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Palo Alto test score trends analyzed

Original post made on Sep 4, 2012

Palo Alto's elementary and middle school students are making progress in closing the achievement gap, with students of all ethnicities improving their standardized test scores, according to the school district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 4, 2012, 9:50 AM

Comments (18)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:07 am

List of priorities should include a complete analysis by teaching and admin staff of how the implementation of this new calendar pilot trial run is working. It should monitor things like how much homework was due the day after Labor Day weekend, how much absenteeism there was for the first two days of school (Thursday and Friday), how well the before school events, Jump Start, Link Crew, etc. were attended, how many students did not make it to picture day, etc.

These things should be monitored as and when they are fresh in mind, not done at the end of the school year.

This is still a pilot or trial run and must not be assumed that it will be ongoing until all these different aspects are taken into account.


Posted by Nothing-Wrong-Cutting-CA-Education-Spending, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

> The approximately $6 billion a year in temporary revenues would be
> allocated 89 percent to K-12 schools

Given how poorly California public schools educate their charges, would the roughly $5M in cuts be missed?

> and 11 percent to community colleges.

Given how unproductive the Community Colleges are, and how expensive the cost of education is (about 10K/student/year), cuts to this dreadfully mismanaged black hole of taxpayers funding is—cuts, cuts, and more cuts, is all that these people deserve.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm

agree with resident. If this calendar truly is an experiment, we should be gathering data all along the way, not just asking a few folks after it's all over if they felt "less stressed"


Posted by chini, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm

chini is a registered user.

I hope people vote down any proposals for tax increases until expenses (including pensions) are reformed and quality of education is improved.
These arbitrary thresholds of $250,000 do not factor in the hard work and sacrifices that people put in.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

It is good to see that the district cares about the bottom performing 95%, but I have seen it completely failing the top performing 5%. Why is it OK to ignore that segment of the student population?

The district has a completely watered down GATE program that does not serve anyone well.

Aren't we interested in educating the technology leaders of tomorrow?

If everyone is paying for education shouldn't the top performing students also be getting adequate education? If the district goals do not take the top 5% into account, there is no incentive for teachers and administrators to do anything with the brightest kids.


Posted by teacher, a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I am from Palo Alto but now teach in a district with finals before winter break. This year we started on August 8. While there was concern the first year about starting school early, we gave it a try and have never looked back. I have not heard one person asking that we take a look at it and possibly change it back. This is our fourth year and the seniors feel fortunate that they never went to high school when it was the other way. Even with school starting August 8, we had 95% attendance at Link Crew the day before school, and about 80% at picture day two days before school started. We are also a well funded, high performing (and highly vacationing) unified school district.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm

@Nothing-Wrong-Cutting-CA-Education-Spending:

Million-billion, what's the difference, eh?


Posted by Net loss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Just saw this and had to share

Thumbs up:

200 low-performing students in Grades 3 to 8 who moved UP the STAR test ranks last year.

Thumbs down:

850 students who moved DOWN the STAR test ranks. Among the 850 were:

500 of our district's brightest students: those who had STAR-scored "advanced" the year before (15% of all advanced students)

240 students who fell from "proficient" to below it.


Posted by Net loss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm

in math


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I wonder if the worrisome trends from "Net loss" are a direct result of scarce resources being allocated more towards helping those falling behind, than to those bright students who don't need any help to be proficient, but are being short-changed because no resources go to them to push them to be even better.
I see this in my kids' classes. It's the struggling students who get a disproportionate share of the teacher's and aid's time, and a lot less time go towards the 'star' students. Don't we end up creating mediocrity w/ this approach, instead of nurturing the bright minds that will give us the next Microsoft, Google, etc in 20+ years?


Posted by vlllage fool, a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm

About STAR test scores dropping among higher achieving students: I'm wondering if analyzing the trends especially in High school, takes into consideration students choosing not to put time/effort into the STAR test since this test has absolutely no impact on college admittance. Some parents used to excuse kids from this test. Dropping STAR scores among higher achieving students in High school can be compared to course load, for example. As far as I recall - % of students participating does impact the $$ the school district receives from the state.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Neither of my kids take STAR testing seriously - they get bored and just "fill in the bubbles" at some point. Kids who want to take AP classes have to take the STAR test (at least at Paly), but there is no incentive to take the test itself seriously. They do view it as a break from homework though!


Posted by Net loss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm

VF and PAM, my post relates to elementary and middle school students only.


Posted by Data analysit, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 4, 2012 at 8:58 pm

All of the "increase" in math is just because of change in student makeup over the last couple of years. Diving into the numbers shows that math scores have gone down for elementary students, if you control for parental background. Everyday math anyone?


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

@Data analysit -how are you getting your numbers? Trust me, I really dislike Everyday Math, but from what I see, while the numbers have dropped in Algebra I, they are better in other cases. Comparing white, non-economically disadvantaged students from 2008 and 2012 who score advanced in math:

for 5th grade it increased from 58% to 62%.
for 7th grade it increased from 53% to 69%.
for 8th grade Algebra I, it decreased from to 66% to 48%
for 10th grade Algebra II, it increased from 42% to 59%

The Algebra I number looks bad, but I'm not sure that alone is enough to indict Everyday Math.


Posted by susie, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Palo Alto is changing. We cannot live with an apartheid system of poverty and below basic wages for illegals on one side of the freeway and billionaires being minted for "like" LIKE facebook on the other.
The state is bankrupt. The police do nothing but book people for turning off Alma street in the mornings. The UC's are being crowded out by visa seeking immigrants who buy their way into Palo Alto schools, coach and bribe their way to a college paid for by the taxes of long term residents, and buy up the real estate which is pushing real estate prices sky high for any starter families. The average Palo Altan is under seige from all sides.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:05 am

My kids are both in high school and I have not noticed Gunn in any way failing to serve the top students. There are an insane number of advanced classes, more levels of math at every stage than in virtually any other high school in the state, and a host of AP and honors classes. I am not sure what the problem is for parents who say the top is not being served. Seems the opposite has typically been true -- the top was served at the expense of basically everyone else. STAR test results are not as accurate as a survey of the number of students taking honors and AP classes and the results of the AP and SAT tests for those students.

Of course, there is a separate problem of excessive tutoring, so it's hard to separate out the factors involved.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Our high schools do a great job of serving the top kids, but our middle and elementary schools not so much. STAR testing in high school is not taken seriously by the students, they are boring, don't count for the students and they really don't care about them.

Check the number of Merit Scholars, the number of kids taking AP classes and the average SAT scores for a more realistic portrait of our high schools.


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