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Paly back to school night shows problems

Original post made by Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Sep 12, 2008

I went to bts and here are some of my concerns.

Spanish classes at 34 - 35 students this year instead of 20 - 24 last year. No obvious technology in the classroom and textbooks which the teacher defined as old, but he likes them.

Science teacher says that he doesn't use the textbooks much because they are already out of date. He says the kids all have a book to take home but there isn't enough for a complete classroom set, although they are there for reference when the students need them.

Many classrooms have two clocks saying different times.

Teachers have varying technology. I saw projectors showing the internet in some rooms and big old overhead projectors in others which looked 30+ years old and produced poor quality slides in math rooms. Math presumably is a class where the students have to be able to read eveything displayed as we are talking about precise numbers not text which can be guessed at. I did not see any smart screens which I know are at middle (and elementary). In fact, my highschooler does not even know what a smart screen is.

Any other comments anyone?

Comments (6)

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 9:45 am

Frankly it doesn't sound too awful to me. The quality of the school is in the teachers, more than the buildings, the projectors or even the books.

Case in point - my 8th grader had 34 kids in Spanish 1B last year, which initially shocked us - but what do you know, the teacher was great, my kid loved Spanish, and he learned enough to skip Spanish 2. And as someone pointed out, 2 classes of 17 is probably not right, and if there had been 40+ kids they probably would have made 2 classes.

We're all prone to judge the book by the cover, but it's the content that counts. Our experience is that PAUSD teaching is generally pretty good.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

Me Too

Thanks for your comments. I know the teachers are wonderful and am not criticizing them. But since btsn is for parents to visit the school it is imo worth sharing some of the problems that we do see.

I take your point on a Spanish class if we are talking about one class being divided into two, but really there are many Spanish classes at each level and if all the classes lost even 5 students then that would make a more viable learning environment. Whether the problem is shortage of classrooms or shortage of teachers, another one class would be reasonable. The teacher I met said all the classes were much bigger than last year and I wonder why this is? Since the increase is by 10 students per class, then that is worrying.

The reason for my concern is just comparison purposes. Kids can learn with outdated facilities and materials, but why should some get a lot better than others. Since we are now in the position of having grant money which pays for Mandarin, shouldn't there be more money to spread around our language classes, not less?

And having looked at middle school last week and now high school, I see more technology in the classrooms at that level, but why does the high school lack what the middle schools have? The kids will get used to having good technology in middle school and then lose it at high school. That just doesn't make sense to me.

I am only raising concerns, not complaints. I thought all the teachers I met last night were great and doing a good job. But, there are concerns and since this is a good forum for sharing information as well as opinions, I thought passing information on to others and seeing if there was any kind of consensus was useful.

The quality of the school is the teachers, but it is also the parents and homes of the students taking an interest in their kids school life. Concerned parents should be taking note of these things rather than just letting the school get on with it in its own way.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 11:06 am

I hear you and those seem like reasonable questions to ask.

Based on what I've seen, including your comments, I'm not thinking that things are not done right or need to be changed; it all seems within the normal and appropriate band to me.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

I was at paly for back to school night last night also, I have a child at Jordan and at addison. All the teachers I met seemed to be great, enthusiastic and experienced. However, there is a HUGE difference between the Addison, Jordan and Paly classrooms, and a huge difference between the classrooms for individual subjects at Paly. I was also disappointed at the parent turnout (lack of) in some classes.

Some of this will be addressed by the bond - facilities themselves, but Jordan has new textbooks (including a set for the kids to take home), smart-boards, lots of computers in every classroom, etc. Addison has tons of books, a well stocked library, lots of computers in the classroom, mobile computer labs, smart boards, etc. Paly has overhead projectors, no computer that I could see in most of the classrooms, not enough textbooks in some classes for the kids to even have one copy, etc.

I suspect much of this is due to parent fundraising, we can still raise lots for "stuff". We have a great PTA fundraising effort at the elementary level, a moderate amount at the middle school, then it seem to disappear in high school (unless you're a sport, music or drama student).


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Posted by Paly Stuff
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 12, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Instead of 2-3 computers in a classroom, Paly has multiple computer labs filled with 25-30 desktops. There is also a roving laptop cart for use.

There is talk that fundraising this year will be focused on obtaining LCD projectors for the classrooms. If you want to help, please contact your PTSA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2008 at 4:46 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"The quality of the school is the teachers, but it is also the parents and homes of the students taking an interest in their kids school life."
Writ large, PP.
The latest price I have seen for notebook/laptop computers was $244. At that price it is time to dump textbooks and backpacks and get with the program.


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