Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 8, 2011

Palo Alto families warned against too many APs

Counselor: Colleges don't want to accept students who are 'overcooked'

by Chris Kenrick

Palo Alto students and their families are consistently warned against taking on too many advanced placement classes, counselors from Palo Alto's two high schools told the school board Tuesday night.

Parents must sign off on all AP classes their children choose, and homework levels are discussed in detail, Gunn Vice Principal Kim Cowell and Paly Vice Principal Kim Diorio said.

Students' taking on of excessive course work is "of great concern," Cowell said in a wide-ranging discussion of counseling in Palo Alto schools.

"We have students and families from out of the country who don't view high school in the same way.

"We help all our families understand what it's like to be in a U.S. high school and also that you don't want to 'overcook' your child."

Conversely, Cowell and Diorio said counselors also nudge students who "underselect" that is, do not challenge themselves enough to ramp up their schedules.

Next fall, Gunn High School plans to issue "balance" T-shirts to all teachers and administrators, with the lettering "there are 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States."

Cowell said too many AP classes lead not just to mental and physical health problems for a student, but to college admission problems.

"If students are overcooked, (colleges) are not going to take them because their mental health bills will go through the roof," she said.

In a lengthy discussion of counseling at Gunn and Paly, school officials said counseling ratios in Palo Alto are far better than those in most California schools but still fall short of the ideal of 250 to 1.

For the past 15 years, Paly has augmented its meager counseling staff through a "teacher advisory" system, in which more than 40 teachers provide academic counseling in weekly meetings with students.

Gunn uses a more traditional system, with six full-time counselors who meet one-to-one with students about once a year and also hold group sessions, as well as are available for appointments.

Comparing the two schools' counseling programs is like comparing apples to oranges, but both schools are successful in helping students get into college, counselors said.

A group of parents questioned why two high schools in the same community should have such different counseling structures, citing poll data indicating Gunn students and parents are more dissatisfied with counseling than those at Paly.

Gunn parent Kathy Sharp said although she has been "very satisfied" with the particular counselors at the school, the district should consider switching Gunn's counseling structure to look more like Paly's.

Gunn parent Ken Dauber, who has launched a group called We Can Do Better Palo Alto, questioned the district's policy of "site-based decision-making," which can lead to considerable apparent differences from campus to campus.

"The district doesn't have a process for systematically evaluating what works and what doesn't across schools in the district. ..." Dauber said.

"The ideology of site-based practices puts the presumption in the wrong place, by assuming that schools should be different rather than similar even on core educational practices like counseling."

Gunn parent Jennifer Jones Schroeder praised the support offered by counselors after her daughter, a competitive skater, transferred in from a private middle school and found the workload more intense than she had expected.

"There's something deeper and richer that Gunn is doing for the whole student body," Schroeder said.

Board Vice-President Camille Townsend suggested the board take up the schools' "structural differences" at its two-day retreat this summer.

"I've heard (about the different counseling systems) for too long, for too many years," Townsend said. "I would like to tee this up very specifically."

Board President Melissa Baten Caswell said, "Since joining the board I've felt we really need to take a look at alignment on a lot of things.

"We want to have comparable opportunities for students," Caswell said. "That doesn't mean it's going to be exactly the same, but we need to make sure we understand what comparable opportunity means."

TALK ABOUT IT

Do you think Gunn and Paly's counseling programs should be identical? Share your opinions on Town Square on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Implement P-8 (Project Safety Net) Now, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 6, 2011 at 7:50 am

Yes, it is not fair that Gunn students have a lot less quality of service from the counseling department. Project Safety Net should be implemented now so our kids can have a supportive environment across the district. This is a UNIFIED school district, but it does not seemed like. Glad We Can Do Better was launched, hopefully positive changes happen.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:25 am

What a load of rubbish. I have never heard of colleges preferring students with less APs simply because those students' health bills will be higher.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

it is not aps, there are mainly those extra curriculums and competitive sports that consume students' great shares of time that the colleges require every candidate for their schools should get it or otherwise even you have perfect aps they would not consider.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:50 am

it is never a level playing field,what if a student has allergy or simplt not atheletic that prevent him into those sports,he can only dream of getting into ivy even if he got perfect ap scores.


Posted by GougedInMidtown, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:54 am

Families from Asia value education. I cannot believe that someone from our school district would say that families from other countries would not view a high school education the same way. What way would that be? Not studying? Partying? Being ill-prepared for the real world? Not pursuing one's passion and goals?

What sort of rubbish is this? I cannot believe that I am paying a load of property tax for someone from the school district to be spewing this sort of ill-informed nonsense. Who do you think an employer prefers? Someone who has the intellect and passion to be focused and good at something? Or would they pass up on that person claiming that they are "over cooked"?

Not everyone in Palo Alto comes from such wealth that we allow the next N generations to kick back and live a life of indolence. We need to be grateful that people from other countries want to come here, are disciplined and that their children are focused on getting an education.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

sell the property in palo alto fast.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:06 am

I dropped AP Chem on day 2. One of the best decisions I ever made.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:09 am

Gouged

I think people who come here from other countries value education differently from us. They expect their kids to be in school longer each day and more days in the year. They expect kids to be taught acadmics and leave the morals and other touchy/feely stuff to be taught at home. They expect less group projects, less busy stuff and less irrelevant homework, but expect the teachers to teach the subject and test what the students have learned.

Makes sense to me.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

spare our kids from experiments.the last thing our school kids want to have is to go through those repeatitive earth quake like changes.just image when a new leadership comes ,if he changes the culture like this article suggests,what would the other equal part of parents who value education will do,--------ask the new one to resign. we will go through this kind of earth quake like change within a year or so when the parents or residents see the API scores,who would one want to risk his career to apply this top job in this school district.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:12 am

Oh, and I expect they expect that as the state population increases the number of college places for state residents increase also.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:18 am

@resident

we came from other country,we had a class specified designed to moral education, it requires students to do a lot of physical labor for the hospital or local farmers to make kids know what is like to have dinner on the tabl, this class lasts even into colleges yes you had to pass it like aps..


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:29 am

'Life's what happens while you're making other plans.'

We all want the best for our kids, but I think many parent are robbing their kids of their inherit curiosity and inspiration. This is a short term gain and and long term loss.

I never had goals and frankly nearly flunked out of both high school and college. I drifted along falling into things and making the most of them. I was fired from 3 jobs out of college, which didn't bother me one bit. Along the way I was happy and ultimately decided to start a company on a whim and became financially secure for life. What I learned: I'm doing the same things now that I'm rich as when I was broke. My life is not that much different. But, had I not enjoyed the process and the journey, I would look back with great regret today.

I think kids should look for inspiration not motivation. And they shouldn't set goals they should plot a journey (which will change direction and has no end). Both my kids are prodigious in school, particularly mathematics. I never encourage them to study math. I do have conversations with them about global warming, politics, what makes a good business, etc. This intrigues them and makes them want to learn. I don't care about grades, in fact I don't even look at their report cards or STAR scores or any of it. My measuring stick is when my kid comes home and can't wait to tell me about the crisis in Japan and the effects of radioactive decay on sea life.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:32 am

> Families from Asia value education

Farmers in China make, on average, about $1,000 a year. Schools in China have historically been only for the elite class, and then, "education" was intended to promote a continuation of the "status quo".

In recent history, Mao Tse Tung, and his henchmen, eradicated many of those who "valued education", with the willing consent of the masses. Same in Cambodia and Vietnam.

If it is true that recent immigrant families from Asia value education, but that's because American industry values education. Sadly, too many Americans have become dependent on government for a handout, and therefore, have stopped working as hard as their own parents and grandparents--who built America without having college educations, for the most part.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

at Old Palo Alto

sometimes not everyone is as lucky as you.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

Many of those who post on this topic should take a crash course in English grammar 101 and punctuation. They should NOT tutor their children in sentence structure and grammar or review their children's written work.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

@Bob

teach us some grammers,we will listen it efully just like a three-year-old coz we get free lessons,now where can one get things for free.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

opps i mean "carefully"


Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

My older child took too many AP's and had a hard time handling so many. He finally did drop down to two AP's which was plenty. However, there can be a problem with the regular classes and sometimes they are too easy/boring. My older child loved AP History and did very well in it, but my younger child didn't really like history so much, so he took the regular history class and it was not a good class. The teacher did a lot of group learning and even had them make a diorama(!) like in elementary schools.


Posted by Kari, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

If you knew what it's like to attend school Asia, you'd understand. Sit still and learn. Go home and work your butt off, studying. Earning good grades is of utmost importance. Learn multiplication in kindergarten. Forget the social skills - get into the top university. Of course, the parents are going to have the same ideals when they move to America. They believe that if their child doesn't get into a top tier school, they have failed.

Not all Asian immigrant families believe in extreme academics. Not all Asian moms are Tiger Moms. Asians do believe in hard work, however.

A friend of mine interviews on the West Coast for an Ivy League. And yes, many of the students have no personalities at all. How could they with all those AP classes? They didn't even have time for sleep.



Posted by Onoe Gunn Mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

AP's have been around so long we forget that they are COLLEGE courses! So we, both parents and students, should expect a very heavy workload for each AP course. But the problem really is that the best teachers tend to be the ones teaching AP's and the worst teachers are teaching the "regular" classes. So the quality of education in the regular course is below standard, and kids don't like them. (And yes, there are bad teachers in High School.) We need to fix the course evaluation process to weed out the bad teachers (though we can't get rid of bad teachers with tenure) and to make sure the regular curriculum is the best it can be.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Harriet Chessman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

Paly's Teacher Advisor system is a creative addition to the counseling program. Each T.A. has the chance to get to know about 25 students over the course of 4 years of high school, meeting with them a few times each year. The T.A. is available as the first resource for kids who are struggling with a certain class or who have a question about their schedule or their future. Each Spring, the T.A.s cull letters from each Paly Junior's family, friends, and extracurricular leaders or teachers; they then create the description of each student that will go to colleges. It's a wonderful system.

The guidance counselors at Paly are also quite dedicated and, especially if your child has a difficulty, they jump in to help. I only wish that there could be more guidance counselors! Even to have one counselor for 250 students does not sound sufficient to me, and I gather the counselors at Paly have many more than 250 students to try to help. This is an issue of funding, of course.

About the question of AP's --- I think students receive so many messages, some of them mixed. The messages come from friends, older siblings, families, school, magazines, private college counselors, and colleges. Small, selective liberal arts colleges often say, "We look for students who take the best advantage of the most challenging courses their high schools have to offer." Parents in Palo Alto become tremendously anxious that their student won't look competitive enough.

It's a little late in the day to try to create and sustain and grow a genuine message to Paly students of "Take an AP course or two if you love the subject and if you hope to grow through this curriculum." It's worth a try, though. I think all of us -- parents, students, teachers, and administrators -- should take a deep breath, step back, and calm down. What is the urgency? What is the prize? Learning is a lifelong activity, and it should be something fulfilling and engaging and, if at all possible, joyful.

For a model, I look at the classes Michael Najar and Monica Covitt teach at Paly, in Concert Choir and Advanced Choral. These teachers set the bar high, yet they infuse the classroom with clarity and genuine engagement. My son's curriculum in these courses far surpasses anything I could have hoped for him at the high school level. These are not AP classes; they're just beautifully taught courses.

I will add that Phil Winston has done an amazingly good job of infusing compassion, kindness, wisdom and humor into the culture of Paly. I hope he and his administration gain the support and appreciation that is so richly deserved.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

Gunn's counseling system is far and away the better system. The teacher advisory system uses amateurs while the counselor system uses professionals. No comparison. Paly parents are taking up the slack with professional counselors and making it look like kids are getting both connection to the school and high-quality counseling. Don't believe it. Kids who rely solely on Paly system are falling through the cracks.


Posted by Yet another parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:03 am

Perhaps I'm just naive, but if our high school students are taking too many AP courses, then the schools simply need to limit the number of AP courses the students are allowed to take each year. Other high schools of equal caliber have already done so. That way, when the colleges tell our students to take the most challenging course load available to them, the students can do so without "overcooking."


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:12 am

students are taking aps coz it can be transferred as credit towards college credit thus save money and also it help them ready for colleges. the colleges will soon find out if they get true quality students or not when they compare palo alto to others schools.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:23 am

I am extremely pleased about the community support last night for the new community-based organization We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Our group members were eloquent and prepared to talk on the topic of adopting Paly's teacher advisor system at Gunn. We showed using the district's own data that the district has been aware for years that parents and students at Gunn are twice as dissatisfied as parents and students at Paly with counseling services, including college counseling. We can do better than that.

We Can Do Better received and read a letter to the Board from former Paly Head of Guidance Audrey Hurley, PhD, stating that the Paly model provides real connectedness and that she would be pleased (though she is retired) to consult with our Superintendent and Board of Ed to assist in implementing the TA system at Gunn. But Kevin Skelly summarily rejected the whole idea. Gunn parents: make your support for Teacher Advising known to the Board of Education and the Superintendent. This would be the single biggest thing that this community could do to improve connectedness in the high schools and it should happen sooner rather than later.

We have a facebook group that contains links to all the relevant data, factsheets, and information. Please join us to work for change, including bringing the Teacher Advisor system to Gunn:

Web Link

I must comment that I thought Kim Cowell's statement at the board meeting criticizing Chinese and immigrant parents was insensitive and invoked hurtful and unnecessary ethnic stereotypes. Please, Palo Alto Online community, let's not go there. It is damaging to our community. How are we making our Asian friends and neighbors feel to read such claptrap? Coming from the schools it is particularly insulting, given the extensive focus we have on anti-bullying, social kindness, and "not in our town." Kim Cowell set a very negative example with that ill-considered statement. Please ignore it, Palo Alto. We can do better than that, and we will if we all work together.

Here is our group description:

e Can Do Better Palo Alto is a group of parents, students, former students, and concerned citizens of Palo Alto California. We are concerned about rising rates of depression and anxiety among our high school student population. Many of us have had that concern for many years as the result of our experiences, or those of our friends, with PAUSD. Others of us came to that concern as a result of the highly publicized suicide cluster afflicting our community in 2009-11.

We are concerned about the role of academic stress as a root cause of depression, anxiety, ulcers, panic attacks, heart palpitations, sleeplessness eating disorders, general unhappiness, and other physical, mental, and emotional illnesses and problems in our community. We are currently working collectively to pressure the Palo Alto Board of Education and the administration of PAUSD to implement Section P-8 of the Project Safety Net suicide prevention plan, which requires the district to "study, discuss, and implement" across the board strategies to reduce academic stress.

We would like the Board of Education to convene a committee to examine the issue of academic stress in a focused, systematic way as required by P-8. This committee should have as its charge to study the issue, and make a set of evidence-based recommendations for concrete actions to lower academic stress in PAUSD high schools. These recommendations can then be discussed in the community, and those that are most appropriate can be implemented.

We reject the false choice between lowering stress and high achievement. We believe that lower stress and achievement go hand in hand. Think about it. Do you do your best work in a stressed-out pressure cooker? Of course not. Neither do our kids. Join us. Together we can make Palo Alto a national model for stress reduction and a return to sanity in secondary education.


Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:26 am

Typical Gunn administration solution - T-shirts!


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:26 am

Michele,
How many children have you had go through Gunn and how many through Paly?


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

We have had two kids at Gunn, though they are both in college now.


Posted by Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

One of the things I don't like about PA is the way parents love to control what other people's children can do. Why shouldn't there be a lot of AP classes. Some kids are smart, want to work hard, get ahead, you know the American dream. Why do you want to restrict their choices ? If you have requirements to get into those classes, I just don't see a problem. If your child or you don't want the extra work, you don't have to sign up....


Posted by One Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

Agree with "Yet another parent" that if they limit the number of APs students can take, then colleges will see that they were limited so they DID indeed take the most challenging workload. That's why students overload on APs - so it appears they took a challenging workload and their apps are competitive - not because they love the subject and want to learn more. If a survey were taken of who takes APs for the sole reason of learning more about the subject because they enjoy it so much, I'll bet no one will answer that as the reason they are taking APs.

Taking APs is rarely to save money on college tuition. Many colleges do not allow AP credits to transfer to their schools.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

If you really want to lower academic stress, start a program to stop parents bugging their kids about their grades and pushing them into AP courses they don't want to take. But no, they want to deny the kids the chance to do the courses...


Posted by Libertarian, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

@Immigrant: I agree completely, I don't see why other parents or the schools want to control what my children do. I sent a note in the other day telling the chemistry teacher that I don't want my child to have to wear safety glasses at lab time, because I don't believe that the chemicals they use can actually cause eye damage. They refused to let him participate without the glasses! Maybe you and I can head on over there and make our case to the principal.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

This year Gunn High has a spectacular number of admissions into top colleges: 5 into Harvard, and more to Princeton, and even more to MIT and Stanford. The number is much better than Paly. And the number speaks for itself.

Any attempt to water-down curriculum is crap, and perhaps out of jealousy.

Yes, I think we need to have a balanced view and let kids know that there are many ways to personal success. Ivy League is just one of the possibilities. The education system should instill the confidence into students that as long as you keep trying tenaciously you will succeed one way or another.

But it is wrong to tell the kids that it is OK if you don't try hard. That it is OK just to be who you are without trying to be better.

By the way, Tiger Mom's daughter has just been admitted to Harvard and Yale as well.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:57 am

I'm a current Gunn parent of a senior. I've got friends in other school districts. In terms of advising students on how to graduate and get into college, the Gunn advising approach is really great. These Gunn guidance department keeps up with college admission trends in ways that only a small focused group can do. There's no way that an entire school's worth of Teacher-Advisors can perform that role.

That being said, there is some merit in having individual teachers mentor individual students through their academic career at Gunn. But it's not clear that the teachers have the extra time to take on that additional workload on top of their busy teaching schedules. My daughter has gotten mentorship of one of her teachers based on common interests. It's unlikely that the randomly chosen teacher who would have been assigned to her as a freshman would have provided that degree of mentorship. With a randomly assigned mentor, would the teacher who did mentor my daughter have had time to take on the mentorship of my daughter. I'm skeptical.

It would be real harmful to the process if the Paly model of guidance were adopted at Gunn. And uniformity between Gunn and Paly should NOT be an overriding goal. Rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, let's see what we can adopt in the Teacher Advisor program while retaining the focused expertise currently in the Gunn Guidance program. And let's also allow advisory relationships to switch based on the student's expressed interests. Let students interested in math gravitate towards math teacher advisors and students interested in the arts gravitate towards arts teacher advisors.

When advisors have changed the lives of students, it is rarely because they've been assigned to that role, but because the advisory relationship was entered into voluntarily.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

@ Libertarian - you're kidding right? Safety glasses? Wear them and don't be an idiot. Like it or not, we live in a litigious society - safety glasses are part of the program.


Posted by Denese, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Just my opinion:
However, people from other countries do value education, but how much is spent on ESL (English as second language) classes for folks comming from other countries who speak little to no english. If less was spent on ESL classes and more spent of basic tutoring for math and english not relying on volunteers to work in centers (which does not work for all students) we could have suplimental classes to support students and more students would be in advanced classes compared to if you are advanced it means you need to be more challenged AP classese


Posted by Sue, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

"These Gunn guidance department keeps up with college admission trends in ways that only a small focused group can do. There's no way that an entire school's worth of Teacher-Advisors can perform that role."

I totally agree with Gunn Parent's comment. Paly should increase the number of college counseling staff members. Two is not working.


Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm

There are high schools nearby that let students take AP's in 11th and 10th whereas at Gunn/Paly they are not allowed -- I know that is the case for AP English. Why this is so I don't know. The parents who tell me about this assure me that those students (taking AP English in 10th or 11th) not only get good grades but also good AP scores. AP English is very demanding and requires good writing skills so I don't know if Los Altos is preparing students better in middle schools (that's what Los Altos parents think) so their students are ready for the AP earlier. What it does do is help increase the number of AP's appearing on their transcripts. Or, it lets students balance these more advanced classes sooner so they can spread out their AP's over more years in high school.

I do think people have forgotten that AP's are supposed to be college courses and this does increase stress, especially when students take too many of them. Some parents seem to fear any limits put on AP's means lowering academic standards. That should not be the case! The regular high school course should be challenging and just as good.

The problem as I mentioned before this is not always so. The regular history class in 11th was not good for my younger son when he took it. (I don't think that teacher is there anymore.) We need to make sure that the regular class is also very good so students don't feel they must take the AP.


Posted by Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Libertarian, I agree. While we are at it let's ban homework too. That way our kids can play video games all night and be very happy. We can tell the teachers if they were any good they wouldn't need homework. And then all those schools in India and China will stop their kids doing homework and we can all live happily ever after. And let's remember that our ancestors never worked hard in their lives so why should we talk about hard work as role model. It needs to be stamped out...


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Gunn parent is so right. In fact, two years ago the principal in conjunction with the Gunn counseling staff did try to implement a teacher advisory period to increase connectedness. The staff was not ready. Furthermore, the proposal would not have changed the current counseling system. A good solution put forth by professionals.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

i agree with immigrate,let's ban those extreme sports teams too.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Michele,

Where are your children in college? What was their experience like at Gunn? Did they take APs? How did you reduce their stress?


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Michele,
How do you know the Paly system works better?


Posted by retired, a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I took early retirement from being a tenured Paly High School teacher. I mainly left because of the unbalanced concern over student's grades. I would never send my child to Paly or Gunn. BTW my daughter is a CPA, and attended a well balanced school in San Francisco. She is well balanced emotionally, as well.


Posted by Maura, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I've got to stop reading these school articles, never know whether to laugh or cry. A t-shirt does nothing to address the culture of pressure and APs and GPAs as the measure of success for teen-agers in Palo Alto. Yes, there are thousands of colleges in the US, but the prevailing ethos at Gunn is there are really only the top 25 worth considering. Kids aren't stupid, they will find the t-shirts ridiculous.

I'm not cynical about life in general, but I am cynical about changing Gunn's culture. The big increase in Gunn's enrollment is from people moving into the Gunn attendance area precisely because of the reputation for high test scores, APs and elite college acceptance rate.

We can pretend that the demographics of the school haven't changed with the children of Asian/Indian immigrants now over 40%, but that is a fact. The cultural expectations of the immigrant parents are focused on GPAs and APs to gain entrance into elite universities, which these parents had to achieve to immigrate to Silicon Valley. Is this illegal (being ironic) do I have a problem with it? No, it is now the norm. It will not change. Cupertino, Mission San Jose, Saratoga, Gunn and Lowell to name a few, all are predominantly immigrant Asian students.

Kids at Gunn and Paly will mostly all do fine in life, although their APs will not insure them success, but not my place to tell them that. What about the rest of the state's students not lucky enough to have the problem of worrying about too many AP offerings or should I choose Berkeley or Princeton? Children can be well-educated but ignorant of the world they live in.


Posted by AM, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm


Maura,

Your post reminds me of how college students from affluent East Coast Protestant families in the first half of the 20th century complained that the admission of more Jews to Ivy League colleges was ruining the culture and tradition of those schools. Eventually, Harvard, Princeton, and the other elite colleges decided that promoting more meritocratic admissions was better for American society than running exclusive finishing schools for rich blue-blooded families.

I guess there are some people out there who would argue that we'd be better off if we returned to the good old days of East Coast Mayflower descendants having a virtual birthright to run this country and allowing Preppy leisure culture to reign supreme in the Ivy League instead of admitting so many grade-grubbing Jews (or even worse, people with darker skins).

I've spoken with Asian Americans who went to Palo Alto high schools a few decades ago. Racial prejudice and exclusion were not unheard of, and this certainly marred their experience there. Why don't you ask them how much they liked the "culture" at the schools back then?

I know you probably don't mean to sound intolerant in your post, but it really comes close to sounding like a variation, "Look who's moving in--there goes the neighborhood!".






Posted by AM, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Sorry, meant to say "....close to sounding like a variation *on*, 'Look who's moving in--there goes the neighborhood!".


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Some posters are arrogant about assuring us some students are just better, more intelligent and hardworking than others. Some are just SO assured their kid "deserves" Ivy they will go to any length to assure others do not have a shot. I strongly disagree that it's about certain superior youth - Good God, get a bit more worldly, Palo Alto! - NO ethnic group or country has a lock-hold on intelligence and hard work in this world, and it is nasty that some condescendingly state this in today's day and age. Get out there and travel and visit universities around this world.

What we DO have are a certain number of kids uber-managed by Tiger Moms cradle to grad school, and a certain number of teens customarily learning in school and doing their own work and earning their own grades. When the latter find that in order to be competitive, the "baseline" for AP courses, AP scores, etc. has been raised owing to Tiger Mom paid prepping/tutoring methods, then I think the community has a right to take an interest for the wellbeing of the teens and the spirit of this community.

A certain number of students are loading up on the APs, for example, regardless of personal subject interest, because they have been prepped in advance in them, so the fact is they can manage a greater number. I have known parents who absolutely planned for, prepped for and required the maximum number of AP's.

As I have posted before, it ISN'T about stunting the number of AP courses taken by some poor genius kid; it's about accountability and leveling the playing ground by requiring written acknowledgement of advance prepping when the exact curriculum has been studied in advance, NOT informally, NOT in a remedial situation,but rather through a paid service. Some of these services are very sophisticated, and the result is the kid is not earning his/her own grades, AP scores, SAT and SAT subject test scores...and worse, some "counselors" and "tutors" write teen's essays (whether for college apps or other). It is shocking, costly, and unethical and fosters a greedy, competitive, unfriendly atmosphere.
You can't do away with Tiger Mom unethical behavior, which is FAR more than one session of prepping for the SAT!, but you CAN require acknowledgement and accountability, perhaps with the system I suggested, on high school transcripts. Put your name to what you are doing.
I think students in high school should do their own work.


Posted by One Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

In regards to AM's comments about growing up in Palo Alto, I am Chinese and grew up here in the 70-80s. At that time, the only Asians were Chinese (Cantonese) or Japanese. There were only 5-6 Chinese or Japanese per each grade level at Paly, and none at my elementary school. My experience was that there was less racism back then. I was treated as a Caucasian back then, hung out with the popular students, dated the popular boys. I never endured racism until now.

Now, there is such an influx of Asians that there is more resentment and I have felt much more racism now. People stereotype and their bad attitudes about the immigrant Asians carry over to their resentment of me, when in reality, I am as American as they are in culture. People might assume that Asians would prefer to live amongst more Asians but that is not the case for all Palo Alto Asians. I know plenty of immigrant Asians who want more of the American lifestyle, more fun for their children.

Second or third generation parents are more assimilated and less likely to have the traditional immigrant parenting of extreme academic pressure.


Posted by PC BS, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

AM: Maura's post didn't remotely resemble the discriminatory phenomena to which you refer. She stated demographic facts and some opinions, but nothing discriminatory. Can't we discuss cultural differences without unsubstantiated PC attack?
Everyone does not have to embrace a cultural change. In this society the higher bidders get to determine the demographic and cultural make-up of the neighborhood, and some residents will make a free-will choice to vote with their feet against a cultural shift.


Posted by Maura , a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm

"AM":
You made false assumptions and misconstrued my post. I also come from an ethnic group who was discriminated against and you didn't find any discrimination from what I wrote. Furthermore, to acknowledge that immigrant Asians have certain cultural traits (as do all immigrant groups) was my way of just saying 'get over it" and move on.

"One Parent", I understood and appreciated your comments. I grew up at a California high school with a variety of ethnic and religious groups and it wasn't relevant to us. However, we were almost entirely a few generations removed from the immigrant experience (including the Asian students) which simply means there wasn't a culture clash amongst our parents. My children attend Gunn and like it, I just view it as a sociological issue not as a judgment.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

@parent from barron park:

"Where are your children in college? What was their experience like at Gunn? Did they take APs? How did you reduce their stress?" and "How do you know the Paly system works better?".

Hi Parent:
The latter question is easier to answer than the former. The Paly Teacher Advisor model has been in place for over 20 years. It was formulated under Principal Sandra Pearson and Guidance Head Audrey Hurley, who later went on to be a professor of Education at SF State and a nationally respected expert on Guidance and student connectedness. The dual systems we have between Paly and Gunn and the fact that we have a unified school system allows for a natural experiment of sorts. We have virtually identical SES, student and community populations served by each school, which is roughly equivalent in size. There are very few differences between Paly and Gunn's student populations, which allows us to reasonably attribute differences we see in survey results to differences in the experience provided in the school rather than to some selection bias or other unobserved difference between the two populations.

Periodically the district surveys parents and students and asks a series of questions in conjunction with a planning effort. Satisfaction with aspects of counseling is on these surveys. The Paly TA system always returns far higher satisfaction results among parents and students across all questions and for all periods tested. The results are really staggering, so they are worth posting here, though you can read a full "Fact Sheet" I prepared on our website at:

Web Link

Gunn Students
41% are either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with "support from college/guidance counselors". This compares to 28% at Paly.
39% of Gunn students are dissatisfied with availability, compared to 16% at Paly.
38% are dissatisfied with the quality of services, compared to 22% at Paly.
33% do not feel that they have received "effective college counseling" compared to 22% at Paly.

Gunn Parents
39% are either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with "counseling services" compared to 21% of Paly parents.
32% are unsatisfied with availability of counselors, compared to 14% for Paly parents.
39% are unsatisfied with the quality of counselors, compared to 20% for Paly parents.
48% feel that their child did not receive effective college counseling, and nearly 20% feel strongly that their child did not get effective college counseling. This is compared to 25% for Paly parents and virtually no Paly parents felt strongly that their child did not receive effective college counseling.


The 2010 numbers are even more persuasive. At the School Board meeting, Camille Townsend agreed that this is a longstanding difference and that Gunn students are not receiving the benefits of the Paly connectedness to a teacher over the four year time-frame. I think that this data pretty much conclusively proves that parents and students are much more satisfied with the Paly system than the Gunn system and all members of the Board expressed concern about that.

So, why has it never changed. Audrey Hurley's letter to the Board of Education (available on our website) states that the TA model was resisted by the School Board and by some at Paly 20 years ago. But it turned out to be easily implemented and now is obviously really seen as an advantage we offer to Paly students. So I think we can expect bureaucratic inertia, and adherence to the status quo. But it is reasonable or fair to give one set of students something far superior on every measure and deny those benefits to another set of students based on address? I do not think so and I hope Gunn parents will request that this change be made so that their students can have the benefits that are currently being provided to other children in the district but not to yours. You are paying the same taxes. Your kids should get the same advantages.

I do not think that it makes sense to attribute the elite college and Ivy acceptances to anything that is happening in the counseling office at Gunn (versus Paly). Those kids are doing well because of who they are, how hard they worked, and accidents of fate that have little or nothing to do with anything that Gunn knows that Paly doesn't know. It is silly to think that and there is no evidence for it. What Gunn parents are trying to tell the Superintendent with their survey results is that in spite of those acceptances they are still very unsatisfied with the counseling office and services. School Board are you listening to the people who elected you and pay for this district administration?

As to your first question, I do not really want to discuss my kids, their colleges, or their high school experiences with an anonymous poster on a public chat group. I would be glad if you email me or join We Can Do Better to sit down to have coffee with anyone to discuss these issues face to face and not anonymously. If you are from Barron Park as you indicate then you probably know me and know where I live, so you can always stop me at school or stop by my house. I will just put in a plug though for my personal favorite stress-reliever -- Camp Jones Gulch in La Honda. Our daughter Celia attended CJG from 4th grade on and became a CIT, JC and has been staff for 3 years. Our 4th grader Elliot has now been going for 3 years. We cannot say enough good things about Camp Jones Gulch. Celia used to tell me that she loved it because she could just be herself -- she wasn't trying out for anything, or trying to impress anyone, didn't have to measure up, and was just accepted for who she was. She said it was the antidote to Palo Alto when she was old enough to express it and wrote her college essays about how much she loved Camp. She specifically compared it in her essays to what she called the highly competitive climate at Gunn. You can take that for whatever it is worth. I love YMCA Camp Jones Gulch. Register today -- there is space available.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

can not compare gunn to paly.people come here just for gunn.they will have high expectation fronm gunn.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

sorry---should be "for gunn"


Posted by Competitive sports, and APs are the same, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm



Whoever brought up the point about competitive sports and AP s brings up an important point.

The stress from athletic events is not that different than competitive academics, and the reason is because athletes miss school all the time. They need to constantly catch up, and they work long hours to keep up.

It would have been fair for Kim Cowell to maybe mention that while some like to push their kids academically, other parents instead choose to push their kids athletically, and there are parents who push their kids to be artists, or push their kids to be musicians, and the ones who push their kids to do it all..............

parents pushing are from all ethnicities, and competition can't be regulated

limiting APs would have to go hand in hand with reducing all competitive activities in HS



Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

@Competitive Sports:
"parents pushing are from all ethnicities"

Agree strongly. Please Palo Alto Online community ignore the insensitive comments made by district officials about Tiger Mothers and immigrants. Stereotypes are wounding and wrong. I am not sure how the counseling office intends to reach out to Asian children by insulting their parents. Let's show that we can do better by not having any more commentary along these hurtful and insensitive lines.


Posted by Dr. Mckinely, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I thought america is a free place, people should do things according to their abilities. Why restrict? If people don't like the competition, then they can move to another neighborhood.


Posted by Juancito, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Parent: (the one who doesn't capitalize)
Gunn and Paly have no difference in terms of academic results. Last year, PALY had higher average SATs. This year a couple more gunn kids (dont think it was 5, though) got into harvard than Paly (2-3). The schools each have their differences, but all in all the schools are academically identical on a year to year basis.

I think that the only cogent argument against taking too many APs is the question of student stress. However, this really hasn't played out-- juniors (of which I am one) aren't that stressed, even if they are taking multiple difficult APs. Monte Vista and Lynbrook have far greater AP/student ratios than Paly (they are also overwhelmingly asian, if you like to see the world that way), but they don't have the emotional trauma that people think PAUSD has. Although there certainly are some tragic cases of instability, it isn't the norm anywhere, and it certainly is not correlated with amount of APs (people with 5ish APs don't sleep, but they are not emotionally unstable, or "tiger children"). Although some people might feel inferior in the shadows of the elite students, the overall caliber of the education offered in PAUSD provides an "out" by making ALL students at PAUSD genuinely intelligent, making even the mediocre attend high caliber colleges. This knowledge of a secure future makes up for any sense of inferiority.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm

dear juancito,
i hope you go to harvard.


Posted by Gunn Teacher, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Many colleges are refusing to accept certain AP courses and exam results. THank goodness! Parents - wake up and smell your kid's childhood being killed. Yes, I know that college is expensive and very competitive. But does very Palo Alto kid need to go to Harvard or Yale. Do you really need bragging rights at the expense of your child's mental health? How many more of your children will you toss onto the tracks to satisfy your ego? Shame on you.

You can cut the tension at Gunn with a feather. Kids acting out by leaving racist remarks on a black teacher's classroom door. Teachers afraid to speak their mind. Is this the environment that you want for your child?


Posted by Erin Mershon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm

"We have virtually identical SES, student and community populations served by each school, which is roughly equivalent in size. There are very few differences between Paly and Gunn's student populations"

If this were actually true, there would be no need for PiE and each school would still have it's own fundraising arm as it did pre-2005. The populations are not the same. The kids know it, the parents know it, and the district knows it. Gunn and Paly may be fairly equal in certain areas like test scores, but you can not compare the two. They have been very different from the beginning and need to be treated separately.

Just to put it all on the table: I'm a Gunn alumna and my daughters will go to Paly.


Posted by tiger blood, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

So the Tiger Mother's daughter was accepted to Harvard and Yale. What percentage of non-tiger children get into the Ivy League? Just wondering.


Posted by Not a Tiger, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Tiger Blood. Your point would be.....? And what importance does being a legacy play?


Posted by member, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

This is "Not In Our Schools" week at Paly. From reading some of the posts above, I think it might be a good idea for some parents to take part in this celebration!


Posted by Rogue Trader, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm

It seems to me that all the emotion directed against Gunn, Paly, and the PAUSD is misplaced.

Gunn and Paly are not creating the stress, nor are they forcing any kids to take APs. APs are certainly not a requirement to graduate from Gunn or Paly.

Rather, it is the top colleges that are creating all the stress, as they pretty much demand those kind of requirements to be even considered for a spot.

I think the demands of the top colleges are outrageous. However, I am extremely grateful to the PAUSD that they are able to deliver on those demands. My child has gotten into some great schools.


Posted by Competitive sports, and APs are the same, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Michelle,

Earlier this evening I happened to catch on Ch 28 part of the Stand up for Youth meeting that took place at St. Mark's (infamous meeting that started the thread "Parents, school officials exchange tense words"), and heard the Superintendent say that he often uses the analogy of fishing,

Something along the lines that they try to use different "hooks" to catch kids, after which Amy Drolette tortured the audience listing every program ever run on a PAUSD school site, as if it was "news" - for example all the "clubs" available in HS.

anyway.....

Given the resistance from Skelly to lead on many of these issues, and his fishing analogies (he admits not actually knowing how to fish), but if he did large scale fishing, he could consider using nets, not hooks.

Drolette said something else that struck me, that kids will do anything we ask of them, or show them (likely not intended negatively) which is the double-edged sword in the schools, and proof that it is up to the schools to help set culture

Maybe enough of the "hooks" and time for some nets, which seems to be what your initiative is proposing.


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm

@Competitive Sports

It is so funny that you called out the "fishing" comment because I do fish quite a bit myself and I had the same reaction. If he was a fisherman he would know that it takes a really long time, a high degree of skill, and a lot of fly-tying and prep to catch several different kinds of fish. You could be standing around hip deep in your waders until well after dark.


Posted by competitive sports, and APs are the same, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:05 am


Michelle,

Actually I don't fish myself, but it just sounded scary to think we're trying to "catch" kids. My instinct was, get a net, we can't miss any of them. Hearing more about the rigors of fishing from your post, this analogy is scarier than I thought.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2011 at 7:27 am

There is the small detail of depriving children of their childhood through a murderous schedule of intense AP's, after school and weekend study and competitive sports. Many kids here are not allowed to be kids because of the insane competitiveness. We get only one childhood per lifetime and if we are robbed of it, there are inevitably very serious psychological and emotional consequence down the road. Some parents think they are doing their kids a favor by depriving them of their childhood because it will translate into admission to an elite college and an elevated financial and social status in the future, but I perceive it as an act of selfishness and cruelty.


Posted by Go figure, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

Lots of these comments are based on the assumption that APs = stress, mental health problems, etc.

What Challenge Success, the first group in line to advocate for measures that reduce student stress, found in surveys it's done around the country is that student stress is not related to the number of AP classes students take.

Take a look at the survey Challenge Success did at Bay Area high school Acalanes in Lafayette near Walnut Creek (which is richer and whiter than PAUSD with APs and well educated parents like ours):

NO CORRELATION between the number of AP classes taken and stressed out students.

NO CORRELATION between the number of AP classes and physical and mental health issues.

NO CORRELATION between the number of AP classes and student cheating either.

Similar results were found at Mission San Jose in Fremont too (extremely high performing school/91% Asian). "No correlation exists between stress level and the difficulty of the academic courseload. Even students taking lighter courseloads than their classmates experience the same amount of stress."


Web Link


Challenge Success did a survey at Gunn last year. I can't seem to find those results googling around, so can't speak to what it found locally.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 8:41 am

The US is going down a similar road as that taken by Greece and Portugal with regard to its budget decisions, John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said on Wednesday.

"To me-being in Europe for a few days-the plot in Greece and Portugal sounds an awful lot like the same plot that's going on in the United States. But the characters have different names," he said.



As the deadline for a budget agreement looms in Congress, Silvia told CNBC that the US must recognize that the moderate economic growth forecast by most economists for the country will fail to generate the tax revenue necessary to fund long-running government entitlement spending.

"We have to make some arrangements in terms of cutting back the promises that were made by prior politicians for these entitlements," Silvia said.

"(We've had) forty years of political promises to give people certain entitlements, certain benefits. And we've now come to understand that the United States is in a very difficult position than it was in the early post-World War II period. We're not the dominant economy. And our pace of growth has moderated. Our ability to finance this is all limited."


Posted by Competitive sports, and APs are the same, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:38 am





GO figure,

Strange representation of the survey that does not seem to conclude what causes stress, just what doesn't

but it seems that SLEEP and TIME (to do nothing) are major issues

Maybe you can say AP's don't cause stress, and you can say Competitive sports don't cause stress, but none of the schools surveyed are as rigorous in academics or sports as PAUSD

A survey here would likely show that too many AP's and competitive sports take away both time and sleep. Let's see if they find data to say there is no correlation between stress and lack of sleep of down time.



Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

I agree, eliminate all AP classes, all competitive sports, dating and romantic relationships, and do not allow Palo Alto public school students to apply to Ivy League schools. This will eliminate all stress in our children.


Posted by PAUSD parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

It would be great if all students worked to the best of their abilities without highly paid outside tutors, AP prep courses/tutors, extensive SAT/ACT prep programs and private college counselors. Why take an accelerated course if outside assistance is required? There is so much emphasis placed on gaining entrance to an elite college at any cost - both financial and emotional. Students who are confident with who they are (fully supported by parents and our community) should be proud to attend any one of our 3,000 colleges.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm

PAUSD parent, the outside help is required because the students actually need to learn the material if they are going to score well on the AP exam. If their Paly teacher is not very effective, or is overwhelmed by the number of students in the class, that learning is not going to take place at school.
Every single kid I know in the highest math lane has outside help. Some are secretive about it, but it is necessary to learn the material.


Posted by therein lies a big source of stress, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

PAUSD Parent and Mom raise the issue of outside assistance, but from different sides.

One says "stop the outside assistance" which I agreed with, yet the other says "Outside assistance is needed to make up for what the teachers don't teach". If true, are PAUSD schools not as good as reported and are being held high due to the over-education population?

The Outside Assistance Arms Race has to cause kids a lot of stress, regardless of which side they are on.

Example:

1) Outside assistance kids = parental pressure to succeed "I paid for these courses", plus all that extra time being tutored outside class
2) DIY kids = become frustrated and defeated with not keeping up w/similarly talented peers and not being compared on an apples to apples basis. That would take the wind out of anyone's sails after a year or two.

Kids should be competing on THEIR OWN merits and hard work, not that of their parents and outside help. And the material for the class should be taught effectively in the class or assigned reading. I hope the latter is true, and that we can work to make the former true, too.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

let's make private school illegal.


Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

AP courses are college level courses for which college credit is given. My college kid did JUST FINE with no AP courses to jump start his college career. He is a successul professional, well adjusted, healthy, and happy. Oh, and he went to Gunn.


Posted by therein lies a big source of stress, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I regret using the word "competing" in my last paragraph. This whole issue causes me to get my dander up.

A better word choice might have been: "Kids should be valued for THEIR OWN merits and hard work, not that of their parents and outside help." Obviously, kids should be valued for many more reasons, but I was thinking within the context of this whole college acceptance thing.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Competitive sports, and APs are the same, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm


WHat I like the most about Ken and Michelle's initiative We can do Better, is the following...

"We reject the false choice between lowering stress and high achievement. We believe that lower stress and achievement go hand in hand. Think about it. Do you do your best work in a stressed-out pressure cooker? Of course not. Neither do our kids. "

Extreme positions advocating limiting APs, which, to be fair, would have to be accompanied by limiting competitive sports will likely distract this conversation and these threads.

Instead, the Daubers are bravely prodding the district to get the broader analysis going about what improvements can be made, that may already be working for some students, and could be extended to more, see Ken's presentation to the board this past Tuesday. on the subject of Counseling at the High Schools.

From what I've seen so far, I trust this group of parents as a much needed balance to only relying on the district's internal staff, or the official parent organizations, and certainly the do nothing board to look out for our kids, right now, not in some multi-year plan where our kids are a statistic or batting average for politicos.



Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Random mom, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Someone said:

"Every single kid I know in the highest math lane has outside help. Some are secretive about it, but it is necessary to learn the material."

Well, I have a son in the high lane math class (freshman year in high school) and he has never had any outside help... So, it's not every single kid.

The problem is that some kids take those classes outside BEFORE taking it in (high) school, so as to guarantee themselves an easy A when they take it in (high) school.

I think this is the kind of gaming that many parents have a problem with. I tend to agree... This skews the competition. What is the solution? I don't know.

That said, my kid is pretty proud of himself he is doing as well as he is in his math class knowing he did not have the jump start that other kids have had in his class.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm

@Therein made an excellent point. It relates to a story that a Korean friend of mine relayed - one of the reasons he came to the US, and chose to stay here with his family was his awful school system in Korea. Roughly goes like this (read this a few times):

- school days are filled with busy work and schools are underfunded compared to our schools(see below as to why they are underfunded)
- kids sleep during the day, teachers are abusive and unmotivating
- parental pressure forces most kids to take tutors after school to learn the material.
- kids stay up late night every night completing busy work from school, and tutor's work. They get no sleep. (that is why they sleep in class)
- the demand for tutors is very high, so they are VERY expensive. Often earning more than professors.
- the parents (having paid for tutors) don't value the public school, so they are under-funded, and filled with abusive, unmotivating teachers.
- the best teachers quit the public system and become tutors.

This is a vicious cycle. The kids in the tutoring were under immense stress, overworked, had poor sleep, and made it impossible to learn. The kids without tutors simply disengaged.

Clearly there are many worse educations systems out there, emulating this one does not make sense to me...




Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

Random Mom, I am impressed that your son is able to navigate the highest math lane without outside help. I am sure that you, of all posters, realize how rare that is.

I was stunned when I first learned of the practice of pre-taking math and science classes the summer before, then taking them for a grade at Paly. At least those kids have really learned the material. It is agonizing and stressful for a student to ace all of the homework and then be given a test that does not match what was taught in the class. The only way to score well is to know the material well beyond what is taught in class at Paly.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm

My youngest is a junior at Paly --- he and a couple of buddies are in the highest math lane for their year --- none of these guys have a tutor or took an early/pre prep class. They study together sometimes and/or call/facebook/text to help each other.

@ competitive sports: re: Acalanes. Sorry, but you don't know what you're talking about --- Acalanes, Campolindo and Miramonte (all same HS district) are very, very high-end academic and athletic schools. Very much like Paly...


Posted by Mama, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm

If most of the students need tutors for the highest lane at Paly, they are in the wrong lane. The highest lane at Paly is supposed to be for the students who are naturally, exceptionally gifted at math - the ones who find math competitions fun. Jordan math teachers advise parents which lane of math is appropriate for their child yet parents don't always follow the recommendation. The 8th grade math students who are in the higher lane take many aptitude tests in 8th grade which reveal which students qualify for the highest lane.

The world doesn't revolve around all APs and math. It's sad to see so many students overburdened with schoolwork and no down time because of too much academic pressure. This will backfire later in life for sure, whether it's abnormal social skills or immaturity later in life due to missing childhood fun, or depression from working so hard too early.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I am a person who prefers fairness, and I recognize the world isn't fair but the school atmospheres are not optimum, frankly, and some of this can be attributed to what we are discussing.
We witnessed numerous students with advanced parent paid tutoring, elaborate summer prep, particularly in advance of top lane Paly math courses. There are plenty of other examples, but this is a good one.
Often, it had nothing to do with the student being motivated or interested or desiring it, rather the parent is cynical and desperate for advanrages, except some students came to recognize they benefitted from this advantage though they might not enjoy commercial tutoring while undergoing it for years - it CAN pay off in terms of paper record, scores sent to universities. Such students can make better use of their time while taking a course, since they are or have been so supported compared to regular students.
It is a competitive time and many here take very seriously their kids "competing" with peers for university offers.
If you are from the olden days, you don't know how it is currently.
How it does affect the school community -- what I am concerned with -- is: it's not a fair playing field for students taking the course and learning as they go and earning their grade, whatever that may end up to be; it also changes the "school standard" insofar as what is customary at the school for courses taken, typical grades, APs etc., # of students in one's grade in the highest math lane, etc., so EVEN IF a particular student does not plan to major in Econ or Math or Biomed, they are viewed poorly in the context of their peers from Paly, many of whom are applying to many of the same schools.
It's an artificial environment.
I only hope some teachers strive to differentiate prepped, handheld kids from those with genuine motivation when it comes to recommendation letter writing; some are secretive while some are quite open about their support systems.
It's often a purely competitive tactic used by Tiger Moms: have your kid take the max possible of highest level courses, SAT, subject tests, AP tests in order to out-compete the peers in one's grade. It becomes a community issue with the unethical advanced prepping/tutoring of the curriculum and costly summer educational experiences that some cannot possibly afford, or who choose not to take this tactic.
You can't forbid it, but you SHOULD require accountability, transparency - make students/parents sign acknowledgement of paid services and LIST IT ON KID'S TRANSCRIPT. Let universities interpret as they see fit. Take away the secret advantages and smugness.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm

@Mama, I think it is a matter of time. It's not that some would fail if they did not have prepping/tutoring/support.
Plenty of students are reasonably qualified for highest math lane, but in the context of today's demanding world of massive EC's, other courses, excessive testing, then the tutoring provides a cushion for some and these kids benefit by spending far less time as they take a course for a grade - they shift their energies to strengthen something else.
I think the Paly top level math is very good quality; some parents are obsessed with their kids doing BC Calc as juniors so they can move on in senior yr (is Stanford still permitting some to take math there then?) -- anything for a competitive advantage -- it's not NEEDED in the overall context of one's life, but the college apps are a tough time currently, so many Tiger Mom's are incessently pushing for advantages. That said, each year the high schools have some turnover, there are slightly different contexts experienced.
I think it is VERY important for students to be ethical, not cheat, not plagiarize, and to do one's own work and earn one's own grades. How about managing one's own university apps, too?


Posted by Another dissapointed parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Kim Cowell calls our students overcooked. They are not animals on the pressure cooker waiting to be devour. Also this implies that they know that our students on under a lot of pressure and stress, but then they claim that there is not pressure or stress in PAUSD. She needs a better analogy. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm

How is it unethical to work harder and learn more?
Families make choice about how they spend their time. Some kids drive all over competing on club teams year-round. Our family's choice is to focus on academics. It is unfair for the athlete's family to cap the number of APs just because school is not their priority.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm

The following article is from yahoo Ap news and yahoo finance which i posted on this site on Apr7,2001,8:41 pm,please take a note:

The US is going down a similar road as that taken by Greece and Portugal with regard to its budget decisions, John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said on Wednesday.




"To me-being in Europe for a few days-the plot in Greece and Portugal sounds an awful lot like the same plot that's going on in the United States. But the characters have different names," he said.








As the deadline for a budget agreement looms in Congress, Silvia told CNBC that the US must recognize that the moderate economic growth forecast by most economists for the country will fail to generate the tax revenue necessary to fund long-running government entitlement spending.




"We have to make some arrangements in terms of cutting back the promises that were made by prior politicians for these entitlements," Silvia said.




"(We've had) forty years of political promises to give people certain entitlements, certain benefits. And we've now come to understand that the United States is in a very difficult position than it was in the early post-World War II period. We're not the dominant economy. And our pace of growth has moderated. Our ability to finance this is all limited."


Posted by wrong thread, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

parent -

You have posted on the wrong thread, have you not?


Posted by Sophomore, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Gunn High School has a much more competitive atmosphere as apposed to other schools, in my opinion. The reason why most students are leaning towards taking more APs can also be because of peer influence as well as because it is said that colleges look at the high school SAT/GPA percentiles as a whole and then compare the students to them. Because Palo Alto schools tend to have higher percentages, it can tend to cause the student to stress out because they may believe that their grades are not good enough.


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

Email:


Post a comment

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

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

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

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

*Required Fields