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Feature story: All the world in a single classroom

Original post made on Jan 27, 2012

Fully one-third of Palo Alto's 12,300 public school students report that they speak a language other than English at home. Mandarin is predominant, followed by Spanish, Korean, Hebrew, Russian and Japanese. Many of those students are fully bilingual in English as well. ==B Related stories:==
• [Web Link At JLS Middle School, a global crossroads]
• [Web Link In their own words]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 27, 2012, 8:17 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 8:37 am

This is abhorrent. If the school teachers know that kids are living alone in a rented apartment while the parents are in Asia, shouldn't this be reported to Child Protection Services?

The fact that this article mentions that the school is promoted on Asian websites and the school authorities are not only hiding the fact from Child Protection is not something we should be proud of. And when this happens, it is up to the schools to teach them English?

I know we aren't allowed to ask about their immigration status, but surely we should not be abling and abetting children living on their own without adults.


Posted by recently retired teacher, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

"In elementary grades, English learners stay in mainstream classrooms and receive special in-class assistance from tutors who speak their primary language." Well, no they don't. Ten years ago they did. Did this information come to the reporter from the district?

Only the language groups (usually two) with the highest number of students in the district get tutors, then for 30-45 min., twice a week, and even then not always, dependent on financial constraints.

This year, the district has moved to a new model where students who used to work in small groups with an ELL teacher, a few days a week for an hour each time, no longer get this instruction. Some classes have a teacher who comes into the classroom, usually 23-26 students, to try to assist with the instruction for the ELL students (sometimes 5 or more students) during lessons. This is woefully inadequate for students above 2nd grade, who must have the language fundamentals in the topic being taught to benefit from the lesson. And students arriving in the upper grades with little or no English are in some cases getting no assistance since the pull-out class time has been eliminated, again probably due to financial constraints in the district. Teachers and the union reps have spoken up about this, but no actions have been forthcoming. Morale is plummeting among the district elementary teachers as they try to adapt an ever increasing curriculum load to this group of unsupported students.

Doesn't seem like the right approach for the "Lighthouse District".


Posted by overcrowding? , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:20 am

"... and land in Rick Jacobs' classroom at Gunn High School. One said he was a neighbor of Steve Jobs. "

How did the student end up in Gunn? Steve Job's house is in the Paly boundary: Web Link


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

To Overcrowding:

Gunn is the site of the English Language Learners program for all high school students in PAUSD. Even kids living in the Paly attendance area, if they're English learners, are assigned to Gunn.

For middle school students, the English Language Learners program for years has been at JLS. This year, an ELL program for sixth-graders also is offered at Terman.


Posted by overcrowding?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

Thanks, Chris.


Posted by microcosm of the future, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:38 am

Wow. This started out as a nice article describing Palo Alto and the surrounding area as a uniquely diverse community, but quickly devolved into raising issues around immigration status and parents from Asia treating PAUSD as a cheap boarding school.

I'm glad that my children are being educated in a globally diverse community (although one w/little obvious economic diversity), but special resources for a growing segment of the school population does come with a high price tag. No easy answers. If our area is a microcosm of the future, not only will education costs continue to rise, but my American born caucasion children will need to work a lot harder than I did to get into university, no?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

"Here, you can get wherever you want -- you just have to study for it."

Wow. Too bad there are so many people who haven't figured that out.


Posted by Just a question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

Does anyone know how students without language skills are treated in other countries? Say if one were to move to Germany with a limited German language skill do the public schools support that student with free tutorial? I have heard that many do not but I do not know the facts.


Posted by answer, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 27, 2012 at 11:56 am

There are so many international schools in a foreign country, they teach foreign students english as well as foreign language, so after a while, you can enroll kids into local schools where they only use their own language.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Doesn't anyone else think it wrong that children in our schools are living in apartments on their own without adult supervision?

I thought that this was a crime?

Nothing about being anti global diversity, just want to see children properly cared for.


Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Diversity aside - it is a crime for kids to be living on their own and they ought to be turned over to social services

Did you know that when an elementary child arrives who speaks only Spanish the district provides support, but if they arrive speaking a language other than Spanish then the principal has to use discretionary funds to cover and aide - taking away from other programs? Shame on the District!!!! Why do the elementary schools take the constant hit?


Posted by I teach now, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Recently retired teacher,

Your post reads like a lot of whining, especially the end ("Morale is plummeting"). Since when did "union reps" ever care about kids? Please publish the union reps' concrete plan to increase my child's language abilities without pulling her out of the classroom.


Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Moi je suis ne a Palo Alto et meme chez nous on parle une autre langue!


Posted by Recently retired teacher, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

@I Teach Now: if you consider the "morale" comment whining, remove it and read the rest of the comment. It is all about the situation the student is put into by the lack of language support in the classroom. Pretty miserable for the child.

And if you think the morale of the teacher in a classroom has no effect on the daily instructional environment, you have had a very sheltered teaching career. Inspite of the propaganda, the union reps, who are all teachers, share the same driving concern we all have, the best educational experience for all children.


Posted by Ned, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

So a free, quality, public education in Palo Alto is being gamed by a bunch of foreigners? Hilarious.


Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

I will pay $1000 each to the first ten people who refer to me students who are living *either* alone in apartments/housing in Palo Alto and whose parents do not live in Palo Alto (upon verification), or who are living with friends or relatives (upon verification). Regardless of what other city, other county, other state or other country the student is from, there needs to be *zero* tolerance for sponging off of us citizens of Palo Alto.

I repeat, I'll pay $1000 to each person who brings to my attention students living on their own in Palo Alto housing in order to illegally profit from Palo Alto's great educational system. I will then refer those students' names to PAUSD's Residency Officer and we will see what becomes of it.



Posted by PALY parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The United States is incredibly welcoming of legal immigrants and this should be acknowledged and we are all grateful for this; some of us come from countries (or are 1st gen.) other than those featured so often here in local pages, too. However, the current U.S. administration's decision to not enforce existing immigration laws and borders is unsupportable and potentially dangerous to all of us legally here. If you are a citizen and vote, please take this into consideration when you vote for President. Thank you.


Posted by Disregarding Facts, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

"However, the current U.S. administration's decision to not enforce existing immigration laws and borders is unsupportable and potentially dangerous to all of us legally here."

You do realize that the current administration has deported more illegal immigrants than the previous one, right?


Posted by Just a question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hey Chris,

Have you looked at the apartments near the schools that never have lights on? Do a reverse look-up and I bet you will find names of families that actually live in Fremont, Woodside, etc.
This happens all the time and landlords love it, no wear on the apartments.


Posted by Cubberley, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

Do you really think this is new? I went to school in the mid-70's in Palo Alto. I was in a band with a Gunn student who was our pianist. He was from Hong Kong and spoke great english, but had no folks there with him - just a man servant. The internet changes perception - especially in Palo Alto. My college roomie got her MA from Stanford and ended up adopting a boat-person teen at a local hs just outside PA where she taught in the 1980's - he was here alone too but without a home. I'm glad we have this place to read about today but don't be naieve about yesterday, or the contributions of any graduate of PAUSD back TO Palo Alto.


Posted by Maya, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

This is a very poorly researched article and it is completely irresponsible to throw half truths at the public. Students in elementary school, who do not speak English get 18 hours TOTAL for the entire school year upon arriving only, where they receive assistance from a tutor that speaks their language. 18 hours, that is all the district will pay for. I use the term pay loosely. The position is more akin to a volunteer position! District support is for only 5 languages. If a student arrives speaking German or French or Swedish, then you can forget it. The errors and misstatements in this article go on. Extremely disappointed in the publication of this article.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

I actually think it is wrong of the parents to expect the school district to teach a child English if they arrive here in middle or high schools without English.

I feel sure that if I decided to move to a country that didn't use English as their first language for educational purposes, that I would pay for tutoring in that language or find an English speaking school. I certainly wouldn't expect them to teach my children English. If we are talking elementary age, then perhaps I would expect some language coaching from the schools, but I still think I would be paying for outside language lessons.

I really am against the schools teaching English to non-English speakers expect perhaps in the very early grades or in afterschool ELL classes for a small charge.

Once a child knows the basics of English, the more they read and interact with other English speakers, the better their language skills become. Getting them to read good literature is key, not language which has too many colloqialisms, Narnia books, Anne of Green Gables, etc.


Posted by I teach now, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2012 at 7:35 am

Recently retired teacher,

Your second post is just as dreary. I agree that your misery does affect the students.


Posted by jb, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm

My chinese friend tells me there is a lot of immigration fraud. To get a visa from China you need to employ a number of American citizens in a business. These immigration lawyers have businesses which their clients can pretend to buy into, while many others share the same business interests. Its fraud. The government is too small and busy to do anything about it. That is who your children are at school with. And who do anything to increase grades and nothing to increase deep learning.


Posted by jb, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2012 at 9:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:21 am

I have to crack up every time I hear how "racist" palo alto schools are...when my kid was in 3rd grade, I counted how many of his classmates weren't "white" and it was half the class. Half the class spoke non-English at home, though it was a Venn Diagram, ie not all the non-whites spoke non-English at home.


Posted by David Garcia, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Mr. Jacobs was my ESL teacher back in 83. One of the best teachers ever.


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