt placements
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

I would still like to know where the middle goes before I give additional money to PiE. The high schools have to released the transcripts to each school where the kid is applying, from that it's not hard to find out acceptances. Matriculation might be harder, but acceptance should not be difficult.

For example When the stats say x percent go to private college in state - the range is so wide it's impossible to translate USC, Pitzer, Santa Clara, Mills? Are those in the middle going to very large schools or opting for smaller schools? For those going to State schools - is it more to Cal Poly or more to Cal Fullerton? Are they opting for more schools with a tradition of math and science or more toward liberal arts? Or a mix (which, in my view, would be the most healthy). I really don't care if the kid went to Gunn or Paly, I just want an overview of the District before I write another check. And I think it should be posted on the PAUSD district sight without mention of which school is which - just all high school students.

I suppose I should ad that in my professional position I often end up talking with families we are trying to recruit to the area - it would be nice to give them some facts about college outcomes rather than leaving them to be talked into (or out) something because of some overzealous people and no real information to balance opinion.

*sigh*


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Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I don't believe half the Paly students have a 3.5+ GPA. We attended graduation this year and every other name did not have a symbol next to the name indicating a GPA of 3.5+. It was much less than 50 percent. In a school program, stats have to be truthful because students know their GPAs. In a school profile, it's much easier to have an error in the data. Plus, I have had two children graduate from Paly and one currently at Paly, and I have spoken to parents and teachers and core teachers are not granting 50 percent "A"s. P.E. and electives are perhaps granting high percentages of "A"s. If the core teachers were giving out so many "A"s, our students wouldn't be so stressed out.

I highly disagree with stroking self-esteem, just as I disdain participation trophies. "A"s should be earned, but it shouldn't be so difficult that students need tutors and parents with 4-year and graduate degrees doing their homework/projects for them and/or tutoring them/prepping for exams. This is truthfully what is occuring in PAUSD and college prep schools in the nation. It's families competing with families so the playing field is unequal. I'd like to know how many "A"s are earned in core classes with no help from parents or tutors, but there is no way to verify the data would be truthful.

As for where students actually attend college, there is no way to verify either. The college map in the Campanile is inaccurate. Our students are embarrassed when they have worked so hard and are not going to any elite college they had dreams of attending. Or wait lists clear and plans change. It's also important to note that students choose colleges based upon their degrees and whatever else the college offers (campus, weather, people) rather than the college with the highest overall reputation. If a student is majoring in engineering, the acceptances won't be as high as a business major. Maybe a college has a party reputation but has a highly ranked department of the student's major.

As far as where middle range students attend (3.0-3.4 GPA), it again depends on the major and SAT scores, but in broad strokes, their best bets are out-of-state schools, CalStates (besides CalPolySLO), UC Merced, UCSC. PAUSD high school students have access to Naviance, which shows where students were accepted and their stats (anonymous) but it's not completely accurate, as it's honor system again. It's also conservative - implies you need higher stats than the truth. Also, acceptance into college is more than just data - it's personal essays, extracurriculars, legacies.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Parent of 3,

"As for where students actually attend college, there is no way to verify either."

With three, I trust you would have found this information by now.

It's pretty concerning that debates are happening without open and verifiable information about where pausd students are going to college, what schools are accepting them, or about GPA's. These figures matter when initiatives constantly bring up the stress of where students are aspiring to go to college. Anecdotes are not enough, and I agree with curious that information should be on the pausd website. Not just of the top 10% but everyone in aggregate of course. The playing field is not fair when this information is hidden

The message to not shoot for elite schools are probably well meaning, for the student's own protection and a good attempt to reduce the self-induced stress. I think it's wrong for several reasons. Instead of making judgements about student aspirations, the focus should instead be on preparing and testing students fairly and efficiently. Fairly would include understanding that grades matter and not undermining the value students place on them. The push to have students appreciate B's and C's has been going on for years now, and apparently cheating is going strong. Grade deflation is brutal in this playing field. We need the truth about grade distributions. The thread on allowing students to make mistakes has ideas on how to have students experience failure fail and still have redemption opportunities. Teachers often say that's not real life, but neither are our schools.

To reduce stress, students need more time to do other things more important to them, outside of school. Why not take that part of the Denise Pope message? Leaving students time would actually reduce stress. If a student chooses to become an Intel competitor with their free time or a couch potato, that's up to them.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm

@paly parent of 3 -

Paly Stats - 245 of the 417 members of the Paly class of 2014 had a GPA of 3.51 or higher. 146 had a GPA of 3.75 or higher. So 59% had a GPA above 3.5 and 35% had a 3.75 or higher. 7% of the class were National Merit Scholars.

Web Link

Gunn Stats - 36% of the Class of 2013 had a GPA over 3.76. 60% had a GPA over 3.5. 10% were National Merit Scholars.

Web Link


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm

What causes stress and how students deal with it is only part of the story. Some deal with stress by watching tv, but who is to say that what they watch is mindless. A student taking an hour to watch a tv show with a parent could well be the one thing that brings them closer to that parent which would indeed be a stress reducer. If that is a sporting event, a cooking show or Downton Abbey, is irrelevant if it helps a student relax. I think we all agree that within school life as well as the continual hamster wheel of extra curricular, there needs to be time to just be a teen. After all, we are talking teens, not college students. They need time to grow and mature, as they are not living the college student life while still in high school.

The other thing about where graduates get accepted, where they attend and where they graduate from, are often very different. Some students get multiple offers from high stakes colleges, but they can only accept one. Some data sources seem to dwell on how many places are offered to the graduating class and sound very high, but since the same elite schools offer places to the same elite students, the reality is that there may only be 1 student who will actually go to any 1 school. The next reality is that many students do alter their plans during the summer and end up going to a community college and this is not shown on data published at the schools. The final reality is that even students starting a freshman at any given college may not end up graduating from there. Some drop out for whatever reason. Some transfer for whatever reason. Some take many years to complete the 4 year degree. Sometimes, anecdotal information is the only way we know these things.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Los Altos High School published GPA by subject! Only core classes, but it's good info. They also publish what school the graduates are attending, using the last three years so it protect the privacy of students. I don't see any reason that PAUSD couldn't do the same!

Web Link


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Posted by BTW
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I asked my Son's counselor at Paly, and she said that NO ONE had gotten into Harvard from Paly for several years, and that anyone claiming that was making it up.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

palo alto parent,

"Paly Stats - 245 of the 417 members of the Paly class of 2014 had a GPA of 3.51 or higher. 146 had a GPA of 3.75 or higher. So 59% had a GPA above 3.5 and 35% had a 3.75 or higher. 7% of the class were National Merit Scholars.

Gunn Stats - 36% of the Class of 2013 had a GPA over 3.76. 60% had a GPA over 3.5. 10% were National Merit Scholars."

Can you offer how these stats and the question "How do you create an environment where getting a B or a C is an option as opposed to getting an A? go together?

This is either an April Fools joke - Just kidding, we all have A's, no stress, and there is no problem except we cheat, or there are issues surrounding where students are going to college relative to their good grades (tons of them), and there is stress from trying to stand out. Will creating an environment of B's and C's help?


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Posted by Don't Believe Everything You Read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I know at least one student who claimed in the newspaper that he's going to Stanford but I know he is not. If he were, his parents would brag and they did not. From his academic record, it was clear this child had sights on elite colleges, especially Stanford.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

"I asked my Son's counselor at Paly, and she said that NO ONE had gotten into Harvard from Paly for several years, and that anyone claiming that was making it up."
How interesting. 5 students were accepted to Harvard this year and I know several students who graduated from Paly within the last few years and are attending the school.

Regarding the newspaper, even if there are a few students who lie about the college they are attending (or, for that matter, are accepted from a waitlist post-print) I have found the list to be for the most part accurate.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm

C,

"even if there are a few students who lie about the college they are attending (or, for that matter, are accepted from a waitlist post-print) I have found the list to be for the most part accurate."

This is getting a little funny. There is possibly lying when self-reporting about colleges being attended. There may be confusion about what is cheating, or people may be lying about what they are reporting about cheating.

We can believe C, or we can believe don't believe everything you read, who got information from her son's counselor.

Is there a link to the article where students self-report? Any reason why college placement information is not more reliable or tracked by the district?


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Looking at the Los Altos High School data Web Link

They have a broad range of schools where students go to college. Paly and Gunn probably don't have very different college placement. Is there a link to the self-reported data?

The GPA distribution in Los Altos is more normal than Paly.

What is to be seen is if the stunning amount of A's at Paly are over-work for similar college placement statistics as Los Altos, in which case maybe more B's and C's are the answer. Ouch, how do you tell highly motivated students, you may be over doing it? Or, the pausd statistics are different, and justify the "self-induced" rigor for grades.

I can't imagine grade deflation would be the answer. Maybe it's worth first comparing stress, homework loads and cheating data with schools like Los Altos who report both GPA and college placement in a straightforward way.

Whatever the answers are, the value of time for students should be taken seriously.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I copied the following definition from Web Link:

in·teg·ri·ty
noun \in-ˈte-grə-tē\

: the quality of being honest and fair

: the state of being complete or whole

(the above definition was copied from )


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 17, 2014 at 11:42 pm

@BTW - either you misunderstood the counselor, or you are having a laugh by freaking out the college obsessed parents who read this thread. Several kids go to Harvard every year. Here is an example:

Web Link


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:30 am

@BTW: Here is a Paly '11 alum who attends Harvard: Web Link


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:38 am

@BTW: Here's a Paly '13 alum at Harvard: Web Link


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2014 at 1:06 am

Re the Paly '13 alum at Harvard -- Feynman Lectures as a high school sophomore -- pretty scary.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:29 am

On academic integrity

I wonder why Clark Pope, when interviewed about cheating in Palo Alto schools, cited a national stat (80%) when she had local stats - from her own Challenge Success surveys – that she could have shared. (Paly 56% and Gunn 30%).

Challenge Success' definition of cheating includes:

- letting someone copy off of you (very misguided, but "lenders" do not necessarily help others get ahead because the lender is feeling stressed out) and

- plagiarism as granular as writing a paper without giving full credit to where every idea in it came from.

SOS (now Challenge Success)

Paly: 56% cheated at least once with copying homework the biggest infraction.
Web Link

Gunn: 30% per the Weekly

about self-induced stress,

Turns out that getting into a good college is low on the list of reasons why some PAUSD students cheat at least once.

Of the students who cheated:

2/3rds did it either to get good grades (other than college related) or because they did not have enough time

Half because they procrastinated or the work was too hard

40% because they thought it would help them get into a good college



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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 8:18 am

There is FAR less cheating in Palo Alto's top performing high schools than in US schools overall - schools where students are doing less homework and are less focused on getting into brand-name colleges.

What is Palo Alto doing RIGHT that other school districts in the nation could learn from?

Since there is more cheating going on at easier high schools, the conclusions in this discussion have no basis in fact (it is caused by too much pressure, too much homework, too hard to get As). From that, the proposed solutions (giving almost everyone As, Clark Pope's "project-based learning done in the classroom") may have zero effect on cheating or may even make the situation worse.

BTW I don't buy that project-based learning will stop or reduce cheating. If Clark Pope means group projects, in all the school projects that I've heard students talk about there are always one or two students who let the rest of the group do most of the work. I'd say sharing an A for doing little-to-nothing is cheating and, by Challenge Success' definition, the students who let that happen are cheating too.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 8:47 am

random thoughts,

"Turns out that getting into a good college is low on the list of reasons why some PAUSD students cheat at least once. "

Why would the Principal bring up concerns about aspirations for elite colleges if grades were not associated with college aspiration assumptions. Or the question about developing a culture of B's and C's which anywhere else or any other time would be beg the question, why would you want to do that?

But good idea to back up and focus on the other part of what should be a headline-( where is this from btw, it's not in the article).

"2/3rds did it (cheating) either to get good grades (other than college related) or because they did not have enough time"

"NOT ENOUGH TIME" (sorry not screaming just memorializing -

then

"56% cheated at least once with copying homework the biggest infraction."

"HOMEWORK"

Why would anyone cheat on homework? Because it's due, and it's related to grades.....

The debate is obviously not about whether cheating is wrong. It's wrong. But the whole concept of restorative justice was brought up when straight up consequences could have been used. According to WIkipedia restorative justice offers dialogue.

"Restorative Justice
"It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state.[2] Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.[3]"

The dialogue is between the offender (S) and the community.

I'm curious about the dialogue on August 29th. An entire day will be devoted to focus on the offenses and the offenders when the "community "in that dialogue will be the school, major authority.

If integrity implies wholeness, not broken, and fairness, then I would hope that the schools would address the intrusion of homework on students's time. The long standing issues with homework loads on the part of the district should have their own restorative justice process. I don't intend to make this sound like a justification for the cheating on homework or cheating on anything, but it's the coming down hard on something, and not addressing something else that should not be overlooked.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

random thoughts,

"Since there is more cheating going on at easier high schools, the conclusions in this discussion have no basis in fact (it is caused by too much pressure, too much homework, too hard to get As). From that, the proposed solutions (giving almost everyone As, Clark Pope's "project-based learning done in the classroom") may have zero effect on cheating or may even make the situation worse. "

Hopefully on the 29th the students are told, hey you cheat less than the rest of the country, you cheat less than at easier schools...

On the issue of Homework, there is way too much research to prove that less homework is better. There is also much research about the benefits of project-based learning done in the classroom. And they could in fact eliminate cheating. These are being asked for because of learning improvements as well.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

random thoughts,

"in all the school projects that I've heard students talk about there are always one or two students who let the rest of the group do most of the work."

That's why it matters greatly if the project based learning is happening inside the classroom, with the oversight and leadership from a teacher.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 9:44 am

about self-induced stress

"On the issue of Homework, there is way too much research to prove that less homework is better." Can you refine this statement? Do you mean that no homework is better than 1 hour? Please link to the research on that.

Also, I'd love to see the "much research about the benefits of project-based learning done in the classroom. And they could in fact eliminate cheating."
I know people like Clark Pope promote PBL as a cure to cheating but are there any studies that prove that?


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 10:03 am

random thoughts,

If I'm not mistaken, the renown Paly Journalism program is project-based.

If I were a high school student, how great would it be to not only learn from my teacher, but from all the accomplished students around me? Or to gain experience in working with others. But this would be for another thread.

Students like to feel trusted.




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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2014 at 10:52 am

Random thoughts - the PAUSD homework committee, of which I was a member, did a pretty good job reviewing the best available research on homework. The bottom line is that there is no clear evidence that homework in elementary schools has any impact at all on student achievement (while other things, like parental affluence and access to a healthy diet and quality health care, clearly do). In middle school, between and hour and an hour and half of homework per night (i.e. 5 times a week) seems to have a positive impact on achievement. Loads greater than that actually tend to degrade performance. In high school, the point where you start seeing negative returns is around two hours. If you want a good summary of the research, you could start by reading: Web Link.

Based on this, the committee made its recommendation that schools aim for increasing homework loads by ten minutes per number grade. That is also in line with the recommendations of many other educators and professional groups that have looked at the issue. So our sixth graders should expect to be asked to work for roughly an hour after school per night and twelfth graders for around two hours. An exception was made for higher loads in honors and AP high school classes since those are opt-in classes, although the research remains highly murky as to how much is too much - and it's worth noting that it's possible to teach even AP classes successfully while requiring zero homework (see Gunn's own example of this: Web Link).

You can find the PAUSD guidelines here: Web Link

The BoE homework policy (which is here: Web Link) also states that: "The Superintendent or designee shall ensure that each school site develops an effective homework plan in accordance with Board policy and administrative regulations."

This policy went into effect in June 2012. In the article that started this thread, the Weekly reports of Paly Principal Kim Dorio, "The tougher questions — involving homework load and "grading for learning versus grading to rank students" — are "conversations we need to have as a school," she said."

I'm not sure if she's saying that because Paly's 2012 homework plan needs tweaking, or because they never developed one and over two years later Paly is still out of compliance with BoE policy.


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Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 11:16 am

Two hours of homework for high school students? How I wish . . . even in regular lanes, not possible. Already had at least that amount in 7th grade at Jordan.

Projects are bogus because students aren't in control of their own grade due to delegation. And just choosing a time to meet is a nightmare in itself.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

Experienced Parent - re group projects and homework, current PAUSD regulations (Web Link) say:

"Project-based assignments may be assigned as homework; however, these tasks should not require group meetings outside of class, significant assistance from parents, or costly materials. Teachers should monitor and be mindful of the logistical challenges of group assignments outside of the classroom."

So while individual work on group projects is fine, students cannot be required to meet outside of class.


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Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 11:49 am

@Simon Firth: Thank you, that helps. Unfortunately, it is still a group project which requires delegation, so if someone does a lousy job on the poster, it affects the entire group's grade.


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Posted by random thoughts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 18, 2014 at 11:51 am

On the AP class with no homework, the next questions to ask are:

How many got Bs and Cs on their report card or dropped the class after the first exam who wouldn't have had to if they had homework to do? More than in the AP classes with homework?

A 94% pass rate mentioned in the link means a C or better on the AP exam. For the students who got a 5 (an A) on the AP exam, did they work outside of class - find their own materials - to get that score? Would others have scored better if they had designed their own "homework" too?


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

EP - grading is another subject that would be well worth serious consideration by a district-wide committee able to look at the latest research and best practices and then make informed recommendations. From Kim Dorio's comment, at least, it sounds like there are unresolved questions about grading for half our high schoolers. Arguably, it would make sense for schools to have that conversation after a group of teachers, administrators, parents, and educational experts have carefully thought through the broad issues around grading and established a set of basic rvprincipals that reflect both our community's values and the best current thinking on the subject. Always grading for learning instead of ranking, as Dorio mentions, might well be a policy that it would benefit our students to adopt. It would be interesting to know how each of the candidates for the BoE views the issue.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Experienced parent,

"Projects are bogus because students aren't in control of their own grade due to delegation. And just choosing a time to meet is a nightmare in itself."

Outside of the classroom I agree projects are a nightmare. Besides scheduling, some parents often don't have boundaries about participating in the group that they were not intended to be part of. Grading based on these scenarios, I agree bogus. They're not for everything either. I don't think peers should be grading essays for example.

That's why project-based inside the classroom is good. Shouldn't happen outside the classroom unless a teacher is also there.

random thoughts,

Reading Simon Firth's post, there are apparently many things to consider about homework. That the district could not agree to include AP was probably because of a few departments not thinking hard enough about it, or politics. Homework seems to me like teacher reflex. Forward thinking teachers like the AP Econ teacher though are apparently doing innovative things with good results.

By the way, on the topic of grading to rank - the combination of homework with grading to rank is pretty combustible. If homework has diminishing returns, how fair is it to grade it? I wouldn't have understood why people cheat on homework except that I know it's used to rank. Goes back to "not enough time" which actually is also a factor during finals, and the discussion about high stakes evaluations.

Anyone concerned with the playing field, the current playing field serves for ranking, and the one giving students more times serves for learning, and allowing more people to explore their potential.


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Posted by about self-induced stress
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Simon Firth

"grading is another subject that would be well worth serious consideration by a district-wide committee able to look at the latest research and best practices and then make informed recommendations. From Kim Dorio's comment, at least, it sounds like there are unresolved questions about grading for half our high schoolers. Arguably, it would make sense for schools to have that conversation after a group of teachers, administrators, parents, and educational experts have carefully thought through the broad issues around grading and established a set of basic rvprincipals that reflect both our community's values and the best current thinking on the subject. Always grading for learning instead of ranking, as Dorio mentions, might well be a policy that it would benefit our students to adopt. It would be interesting to know how each of the candidates for the BoE views the issue.

This would be nice before going down the road of probing issues about how students are ranking themselves or how they perceive grades. That is what the playing field is currently designed to do, to promote rankings and focus on grades. What can they say (as they are anxious about work), yes guilty I rank myself and it stresses me out.


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Posted by Easy class
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Everyone can enroll in Theatre 4H and get an A+ without even taking Theatre 1, 2, 3, or 4. That's one example of ridiculous grade inflation.


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Posted by Truman B. Crpss
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Although I lectured at three universities before starting at Foothill College in 1970--the second luckiest break of my life after Irina--a very high percentage of student "success" depends on skill acquisition, not on accumulating facts. A series of essays during a term, rather than a few so-called "objective" tests, prepare students to find information, assess its reliability, and compose their thoughts in sustained presentations. This system requires instructors to read carefully a great many essays (about 35,000 for me over 30 years) but it fosters not just skill but confidence. Libraries, paper and digital, contain information, and humans can treat their minds like these storage facilities, the least taxing use of our marvelous brains. Or we can challenge ourselves to learn how to find information and create critical assessments of its validity and value. I discovered a few attempts to "cheat," mainly by students who were at Foothill to play some sport, and an office visit took care of the problem. Essay tasks should be difficult with due regard and esteem for attempting the task in the first place.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2014 at 10:10 pm

in·teg·ri·ty
noun \in-ˈte-grə-tē\

: the quality of being honest and fair

: the state of being complete or whole


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

jus·tice noun \ˈjəs-təs\

: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals

: a judge in a court of law

Justice —used as a title for a judge (such as a judge of the U.S. Supreme Court)

Full Definition of JUSTICE
1
a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
b : judge
c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity

2
a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness
c : the quality of conforming to law

3
: conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness


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