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PAUSD High School Rigor Worth It?

Original post made by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2013

I have to wonder how much tutoring and parental help is affecting the teacher's perceptions of our students. Depending on the teachers, homework can average 30-60 minutes per night per class. Students take 6-7 classes. They are supposed to have 10 hours of sleep in their teen years, yet are most likely only sleeping 5-7 hours. Just because our children are smarter than the average American, doesn't mean they should have so much work that they have no down time. My child happens to have teachers this year who seem to think their class is the only class. Most classes use college texts, even in regular lane. How is it that our students sometimes work their tails off for a "B" grade? For as hard as our students work, I don't see that they are going to a lot of top colleges. Sure, the top 10 percent do well, but everyone else only go to OK schools. There's something wrong here when the parents have to help so much.

Comments (258)

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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Talk about opening a can of worms. I think you probably realize this is a complex subject. To me it's all about parent bragging rights and the college applications process, which is acknowledged to be heavily doctored at this point. And how times have changed, and not for the better in the educational experience around here. There has been an increase in competition for competition's sake -- what about learning, oh, that would be a side effect of grades, scores, carefully managed EC "accomplishments" for the resume.
It wasn't always like this around here, though there have always (apparently) been many well educated parents here, seeking one of California's better public school districts. California isn't the greatest when it comes to public schools.
Since I have met quite a few college students out of this area (who also attend school elsewhere), it has been instructive as I have met very high caliber persons from a Midwest farm and other examples that would typically be sneered at by the so-called sophisticated Palo Alto parent.
The problem is the shift to cunning "Tiger Moms" some of whom follow the dictates of the self-described one of those who wrote that vulgar book.
For a start, the naïve will be behind in this process as so many parents are now in high gear from an early date to prepare their kids for college applications. Top colleges and universities can only take so many students from a particular geographic area. Factor in legacy kids, sports scholarship kids, major donors and the process gets more challenging.
My objection is, besides the lack of a level playing field, paid luxury tutoring and specialty prepping definitely benefits the wealthy and takes away individual initiative, creativity, and choice on the part of the student.
I personally saw some students, at times enjoy "psyching out" their peers as they realized their superior position (about junior/senior in HS age). I saw some verbally intimidate peers with their condescension as they described - in full-blown oversharing which is admittedly common nowadays as manners and decency are out the window -their self-described "top" SAT, AP scores (result of YEARS of prepping, test-taking with careful management and assistance - NOT self-directed), elaborate parent-arranged internships, overseas "community service" - all designed to intimidate the "competition."
Some kids have had real hand-holding and it can work for the college apps process, although I'm not so sure about later, though one hears of university administrators now complaining about certain parents demanding to discuss grades, and to be involved with their student's apps for advanced studies (like master's degree!)
I like to advise the ethical parents and honest students who do their own work to continue to be that way and express yourself in your college apps essays (write them yourselves) and I wish you the best.


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Posted by Mom of tired kids
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Agree 100% with former Paly parent. So much of this is driven by insecurity. Palo Alto's motto: "All is Vanity."


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Posted by answer the question
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm

No one has answered the question, yet.

Why is there an excessive amount of homework in high school per class?

This is not a student or parent competition issue - this ultimately comes down to a teacher decision. If they want to move at a reasonable pace and workload, they can do that.

But why don't they?


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm

So, the question is about excessive homework in highs school.

My answer is that all this is very subjective. My kids went through Palo Alto schools and my last one currently is a senior in HS here.

To give you some context, this child does not take all the most difficult classes but is definitely in the high lanes for some of the classes. This same child spends no more than a couple of hours a day on homework. Total. For all classes. And that is not much at all in my opinion.

However, the same child does not try to get As at all cost, but instead has mostly As and a couple of Bs. So, yes, others will take spot at "top" universities that my child won't be able to get in. But when you ask my child about it, the answer that the child does not want to go to a university where accepted students are mostly about cramming, all taking the same classes, bordering on automatons. I think this child has a point. There are plenty of very good universities not in the top ten. Especially for undergraduate studies.

But too much homework? Definitely not in our family. Sometimes I even think it's a bit too little.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:15 am

I have three children and have realized the amount of homework all depends on the teachers. In 7th grade, my child had 3 quizzes per week all year and more homework than my 10th grader. Some teachers slam them with excessive homework, others are more kind and assign a fair amount or little (regular lanes). We just pray it's a happy mix instead of a lethal mix of excessive homework.

Students who take AP and Honors classes expect more homework, but there should be a more fair amount of homework in regular lanes since this is a public school district. Not all of the children are academically superior. Those with disengaged parents are at an extreme disadvantage because there are plenty of parents helping their children.


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Posted by Non-Tiger
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:33 am

former Paly Parent, those who control college admissions actually share your disdain for "Tiger Mom" offspring, which I assume is just a code word for Asian Americans. Numerous articles document how college admissions boards systematically discriminate against Asian applicants and favor the allegedly more "well-rounded" white applicants. You can read all about it in "Confessions of an Applications Reader", a NY Times article from 8/1/13 about UC Berkeley admissions, or in "The Price Of Admission", an excellent book by Daniel Golden, a Wall Street Journal bureau chief.

As Golden discusses in great detail, private universities' favoring the "legacy kids, sports scholarship kids, major donors" you mention are actually convenient methods for excluding non-white applicants, especially Asians.

So perhaps you don't have to worry too much that the Tiger Moms are ruining things for non-Asian students. The college admissions game is severely stacked against the Asian Americans due to these discriminatory practices, and most will be passed over in favor of white applicants with alumni parents, lots of money, or a talent for throwing and catching balls.



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Posted by Non-Tiger
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

By the way, Amy Chua's selling herself as some expert on Chinese culture is a real joke. She was born and raised in the US, grew up in white suburbs, and doesn't speak Chinese with any proficiency. She's totally American and she knows it. But many US readers love to hear an allegedly authentic Chinese wise person, and with her book, she's just pandering to this. The whole charade reminds you of that Seinfeld episode where George's mother only wants to hear advice from a Chinese woman.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

At Paly's Back to School Night yesterday, it was evident that there are plenty of Tiger Parents pushing their kids by way of wanting more rigor, tutoring, etc. There were many conversations overheard about summer community programs and college prep.

I tend to think that the tail is wagging the dog, it is not the kids but the parents looking for bragging rights.


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Posted by Non-Tiger
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:58 am

Paly Parent, when you say "Tiger Parents" do you really mean "Asian parents"?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:06 am

Surprisingly, no.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:12 am

No, the Asian parents don't appear to be the ones bragging about summer community service, etc. they were quiet on that front. They may have been asking about tutoring services.

The bragging parents are probably the ones who drove their BMWs.

This will probably be deleted, but these were my observations for what its worth.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:21 am

Just to revisit one of the concerns of the OP: homework. Parents don't assign homework. Yet every time anyone raises stress and workload in our high schools, people rush to blame the "other parents". It's not me, it's those "other parents" who want the homework. But the obvious fact is that no parent assigns homework. Homework is the province of the teacher (there is a district homework policy that limits it, but that is ignored). So why are teachers assigning an insane amount of homework event though the evidence from research is that beyond a certain (pretty low) amount, it is counterproductive? Why is excessive homework this particular generation's burden to bear?


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:45 am

When my son was at Jordan, I had a conversation with one of his teachers about homework. She told me that for every parent that wanted less homework, she had two parents complaing that their child didn't get enough homework. So while homework is not assigned by parents, it is sometimes driven by them.

Some teachers assign excessive homework because they are perceived as being good, rigorous teachers.

BTW, both my kids have found college to be less work than high school. And 7th grade (which for some reason seems to be a huge homework year at Jordan).


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:53 am

European and Asian schools, which continually outperform students at American schools, tend to have longer school days, more days in school and less homework.

They are also based on examination results which test on more than one year's work.

Perhaps there is the underlying culture whereby homework is perceived as making up for the lack of time spent in the classroom by American students.

Semester classes with final examinations that allow students to forget anything learned over six months previous may also have something to do with retention problems.

American education practices should be revisited regularly. What hasn't been working in the past still isn't working now. We can't say that this is the way we do it and we aren't going to change, is no longer a sensible way to educate our kids. We must learn from those who do it differently, those who do it well, and ask why? We must learn from other countries' methods and identify methods that are putting them ahead in education.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

teachers are given tenure and paid to use professional judgment about the amount of work that is required to learn a subject not to cater to parent desires (one way or the other). If a teacher says that they are assigning too much work, which they know to be excessive, in order to placate parental demands then that is indicative of a serious problem. It means that the teacher feels that they must capitulate because they won't be supported by the administration when parents complain that they aren't assigning enough homework.

It is important to think the mechanics of this all the way through. Teacher assigns amount of hw that she thinks is appropriate. Parents complain to principal. From there there are many possibilities. The best outcome (and the right one) is that the principal talks to the teacher, ensures that the teacher has a good professional basis for what he or she is doing, and then tells the parent that the teacher has the principal's confidence and that the quality of education is good. If the teacher is rather being pressured to increase homework then that tells you about the quality of the administrators, and also that the system is geared to impose burdens on teens in order to protect these various adults from criticism.

We pay for a first rate educational system in order to have professional educators who exercise judgment about how to teach a subject. If teachers really believe that they are assigning too much work then that means that they are going to work every day and doing what they know is not in the interest of their students, and is probably harmful to them.

A lot of systems have to break down in order for parents to be driving the homework.

A better explanation is that teachers are just assigning too much work because it's easier to just assign a lot of homework knowing that 80% of the class has tutors and parents to help them and forgetting about the rest.


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Posted by PTA rep
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:57 am

There is a district homework policy, that limits homework to 10 minutes per grade per night (30 minutes for 3rd graders, 90 minutes for 9th graders, etc)., with exceptions for honors and AP classes in high school. That was adopted over a year ago.
Unfortunately, teachers ignore the policy, and the district has done nothing to enforce it or even to find out how much homework teachers are actually assigning. I have complained about this but one parent just sounds like special pleading.
If you care about this, contact school board members and Associate Superintendent Charles Young. Mr. Young is ultimately responsible for implementing the policy but he hasn't shown much interest in it, probably because teachers want to be able to do what they want without oversight.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

Thanks PTA rep. You probably won't agree but I find that Charles Young is useless. I wouldn't bother talking to him -- he never does anything. It's not a big surprise that the homework policy you mention (which I have never heard of) is ignored if Young is in charge of it. Is he really the best person we could get for his job?


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Posted by Finnish Lessons
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I know first hand that both Finland and Poland have longer school days, longer school years, and FAR less homework than California schools. Yet they also have more " recesses", even at the high school level. And they still have the highest scores in the world, higher than China or Japan.

Go figure!


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Posted by HS parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I am actually surprised at how little HW (~1 hour/night) my freshman seems to have in HS. This may be because she did not work terribly hard in MS and, consequently, is now in regular (not advanced) classes in HS. I imagine that the experience is very different for students enrolled in Geometry (or higher math), Spanish or Japanese 2, Advanced English, Advanced Biology, etc.


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Posted by JMO
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Teenage students in Europe and Asia have been doing advanced level work in high school for decades. Now America is playing catch-up because they saw too many jobs and business lost to foreign countries who have a more educated workforce. I never liked the university systems in other countries because teenagers had to choose career paths at age 17 whereas American universities (use to) let students mature for a year or so before committing to their major. It's all changing now, but I suspect it may lead to a flurry of midlife crises in 20 or so years.


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Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

To the posters above: Please stop using the term "Tiger-Parents." It is clear that you are making a veiled reference to Asian parents, and if that is what you mean, then have the backbone to say so. It is true that Asian Americans place a high value on education, but that is no different from every other enthusiastic Palo Alto parent. Personally, I think the "Tiger Mom" book has done a real disservice to well-meaning Asian parents.

With regards to SAT prep courses. I think it is a weak argument to say that wealthy families or "Tiger" families benefit from being able to pay for these SAT courses. You make it sound like they are buying high SAT scores with money. The money for the course is the easy part. The weekend hours that the student spends studying for the course and skipping prom is the hard part. Studying for the SAT through a course is no easier than studying for the SAT through other channels. It still requires hard work from the student, which should be applauded, and not criticized.


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Posted by Wu Tan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I am a proud Tiger Parent. My kids work hard for good grades, do no sports, and go to more school after school instead of fun and games. t will pay off in the end. They learn their lessons all in two languages. More should do this


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:06 pm

A Tiger Mom is the parent who tells their child to practice their musical instrument(s) for an hour a day, on top of community service, on top of homework, on top of additional tutoring for the SATs/APs, on top of meeting with a college adviser, on top of studying (not just homework)...you get the drift. And you see that attitude from white and Asian parents in Palo Alto. The only reason one may assume that this attitude is culturally based is because an increasing number of Asian voices are being heard--but the demographics of Palo Alto are changing. I suspect that the number of parents that fit the "Tiger Mom" profile is growing, too--but that definition still applies to parents of different races. But that isn't actually my point.

What we really need to do is take a step back and realize that yes, going to Foothill can be fine, and yes, not going to college can be fine. I've heard the A-is-the-only-passing-grade mantra far too much, so that the parents who say "I just want my child to get into a respectable school, like UC Irvine". Newsflash--UC Irvine is still one of the top 100 universities in the US. Just wanting something of a lower caliber is not enough--but until we, as a community, start accepting different schools, no schools, junior colleges, then there won't be a change.

The funny thing is, usually by October, the only people who sound dejected about the college application process and results are the parents. Most college freshmen are fine. It's the parents who view themselves as failures--that is the attitude that needs to be fixed.


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Posted by just curious
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm

former Paly parent, said: " Just because our children are smarter than the average American.."

now would you please let me know how you came up with this?



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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:17 am

One of the biggest areas of competition in Palo Alto is between the parents - bragging rights for the great schools their kids got into.

Observer - I agree that much of the stress is community caused, but I can't see Palo Alto residents suddenly becoming accepting of students attending a community college or not attending college at all. People would be surprised at the number of kids that come home for a semester or a year and attend Foothill after heading off to a 4 year school.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm

In college you take (about) 4 classes per semester, likely that's two classes per day. You will therefore be getting 2x homework load per night, plus semester project work for up to 4 classes.

In our high schools however, the kids take 5-6 content classes per day, often multiple APs. We have each high school teacher trying to hit some kind of standard of 'excellence' , and our kids end up with 5X or 6X homework per night and then semester project work up to 5-6X.

So somewhere along the way we thought the school district figures we're doing them a favor treating them like they'll be treated in college, and instead we're practically abusing them.

Furthermore, my daughter graduated from Gunn after working her ass off all 4 years, with a 3.6, a 1900 SAT/ACT and a good enough sports resume to land a spot on an NCAA roster in her sport. But she was rejected admission by all the UCs she applied to. In contrast, her cousins went to a school in the Sacramento area. Graduated with 4.0+s, said they barely had to work at all in high school, had EQUIVALENT SAT scores to my daughter's (one slightly higher, one slightly lower), no extra curriculars, and one was accepted to UCLA, the other accepted to Cal Poly and UC Davis. So, had I been clever enough to bring my kids to this "lower standard" school district, she would have been a superstar apparently, and probably would have been writing her own ticket to college.

So to answer the original poster's question - simply put; NO. PAUSD High School Rigor is NOT worth it.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I agree with a previous poster-my child had more daily hours of homework at Jordan in 7th grade than she has ever had in high school or college. The even more ridiculous part was that it included coloring in their science notebooks and coloring of history.


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Posted by A parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I have no problem with parents helping their students get ahead by fair means. Tutors,hard work, that sort of thing. I'm not in favor of the merciless forcing of the child to succeed at the expense of a well rounded childhood with the chance to develop more facets than being a successful student. But how you parent is not my business. What is damaging to Palo Alto is the numerous parents who do the student's work for him or her, and who create fake projects for their resume, invent charities for them to establish, and then do most of the work themselves. This kind of cheating, they boast, gets them into the top schools, thereby displacing students who have done everything on their own. The good news is that schools which allow themselves to be fooled by these resumes now have the students they deserve, while the many fantastic schools that accept the genuine applicants are the best places to be. Who would want to be in a school where the brand is the entire point, and where your peers have succeeded in getting in by cheating?


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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Former Paly Parent summed it up, I've often wondered where these thoughtful parents are in this district. Remember manners? I went to a decent CA public high school, we honestly didn't discuss GPAs or test scores. It wasn't cool to brag about yourself and our parents felt the same way.

I have 1 Gunn grad and a soon-to-be grad. I take the long view at this point, let's see how all these micro-managed kids are doing in their 30s when they wondered if the college and career their parents chose for them is what they themselves wanted.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Parent,

I would agree that PAUSD High School rigor is not worth it for college entrance. I'm beginning to think it may even be harmful to certain students in more ways than one.

If it was worth it, PAUSD kids would be going into top schools by the dozens, but that's not true at all. It's a very (very) small minority of kids who get into the top schools, and it should be public information, but I can't find this - exactly how many of PAUSD kids are going to the UCs, which ones. Does anyone have that number, broken out between Paly and Gunn?

The race with the uncertain results seems to be centered around the Advanced and Honors classes, and as another parent pointed out, kids who are not in the AP or Honors classes do not have the same level of work. Regular lane classes are completely normal, by any standard.

Teachers are doing their job, I don't fault them. It's more about allowing kids to be comfortable with doing less not more and more besides school. Where is the praise for the kid who does only 1 AP, or no extracurriculars at all. The colleges are at fault for only accepting astronomic GPAs, or only the BEST and the ones with the MOST. School has become an industry, and homework has become part of the competition.

Consolation: Those who are so inclined to take some of the advanced classes are getting a really decent education which could lead to opportunities for college and beyond. The work is more demanding, it goes with the territory, but as long as you're not expected to also be doing ten other things besides school, it should be ok.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I agree with Parent of Charleston Gardens.

It is the case that our kids are not getting into UCs etc. with our high level of rigor.

I know of kids who have worked hard and end up with rejection after rejection from the UCs and better CSUs. These kids have been so disappointed and end up feeling worthless. They start at Foothill or a small college which they look on as being an indication of failure. However, many of these kids end up being the ones who do well, stick it out, transferring to UCs or other places, and end up with the better life skills that employers want.

As hard as it is for them to understand, they are actually better off.

However, it is still true to say that our high school culture is overburdensome with very little benefit. For all the kids who end up in a top school, there are five who tried and didn't make it but would have done if they had gone to high school elsewhere.

The only way to stop this is from the College Board. They don't seem to want to do it.

I suggest starting to get the College Board to change its ways but since it may mean that they feel they have a less diverse college student body, I can't see it happening.

If the College Board could ensure that each student only received one acceptance from all of the UCs, at least each student would have a greater chance of getting into one. Also, if there was a wait list system whereby students who were eligible could still be placed into a UC after all the acceptances were accepted and they knew how many declines they were getting, it would also help more of our good students to get in.

The system at present stinks.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I don't think the College Board has to do with UC admissions. They are in the business of making money from test fees, which includes AP tests, and so are motivated by increasing the numbers of AP students. Because of funding cuts UCs are accepting more students from out of state because they will pay higher tuition, which leaves more CA students out. This is unfortunate as CA students with good records should have a place at a UC.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm

@ parent from Charleston Gardens

There is a huge caveat relative to what you say about it being easier to enter the UCs from other school districts. It's true that it may be or is easier to get into the UCs with a 4.0 from a weaker school district than with a 3.6 from PAUSD. However, from my experience with my 2 kids who went to a UC and told me stories about their UC classmates, the frequent outcome of this is that those kids with 4.0s from other school districts struggle once in the UCs, in many cases, and end not doing so well. They may be the ones who drop out by the end of sophomore year and make room for students who want to transfer from community colleges as juniors.

The community college with transfer track is an awesome solution if you don't get into a UC or the CSU of your choice.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Perhaps it is not the College Board I am writing about. I was writing about whatever governing body oversees the college application process.

I think the governing body overseeing college applications are at fault. It seems very strange to me that some students get multiple offers or which they can only accept one, and others get none. A system needs to be instigated whereby all the places are divided by the number of eligible students rather than the feast or famine we have now.

Yes, they are looking at the fees situation and UCs accepting out of state and overseas student and rejecting California students just for the extra tuition is very wrong.


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Posted by huh?
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm

"I think the governing body overseeing college applications are at fault."

There's a governing body overseeing college applications?


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm

There is no such "governing body". Each university has its admissions office. And they are the ones who decide on admissions for their own university, independently from one another.

I will add that universities also have waiting lists that they take more students from once a student has accepted an offer and rejects the offers from other universities (whether that's 1.2.3 or 20 other offers). So, spots do free up for students on waiting lists.


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Posted by Ethan Cohen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm

A couple things:

1. People need to understand that homework policy in any form regulating a number of hours to be spent on homework is fundamentally flawed. Teachers don't say "spend this much time working" they say "do problems 1-24" or "read chapters 1-5." Some students will finish this work in 20 minutes, for others it might take them 2 hours. Under a policy like this a student doesn't finish the work and comes to class and either gets an extension (which puts him back for the next night) or he just gets to turn in however much he has done for full credit (a problem because he a. might not have gotten the same lessons out of the work and b. got the same credit as someone that finished everything). I've done a lot of thinking about this and I'm not exactly sure how we deal with this. Perhaps homework is just purely optional?

2. In response to OP, the top 10% of any group will end up going to very elite schools. Perhaps the problem is that we need to stop viewing anything less than Harvard or Yale as a failure of either parent or student. So few people get into any of these schools that at a certain level it is simply luck. Paly is sending this year I believe 11 kids to Stanford, 2 or 3 to Harvard, like 7 to Columbia -I could go on. PAUSD schools are harder than most, but at most schools if one or two people go to any of those schools in a year it is exciting. I know that for the UC and CSU it might be a little different. However, the point is that, at least for most private colleges, an B at Paly or Gunn is weighed more heavily than an A at some lesser high schools.

3. As someone said above, the point isn't just to get into a good college. I know people that have gone to Ivy League universities and say that their time in college was easier, academically than high school. In all the talk about scores and colleges I think we tend to lose track of the idea that beyond getting someone into a good school, high school is really a place that should prepare one for the life she will lead as an adult. Getting a B in APUSH at Paly may not be considered a victory, but I can assure you, it is preparing that student for college far better than the A another student got at an easier high school. That ultimately will pay off for the Paly student both in college and in life. And isn't that the point of a high school education?
4.
I do think that we, as a community, could do a better job giving attention and credit to the average student. There is a mindset amongst parents and some students especially those in the average/above-average groups that a report card, or what schools you get into is a reflection of worth or value. I think that needs to change. Students should set goals for themselves and work hard to meet them, but also understand that sometimes they won't and that that shouldn't deter them from setting high goals in the future and that failing sometimes won't ruin their lives.


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Posted by Whatever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Agree that workload depends on the teacher and am angry to see the posting here about someone's freshman having less than one hour of homework. My freshman is in regular lanes plus a world language and she has at least 4 hours of homework each night and is already going to sleep at Midnite at the start of the year (no extracurriculars, no TV or iPhone interference). I agree students should do their own work, however, what's a parent to do? It's unfortunate circumstances due to difficult teachers and no fault of the student. There is a lot of parental "help" going on in PAUSD; there is often no other choice.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Whatever,

Parental help can only go so far. Unless the student is completely compliant with the parents, most high school kids reject interference. Who wants to show up with a project that looks like mom or dad did it, or not be able to act independently?

KIds know more than all us parents put together. They know who cheats, they know their odds of getting into UCs, they know everything.

Anyway, so far nobody has made a case other than that rigor does not guarantee a place at a top school. It's normal for 10% to go to the top schools, but not when 50% could be just as qualified.

It's an official lotto, where even cheating does not help.

If the question is to eliminate homework because it doesn't help you to get into a top college, I would say that could cheat you out of learning. It's not a perfect world, but I trust the teachers enough to know they are trying to accomplish specific learning goals. There are standards, state regulated, and I have no complaints if the standard is high in the schools, regardless of the ivy league school prospects.

For the UCs

It would be nice if they accepted a range of students, and not just the hyper accomplished.




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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm

@ Back to learning,

The case has also been made, if you read all the comments, that the rigor at PAUSD prepares students well for the rigor of college. Actually much better than many of those other school districts that are less rigorous.

Isn't the goal of school, to prepare you well for your future beyond college admissions?


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Posted by Truth
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Back to learning: Just because a parent does homework, doesn't mean it's obvious the parent did the homework. If a student doesn't have time to finish homework, I know plenty who would allow their parents to complete it rather than earning a zero. My child heard two students say their parents did their homework for them. Good thing most Palo Alto parents have college degrees so they can help their children.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 31, 2013 at 7:39 pm

How is it "helping" children to do their homework for them? To me, it teaches them to cheat and to take the easy way out. Is this going to help them later in life?? Jeez.

No wonder, maybe, that my daughter, who did not go to a prestigious university, maybe because I did not do her homework for her, now does better, after college, then many of her peers who went to Ivy league or equivalent universities. I never "helped" her.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I must add that I grew up in a country where cheating and pulling strings was much more prevalent than in the US. Did that help the country in question? Nope, not one bit. The US has always been better off than that country.

If our values shift (have shifted?) to where cheating, gaming the system, pulling strings, etc., becomes the norm, then the US is definitely headed in the wrong direction, and most, if not all, of us with it.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I think there is confusion here between "rigorous" and "onerous". Just because there is an excessive workload does not mean that there is rigor in the curriculum. Too often in PAUSD high school courses there is a lot of work but not that much rigor.


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Posted by District Teacher
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Someone posted earlier, "Some teachers assign excessive homework because they are perceived as being good, rigorous teachers." I would edit that to say, "Teachers...WANT to be perceived as good, rigorous teachers." Teachers who pile on homework might be (probably are...) spending class time going over homework instead of teaching the concepts. No or little homework could mean students are learning more during an an enriched class.

Thank you, PalyDad, for clarifying 'rigor.' Indeed, a lot of homework is not rigorous or intellectual, but more about expecting students to be compliant and obedient. What is the takeaway we want for students: a love and passion for learning or being an over-tired, yet compliant, cynical, soon-to-be burned out young adult?

Also, if a student is in school from 8 - 3, roughly 6 hours when accounting for passing time, lunch, etc., there should never be more than two hours of homework. Children, let's say high school students, should not be subjected to longer than an 8-hour work day.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 9:50 am

Excessive homework is the crutch of poor teaching. We have two kids who have had very different experiences year-to-year through the same PAUSD schools and curriculum. Guess what: the quality of education depends on the teacher. The amount of homework depends on the teacher. There is no standard of teaching in this district. They run the range from poor to great.

Here's the really interesting bit: The quality of learning has NOTHING to do with the amount of homework. So if you have excessive homework and a difficult teacher, there is no real indication that you have learned more. You may of WORKED more, but not learned more. You may have STRESSED more, but not learned more.

Some of the best teachers assigned light or reasonable homework. It is well-organized, presented in administratively simple manner, and completed easily based upon what was taught in the classroom.

Some of the worst teachers use homework to compensate for lack of classroom teaching. I guess they hope the students will "just get it" or teach themselves through the homework. Consequently you see mounds of homework, often disorganized, presented as an administrative mess: every assignment is a new experiment in process. Onerous busy work is thrown in as well, as the mindset is more homework is good homework. It all adds to the learning that was skipped in the classroom. Usually the common signs abound: excess, confusing instructions, unorganized workload throughout the week, complicated assembly instructions (paste this, color that, include cover photo montage, insert in binder, bury under a rock for 3 weeks...)

There is little or no management of the teachers to improve class time, and reduce homework time.



And as regards the imagined belief that your struggle through PAUSD is rewarded, even if you get lower grades. It is not. The statistics on college entry is pretty clear - the grades correlate with the SAT through most college admission profiles. They do not accept students with lower grades and higher SAT's. So the extra pain you are going through is not some badge of honor. It is just cruelty that the teachers are inflicting upon your children. They should grade relative to the difficulty of the class, more-or-less consistent with other schools. In that case, many of our kids would be getting much higher grades for the "rigor" we desire.

PAUSD does our children double disservice: saddling them with an unmanaged teacher cadre with ridiculous amounts of homework, and then penalizing them with poor admissions for the middle-majority students.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:01 am

Here here! Too Much Homework said it better than I could.

Now, let's get rid of Charles Young and get someone into his position who will enforce the policy that parents worked long and hard for. The way that Young has failed to develop any measurable progress on implementing that policy is a slap in the face to PAUSD parents who have asked for this policy for many many years.


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Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Completely agree with Too Much Homework!


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Posted by Bewildered
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm


I have heard from many parents how many hours there kids spend on homework. My kid is in the same class and I have NEVER seen my kid EVER spend the same amount of time on homework. In fact I get concerned as she spends at most 20 mins per subject if we are lucky. She gets mostly As and a few Bs and is now at Gunn, so we shall see. As for the teachers, most of her teachers have always been reasonable about the amount of homework, in attitude and have claimed to not want to overburden the kids. This was the attitude all through Terman and now Gunn. So I keep asking myself, is my kid going to the same school as her friends?


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 2:08 pm

No offense, bewildered but wait until sophomore year. This is obviously your first child to go to HS in PA. In the middle lanes, your child will will have 4-6 hours of homework per night. They will be in math classes in which half the class has pre-taken the course either at tutoring centers or over the summer so the teacher goes at a breakneck pace and the students are afraid to look dumb and ask questions. And it gets better from there.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Too much homework,

You pretty much laid it all out.

I'm glad the original poster posted this question, is the rigor worth it? Whether the work is not rigorous and just onerous, it all boils down to the teachers. Better teachers make school worth it, and bad ones don't irrespective of college prospects.

The schools are failing students by not regulating homework (teachers!), but they are also failing by not getting enough kids into the UCs. Something is politically wrong when
the sixth ranked district in CA and among the largest in the state can barely get a few kids into the top UCs. Barely.

Editor,

These would be questions that the new PR officer could maybe help answer. How many PAUSD students apply to the UCs, how many are accepted, how does it compare to similar districts in CA, how has the number changed over the past 5 and 10 years. What are the demographics. what is the average GPA of students that are admitted, sat scores, are only top ranked students accepted.

How has the perceived rigor of PAUSD schools helped (or hurt?) student chances of getting into a UC.






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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm

@ back to learning

For the 2012 class at Paly, you have some public info here:
Web Link

You'll see that 79% of graduates went to 4 year colleges including 13.9% to UCs, for example.

There is more detailed info on the Naviance site which is accessible to all Paly parents for sure.

Note that he top ranked UCs (I am assuming you are talking about UCB, UCLA and UCSD) are elite schools on par with Ivy leagues. There is life without going to those schools. The problem is parents that look down on other universities rather than the school district. Again, it's probably true it's easier to get in from other school districts that are less competitive, but I know for a fact that students from such districts are the ones who end up struggling in college. Is that what we want for PA students?

As a family, we are very happy with PAUSD, its teachers, and the education received by our children overall (yes there were exceptions). What we can't stand is the attitude of so many parents in this town.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Statistics for Paly 2013 seniors (from Naviance)

UC Berkeley: 118 applied, 65 admitted, 18 enrolled
UCLA: 120 applies, 58 admitted, 2 enrolled
UC San Diego: 126 applies, 69 admitted, 5 enrolled


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Interestingly, you can go into Naviance as a guest and see some stats. So, here goes the same for Gunn.

Statistics for Gunn 2013 graduates (from Naviance)

UC Berkeley: 176 applied, 60 admitted, 25 enrolled
UCLA: 188 applied, 46 admitted, 5 enrolled
UC San Diego: 186 applied, 72 admitted, 10 enrolled

Etc. anyway you can go see for yourself as a guest.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm



PA Parent Adobe,

We happen to also be happy with our schools. It doesn't preclude discussing excessive homework, wishing for more rigor in managing teachers with respect to homework, or wondering if the workloads are worth it. More often, it feels like PAUSD is about doing school, and the way some teachers find their A students is by the amount of doing, who can do more rises to the top, the competition is not pretty.

The data you posted is interesting because I would want to know if it was roughly the same 60 students who were accepted at all three schools. These same top 60 candidates obviously were also the admits at the Ivy leave schools because only 25 enrolled in the UCs. LIkely the UCs were back-ups for the 60 or so PAUSD stand-outs.

Nearly 400 applied, 60 stand out, and 25 enroll. The future leaders coming out of California schools apparently will not be from Palo Alto. Meantime the 340 that did not get in probably would have enrolled but instead the suggestion is to go to Community College first.

I do not buy for one minute that the consolation is that Palo Alto kids at least do well at the Ucs when they get accepted. All 25? Whoopee.

Suggestion to the UCs, look beyond the Palo Alto top 60. You will find exceptional candidates in the hundreds below.









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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm



sorry 40 enrolled at the top three schools, just 5 from Palo Alto at UCLA. I consider this an ouch. How many, by the way are related to sports?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I tend to believe that these stats are not only not helpful, but discouraging to any senior this year. I tend to agree that these are referring to the same individuals, not different individuals. Many seniors are looking at UCs as backups and safety nets, not first choices, so these stats tell a terrible tale rather than an encouraging one.

I know several very good students who were rejected from UCs. Probably because they did not come from the right demographic group. It is very hard for Caucasian males who have the deck stacked against them.

Interesting point about the sports students too.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm



Paly parent,

Due to a gender gap, at a national level males are more likely to be admitted from affirmative action than females.

With such a small number of admits, I feel it hardly matters.

I still think it's a major political issue, and Skelly or somebody should be getting their behinds to some of the UCs and personally be involved in placing as many kids at top schools in the state. If the golden 60 are headed to Yale or Princeton anyway, serve up the next batch and push for more kids to go to the UCs instead of just pushing everyone to do more and more to stand out. THe kids are doing their part. My humble opinion.







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Posted by Joe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2013 at 8:42 pm

First, all students more or less have a choice in the courses they take, thus influencing the amount of rigor in their schedule. As a student at Paly, I am comfortable with the amount of work that I'm receiving and have had plenty of room to run cross country, achieve Eagle Scout, compete with the Science Olympiad team, play piano, etc.

In addition, high school isn't just about getting into college - school and the education system itself is about learning. I'm choosing to take multiple APs and honors classes because I believe that I can learn the things that I'm passionate about, and because it is my choice to learn I cannot complain about the resultant workload.
Sure, anyone can go to a less competitive school district and excel - but what's the point? The purpose of attending a good school anywhere and at any age, from pre-K to university level, is to become educated and prepare for real life.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Paly parent, what do you consider to be the "right demographic"? You may think it is hard to compete as a Caucasian male, but it is even harder to stand out as an Asian male. College admissions at the top schools have historically limited admissions of Asians.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Can we stop complaining?

In 2012, the overall admission rate at UC Berkeley was 21% overall (21% of all applicants where admitted). I very much doubt the rate went up this year.

This year, Paly had 65/118 of its applicants admitted at UCB. That's 55%. Gunn, had 60/176 of its applicants admitted at UCB. That's 34%

Those are excellent admission rates.

Do you realize that complaining about not getting into universities like UCB is THE problem we have in this community? Yes, it's the parents' attitude that's harmful not the admission rates. UCB is one of the very top universities in this country and the world. You might as well complain that not getting into Harvard or Stanford is poor.

What is wrong with parents in this town that only the top 3 UCs are an acceptable choice for their students to get into?

And then we complain that the students are too stressed at school. In reality the pressure comes from parents. That's always what I thought. The discussion on this thread confirms my belief.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm

With regard to rigor - it is there whether you ask for it or not. Regardless of lane or elected courses, if you end up with the wrong teacher, you will get a mountain of homework.


As for grades and admissions, PAUSD offers a great education; no doubt about it. But if the district really wanted to do its' students a service, they would offer the students the grades they deserve for their work. Like it or not, PAUSD students are working their butts off, AND colleges look at grades as a primary indicator of success.

So what to do? Well, we could correlate grades to scores (SAT/ACT) and move the students grades higher until they were on test-par with the national average. It likely means increasing a number of students grades significantly.

This would do two things: recognize the hard work that the students put in (even the middle-lane students). AND it would put them on a fair footing with other schools throughout the nation for college entry - regardless where the students choose to go.

If our schools are so great, then let's give the students the credit in very tangible ways that will help them get into great colleges.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm

TooMuchHomework says it well. The teachers need to give out more "A" grades if the quality of work is deserving of it. People say, "Colleges know of PAUSD's great reputation." Really? ALL colleges? Wouldn't it just be better, as TooMuch says, to give out more "A"s instead of us having to wonder if our PAUSD 3.5 is equal to a 4.0 in another district? And NO, we are not implying lowering our standards or grade inflation (undeserved higher grades).

And true, teachers make the difference. My child had a rigorous English teacher so got a "B" in the class while a friend's child had an easy teacher and got an "A". No, she didn't learn anything, but do the colleges know that?

And PA Parent, you are missing the point. People are saying that our children work hard enough to be accepted into top colleges, yet they are not earning the high GPAs because there is too much rigor in PAUSD.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm

PA parent Adobe,

I would want to see data for the other UCs, not just the top three. But since you mentioned that UCB is a school the entire world wants to get into, it still has a responsibility to serve California first, so the 20% admissions rate should absolutely be higher for CA residents, and it is.

Back to PAUSD, if so few accepted PAUSD students are actually enrolling at UCB (because they are the same ole same ole students accepted to Harvard or Stanford and the apps to the UCs were back-ups), I do think something is off. What if the same is happening with all the other UCs. We're playing the same 60 kids who are the the top over and over, and some very qualified students who would actually enroll are never really looked at.

This would be a good investigative story for the Weekly.





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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:28 am

If memory recalls correctly, UCLA annually receives more undergraduate applications than any other university in the country. I'm sure UCB isn't far behind. Last I checked, no one has a "right" to attend either school. The fact is that the competition to get accepted is fierce.


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Posted by Kelli Hagen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:32 am

From the original posting, it seems we have a number of different issues to address: (1) excessive homework, (2) excessive use of tutors and (3) students who "work their tails off for a B". As a Paly teacher and member of the homework committee I'd like to try and address each listed.

1. As Ethan Cohen above alludes to, a homework policy based on a time limit has it flaws. There's no way around this and as a collective, we need to deal with this the best we can. For example, the homework that my eighth grader's math teacher sends home, seems reasonable and able to be completed within the agreed upon time limits of the homework policy. I know, however, that it will take my son much longer than the average student because he will be constantly looking out the window and saying something like, "squirrel!" We deal. Some of our students, due to a more rigorous schedule or due to their "uniqueness", will stretch the range of the homework policy nightly averages.

After honestly taking the factors that affect this range into account, if your child is truly subject to an excessive amount of homework it seems you have a few options:

(a) Consider if they are correctly placed. There is no reason to push your child in a high lane if it is not a correct placement. As an honors lane teacher I can honestly say that most of the students (I take an anonymous survey at the end of each year), think that the amount of homework assigned is fair and MOST do not have tutors. Really, what's the point?
(b) Yes, truly it is the teacher's fault sometimes. If indeed a teacher is not abiding by the agreed upon terms of the homework policy, you should be very vocal and address it. Talk with the teacher first, if nothing gets resolved talk with the administration. No one, including other teachers, wants a student spending an inordinate amount of time in one class over another. It's not fair to anyone, especially the student.

2. Tutors. Oh tutors. Let me share an anecdote. Mary (not her real name) was having difficulty in my class last year. Mary is representative of a sprinkling of students I have every year. I had taken Mary's phone away in class a number of times and contacted her parents to help curb her social engagements during my class. Upon Mary's request, her parents decided to get Mary a tutor. This freed Mary to focus on important social issues during class. On one occasion, after a long discussion on colligative properties, I asked Mary to stay for a few minutes and try a problem with me, one that we had just discussed in class. After questioning why she could not even start the problem Mary answered, "I was planning on having my tutor explain it this evening." Sharing my perspective with the parents often doesn't seem to help because Mary, whom they've known much longer and love, tells a different story. I'm sure this story will rally the haters who are eager to share what a poor teacher I am, but I have enough experience and confidence in the majority of students who really enjoy my class, do not employ tutors and who learn oodles from my class that I speak the truth.

Now, this is not always the case and it is true that some students do need extra help in the form of a tutor. But, before you get a tutor for your child, do your homework. Ask these important questions:
(a) Are you doing the reading that supports the lesson?
(b) IS YOUR FACEBOOK/PHONE OFF WHEN YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK?
(c) Have you gone to the teacher for help? Do you ask questions in class? Can you identify WHAT you don't understand, specifically?

If the answer to any of the above is "no" I would highly recommend that you do not get a tutor. (Also, I have teenagers…. guess what, they lie on occasion if they think it will put them in a bad light).

If the honest answer to all of these questions is "yes" then, barring number 1a above, a tutor might be a good idea. Both Paly and Gunn have lists of tutors available.

3. I have been teaching since 1991. I have taught at 3 high schools and 1 university. Contrary to the "buzz", the curriculum in my class at Paly is no harder than the curriculum anywhere else I have taught, and a "B" is a very good, above average grade. Just because there is another scale to which some students and parents aspire (top 10 school requirements) this does not make a "B" in a course a poor grade. Get a grip people. Praise your kid when they come home with a well-deserved grade of a "B". Let them know that you are proud of them and take them out for Yogurtland as a reward. Because of our clientele, my grades are skewed much more than the other schools I have taught. MOST of my students earn A's and some earn B's because they are a truly exceptional and above average sample. These grades are not inflated nor are they subject to the average based on this small sample of exceptional kids in my classes- these grades reflect a community of bright kids. Parents, you must accept that perhaps your kid has earned a legit "B" in my class and not harass me for months regarding my grading scale. Celebrate these successes with your kids. A "B" is a good grade.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

@KelliHagen - all very reasonable comments; and the steps you recommend are pretty standard among parents/students I know.

Except your perspective is limited to that of a reasonable teacher. Not all are. Good luck when your child gets a ton of homework and no instruction in class on how to complete it. Talking to these 'overload' teachers results in nothing. Talking to the principal or councilors can generate retaliation for your child.

My observations are that this problem is more prevalent in middle school, but still exists in HS. Also, many teachers are blind to their colleagues who do this. We often hear the well written, reasonable defense, from well spoken, reasonable teachers explaining how they do not overload students. Usually it has a whiff of patronizing, parent-blaming (as if we don't know to take away electronics during hw time), but is generally well meaning and completely misses the point.

The point is that there are some teachers overloading students and not covering essential material in class. When your child gets put in this situation ther is:
a) nothing you can do within the school
b) no help from administration
c) some large risk of retaliation
And
d) a destructive level of demotivation and helplessness which drives disengagement.

The disengagement is the most difficult to correct.

So Ms Hagen please look at your peers and ask if they are doing this. Look at your students and if they are disengaged, understand this may be why.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:02 am

The question asked at the top of this thread, is "is the rigor worth it?

Now it obviously depends on what you consider "worth".

If you feel, as I do, that an expectation of high school (one of many expectations) is for a California educated student working at a satisfactory level (this may mean working their butts off or just working at the level the teachers/parents consider reasonable) to get into one of the California UCs.

Not to undermine many of the other "great" colleges, going out of state or going to a small private school, there is nothing wrong with aspiring acceptance into one of the UCs. If our district is as wonderful as we are told, then why are we not getting more students into the UCs.

Is it the demographics? Is it the fact that only 60 students per year are worthy? Or is it something else?

I tend to feel that it is the system at fault. We have worthy students of acceptance into UCs. The system is failing them big time. If the only way to get there is through sleep deprivation, expensive tutoring, expensive college prep advisers, manicured extra curricula, and dare I say it, cheating. If a class of several hundred seniors are only getting 60 placements (of which many are not accepted) then the system is broken and we are doing our kids a disservice.

As I said, college acceptance is only one of the expectations from high school, so there must be something we all want for our kids rather than getting into a UC and hopefully we are getting that instead.

Because, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, PAUSD is not getting worthy students into the UCs.


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Posted by mom of recent grad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:32 am

[Portion removed.]
When the acceptance letters came last spring my favorite quote from parents was, "My child did not get into a UC." Upon further discussion it came out that the child either only applied to Cal, UCLA and UCSD or else when the acceptance to Davis or UBSB came, it did not count. In fact, if your child was in the top 9% of California students of the class of 2013, a space was guaranteed to them at one of the UC's.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

@Kelli, these are reasonable comments but the [portion removed] tone in which they are delivered makes it hard to take them in. [Portion removed] Some of your solutions are unlikely to work. For example, your first solution is to move your child down a lane. Not easy. At Gunn, this is not even possible unless your child is getting a D or an F on a report card. And that is even IF your child can even locate a counselor to effect a schedule change and good luck with that one.

Tutors are often a desperate measure obtained by parents in response to bad teaching. The student can't learn the material from a bad teacher who doesn't teach. They are being tested on material they don't understand and can't follow. Half the class has a tutor or pre-took the class at some other venue. The child becomes anxious and depressed and can't keep up.

You say you are a good teacher and I don't doubt it. But you say nothing about the fact that you have colleagues who aren't and in whose classes students struggle. There are bad teachers in every district but in PAUSD it is hard to raise the issue because when you do teachers (like your missive above) fire back that parents who criticize teachers are indulgent grade grubbing pressuring helicopter parents.

[Portion removed.] PAUSD has many teachers who assign too much homework because they can't teach and they expect students to self-teach or expect parents to get tutors. That is one reason our students are so stressed out.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

Turns out that Paly teachers give out more As than, as someone above suggested, they would have given out if grades matched SAT scores (Paly's website, link above).

Paly's college admit rates probably would not budge even if more Paly students had 4.0s and higher SATs because colleges, including cash-strapped UCs now, admit based on geographic diversity too (different states and different high schools). Colleges would just use something else to distinguish kids (# APs?) rather than admit more, or a different group of, students from a grade-inflated high school.

Standing out at an easier high school does not guarantee a college spot because college admissions is fluky. Kids who fall within the college's GPA/SAT range quickly find out that there still is an unpredictableness to the process; valedictorians and students with 4.0s can get passed over for students who earned Bs.

As for whether the same students sweep up all the offers; in my child's class maybe 1 or 2 (out of 500?) "swept" it, so few that it had an almost zero ripple effect. Colleges over-accept, even at a high school, because they know students get multiple offers and some will end up rejecting them. At Harvard,20% opt to go elsewhere. No worries. Harvard "over" offered spots and ended up with the number it wanted.

Most seniors my child knew were quite happy with their offers BTW. Just a few top student friends - who missed the randomness lesson so had set unreasonable expectations? - were disappointed.


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Posted by Parental Expectations
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:17 am

People in this forum ask the question: Why do PAUSD parents get upset when their kids don't get into a UC?

Why wouldn't they?

The vast majority of PAUSD parents that I've met went to top colleges (UC and above).

So, why would they expect anything less from their kids?
The world is more competitive now and where you get your college degree from matters more than when we were growing up.

So, it is understandable if Palo Alto parents are disappointed if their kids don't get into a UC. It feels like a minimum bar hasn't been met.


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Posted by A's and B's
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

I don't know how much harder it is to get an "A" in PAUSD high schools than at other schools.

It's quite plausible that some university admissions staff at some universities would count an "A" from PAUSD as meaning more than an "A" from many high schools. And in marginal situations, this might matter. Probably less than race or ethnic background.

But I find it considerably harder to accept that an "A-" from PAUSD helps admissions as much as an "A" from other schools (for the same course).

And I find it implausible that a "B+" from PAUSD would not be a clear disadvantage vs. an "A" from other school.

Parents who think that are wishful. Teachers who think that are ethnocentric or egocentric.

I do think there is significant tutoring, prepping, other outside help, and cheating going on in PAUSD at the high school level.

When parents have to contort and skew resources to make school work, it makes effective parenting harder.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm


Kelli Hagan,

Really? The focus of your push back is Mary with the cell phone?

That is one bad student, whose parents apparently are trying to help during what are the most vulnerable years, and during a high stakes time, for obvious reasons. It's called High School.

If I went on to describe a bad teacher called Mario or Marion, that everyone knows, and dreads having, it would be a lot worst. The sad thing is that Mario and Marion are causing harm year after year to multiple students.

Worst scenario is Mary having Mario or Marion for a teacher.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Crescent Park dad,

On the UC issue, it's not that I think it's a right.

But look at it like a country, which California is practically that size.

It's ultimately politics.

One of your country's top Universities is UCLA.

One of your top school districts is Palo Alto, and one of the largest top ranked districts. Maybe the best large school district. We hear we are top notch, with top notch students.

Five are enrolling at UCLA?

188 applied, 46 were offered admissions (likely to the top 46 PAUSD students who are desired by everyone and they will likely not go to your country school anyway),

as a matter of policy would you not want to look into getting some of the 188 in?!

This may be la la land, but I would try to make a case to UCLA (and multiply this for all California schools) that more than 5 want to attend UCLA, please look at 5 more from the 188, who are excellent candidates as well.

In an honest way, find a way to place more of our students, form our stellar schools into stellar California Universities instead of throwing the red carpet to community college first. It makes no sense to me.






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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

[Portion removed.]

Regarding Ms. Hagen's thoughts, "Mary" in her anecdote is clearly not interested in academics. The issue on this thread is about students who are hardworking and care about doing well in school but some teachers assign burdensome homework. We are not talking about students who dilly-dally and have learning disorders. It's about the regular student out there who wants to do well.


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Posted by A parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Although we at PAUSD knows how competitive our schools are, and the high capability our students have, we cannot assume people, especially college admission administrators, know. Our high school counselors should contact the colleges and promote our schools and students the way elite private high school counselors are doing.


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Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm

"Our high school counselors should contact the colleges and promote our schools and students the way elite private high school counselors are doing."

Bahahaha ha. Good one! You obviously aren't a Gunn parent. If Gunn counselors had time to go to the bathroom I would be shocked, let alone contact colleges. Plan on hiring a private counselor. And outside the PAUSD bubble people do not give extra credit for living in a crazy hard district. That's a bedtime story intended to comfort people who wonder why they pay such high taxes and still have to hire tutors and counselors (and therapists) and coaches.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm



A parent,

"promote our schools and students the way elite private high school counselors are doing."

and they promote students, I agree but in the case of our PUBLIC schools,

Gunn mom is the realist. It is impossible for counselors to undertake what should be a political job. Private schools are doing it, and we should have a process too.

Suggestion box.

Next PAUSD Superintendent should be a California powerhouse who can make things happen with the UCs. It's not up to the counselors already stretched to the limit.

or, the BOE should take that up in one of their hear to heart meetings, and get creative. At least ask a few more politically minded people how one of the largest and best school districts in California only has 5 going to one of the top schools. Take a trip to LA, find out why. Maybe PAUSD has developed some bad rep and we have no idea.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:45 pm



By the way, if the bad rep is that Palo Alto kids are rich and can send their kids to private colleges that would not be a good thing. What else is holding back more of our accomplished students from our PUBLIC schools from attending the top UCs? NO match?? Is the 60 that get in and don't enroll the only game?

Unless there is other data, this seems like a political fiasco. It certainly is not about avoiding competition or asking for handouts, it should be looked at as a broader policy matter.


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Posted by high school is for building a college resume
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm

For those complaining about the number of kids attending UC's, assuming you are referring to UCLA as the "top" UC, 104 students were accepted BUT only 7 CHOSE to attend. Where a student chooses to attend school is totally out of the control of PAUSD.

That said, in most states, there is a reasonable expectation that a student with a B average and decent SAT/ACT scores that has all the necessary requirements (years of math, science, etc.) should get into a state college. That should be the expectation in California too - not necessarily a UC, but a CSU or UC.

And on the topic of grades vs. learning, high school in Palo Alto is about building a college resume, not about learning for the majority of the students.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm

If the same 60 students are being accepted into the top schools, there is no surprise that many of them do not choose to go. They can only choose one and the other places do not revert back to Palo Alto students. System failure.


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Posted by i'm not sure
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I have a few sincere questions. I'm not myself a parent. I recognize (a) how hard parenting is and (b) that however hard I think parenting is, it's almost certainly harder.

Still, I can't help wondering if the intensity of Silicon Valley is making us collectively lose perspective. So:

Q1. As a parent, what is it you want for a child? My answer would be: (i) love, (ii) health, (iii) the capability to make one's way in the world. In more detail, (ii) involves knowing how to prepare food, how to balance nutrition and dessert, how to exercise, how to brush one's teeth well, etc. Simple but important stuff. (iii) involves knowing how to balance and keep to a budget, how to plan, how to decide on goals and work toward them, how to keep a calendar and meet deadlines like paying bills and doing taxes, etc. (i) involves all the mushy stuff that makes life worth living: friendship, romance, family.

Q2. What types of preparation must a child undergo to meet these objectives? Are AP courses required?

Q3. What does it mean to "want the best" (I hear this phrase on occasion) for one's child? Is it possible that every instance of "wanting the best" is a trap, that there is a hidden cost that dominates the outcome? Should we want the best for a child; or, rather, should we want merely (a) to provide a foundation for the child on which, later, s/he can build a life according to what s/he perceives to be the best and (b) to provide an environment rich in healthful values that will guide the child's perception of what is good?

Now I'm going to be possibly a bit mean, so I apologize in advance. Let's see if I can get to the truth of this without being too snarky. Here goes. Say a parent wants her child to grow up to be in a profession she considers prestigious: in medicine, science, finance, law, business, the arts, whatever. She wants her child to grow up to have all the (possibly false) symbols of success: going to a prestigious college, living in certain places, whatever. Here's my question. Why did the parent have a child; why does this person not instead focus on achieving these things herself? Why should a parent want a child to grow up to win a Nobel prize, say, when that person could instead set about trying to do it herself? Do you see what I mean? We should want nothing for another person besides her contentment and her healthful participation in society; of ourselves only should we (if we choose) demand more.

I think in many cases it is not really like this. I bet few parents truly are pushing for their child to grow up to be tremendously successful in a profession. I bet the real issue is the fear that a child not exquisitely prepared will fail utterly. It's a competitive world, we often observe (and especially in SV). But here I want you to think of Q1. Is it really so hard to get along in this world? With love, friends, and a material lifestyle within one's means, it is not; it really isn't. And even if you disagree: should we allow fear to control our lives?


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

@I'm not sure

You just said it so well.
There is nothing to add.


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Posted by Things Change
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

We never wanted our children to attend Ivy Leagues once we found out the formula is too insane of a life for our family. Even UCB and UCLA admission from PAUSD is not easy. When my children were in elementary school, I scoffed at the idea of using tutors, thinking that it was those competitive parents who want their children to ace their classes. But now, as I have one in college and two in high school, I understand why parents hire tutors: a parent can't help with the subject, the child is less frustrated because he doesn't have to figure it out on his own, it's guaranteed structured time to review and study the subject, some teachers don't explain well. It's a shame that we have to resort to tutors, as it's extra thousands per year. But I want my children to be happy and not have to struggle with the material.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:03 pm

@I'mnotsure - your line of reasoning escapes me - you setup a set of conditions, which you choose to answer; then you poke holes in your own choices. This type of straw-man argument leaves me wondering who you are arguing (snarkily) against - yourself?

I want my kid to have meaningful, homework, which is relevant to the classwork. I am not questing the classwork; although some is quite irrelevant to their own interests and pursuits. I would like to eliminate or re-train the low-quality teachers assigning tons of meaningless homework.

When they finish high school, I would like them to have some small shred of interest in school, as I feel they would be best served by higher education beyond PAUSD. Even though PAUSD is not really inspiring a love of learning, most would agree that some form of college is a good path to many goals - prosperity is certainly one, but that can take any form my kid chooses.

I don't, and many other parents don't view the world so black-and-white as you hypothesize: it is not UCLA or failure. There are many outcomes which are successful; I just want the demotivation of homework and "rigor" overload to allow us to get to a successful outcome. Any successful outcome, as defined by my kids.


(p.s. my kid knows how to brush their teeth, so I think that's covered).


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

@Things Change: "Not easy" to gain admission to UCB/UCLA must be a typo because it is "insane" to gain admission to these schools from PAUSD.

@I'm not sure: Your ideas are a bit too simplistic, like, Average American simplistic. Most likely, our children want to live in the Bay Area when they are adults and you know how expensive it is here. Those who are moving here now are spending over a million dollars on a house. How can the average American afford to raise their family here, even if renting a house? And you are missing the point of the original post, which is that we are complaining of too much homework/rigor in PAUSD so most of our children can't achieve the high grades without help from parents and tutors. This is not about parents pushing their children too hard; it's about PAUSD pushing our children too hard.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@Parent - 14% of the class of 2013 from Paly was admitted to Cal, can you really call it insane? You can't expect a quarter of the school to be admitted.


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Posted by duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I have primarily heard of tutors being hired for Math, because the pace of the classes is too fast. Students could master the material if it was taught at a reasonable pace. Also, many times the material is 'presented', not 'taught'. Of course, there are all kinds of teachers and there are some who are genuinely interested in their students learning and understanding the material.

Tutors - the question is where does learning take place? The BoE should track tutoring hours when measuring results of the strategic plan. It would be interesting and probably eye opening for many to see the level of support given outside of school.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:01 pm

@ Mr Recycle

Actually 14% decided to go to a UC. Presumably, more than 14% were actually admitted. Not all admitted students decide to attend.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

@Mr. Recycle: What I am saying is that it's an insane lifestyle to have the stats to be admitted into Ivy Leagues and UCB/UCLA.


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Posted by Back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Mr. Recycle,

3.8 % of the 2013 Paly class enrolled at Cal.

so that is better than the less than 1 % enrolled at UCLA or UC San Diego.

TWO students from Paly enrolled at UCLA. 188 applied.

I would call this dismal representation of a top CA public school district. Supposedly one of the best, to have 2 students enrolling at one of the top CA schools. Does anyone know what the stats are for other states, with similar districts?

It appears the pool of desirable students from PAUSD is stuck at +/- 60. Everybody accepts them, Cal, UCLA, UCSD, and they must know that these are the same heading to Stanford, or other private schools in or outside of California.

Apparently, a UC's are only offering admission to the top 10% or roughly that number, which is a rule of some sort. So ALL the UC's are offering admission to the same students?

I would change the rule to make it that the top 10% of the school are auto admitted BUT if all of those kids enroll elsewhere, there is a way for the next tier to be admitted or given a serious look. Remember, supposedly the "A-" tier students are actually "A++" elsewhere, and not to mention that the top 10% in PAUSD probably looks awfully similar to almost half of the school.

I maintain that the lack of PAUSD representation at the top UCs is a political fiasco. It's not the counselors who need to solve this, the BOE and the entire community should be asking more questions.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:55 am

@back to learning," you gave me a good chuckle with this one "the BOE and the entire community should be asking more questions." If this BOE was trapped in a wet paper bag they wouldn't be able to get out with two hands and a flashlight. They would ask Dr. Skelly if it was OK to turn on the flashlight and if he said no, they would just sit in the bag in the dark until he had to leave at which point the BOE would just continue to sit there, alone, in the dark.

The reason the UCs don't replace PA students who decline with other PA students is that it is not true that "the "A-" tier students are actually "A++" elsewhere." This is a false belief that the district has sold to the community in order to justify the fact that our kids are stressed out. But it's demonstrably false. The evidence is your own question. if it was true, then those kids would in fact be next on the list. But they're not. That's because going to a ridiculous homework overload school does not earn you some kind of extra points on your college app. That's stupid and it's not true. Whether you believe that story is kind of an intelligence test that this community has failed for 20+ years.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:01 am

Paly Science teacher, Kelli Hagen's ratings: Web Link


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:41 am

Dear Parent:
ratemyteacher.com is a very bias sample size. It used to be more even because almost all students would review teachers. Now, only students who really don't like or really like (ie love vs hate) their teachers vote so the rankings are really skewed. You may note that the first few reviews also lack capitalization and have bad grammar.

I feel the need to defend her because 1) I appreciate her posting her opinion 2) ratemyteacher is inaccurate and 3) I had Ms. Hagen for honors chemistry and enjoyed the class. She posted her powerpoints online which made studying easy, and I found the tests to be fair representations of the units. If I remember correctly, she would always curve the highest score to a 100% (so if the highest score among all classes was 65/70, 65/70 become 100%). I never reviewed her on the site -- maybe if more people like me did, she and most other Paly teachers would have higher ratings.

Regarding the colleges all Paly students attend -- for the past few years, the Campanile has made a list of where everyone is going. I couldn't find an online version, but I stockpile the hardcopies so here are the stats for 2013 according to it for California colleges:
1 CSU Chico
4 University of the Pacific
7 UC Davis
2 Sonoma State University
1 Saint Mary's College
2 SF State University
28 UC Berkeley
3 University of San Francisco
1 San Francisco Art Institute
1 CSU East Bay
11 Stanford University
4 College of San Mateo
31 Foothill College
2 De Anza College
2 San Jose State University
2 Santa Clara University
7 UC Santa Cruz
2 UC Merced
1 CSU Monterey Bay
2 Cuesta College
11 Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo
12 UC Santa Barbara
3 Santa Barbara City College
1 California Institute of Technology
10 University of Southern California (USC)
1 Whittier College
5 Loyola Marymount University
2 UC Los Angeles (UCLA)
1 California Institute of the Arts
2 Pitzer College
2 Occidental College
1 Pomona Cal Poly
2 Azusa Pacific University
1 University of Redlands
1 Chapman University
1 CSU Fullerton
5 UC San Diego (UCSD)
1 San Diego State University
1 University of San Diego
1 Scripps College
2 Pomona College
It looks like 53 to UCs, out of a graduating class probably near 370. That's not too bad.
And since some will probably ask, attending the uber-academic/recognizable named schools (only some listed): UChicago 2, 5 Wash U. St. Louis, 3 Duke, 4 Wake Forest, 3 BYU, 3 Rice, 1 Vanderbilt, 1 Dartmouth, 2 Northeastern, 2 Harvard, 1 Boston College, 2 Yale, 7 Carnegie Mellon, 1 UPenn, 3 Cornell, 4 NYU, 3 Columbia University, 1 Princeton University, 5 Johns Hopkins University, 2 American University, 2 Georgetown University in addition to a bunch of other state schools and smaller private colleges. I just listed something like 57 -- add that to the 11 going to Stanford and the 53 going to UCs and 32% of the class is going to a well known university (from my random sampling -- lots were left off) or a UC.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2013 at 5:00 am

@C thanks for the stats. Typo 18 vs 28 on UCB?


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Posted by mom of recent grad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2013 at 6:33 am

@C thank you for acknowledging that UC's Davis, Santa Cruz, Merced and Santa Barbara are actually UC's. Most of the posters on this thread are not including those schools as counting for anything much. But it is a serious flaw in the arguments of most of the posters.


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Posted by Kelli Hagen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 6:44 am

There they are!

Thanks for the kudos from C. RateMyTeachers, like this sight allows anonymous people to say whatever they wish. Notice the dates of the low ratings- all last year. A group that destroyed a poor Jr High teacher when they went through 4 years ago. A small vocal group that harassed me for "As" all year long. You say you don't want to use your real name because of bullying and retaliation- you mean like this?



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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

Yes, 18. I apologize for the typo. My totals should be loosely correct -- I did those from the sheet (7 + 18 + 7 + 2 + 12 + 2 + 5 = 53). Then again, I did them mentally in about 2 minutes so they might be off by a few.

Not exactly bullying -- I don't use my name because I don't want my teachers reading my comments and knowing for 100% certainty who I am. It's relatively obvious -- I'm sure you can guess -- but I just don't like my name to be on the internet....


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

Paly's college admission stats which C lists are really quite impressive. Just look at UCLA. Its admit rate last year was 17% in-state compared to 48% from Paly, almost 3 times the state average!

Thanks to Prop 30, the money thing will continue to make it hard for students all over CA to get into the UCs.

"UC Schools Draw Record Application Numbers; UCLA As Exclusive As Tufts — For State Students"

Web Link ("UCLA led all UC campuses with 99,000 applications...Berkeley came in second place, with a record 67,600 applications, and UCSD followed with 67,400. UCLA reported an in-state admission rate of 17.4 percent, Becker said, a level comparable to Cornell and Tufts...the prestigious public U.C. system is changing in one profound way: out-of-state students increasingly make up more of its enrollment. About a third of the 14,100 freshmen admitted at Berkeley, for instance, come from a state other than California. These out-of-state students pay premium tuition for being nonresidents.")


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:55 am

Kelli Hagan,

I have no opinion of you as a teacher.

I pointed out your singling out a bad student, cell phone Mary, and said it is as easy to single out bad teachers, but they do more harm. Now you bring up the "vocal group" who "harassed" you for As.

This thread seems to merely reflect reality. Homework policy is a teacher driven deal, and it is up for debate who is right or wrong. Teachers defend themselves, students can defend themselves to an extent, but they are not necessarily protected from a bad teacher. If they raise complaints, it is to "harass" for A's.

From what I have seen over the years, most students are compliant, do their homework and to "harass" teachers for As is the exception, or Mrs Hagan, is it the rule?

If there is such animosity from teachers for the behaviors of a few, HW could be somewhat passive aggressive. I thought we were talking about a generally high achieving group of students and I think bringing up Mary is a way to avoid the workload and grading issues.

C,

53 students of 465 going UCs is less than the top 10% of the class. In theory 10% could/should be going to UCs on AUTO PILOT. The UCs take less PAUSD applicants than what the supposed rule is. And for the top or elite UC's it is less than 1%.

I think UC Davis is a highly desirable school. Likely dozens, possibly hundreds from PAUSD applied, but only 7 enrolled. For example, UCLA 188 applied, 2 are enrolled. Who is accepted is irrelevant, we know it's the same 10% that end up going elsewhere. And now we know it's actually less than 10% that enroll.

2 to Harvard and 2 to Yale?

Our snob or elite world in PAUSD schools certainly does not gets into snob or elite schools.

From the famous Paly Math letter, where teachers made a point of refusing to teach an Algebra class at a normal level (insulted minorities for being slackers), we could not "lower standards" for one class for fear of what?









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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:04 am



sorry the 53 is just over 10% but for some of the top UCs it is around 1%. I don't find that impressive. That's just me I guess.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

I think this thread shows just what is wrong with American education overall.

It is sad to see this, but there is no oversight on education in this country. Standards are school by school, district by district, and there is no oversight to see that what each school, district, and college/university is doing is right or fair.

Education is not a business. Obviously it is not to make money, but we are paying taxes as well as fees for 3rd level education and there is no oversight.

On the one hand there are complaints about how many employers are not able to find American educated people to employ in high tech jobs. On the other hand, there is this issue which shows that our American educated high schoolers are not getting into the colleges that American employers want for their employee float.

Doesn't anyone else see the problem here?

Someone needs to start looking at the American/Californian education system. It is time that our students got a fair deal in the work place before they even get into college.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:16 am



Paly parent,

I agree but without having to visit all that is wrong with the system, there should be some things that can be done now. As someone pointed out, private schools schmooze and sell their students to Admissions officials all the time, in their case it is a business. How else does a private school get judged if not by where their graduates go to college.

You would think someone could at least ask why for some UCs like UC Davis or UCLA the enroll rate of PAUSD is 1%. when hundreds of our kids are applying.

1%


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Posted by high school is for building a college resume
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

Back to learning -

While the ENROLL rate may be small, the ADMIT rate at UCLA was 48% of the Paly students that applied and 24% of the Gunn students that applied. A better question is why only 2 out of 58 admits at Paly and 5 out of 46 admits at Gunn chose to attend UCLA.

BTW - the Paly College Counselors DO visit private schools and "schmooze" with them.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

@Kelli Hagen. On the one hand I appreciate your posting in your real name (something I am not doing) so hat tip there. On the other hand, what you posted about the students was completely inappropriate and unprofessional. Whatever the relative merits of the students' teacher evaluations or your view, posting nastygrams about our young people (who are not college students, they are children) in an online forum lacks judgment and professionalism. You should make these points to your IS and to the principal in a confidential context in which student rights are protected and some consideration is given the the flaws and foibles of youth.

A more professional option would have been to say what Ms. Munger said, which though she is a student, shows greater judgment than you did: there is a lot of selection bias in these sites, and while I regret the fact that these students had a bad experience in my class I do not think that their comments are representative of my students in the main. Or something else diplomatic. Ranting on about how these students "destroyed a poor Jr High teacher when they went through 4 years ago" is ridiculous. I have no idea what did or didn't happen there, but this is not the forum for it. It's unprofessional for you to lob accusations that are serious at children. If there was an issue there is a time and place to bring that up and paloaltonline is not it. It is almost certainly true that fellow students will be able to ID these students (there are only 4 of them) based on what you are writing. That violates their rights.

Even if you feel wronged by these students, this is not the place and manner to take it up. You have much more power than students do and attacking them in a public forum is not the correct or professional choice. It also has the effect of intimidating students who might feel that they deserve a higher grade from coming to see you about it, knowing that you will retaliate against them by posting about it online.

You may assert that you are a good teacher but I think you have just disproved it. [Portion removed.]

I have no idea who the students are, have never had a child in your class [portion removed] and have no axe to grind with you in particular. I just think that your post about these students was unprofessional, possibly illegal, and lacked class.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

Out of curiosity I looked at Menlo school numbers.

Web Link

Menlo School acceptances 2010, 11 and 12. Not sure if you divide this into three years, but then again a Menlo class size is probably a third of Palo Alto High Schools. They beat our odd with a stick.


California, University of: Berkeley - 58
California, University of: Davis - 89
California, University of: Irvine - 27
California, University of: Los Angeles - 49
California, University of Merced - 7
California, University of: Riverside - 10
California, University of: San Diego - 44
California, University of: Santa Barbara - 87
California, University of: Santa Cruz - 52

PAUSD, one of the largest and highest ranked public school districts in the state has no chance at their own state schools compared to a neighboring small private school.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

@High school is for: The same students who are applying to UCLA and UCB are the ones who are applying to Stanford and Ivy Leagues so they usually choose to attend those if they are admitted.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:53 am

I have found that ratemyteachers.com is VERY accurate.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

C wrote of Kelli Hagen's Chem class: "she would always curve the highest score to a 100% (so if the highest score among all classes was 65/70, 65/70 become 100%)."

Here is another piece of evidence that calls into question the quality of Ms. Hagen's instruction. I have no issue with curving grades, in the abstract. But if it is the case that the highest score among all classes was a D (65), that is a serious problem. This has been a frequent occurrence for my children in math and science -- the teacher is giving evaluations in which very few (or in "C"'s example -- literally no one) passed. If the highest score in the class on the test or other evaluative mechanism is a D, then the teacher did not teach the material well or the test is poorly calibrated to what was taught. Both of those are indicative of problematic teaching if they occur regularly. While students might appreciate the fact that the teacher curves to hide the result of her poor teaching, I would prefer my child did not get Ds on tests in a core subject like Chemistry. And some students will receive a 65 on a test and feel like failures even though it is the teacher who is failing. All in all, this does not paint a very flattering picture of Ms. Hagen and I think she would be better served using her time to brush up on teaching methods than to harangue our students online about their use of ratemyteachers.com.

Here's a place she can start: Web Link
Today's NYT has a wonderful section on empirical research on what works and what doesn't in science and math education. I didn't see anything in there about "when the entire class fails a test, give them all a higher grade anyway" but maybe I missed it.

Hard tests that no one in your class can pass are not a sign of rigor. They are a sign of lazy exam construction and poor teaching.

If this district had a teacher evaluation system such as that in place at every college in the country we would have more information about the quality of our staff.


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:08 am

back to learning,

Are you saying that more Paly seniors beyond the 60 admitted should get UC offers since only a few Paly seniors accept their offers?

That logic completely escapes me because the UCs accept far more than they expect will accept, so they do that already. UCLA last year accepted 16,000 students. 65% rejected their offer. 5,600 enrolled.

The UCs - especially UCLA and UC Berkeley - have very high standards. One is the expectation that the student take lots of hard classes. At UCLA that means at least 9 AP and weighted honors classes which something like 80% of the students UCLA accepted last year took according to a blogger.

The HARDEST classes Paly students take before senior year are honors Chem, honors math, honors world language, AP History and a semester of honors English.

That means that Paly students who want to be competitive in the UCLA admissions world need to take at least 5 APs senior year. Perhaps the 60 Paly students admitted managed that load but, to your point, there just can't be very many others - those who you say should also be given offers - who are taking 9+ weighted classes too.

In other words, their rejections may have been about not being "qualified" in UCLA's eyes and had nothing to do with Paly students taking spots that could have been theirs.


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Posted by high school is for building a college resume
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

Back to learning - of course Menlo beats our numbers, so does any private school in the area. They only admit the top students, they have smaller class sizes and I would venture to say, a more consistent quality of teacher since they don't have tenure. All this adds up to really great college acceptances.

PalyDad - I totally agree that if a whole class is not doing well on test, the teacher is not doing his/her job. Period. The Paly math department is known for testing on things that haven't been taught because the kids should be smart enough to figure it out on their own.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:17 am

high school is for building,

40% of the class applied at Paly, 2 enrolled. Just me, I happen to think there is something wrong with only 2 PAUSD students represented at one of the top UCs. The offers go to the top students for both the State and private schools. The "top" (4.5 GPA vs 3.9) students apply to the UCs as back ups.

I think success for PAUSD UC attendance should be enrollment. It would force a look at students below that sticky top that gets in everywhere, and push some of the "average" students that everyone seems so concerned about.

you say "BTW - the Paly College Counselors DO visit private schools and "schmooze" with them."

Is there any schmoozing at the UCs'? To enroll more PAUSD students, and not get stuck at shuffling the top candidates that never go there anyway?

If there is such schmoozing, suggestion is to let them know that at PAUSD there is a blind spot with the "top students." They apply to the top UC's for fun apparently, but there are other students who they need to look at.



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Posted by read again
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

@PalyDad: Please reread C's comment:

"If I remember correctly, she would always curve the highest score to a 100% (so if the highest score among all classes was 65/70, 65/70 become 100%)."

Nowhere did she say D's were made into A's.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

observations,

There is likely a policy reason the top 10% are auto accepted to state schools.

How that turned into having at least 9 AP classes is a whole different story.

My logic is simple minded. I think all UCs have a particular responsibility to enroll more California students, and these CA students should have it easier than anyone else.

If we have such an outstanding public school district in California, why are only 2 going to attend one of the top UC's?

It's really a question I have. Why not have more students enrolled. It's a different way to measure success of our schools and of state policies.

The worst scenario is that our schools are maybe not that great, or that it probably would be better to take 9 AP classes in a less "rigorous" district.





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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

@"again"

When a 65 is turned into a 100, that is turning a D (65) into an A (100). Perhaps you received a 100 from the Paly math department yourself?



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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:47 am

observations,

By the way, I know of plenty of mortals who have attended and attend UCLA, and I assure you that more than 2 of our PAUSD students could handle it.

It is comical and sad that the consolation is that the two that do get in report back that they were the most prepared.

Admit means nothing. It's all a bunch of numbers that are not translating into actual bodies in those UC spots. No handouts, we are talking about some very accomplished students, one of the threads that pops up here is about one such student who seemingly is qualified but did not get into a UC.




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Posted by read again
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:48 am

@PalyDad: I don't know dude, but 65/70 = 92.9% which is either an A or A- to begin with. So C's example might be taking an A- and turning it into an A. Have another cup of coffee. I know it takes me 2 or 3 to really get going.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:55 am

ah. I did not read it the way you did (as a percentage of points). I am not sure why anyone would curve from a 93 to a 100. It's an A either way. That's why I thought she meant a 65 or a 70. Since you seem confident that your reading is correct, perhaps you can share your insight into why anyone would "curve" an A to an A or why that is considered a curve?


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Posted by read again
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

@PalyDad: It could certainly give a kid who barely failed a passing grade. Anyway grading on a curve is not a science. What this teacher expects is that there is at least one person in the class who can get a perfect score. That seems reasonable to me.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

@back to learning - why focus on the 2 who went vs the 58 were admitted? Basically 56 Paly students thought UCLA was beneath them and had a better choice. That's a pretty big success.

Are those students who use UCLA as a safety school screwing their peers who might have gotten in? Depends if UCLA caps admissions per school, or the kids who didn't get just didn't quite meet the academic standards needed. It is an unfortunate situation but not sure what you can do about it.


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:07 am

back to learning,

Look at the full picture. If what you say is true - that the same seniors are racking up multiple UC offers - perhaps Paly's UCLA enrollment total is low because the students it admitted opted to go to Berkeley instead. 2 went to UCLA. 28 went to Berkeley.

Makes sense. UCB is closer to home so is less expense and Berkeley is the top public US university for computer science and engineering - careers many PAUSD seniors want.

Why do the other 30 or so opt for private over public? I can think of lots of reasons. Privates might end up costing less since many have very generous financial aid packages. Some students want to leave CA to see what it's like to live with snow. Some would prefer a smaller school, 4 years of guaranteed housing, smaller classes, and space instead of waiting lists in the classes they want to take. UCs - cash-strapped -- don't offer the above.

The UC accept:enroll ratio probably does say something about the UCs that CA taxpayers could fix. The UCs should fill spots with in-state students; that can be fixed by taxpayers too.

Remember, 3 times as many Paly students were admitted into UCLA than it admitted statewide. You would be hard-pressed to find a non-magnate, non-charter public high school which has as great college admissions stats as Paly and Gunn.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:17 am

I've found ratemyteachers.com to be overall accurate. However, we are not allowed to change classes due to teachers. But there are some good tips I have learned on the website. I wish administration would get rid of some of the really bad teachers. They are earning $120,000 per year and some of them are not worth that. I've had some really great ones, no doubt. But I hate the way some of them don't understand that our grades are so important for college admissions and they fry us with tests that are way too difficult. Only the hack students should be getting "C"s, but some of these teachers just think we are slackers if we get "C"s when we are trying our hardest. Have some compassion, geez.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:20 am



high school is for,

just to be clear, 58 admitted, from 118 applicants may be a 48% admit rate but what it really means is that the top 12% of the graduating class was admitted, so no big favors there. Then 2 enrolled.

the 118 was actually 25% of the class applying. I imagine students are discouraged to apply to the top UCs because they only accept martians.

This year I would encourage 100% of the students to apply to the top UC's. Do not pay attention to this story of needing to have 9 APs. The admission rates will then reflect that the top 10% of the class was admitted (which they were supposed to do anyway), and nobody can throw around these big numbers of 48% admission rates.






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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:34 am


observations,

thank you for doing the count, yes, the same students are racking up the admissions from the UCs, the privates and everyone. Everyone can count the top 10%, and I agree that

"The UC accept:enroll ratio probably does say something about the UCs that CA taxpayers could fix. The UCs should fill spots with in-state students; that can be fixed by taxpayers too."

I don't think they will come calling on us to fix this. Which is why I call this a political fiasco.

I don't know about the other schools, and wish I did if only to either appease my suspicions or it could scare me more, but your marvel at the 48% admit rate is only because few students applied, or because our schools are bigger than most. Otherwise, accepting 58 out of a class of 465 is still what it is, and that is supposed to be the auto-pilot acceptance.

Unfortunately, what PAUSD seems to be is on auto pilot rejection because of the nature of the beast, and this beast needs some creative ways to fix it.

I suggest telling the UCs, that for Palo Alto they need to look beyond the top 10% and absolutely increase PAUSD representation in their schools, as it is one of the state's top ranked and largest public schools. All these school report cards should mean something.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:45 am



In theory, education in California falls under the same "management". Why are private schools racking up more admits to the UCs than public schools?


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Posted by read again
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:47 am

UC spots are a finite resource funded by all California taxpayers. Why should our school district get a disproportionate number of spots compared to another school district? Why should they pay taxes so that more of our kids can go to UC (with the implication being that fewer of their kids go to UC)? There will never be a political fix to this that will favor Palo Alto.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:57 am



read again,

How do you define "spots"?

99,000 applications to a top UC yields 58 admits and 2 enrolls for one of the largest school districts in CA?

Before claiming that we are asking for more "spots" I wish there was more information about what the policies are. Does France have more "spots" than Palo Alto public schools?

I don't have much information on this myself, as this thread triggered all my questions. so I think I've reached my limits of casual observations, and maybe when I have time, I will surf to find the rules on spots and report back.

Which is why I wish the Weekly could do an investigative piece on this topic of UC spots and how Palo Alto fares.




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Posted by rootcause
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:59 am

Homeworks appear "excessive" because classroom works (teaching) fall short. Example: Solving 3-6 problems in class and giving 30 problems for homework, or assigning 30 pages to read but not reviewing them class, are simply reneging on teaching. So, check on classroom work,
and the ratio of classwork/homework should be reasonable.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:04 pm

The point really is that the top 60% of Gunn students are probably more prepared and qualified for the UCs than the 11th % at many other high schools in California.

But of course by attending Gunn rather than those other schools these 60-90%ers (at Gunn) are getting B's and C's, on the curve, at Gunn. Taking them out of the running for the UCs.

Point is that the 'rigor' at Gunn does these kids no good whatsoever. I absolutely would have been better off taking my statewide 10%er to another high school where she actually would have been in the top 5-10%.

By the way - to Kelly "B is a good grade". That's really the crux of the problem. Its absoluately NOT a good grade, and when you give a smart and talented kid on the cusp a B instead of the A, because of the curve in the class, just be crystal clear you are writing that kids ticket OUT of the UCs. Just take responsibility for that, own that. Its the truth. I've had at least three conversations with Gunn teachers that were 'she's just half a point (or less!) away from the A for the semester. So Sorry...." That's just pure bullshit. Ego tripping, baloney.

Solutions:
1) First of all, there should be a requirement that only 2 classes per day are allowed to assign homework (to model a college environment) Ex: M/W Periods A-B, T/TH Periods C-D. Rotate accordingly so that no more homework is given than would be given in a college environment.
2) Students within 5 points of the next grade level up should be allowed to petition for the higher grade with an escalation process.
3) Teachers should be required to report their non-curved test results to the administration. This would require teachers to take responsibility for unreasonable testing practices, and forcing teachers to teach and test appropriately to grade level. This will reduce stress/study hours by eliminating forcing our kids to jump through inordinate testing and homework hoops.


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Posted by sad parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

From my experience, there were some great teachers at Gunn, but also some terrible teachers. One teacher who teaches biology refused to post her powerpoint presentations for the students, and in the class, if a single student inside the class was not following her direction, she quickly turned the powerpoint away so no student can follow her material. This is not teaching, just showing students the power of a teacher.


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Posted by sad parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm

"by attending Gunn rather than those other schools these 60-90%ers (at Gunn) are getting B's and C's, on the curve, at Gunn. Taking them out of the running for the UCs."

Agreed 100%. This is exactly what's happening at Gunn, and creates the stress for students.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

You are all misinterperting my posts. First, if you read, I showed the example to be a 65/70 curved to a 70/70. A 65/70 is a 92.86, an A or A-. I can remember no instance where the curve was more than 3 questions-worth (highest on the final -- 3 questions) and certainly no more than 7%. Math tests are curved more. And why do I call it a curve? Because I refer to anything which increases score points as a curve -- some teachers do it by adding points, others by removing points from the total, and some by actually using a more college-curve. There was no instance when a test average was a 65%, rather, the most of the yearly averages were B's with a few B-'s. Also, I'm not even sure that was her technique -- I just remember that we received points back on several tests. Maybe she added if more than 80% of the class missed a question (rare?)? I don't know. This really wasn't what I intended to be a subject of heated debate, rather, I was just using an example of something I appreciated in the class. So, now, moving back to something interesting to talk about....
To the person calling Ms. Hagen's comments "unethical" are you kidding me? Many parents here are more direct than she is, and she even changed the names of the students. It's true that the example she gave was a more extreme one, but the "I'm going to leave my headphones in all of class" students are more frequent than you think. I'm even one of the phone-students occasionally, although I read the NYT rather than listen to music in class. Thirdly, in response to all the hubbub about ratemyteacher, the reason she's rated so low -- if you look almost all of the bad review are recent -- is because, after the class of 2014's sophomore year (ie 2 years ago) cheating scandal (9 students got 0/300 on the final for outright cheating on Facebook) and the fact that very few students were doing the readings, she added quizzes and made the class harder to "cheat" at. This provoked a large outcry from the student body. I say kudos -- most teachers won't reform their courses even if they know cheating is going on. She did. AND she actually punished the cheaters. And regarding the teacher in middle school, she is actually correct, and I myself would have gone farther lambasting the group responsible. She didn't even give names. A group of students was so loud, disrespectful, rude, and uncontrollable in a period of hardship during the teacher's life that a certain middle school teacher resigned mid-year.

Parent: I sympathize. I'm a student. I've ended classes with 89.7's, 89.3's... but the line has to be drawn somewhere. .5 away? What about .55 away? .6? It won't stop. Also, it isn't feasible to give every student an A. It's true that it's almost painful when you end a class with an 89.8 or an 89.4 (believe me, I have been that kid at least 3 times), but that's just the way life is. Maybe you were 1 number away from winning the jackpot, but it's not like they're going to give you a prize. Regarding schools: Has anyone considered that after the press scandal of ~2007 regarding how impossible it was to get classes at UCLA not that many people want to go? Or that maybe they prefer Berkeley, or UCSD, or some school out of California? There are lots of schools with way higher admits than attendees, although admittedly UCLA is one of the worst in terms of the gap. Maybe they prefer USC over UCLA?

Regarding the "no more work than in college" I'm almost laughing. In college you are expected to do all of your reading outside of class and the workload is much greater because there's less classtime. When teachers tell students to do their reading outside of class, students and parents rebel. How many times have you heard complaints about APUSH because "there's too much reading" or "it's too hard?" I -- and certainly many other students -- skim the readings halfheartedly because we know it's covered in class. If you tried to fully apply a college environment here -- complete with normalized curve around C and lots of reading -- the amount of parent outcry would be absurd. Also, have you considered that according to most research, it benefits to do work from each class every day rather than every 2-3 days?


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Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

The Palo Alto teachers should be advocates for the students at their schools. They should be happy to see them succeed. That means that they need to take into account the effect that grades can have on their futures. If there is a teacher that is notorious for giving out bad grades and massive ammounts of homework, then it is really not fair. A person's future should not be gambled based on which teacher they get.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm

We already have a "political fix to this that will favor Palo Alto." It's called basic aid.

@read again -- I don't understand the idea that you would curve an A up to an A. If the top grade in the class is a 93, there is no need to apply a "curve." A curve gives letter grades at a lower cut off point than the 60/70/80/90 traditional cut-off would be. Thus an 85 can be an A, a 75 can be a B, etc. Turning an A into a higher A is not a grading curve. But who knows what C actually meant anyway.

I know that this thread is focusing right now on UC admissions, and this might appear unrelated, but I think the issue of teacher quality, evaluation mechanism and difficulty, curricular consistency from one teacher to the next, homework reform where needed -- these issues are going to have a greater impact on UC admission than all the fanciful notions about "political solutions."

1. PAUSD already benefits from the basic aid funding scheme that benefits our district compared with others and allows us to capture and keep a measure of our wealth.

2. PAUSD already benefits from its private educational foundation, donations to which are tax-deductible, even though not really charitable. We essentially receive a tax subsidy to donate to the education of our own children, thus allowing us (like basic aid) to use our wealth to opt out of the harsh consequences of Prop 13, something that the middle class cannot do. The poor and middle class does not have the money to donate to itself. These donations should not even be tax deductible -- why is the state of California subsidizing rich people who want to improve schools for the rich when the state could instead be using that money to help poor districts?

3. PAUSD already benefits from the many volunteers who are primarily comprised of highly educated parents who have time to spend in the classroom and with students. This is also a resource that poorer schools lack.

All in all, PAUSD already has quite a leg up in the UC admissions process. Seeking more seems like a fools' errand. Rather, we should investigate why it is that so many of our students receive grades that disqualify them for even less competitive UCs. Why is it that our grading is often random from teacher to teacher and class to class, and that students who get 5s on AP tests will get Bs or even Cs in the AP course, harming their GPAs and unnecessarily harming their chances of UC admission, even at schools like UCSB and UCD. That is where I would focus my energies.

The strategic plan survey showed that parents are in fact starting to get wise to this problem and it was raised strongly as a problem by parents. Grading is often perceived as arbitrary. Kelli Hagen grades on a curve in her Chem H class (or not depending on if you think adjusting an A to be a slightly higher A is even grading on a curve) but do other Chem teachers? If not, is that fair? Why do teachers have so little supervision and so little direction that they are allowed to make decisions that are very consequential with little regard for intra district consistency?


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm

@C: the comments by Kelli Hagen are unprofessional because she is not a student, she is a teacher. A teacher should not comment on students (particularly a small group of students who are individually identifiable) in negative manner in an online forum like this to retaliate against them for asking for a higher grade or for posting negative reviews against her on ratemyteacher.com. You, as another student, may comment -- and you did. Ms. Hagen should not. She has professional responsibilities to maintain confidentiality that you and other students do not. Of course she didn't use names. If she used names she wouldn't just be unprofessional. She would be dismissed.

You in fact have proved my point by saying that you know who these students are, that you can identify them, and by posting more information that helps to make them even more individually identifiable based on putting your comments and Ms. Hagen's together.

This district and its teachers have zero culture of legal compliance. The attitude is extremely lax. Kelli Hagen in an appropriate district, you would have already received an email from the principal cautioning you not to post online about students and possible discipline for violating FERPA. Whatever the merits of your complaint, this is the wrong forum.


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Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Although many interesting points are being made overall, perhaps we should stop attacking individual teachers and focus on the system issues. It is not really fair to attack someone anonymously. I have never met the teacher in question, but I think we should definitely give that teacher the benefit of the doubt, and not pick apart her postings word by word.

With regards to the curving system above, that does not really bother me. It tends to benefit all the students, as their grades are lifted as result of considerations that even the best student couldn't get all the answers right. I would probably be against grading people DOWN on a curve, because given the pressures of college admissions, it does the PAUSD no good to make our students look less qualified than the more lenient neighbors.


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Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

UC publishes a lot of data about its admissions every year: Web Link

We've also done some reporting on the growing number of non-resident admissions to UC, and possible reasons behind it:

UC President: 'Non-resident admission helps pay the bills' Web Link

"Non-resident admission, headcount, climbs at UCs:" Web Link


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I tried to show that I was not 100% sure about what I was saying -- "if I remember correctly" "I think" etc. -- but evidently I didn't do the job well enough. I am not sure if the class is curved, I can just say that several tests throughout the year -- I think all of them, but I'm not sure -- got a 1 or 2 or 3 point boost. Why curve an A to an A? Well, imagine it as a uniform curve, +4% to all students. Maybe a kid with a 93% retains an A or gets an A instead of an A-, but a kid with a B+ gets curved up to an A-. Again, I define curve as pretty much anything which alters the scores of students because all teachers alter their tests differently as I mentioned earlier.

To the contrary, I cannot identify them. I did not hear about them from her. I don't even know their names. I don't even know how many of them there were (but I heard, through the gossip chain, multiple). But I did know about them because everyone knew about them. I heard what happened, but not who caused it to. Also, since my info comes from the gossip chain anyway, maybe it's not reliable. Who knows? It's like streakers -- everyone knows they exist, but not everyone knows who they are. And I think teachers are allowed to discuss streakers in public forums as long as they don't give names, because whether they are recognizable or not is up for debate. Same here. I knew about them prior to this. Just like if you say "that co-worker who was fired" everyone in your office probably knows who s/he is but the outside world does not. I doubt you were able to recognize who was mentioned, and honestly, even if they pass me in the halls I don't know who they are. I know that someone did the deed, but not exactly who. For all I know, Campy or Verde did a piece on them with switched names. Are they still not allowed to be mentioned in public forum? I don't know.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Chris: why don't you do a story about the fact that half of parents and students in this district feel that we have unfair grading among teachers and uneven quality of teachers that is affecting students' chances of making it into a UC. This was a central finding of the 2013 strategic plan:

Web Link

See page 18, showing that around half of all stakeholders (including teachers and admins) think that grading is fair across teachers and courses. Fewer than half think that curriculum, instruction, and teacher quality are are consistent. These are facts that call out for some reporting that would include, for example, interviewing parents, students and others about this issue, and giving the context of how unfair grading can affect students' chances for admission to colleges. Other than reporting in April about the bare fact of this survey result in a story that reported on the Strategic Plan generally have you been curious enough to report on what appears to be a core area for improvement for PAUSD?


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Posted by A parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

If the high school counselors cannot spare time to advocate our students to the universities, at least they or someone in the administration should elaborate our course rigor in the school profile which colleges use to evaluate students and a high school. From the current Gunn school profile:
Web Link
one cannot know how hard our students are working for their courses. The counselor phone numbers already occupy a lot of the limited spaces.


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Posted by Hard Tests are Good
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Paly Dad-

A teacher that gives a test with a top score of 70 is leaving lots of headroom for extremely able students. This means students who have internalized the material so well that they can combine it with things learned in other contexts, creative solutions, or rapid and careful work can show that. It's ok to differentiate these students from those who remember everything covered in class and reviewed in homework, but can do no more with the material than show that. Note that these schools have no independent support for gifted students, but are being paid to provide extra support for them.

It's fine for the teacher to not know how welll the best students can do, as long as the grades are curved to reflect that no one could do everything asked for on the test.

Such tests measure learning better than tests that have class averages over 90%. Those (90%) tests tend to measure how carefully questions are answered or how aligned students' thinking is to the test, as opposed to depth or breadth of material coverage.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Paly Dad,

"- why is the state of California subsidizing rich people who want to improve schools for the rich when the state could instead be using that money to help poor districts?"

I sure hope that is not the reason why UCLA enrolled only 2 students this past year. Because Palo Alto is rich, and "already" benefits from what did you list? PIE, volunteer parents, already educated parents?

That is the reason? Palo Alto is rich, who cares if only 2 students from rich PAUSD enroll at UCLA. We deserve it?

My, we really are modest about our dismal representation in top UCs. It's ok, we're so rich we can be rejected.

The idea that the best way to get into UCs is to change the grading, what if everyone had A's. UCLA would still only accept the top 10% and if all those kids do not enroll, only 2 go, what is the point of the A's? UC's that are less competitive, or the repeated suggestion to go to Community College ?

Chris Kenrick,

A real investigative story would be to look into PAUSD's admission rates for each and every UC, address the related grading issues, address the top 10% students which apply for fun, and that the next tier never gets a look, interview everyone involved, including UCLA and Davis admissions people and ask them what they think of 2 students enrolling in their schools from PAUSD.



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Posted by Back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm



C. Kenrick,

Would also be interesting to know why PAUSD students are not as seemingly qualified for the UCs, as the local private schools. We take less AP's? Our grades are terrible?

Menlo probably has more rich kids than Paly or Gunn, and they don't seem to be affected by the idea that rich people don't deserve to go to UCs.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm

@ Ms Hagen

Thank you for your class and teaching. My child not only did fine in your class but also acquired a deep appreciation of chemistry.

@ all
Do you realize that the UC system has had its funding cut by hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade or so? Where was the outcry when this happened, especially from parents of future college students? I did not hear much from my fellow parents here in PA.

In response to the cuts, UCs basically froze the number of students enrolled, severely increased tuition and fees, went looking for out of staters who pay more, and cut expenses (services to students in particular). All this while keeping its mission of inclusiveness (enroll more underrepresented minorities, first generation college students and poorer students). End result: it's much harder for PA students to get into the UCs now than 10 years ago through no fault of the school district.

IMHO the solution is not to blame PAUSD, homework, etc. Rather it would be to advocate for restoring UC funding. But that may require increasing taxes, especially on the mega rich (God forbid! :-)) and those who pay no taxes to the state (eg corporations that use all available loopholes to evade corporate taxes).


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm

@hard tests

You are describing a good way to design a class that is intended as a "weed out" requirement in a college program such as Stanford or Berkeley engineering or CS. That framework for examination has no utility in a high school curriculum. This is the mindset that has led to many qualified students being excluded from the UC system. We have to stop confusing rigor with hazing and punitive exercises. Hard tests are not good if you are trying to create interested participatory learners in a basic curriculum. Tests that are too difficult or are intended to give all but the most gifted of students a "C" are demoralizing, upsetting, cause test anxiety and have no relationship to learning. There are other better ways to produce opportunities for those few truly talented kids to shine (Siemen's, Robotics Team, etc.). Converting an ordinary Chem H class into a hazing situation is not consistent with public education.

Parents if you want to know who the most likely culprit is keeping your kids out of the UCs it's their teachers, who give very idiosyncratic grades. Kids who would have had an A in the same class from a different teacher but receive a B or a C+ are having their life trajectory affected by the failure of PAUSD to enforce any standards. This is site based control run amok.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I agree with PalyDad - the survey shows that a large number of people have concerns over teacher consistency. It is a huge issue. This is a systematic issue, entirely within our schools that can be solved right here at home.

Systematically:
- PAUSD does not manage teachers for consistency of quality, use of classroom time, preparation, organization

- PAUSD does not manage teachers for consistency of grading

- PAUSD does not manage student experiences end-to-end. If you get a poor quality teacher one year, there is no system in place to get you a better teacher next year. Not only does your child fall further behind, the school feels NO RESPONSIBILITY to help them catch up.
- neither does the teacher.

- PAUSD does not survey students PER TEACHER, and provide this feedback to the teachers. This is not done as an individual, nor relative to peer groups.

The students know if they are engaged, learning. They know if a teacher is disorganized, unprepared, unclear. They know if the teacher is withholding Rubrics, failing to post homework instructions, losing assignments, is disrespectful to students. They also know if a teacher is respectful, organized, clear, fair, prepared, communicates well, etc.

This information could be easily gathered, and provided to teachers, with relative comparisons to peer groups. Faced with real data, I believe many teachers would strive to engage the kids, face up to differences in grading and policy, and improve the classroom experience they offer their students.

PAUSD has a strategic goal to place students at the center of how we teach. Let's see this REALLY happen. Radical, but I believe the students would take this very seriously and offer surprisingly clear insight in rather specific form.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

On top of all this being discussed is the additional problem over the past couple of years of honors classes being unrecognized as such by the UCs.

The problem with classes that are sold as honors is that the teachers can grade harder and give more homework. When they end up being weighted as regular lane classes, they do not give them impression of how hard it was for the students to get a good grade. In other words, a good student in one of these classes who would have been happy with a B in an honors class ended up with a B in a regular class in which they could have easily got A.

Apart from an apology, those kids got nothing and it must have put them at a disadvantage when applying for college.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm

My senior (then a junior) got a B in English last year from an admittedly "tougher" teacher. Will that impact my child's UC chances? Probably. I asked my child if the B was upsetting. The response was no. Why no? The answer was that the teacher really taught how to write an essay, how to structure it, etc. It was the first time my child was taught this and thus the child is grateful for the learning, including the difficulty, and fine with the B.

My child may have poor chances of getting into the UCs because of it but so what? My child is smart, has learned a lot and will undoubtedly do very well in whatever college and later in life. To me this matters much more than being able to tell my fellow parents that my child went to UC Berkeley or UCLA.

On another note, I believe that it is a state standard that students should show an ability to stretch what they have learned and apply it to new situations. I believe this is what "hard tests" is talking about. Don't forget that grades then get curved.


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Posted by Kelli Hagen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Wow- quite a thread. I entered in knowing full well that I was setting myself up for direct criticism/attacks, so no surprise there. Unfortunately, both my intentions and my tone have been misinterpreted. That I was being snarky re: my comments is untrue, there was no intended malice. The anecdote that I shared was to bring my own teaching perspective into the discussion, not to diminish any others' comments. Yes, I did get defensive about getting attacked once again- my apologies.

I agree that there are many issues we need to address in our schools. Whether or not the rigor is worth the outcome is a good question. I suppose the question is if the community is interested in the teacher's perspective? If so, perhaps we can work together to address some of this issues, as we did in collaboration on the homework committee last year. I've tried to share a bit of this perspective with honesty and good intentions. From this thread it appears that there is not a lot of interest to for all perspectives so I shall gracefully bow out now.

I suppose the question is- do you really want change? Do you really want to open a dialogue and discuss the myriad of issues that affect the originally posed question? If so, perhaps we should all make the assumption that we can work together for the common good to make change. Or of course, we can just attack.



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Posted by A stone cold, honest question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Here is my honest question. A basic premise here is that "very good but not ridiculously outstanding" students at Paly and Gunn have trouble gaining entrance into top-level UCs for a few reasons that have been mentioned:

1. - the comparison vs so many outstanding students at Paly/Gunn means they have lower grades vs kids in other "easier" districts
2. the same # of "outstanding" paly/gunn students soak up all the admit letters from top colleges even as they obviously will only attend 1 school.
3. - some teachers grade differently than others
4. - Paly/Gunn seem to place a premium on brute force "rigor" which is tough when you have 5,6 classes (and can also lower grades at times)

Here is my question. It would seem like all 4 issues above -- and with certainty #1 and #2 -- would also be present at local private schools. So is this an issue there too? Or is there something unique to Paly/Gunn?

Think about it:
Menlo, Sacred Heart Prep, Castelleja, Bellarmine, CS Uplands, St Ignatius, etc. ALL of those schools have oodles of very talented students and I'm sure some inconsistency in teachers/grades. So do they have this "UC admit" problem and if not -- why not? It can't be just that their guidance counselors are bette networkers.

It is very hard to understand how this issue is 100% the result of 1-4 noted above when all of those factors exist -- and could even be worse - at these local private schools. Do we think we uniquely have lots of smart kids wanting the same thing? Why are they apparently able to still get in to these schools everyone is so interested in. I am seriously asking for insight here.

Put another way -- what's a better choice? Send you kid to a local good (but not too good) public high school (say MA or MV) so issues above are less a factor, or send your kid to local private schools that seem to overcome the "there are too many smart kids" problem.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Kelli -- this is a dialogue. You won't always like what you hear in a dialogue, but that doesn't mean you aren't having one. You are hearing parents' concerns about grading and rigor, as well as my concerns about how you reacted to the ratemyteachers.com reviews by students.

None of the parents on this forum, including me, have said we didn't want to talk to you or hear your perspective. I think you got some critical feedback on some of your thoughts but mostly I heard people agree with some of your comments on homework.

In the future I hope you will consider that it is not appropriate for you to attack students in a way that could make them individually identifiable and reveal confidential information in a public forum. Hopefully the district offers training to teachers in FERPA but as this is PAUSD one never knows.

It strikes me again as emotional of you to declare that we don't want to hear your voice when we did hear it and engage fully and thoughtfully with it. We just didn't agree with all you said. [Portion removed.]

The homework committee was great, except that the district ignored the policy. Perhaps we should have a "grading consistency task force" [portion removed.]


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Posted by Humble Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Just for the record, many of us parents want our kids to go to the best colleges for their sake, ie to get a good education and to get a good job, not for bragging rights as some posters have so simplistically suggested. In the real world, it makes a big difference whether you went to Harvard or a community college. What other people think is trivial.


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Posted by Kelli Hagen
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Confidential information? Really? As stated, the anecdote shared is representative of students/parents/tutoring every year.

You call this critical feedback? Wow.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

You posted that the students who gave you ratings that were poor on rate my teacher were also students in your class, you gave information from which people could figure out when they were in your class (that "C", a fellow student elaborated on), and you stated that this was "A group that destroyed a poor Jr High teacher when they went through 4 years ago. A small vocal group that harassed me for "As" all year long."

This gave information that you had as a teacher that 4 of your students (identifiable as to class based on your post and "C"s) had "destroyed" a junior high teacher (information that you had access to as a teacher), wanted to receive As in your class (information that you had access to as a teacher and that reveals information about grading in a class). From your post, it may well be possible for other students to ascertain who you are talking about and then to know information about their experiences with both their grades in your class and possible disciplinary or other information about middle school.

I don't know if you did or did not reveal information about these students. What I said was that I hope in the future you will refrain from lashing out at students in a public online forum., You are a teacher and you are expected to maintain professional distance from your negative reviews or other events. There may be a proper forum to complain about student behavior but this is definitely not it.

You seem very emotional and reactive to criticism and I think you should take a step back where student criticism of teachers is involved.

PAUSD has no culture of compliance for its teachers.


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Posted by Hard Tests are Good
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Hard tests don't mean lower grades. A hard testing teacher could curve to be as easy a grader as the school or district rules allow.

But harder tests shift the emphasis from scrabbling over minor points to real differences in what was learned or how well it was learned.

Hard tests are not aligned with culling, but culling happens. Mostly self-culling. Would you rather it be based on test taking skills and points lost due to imperfection, or based on bigger things?


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

It occurs to me that there is a communication gap caused by the term "rigor" - it seems to mean many things to many people.

For example, I consider a rigorous course to be taught from a more difficult text, with more challenging concepts, probably with more difficult homework. Possibly with a more advanced instructor capable of discerning subtleties in the subject matter. May involve more critical thought, or independent thought. This is "rigor" in a fair sense.

There is a good place for this - an upper level course vs. a Freshman course for example. An Honors course vs. a regular lane.

However, there is a different meaning for "rigor" which is implied in some postings - that is simply a more difficult class. Harder in ways that are not warranted: too much homework, excessively hard tests, tests which go way beyond the classroom work, etc.

Unwarranted "rigor" is often misplaced - for example in a non-honors class, or in a lower-level course vs. a upper level course. Or when a single teacher makes their section of a course much harder than their peers teaching the same subject.

This unwarranted "rigor" is unfair, unmanaged, and damaging to students motivation and grades. I believe this is what needs to be addressed by the survey questions on teacher consistency.

I like the comparison to the Homework Committee - the homework committee examined the amount and *relevance* of homework. Similarly, we should be setting standards for the relevance of "rigor".

I have no problem with well-placed rigor in an honors class, when applied consistently from teacher-to-teacher, year-to-year. However, when a single teacher creates a new lane of much higher challenge it becomes a serious problem.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Hard Tests are: You are assuming students LOVE and excel in the subject. TooMuch is correct in saying that "rigor" should be kept in AP and Honors classes and has no place in regular lanes, which are mandatory classes for graduation. Some teachers understand this, others don't.


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Posted by high school is for building a college resume
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Testing on topics that the teacher has not bothered to teach does not belong in high school classes. AP classes are "theoretically" college level, so a teacher should have more leeway.

Teachers should teach what they expect their students to learn. Homework should be a reinforcement or extension, not a replacement for instruction.

Teacher should remember they are not college professors, they are there to teach students not to get the lowest hanging fruit to drop out or fail. That is what college is for.

Teachers should remember grades are as important as learning when it comes to getting inot college.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Ms. Hagen is one of the more moderate teachers at Paly. Please consider that she's on an online forum. You can't hear tone through words, but I assure you, she's being quite polite. Regarding ratemyteacher, if the title wasn't obvious enough, it's designed for rating a teacher you had. So yes, obviously the people who rated her poorly were in her class -- anyone and everyone who rated her was in her class! That's not news. Regarding the truants, not only did she get the number of years wrong (it's not 4 since they passed through; 4 would put them in my grade) and never listed the number of students as 4 (she said 4 years).

Moving on. To the parents who aren't happy with B's -- I don't like them much either, but I don't go to teachers and beg them to move them up to A's (usually) -- is this a way of implying that everyone should have A's? Or because B's in are district are equal to A's in others, B's should become A's? Well, then what about the A's? How do they get distinguished?

I think PAUSD's rigor is worth it. Although only April will tell, I think I'm set to go to a quality 4 year college and not feel out of place there. I've gotten A's and B's, never a C, and I think I'm doing just fine.


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Posted by Paly senior
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Charlotte stop posting facts about this situation (truants, that they're not seniors etc.) you are not helping this situation. Though you are nicely illustrating the problem paly dad is trying to point out. Agree that Hagen is a moderate workload teacher. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Interesting how everybody knows who everybody is.

Making this thread about a particular teacher or a particular set of students is like worrying about a facelift while we're having a stroke.

Bottom line is that workload and grades are very high stakes in Palo Alto because there are so few students from PAUSD enrolling in the UCs which would be a natural thing to aspire to. We are sold on an image of excellence but our students cannot aspire to their state schools and are directed to a red carpet to Community college.

We're basically masochists. We accept the dismal enrollment numbers of PAUSD students at UCs and punish ourselves with as much rigor in world and grades as can be found, to prove what and to whom?

We tout admission rates to UCs that mean nothing because students are actually discouraged to apply to the top UCs and the admission rate looks inflated. It's always the same top 10% of the graduating class that get in, and the lower the amount of applicants from the graduating class each year, the higher the admission rate looks. Nobody is doing us any favors. Insult to injury, the ones who are accepted do not enroll. How can they, they are only 60 students, and they can only go to 1 school.

Mrs Hagen,

I am interested in your perspective, as a teacher in our district and a California taxpayer, what do you think about the UC enrollment rates of PAUSD students? Compared to the local private schools?

A stone cold question,

The only way to know is to have more the facts. How do local private schools fare in their admission and enrollment rates at the UCs? Or an imaginary question, what if our applicants or PAUSD applied as a private school. Would the blind spot of the top 10% go away?

The auto admission of the top 10% relieves the UCs of any effort in looking at our students beyond those students who never enroll anyway. Somebody must be laughing at some of these admissions offices.

When the UCs ran out of funding, how did that impact the California private school admission rates? Menlo seems to have a very robust amount of admissions. DId they actually increase their numbers after funding went down? They're not out of state. For all we know, we are the only ones going around with the mantra of "we can't get in."

If we set a goal to have more PAUSD students enrolled at the UCs, even if it's 2 more at UCLA this year, or 2 more at Davis, maybe district leaders could get creative about making that happen.

It's not just up to the counselors. I maintain this is a political fiasco.



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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm



typo

we punish ourselves with as much rigor IN WORKLOAD and grades as can be found....


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Re: Kelli Hagen and C

As a parent of a senior who had Kelli Hagen for Chem H, I should be in a good position to guess who are the students referred to in Kelli Hagen's and C's posts if it was that easy to guess. However, I have no clue who they are. I truly think it can't be guessed unless you are personally really close to those students maybe.

It could be that PalyDad is the father of one those students, for example. Well, then, of course, he would guess who is being talked about. Otherwise, seriously, there is no way of knowing.

So, please let's not get so excited about this and let's keep to the topic at hand, i.e. workload at Paly and grades vs college admissions, etc.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

As previous people posted, what does "worth it" mean? And it's relative - certainly if one is constrained to the local area (say from San Jose to Burlingame) there are a number of private schools, but admission is not guaranteed. And then there is the cost of private school ($25,000 - $35,000/year).

And of the local public schools, Monta Vista & Lynbrook can be even more "rigorous" than either Paly or Gunn.

From the statistics, Paly and Gunn are doing well in UC admissions. There can be a lot of reasons why those offered admission don't enroll. As a graduate from Berkeley, freshman classes in the math & science were all 400 - 500 students per class, and many will prefer a smaller environment.

Besides a large number of admissions to colleges are not necessarily based on academic merit - athletes, legacies, financial donors, affirmative action mean that 40-50% of the available space is already spoken for.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Can someone explain the paths to UC admissions for PAUSD students? From Middle School, there is an A-G push, even though so few students get into UCs

A-G in PAUSD is like the bridge to nowhere.

Anyway, according to the UC website there are two paths for all California students. One of them is a "statewide" path which favors students who are in the top 9 percent of California students according to an admissions index. I would imagine this path would yield more UC admits from Palo Alto than the "local path" where "you must rank in the top 9 percent of your graduating class at a participating California high school."

Note the admissions index all are basically based on GPA!


from website Web Link

Two paths to UC

For the highest-achieving California applicants, we have two programs. If you are in one of the following groups and you are not admitted to any of the UC campuses you apply to, you'll be offered a spot at another campus if there's space.

Statewide path

You must rank in the top 9 percent of California students according to our admissions index.


Local path

You must rank in the top 9 percent of your graduating class at a participating California high school. This is also known as Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC).


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:37 pm



The will to win is everything


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm

common sense,

Ok, a percentage of students get in, the top 10% get in, I don't see how that means "Paly and Gunn are doing well in UC admissions." Yes there is a heartbeat.

The top 10% don't enroll because there aren't enough of them to get to all the schools that also want them.

Paly and Gunn students, if everyone applies to the top UC's this year we could see the real admissions number. The admission rates simply reflect the amount of students that get in automatically, divided by the number of who applies. The less people apply the better it looks, an everybody seems content with that.

In my simplistic view, enrollment rates should be the focus not admissions rates.




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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 8:55 pm

@PA parent, the students being discussed are evidently juniors not seniors, per "C" (and had Chem last year). According to "C" "everyone" knew about whatever happened in middle school, but possibly not "everyone" knew that the involved students were the same students who had some issue with Ms. Hagen or were in her Chem class, or were unhappy with their grade, or posted to ratemyteacher.com. Etc. So, it does not seem you would be able to guess. But plenty of students probably can.

I have never had a student in Ms. Hagen's class and had no opinion of her before today. But I do not think it is appropriate for her to vent about students posting negative reviews and to discuss other information about those students which might be privacy related in an online forum. That crosses a line to me -- these are not college or professional students. They are 14 year olds and she is an adult teacher. It is not professional.

I suspect the difference in admissions between local private schools and Paly/Gunn is explained primarily by the difference in college counseling. Private schools have a very high touch and personalized college counseling experience. At Gunn I understand from reading this forum that there is basically no personalization -- students are lucky to meet once per year. At Paly it is better than that, but not the same as at Menlo. The counselor letter, the teacher recommendations etc. are just going to be a lot more detailed and personal on average.

In addition, the quality of the education is better. Classes are smaller, resources are greater. In addition, these colleges have experience with our graduates and with the graduates of local private schools so the product of each school is a known quantity to the admissions officers. Could it be that PAUSD students often have reputation for being not as good as their SATs predict? That they are not well-rounded, that they have been "doing school" rather than developing a love of learning or independent thought? That all those APs have created good test takers but not creative risk takers?

Harvard dean of admissions WIlliam Fitzsimmons blogged in 2009 in the NYT: "While we value objective criteria, we apply a more expansive view of excellence. Test scores and grades offer some indication of students' academic promise and achievement. But we also scrutinize applications for extracurricular distinction and personal qualities.

Students' intellectual imagination, strength of character, and their ability to exercise good judgment — these are critical factors in the admissions process, and they are revealed not by test scores but by students' activities outside the classroom, the testimony of teachers and guidance counselors, and by alumni/ae and staff interview reports."

Web Link

Princeton's admissions dean noted the same thing (NYT 2012): "Admission officers understand that standardized tests measure quantitative ability, critical reading, an understanding of some subject areas, and writing skills. Combined with your grades, they only partially predict first-year performance in college. They do not predict, however, other values we hold in high esteem at the college level, such as motivation, creativity, independent thought, intellectual curiosity and perseverance.

When we shape our class, we look for students who will continually challenge themselves and contribute to a lively exchange of knowledge and ideas in the classroom. We seek students whose interests are varied and who have a record of accomplishment in athletics or the arts. We look for qualities that will help them become leaders in their fields and in their communities."

Web Link

All of these admissions officers are repeat players and Paly and Gunn are repeat players as well. These colleges have knowledge of what a "Gunn applicant" or a "Paly applicant" does at their institution over the course of four years. Perhaps they see stressed out students who got somewhat burned out in high school. Perhaps they see students who learned to memorize a lot of facts but weren't given a lot of opportunities for creative or expansive thinking when compared with students from well-known NYC private or New England prep schools. Our kids are competing with the entire country for those slots, and while there is a popular belief in PA that having gone to Paly or Gunn and getting a B is better than an A somewhere else, perhaps that is not the only reputational fact ("rigor") about our schools that is known to admissions officers.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm



Paly Dad,

As relevant as private college admissiion practices are to the overall thread, first addressing the UC enrollment rates for PAUSD students would be more helpful, my 2 cents. And mixing the conversations takes away the focus from the major problem.

Why even discuss A-G with Middle School students if there is no plan for having students actually enroll at UCs. Grades are major for the UC's "admission index." Yet the schools do not tire in convincing us that B's are wonderful, and that our B's are A's elsewhere.







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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm


Paly Dad,

"All of these admissions officers are repeat players and Paly and Gunn are repeat players as well. These colleges have knowledge of what a "Gunn applicant" or a "Paly applicant" does at their institution over the course of four years"

UCLA has a sample of 2 Paly players. That is hardly a sample of Paly applicants.

Reading what Harvard and Princeton want, I can see many Paly and Gunn students fit the bill.
I would add that Paly and Gunn students have survival skills that many of the small private school students don't develop as much. Just making it through these big schools should be a credit to the students.

I don't think the burnout is the issue, but the limited prospects at the end of it all. No wonder we keep hearing "there are many schools out there for everyone" just not the UCs!






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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

@palydad

you say "I suspect the difference in admissions between local private schools and Paly/Gunn is explained primarily by the difference in college counseling. Private schools have a very high touch and personalized college counseling experience. At Gunn I understand from reading this forum that there is basically no personalization -- students are lucky to meet once per year. At Paly it is better than that, but not the same as at Menlo. The counselor letter, the teacher recommendations etc. are just going to be a lot more detailed and personal on average."

I want to clarify that you are referring to private college admissions statistics. This thread has focused on UC admission rates. The UC's do not use any letters of recommendation in their admission process. The UC application is just essays, a list of extra curriculars and a personal statement. No letters of rec (teacher or counselor) are part of the application.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm



Palo Verde parent,

I hope everyone will start looking at enrollment rates. Admission rates are bogus.

The number of students "accepted" by the UC's is always about 10% of the class - the top 10% which are students that rarely enroll at all the UCs they were accepted at. These admits go to Stanford, and all the other schools that also want them. These are admission rates you cannot really enjoy or celebrate, like magic, they disappear into nothing.

Admission rates vary primarily by the amount of applicants. The smaller the pool of applicants the larger the "admission rate" appears. Fewer students apply to the UCs in greater demand, so these "admission" rates look really big!










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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm

@pvp and @back to learning

I already put forth my theory of UC admissions and PAUSD, which is about GPA. The UC admits based on a formula of grades and scores -- it also considers essays and extracurriculars. The most likely explanation that I can think of is that students from PAUSD are harmed at the most selective UCs by the "rigor" that is the subject of this thread and by the unregulated and unmanaged arbitrariness and inconsistency in grading. Students work hard, get a 5 on the AP test and get a C in the class. C's on a transcript are going to make it very challenging for a student to be admitted to Berkeley or UCLA or SD.

There is a counseling piece in terms of students over-applying to too many schools and taking up all the oxygen in the room. Counselors should be able to direct students away from over-application. That's one issue. Then the same 60 kids are not scooping up all the acceptances.

I also think that it is a distinct possibility that the PAUSD "brand" is not "rigor" it's "homework robot." Schools want well-rounded creative kids and they can get them from within the pile of perfect test score/perfect GPA kids. Those with obviously cultivated resumes or obvious parental help on the essay just go into the trash.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm

C - your counter was that there is so much less class time in college that students are expected to do way more reading outside of class. So 'homework' in college is way more rigorous... First of all, I'm not suggesting that the high school classes MEET any less, they all still have 4 meetings per week in high school - plenty of time to keep pace with what they currently cover in class. Just that they limit homework to 2x per week. Secondly, the volume of work covered in a typical college class is much more and much faster - an entire textbook in one semester. Whereas in high school they may cover a textbook in the entire course of the year. The amount of time in class, and the total volume and pace of material is much slower than in college. There is simply no reason for a single class to give more than two assignments per week. And when you take the much slower paced high school class but multiply the workload by 5-6 - this is purely abusive. Someone above used the word 'hazing'. Absolutely correct. For students that wish for that level of challenge let them sign up for the APs or the advanced classes, and make those differences distinctly clear.

As for absurdly difficult tests where the high grades are 70%, and the curve adjusts accordingly - NOT OK. What that creates is an inordinate amount of study pressure for kids with no idea where they have to land to get an A. Therefore you have a big majority of the students in this environment overstudying, and probably overstudying x5 or x6 because they have no realistic gauge of a reasonable amount of study for an A. ITS EXCESSIVE. ITS UNREASONABLE . Again, use this approach in courses meant to 'weed kids out'. But, the average high school classroom should not be about weeding kids out. This practice should be completely forbidden. The practice of curving should remain - because it holds teachers accountable for unreasonably hard tests - but teachers should be forced to report their curving and non-curved test results to administration to ensure they are setting appropriate measurements.

Its a culture of excessiveness that is not helping our kids get in to college. Its forcing our college costs up because there are plenty of private schools (at MUCH higher cost) that are willing to accept our "B" students from Palo Alto.

AND, if we had more students with UC qualifying GPAs, we'd have more applicants to the UC system, and we'd likely have more ACCEPTANCES to the UC system because those wouldn't be the same pool of 55 that are using UC's as their backup plan. We'd have many more who reside lower in the academic food chain (but still worthy of UCs in the Statewide sense), applying AND ACCEPTING, because UC's would be their first choice. Keep in mind many of those 55 are really eyeballing the elitest of the elite schools - Stanfords, Ivy's, etc. For those elite 55, UCLA and Cal are merely 'safety' schools (fallback). I knew three of these girls on my daughters team, and their mothers were like, oh no WAY were these girls interested in the UCLA, or Cal (that they all got accepted to) because those schools held no candle to Stanford or to the multiple Ivy's they were also accepted to.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Has anyone considered that the attendance:acceptance rate is low at many of the UC's because they have the exact same application, so once you apply to one there isn't any reason (other than the $50 surcharge or whatever it is) to not apply to the others? If you were to apply to another university, for example, you would have to do more supplements. I think this is to blame for the inflated number of applicants (1 in 8 students of the graduating class? For some UCs, 1 in 4?).


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:20 pm

C,

Can you please explain how the denominator in the admissions rate has any relevance?

Per your data, the bottom line for all the A-G talk in PAUSD. is 63 students to UC's this year. Taking UCB out, there are more going to Foothill College (31) than all the UCs listed here combined.

7 going to UC Davis

28 UC Berkeley

7 UC Santa Cruz

2 UC Merced

12 UC Santa Barbara

2 UC Los Angeles (UCLA)

5 UC San Diego (UCSD)

As you have pointed out, plenty apply. What if less people applied, how would that change anything?

I think 100% should apply, then we would have real admission rates, but the focus should still be enrollment.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:36 pm

per the UC website

"Over 90 percent of UC undergraduates are California residents. They are a vibrant and diverse group, encompassing the cultural, racial, socioeconomic and geographic richness of our state."

I do not buy that funding and out of state students are what make it impossible to attend a UC.

Some UCs may have forgotten that Palo Alto is in California. or that Paly and Gunn are also a diverse group, encompassing the cultural, racial, socioeconomic and geographic richness of our state."







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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:47 pm

C,

The numbers are actually only Paly, but you get the picture I hope. Keep in mind that the top 10% are accepted on auto-pilot.

Nominator in the admissions rate is relatively fixed, or at least 10% guaranteed, so a higher or lower denominator is deceiving when the 10% accepted never enroll.

It will be news when the admission rate has some sort of relevance to enrollment numbers.




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Posted by resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm

I am reading the thread late, but I want to thank Teacher Kelli Hagen for her courage and honesty. I truly appreciate a teacher sharing professional, actual life in the classroom experience.

I think your checklist for actually needing a tutor was spot on. And I have no trouble believing the results from your in-class polls. More parents attribute their "neighbors'" success to tutoring and extreme intervention than is actually warranted.

I also want to thank "C" for sharing a student's perspective on this topic. You were very thoughtful and helpful in your comments. I appreciate your taking time to write in this forum.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:04 am

Parent, Charleston

I'm not sure more A's will result in more UC enrollment if the path used is the "Local path" per the UC admissions website.

"You must rank in the top 9 percent of your graduating class at a participating California high school. " If PAUSD is a "participating" high school, the same kids will be getting the admits. The UCs would admit more than 9 or 10% of PAUSD because?

The "statewide path" looks like would have more room, but I don't know if that is even an option.

per website
Statewide path

You must rank in the top 9 percent of California students according to our admissions index.

Ideally, somebody would just be plain with the UCs and say the 10% they always admit never enroll and we have other candidates we would like them to seriously give another chance. I know, wishful thinking.

A capable politician could handle this one.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:05 am

Whew.

First, I appreciate Ms. Hagen's courage for commenting as a teacher, using her name. That takes guts.

Second, I don't see any violation of privacy. I looked at the ratemyteacher site and, yep, there was a cluster of negative ratings. Go back to 2011 and there were ratings of 94 percent. Pretty much a red flag that the ratings on this teacher aren't an unbiased sample.

So she acknowledged that some of our hallowed students are troublemaking brats? She didn't identify them, but the very idea that some kids are brats and might be seen as much is horrendous? Give me a break--I'm sorry that no one's seemed to have held these kids *more* accountable.

Third. I've known kids who got into the UCs (including the few that seem to rate as "real" UCs in this forum). Here's why didn't go: money. Yep, the private schools offered them better financial aid packets. I've known others who didn't go because they didn't like the environment--Berkeley and UCLA are huge schools and both were a lot more "fun" thirty years ago. Combine the huge school issue with the high cost--and, well, the low enrollment doesn't simply indicate that a small number of kids were admitted everywhere while no one else was. That's a leap of logic that isn't necessarily warranted.

Fourth, this is a touchy subject, but there really is a range of ability and interest among the kids here. They do skew bright, but some are brighter (or more engaged or more mature) than others. My sense is that most parents here were among the best and the brightest way back when--but in PA simply working hard and following the rules will not make you automatically a top student. Back when I was in high school there was one kid genius--several of us were bright--but he was exceptional and we all knew it. He was the only one like that in the seven years my siblings and I were at that school.

That percentage is a lot higher here and it skews things. I've seen classes where the math levels ranged over five years. I've seen kids solve complex mathematics problems quickly and seemingly intuitively in minutes, while other kids will struggle and struggle. But they're in the *same* advanced class. And, more to the point, the parents of the struggling student want that child in the advanced class. Usually, they're not fully aware of the gap between different kids or the struggle.

Maybe it's all the fault of the teachers and, really, I've nothing good to say about the issues with UC enrollment--I think the UC system is failing its mission to provide higher education for Californians. However, my experience with my fellow parents is that there's some blind spots on that side as well.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:39 am

Opar,

The parental blind spot starts when? Are you saying the top 10% is the cap of bright students in our schools, maybe. It certainly is one explanation, we either have dumb students, bad schools, or something bad. Or as someone suggested, we're already blessed by being so rich, we should not deprive more deserving Californians (like Menlo School applicants) from UC spots.

If 90% of undergraduates at the UCs are California residents, we must be really bad to not have better representation of PAUSD at the UCs. The problem is our parental blind spot? Sorry, this makes no sense to me.




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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:29 am

Both of my children went to Gunn and did well. One handled the stress and competition poorly, the other sailed through with no stress at all. Both went to top UC's and are thriving now in bay area jobs (hooray!!). each child is different. We considered private school for the one child who was stressed but stayed with the public school. The world out there is big and scary and the "grind" of Gunn is good preparation, sad to say.


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Posted by Hard Tests are Good
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:05 am

Charleston Parent-

In my book, the impact of tests on the strategies of those students there to optimize their credentials does not trump the impact of tests on the learning of those students interested in the subject.

I agree that teachers should try hard to motivate all students, including those who do poorly on tests early in the term or even throughout the term.


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Posted by Thank you Mrs. Hagen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:35 am

I appreciate your candor and recognize your example as a general amalgam of a type of student parents tend to be in denial about rather than referencing any one student. You're a great teacher and in my experience, you care about the learning of all students


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:11 am

back to learning,

The UCs are intended for the top 12.5% seniors in CA. The CSUs are intended for the top 33%.
Web Link

The UC's statewide path GUARANTEES a UC spot to the top 9% determined by a formula that looks at GPA and SAT scores. Plug in the Paly SAT averages and you'll see that a student with "average" Paly SAT scores and a 3.O GPA falls into CA's top 9%.

So the discussion about PAUSD teachers giving out too many Bs does not seem to fit in a PAUSD UC discussion.

Well over half of Paly's graduating class last year had a UC spot if they wanted one so maybe the 60 Paly seniors who were rejected were in the bottom half of the class.

Paly seniors who say that a few "Bs" kept them out of the UCs either:
- Got an offer at a UC campus they did not want to attend,
- Had SAT scores that put them in the bottom 1/2 of the class (which kept them out of the top 12% in the US too),
- Didn't complete their UC application properly or on time,
- Got Cs they forget to mention, etc.

Updating some of your facts:

As I posted earlier the UC admissions landscape has changed considerably. System-wide 1 out of 4 offers are given to outsiders now, yielding a much lower than 90% from-CA matriculation rate.

UCLA over-admits 65% - students it does not have room for. UCB 60%. The rest 80%. So the UCs already do what you say they should do: give offers to the very top and lesser "qualified" students too.


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:19 am

* "Well over half of Paly's graduating class last year had a UC spot if they wanted one" was based on Paly seniors' SAT scores and GPAs that someone linked to above.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:35 am


Thank you,

"appreciate your candor and recognize your example as a general amalgam of a type of student parents tend to be in denial about"

Amalgam? A nice Chemistry touch.

Thank you for making the thread about Mrs. Hagan. It would be ideal if the view about parental denial would be made more official from teachers like Mrs. Hagan.

Instead of making 8th graders hyperventilate with A-G worksheets and advisories, the district needs to come clean. UC's are not where Palo Alto students enroll. Those very few that get in, never go, and there is no spot for others. More are headed to Foothill college. It's some sort of hazing ritual to talk about A-G.

Our teachers think parents have a blind spot. I certainly do, I cannot see the logic in any of this. One of the top ranked districts in California, and one of the largest, has 2, 5, 4, 2, 12 and such numbers going to different UCs.

Parental denial indeed.









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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:48 am



Observations,

UC Berkeley: 118 applied, 65 admitted, 18 enrolled

UCLA: 120 applies, 58 admitted, 2 enrolled

UC San Diego: 126 applies, 69 admitted, 5 enrolled

Do you have the specific applied/admitted for the other UCS?

I would want to know this for each of the remaining UCs to see exactly where the "guaranteed" spots are. And we do need the data on if the accepted students tend to be the same students.

So far, I am seeing the REJECTIONS at these three schools. Davis must be similar to these numbers. Which UC ihas the least rejections to make any sense out of your comment?




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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:52 am



Observations,

Very few apply to the top schools, and that is the ONLY reason the admission rates look high!

If we would discourage everyone from applying to the top schools, the admissions rate would be even higher. Useless number.

Who exactly is qualifying where? Not these three schools, please provide the data for the others.

Weekly,

No interest in this story? You could get this data from the new PR person.




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Posted by Menlo School mom
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

We opted out of PAUSD for exactly these reasons. Excessive busywork homework, excessive tutoring, big differences in grades between teachers and unresponsive teachers. I'm just surprised that more Palo Alto parents don't so the same, since they could afford it.


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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

back to learning,

Your posts assume that UCs are the be-all-and-end-all. I am not sure why you are laser-focused on them. I knew top UC-qualified seniors who didn't even apply to a UC, opting for the smaller, more focused CSUs which BTW have the a-g requirement too (as do most private colleges, though they don't call it that).

It is not a UC vs. Foothill track for Paly kids as you say. There are lots of colleges in between that well over half of Paly grads go to. It breaks down about the same every year which is something like this:

Privates: 50%
Community College: 15%
UCs: 15%
CSUs: 5%
Publics in other states: 10%
Other: the rest

UC Merced and Riverside accept around 80% of those who apply. Paly will have the most up-to-date numbers.

As for specifics on which students apply where with which GPAs/SAT scores and what schools accept and reject them, that information is available in Naviance.

That info is not as helpful as you'd think because top students got rejections and quiet, not-campus-standouts got acceptances. Admissions is subjective and so is a frustrating, uncertain, stressful and fluky process for almost all seniors except those who want to go to community college.


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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:41 am

Somewhere is all of this is how "large" PAUSD is relative to other districts. Forget about it. Not even one of the largest in our county relative to high school students. Palo Alto Unified is about the same ADA number as Gilroy Unified.

East Side Union, San Jose Unified, Fremont Union all have more High School Students, not to mention very large districts like Stockton, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:18 am

I am so pleased to see this being discussed here and hope that it gets a wider berth.

I have had the UCs requirements rammed down my throat ever since we started in high school as if it is the norm for PAUSD students to get there. I had my doubts and now this proves my fears.

The problem is going to be getting it fixed and I think that there is only so much the schools or parents can do, the big fix has to come from higher up.

On an alternative tangent, how easy is it to transfer into the UCs from Foothill or from a CSU? I am told it is not as easy as it used to be. Anyone have any info?


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:34 am

observations,

"I am not sure why you are laser-focused on them" (the UC's)

Well, the admission rates at the private schools do not seem that great either. We could focus on them. Enrollment at Harvard 2, Yale 2. The top 10% also getting in there.

The original question was for all the rigor and hard work, is it worth it? "Sure, the top 10 percent do well, but everyone else only go to OK schools."

I have now learned that only 15% of PAUSD students actually go to UCs.

You're saying it's because UCs are not the end all be all.

Ok.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:43 am



Old Steve,

PAUSD is supposedly one of the largest districts among the higher ranked school districts in CA.

We are apparently still not competitive enough, but increasing the workload I am afraid will not do anything.

Paly parent,

"I have had the UCs requirements rammed down my throat ever since we started in high school as if it is the norm for PAUSD students to get there"

I know. It would be helpful if the kids getting the UC worksheets, as early as 8th grade, would also be told the truth.



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Posted by observations
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

back,

If this is because you expected that your hard-working child would go to Harvard, Berkeley, UCLA or Yale, you probably should have done more homework before plopping your child into a school district. These are the most competitive colleges in the world. No public school district can promise students spots there.


More seniors at private schools like Menlo may get in but 1) your child has to get admitted (it is harder to get into Menlo than Harvard I hear), 2) it'll set you back $200k in tuition to "better" your child's chances, and, once there, 3) your child will be competing with seniors whose parents' status (celebs, very wealthy, alums) gives them an admissions edge over yours.

The "average stats" for incoming seniors at Yale is almost impossible to attain, even for Palo Alto's hard working tikes. 25% who enrolled at Yale had PERFECT SAT reading, writing and math scores. To underscore that - 1 out of every 4 Yale students are the top 1% in the world. The others are not far behind.

There are many reasons posted here why working hard in high school is good. Chasing after Harvard, Yale and UCLA spots do not top the list IMHO. You may come out differently and advise your child to cut back or transfer. That's OK.

But there is no reason to blame PAUSD for offering rigor to the students who want it. Others can accept a lower grade or take an easier class. Paly has 5 lanes in some subjects. One will be "just right" for most Paly students.






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Posted by former paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Re-joining the thread here just to note that this is a valuable thread for the younger parents who care about appropriate child development, education, learning, successful college experiences, etc.
The problem is, you are in a place where other parents may not share your values and are acutely aware of the "competitive" aspect of the teen world. It is there but should not absolutely rule teen kids' lives!!!
In our experience, we witnessed a lot of kids apply to a TON of schools -- way more than in "olden days" -- for a)prestige category -- like: apply to ALL Ivy League schools even though the student didn't even know all the schools (you have to be awfully handheld to have visited all the Ivies or really know them...) - or have real reason to apply to all as some might not be good fits for what the student wished to study or other various factors but prestige with peers, parents, relatives is a big factor in decision of where to apply
2)backup apps: wouldn't really attend. Sad to say, the latter category included major UC's like UCLA! I know several UCLA admits who were unexcited about that admit when I commented how nice, you were admitted there. Newsflash: there are some very good public universities out there, including OUTSIDE of California!
I witnessed acceptances to UC Davis, in particular, sneered at and refused. I know a number of people who attended UCD who received excellent educations and are highly successful middle-aged adults, but because to some degree the school is not listed as the "top" UC and may be lesser known overseas, too, it is sometimes looked down on (erroneously IMO). That IS a serious school!
Some schools, esp. privates have MARKETED themselves to overseas parents and have better name recognition now. That's marketing, not necessarily an indication of quality of undergrad ed, history of the school, strengths, fit and so on.
So, parents are not even accurate about what they look down at!
What would be best would be if students would please apply to universities they are truly interested in and really would like to attend.
Harvard is not necessarily a good fit for you, really, though some INSIST it is #1 and that's all that matters. I agree that understanding rankings within a context, like top 25 or top 50 or large state flagship universities or small private colleges or major national universities all makes sense. But taking the US News & World Report, or worse, the Forbes rankings and treating them as gospel is misguided.
There is no magic way to determine when a particular college or university is #1, #2 specifically and irrevocably, and some of the stats and criteria used to "determine" rank are doctored and therefore only semi-reliable. I know a quite highly ranked university that has the attitude of not marketing their institution whereas some other universities like WashU are marketing heavily (perhaps bc located in a secondary city?)
I understand some sort of backup plan is needed in today's competitive and unsure admissions era, but it can be overdone, with result as detailed on this thread: denying opportunity to another PALY student with teensy eensy lesser stats to attend UCLA or another UC OR a private school where there was fit but where the school wishes to have geographic diversity and not offer many Palo Alto admissions. It is tricky with highly educated parents who may give some kids legacy priorities at some of the major universities, too.


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Posted by Crystal Springs dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

My wife and I are very happy with Crystal Springs for our sophomore son. He works reasonably but not excessively hard. Some of our friends have horror stories about the homework load for high school students, which is one of the reasons we made the switch. The college acceptance rate is very good. Crystal Springs dropped AP classes last year, but has honors classes that are more intellectually engaging and encourage critical thinking instead. "Rigor" doesn't necessarily mean "5 hours of homework a night", in fact, I wonder if students who are staying up that late can function well at school?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Crystal Springs sounds like a nice place. Website says 5 to 6 applicants for each opening. Must be a bargain.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Private schools live and die based on their college acceptance rates, so like the previous commenter mentioned, you can bet that they look at parent's alma maters, finances, and the applicant's diversity and/or sports abilities and all those other 'edges' that would help with college admission when the time comes.

If you are desperate to get into Menlo School, it's a lot easier to apply to the middle school (6th grade), than for high school. Another back door for richer applicants.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm

former Paly parent,

Thank you for bringing up the five lanes of Math. All unnecessary in the scenarios you suggest, which I have always suspected. The arrogance is not necessarily with the parents alone, but also with the Math department for example at Paly who balked at teaching an Algebra class in "regular" mode, for fear of don't know what.

A "B" in Palo Alto is not an A elsewhere, it's just a B. Overworked and stressed out students are all chasing the same regular colleges that any other school in California student can chase, except our entire system is turned towards the glamour and fictitious idea of admissions which belong to the few and mighty top 10%.

The kids who sneer at UC Davis are the ones who got in. They have multiple options and evidently never enroll in UCs. It's anecdotal to say "I met someone who got into UC..." Wow, who is getting to meet the 2 going to UCLA, they must be famous.

This is really a regular average school system with average college admissions numbers. We are not exceptional, the top 10% of the students are "exceptional", as they are everywhere. What is also exceptional are the PAUSD services and energy that cater to these few, and the favor these few carry with teachers. Writing a recommendation for them must be a piece of cake instead of writing one for all the mortals and slackers who are just regular.

In the case of UC's, we are not competing with out of state students who can pay; 90% of UC undergraduates are California residents, we are just not competitive in the state.

We should stop making 8th graders hyperventilate with those A-G forms. Leave them alone, it's everyone out for themselves, as you suggest people need to get real.

The rigor is unnecessary, unless we just want to be stupid to do more work than any average California does. As I said before, I think we are masochists.






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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

former Paly parent,

By the way, because of all the tutoring and parental help, the competition to be in the top 10% at Paly or Gunn is also exceptional.

I think most parents are careful to not let their kids be too unrealistic, but the eco-system is one that makes everyone feel they need to compete.

Some appreciate the pressure imposed by the kids themselves. It it nevertheless unhealthy and especially unnecessary given where people are going to college at the end of the day.




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Posted by Disillusioned
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Since its the kids who are suffering, sadists is more accurate. Re-read the Paly math letter for more context.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

@ Back to learning

Before commenting you need to get your stats right.

According to the schools' profiles (on their websites), Paly has 14% of its graduates enrolled at UCs. Gunn has 25% of its graduates enrolled at UCs. Remember that UCs promise a spot to only 9% of all California students.

Regarding the a-g requirements, they are important because they are pretty much universal, i.e. most universities have the same or very similar requirements. In the past parents complained that they and their kids were not sufficiently made aware of them. According to what you say, the district is now advertising them more. You complain it's too much. Fine, but it sure seems the district is damned if they do and damned if they don't. In any case, they can't please everyone.

Lastly, regarding a-g requirements, a pretty vocal group of Palo Alto parents has been demanding that they also become PAUSD HS graduation requirements. It's already being adopted for math. I guess the only major remaining difference is world languages (not required for graduation but required for most colleges).


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Posted by stressed out mom of stressed out student
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I think that TooMuchHomework and backtolearning are both very eloquent on the subject of the unnecessary stress that our students are under. It's a good problem statement. But no one is talking about the solution. We used to have district solutions on the table, such as SHARE (killed by the district), PSN's P-8 (killed by the district too according to another thread), and SOS (what happened to that?). Then there was WCDB, which seems to have gone away too, chased off by district officials (in my humble opinion) who were more concerned with high test scores than social emotional health and who didn't want to talk about stress, suicide, depression, eating disorders, cutting, or up all night homework anymore.

Their candidates narrowly lost BOE elections. That means that there is a sizeable but possibly not a majority of parents who care deeply about unnecessary stress. We used to have district focused goals for unnecessary stress - not anymore. It now seems to be full steam ahead by the school board and schools for more stress, more scores, more APs, more more more more.

Is the movement to reduce student stress and help our regular kids just have a childhood and get into college dead? Have we just surrendered? Those who are conscientious objectors just send their kids to private schools like the Daubers and move on? Does anyone still care about this? Will anyone care if there are not five suicides in a year? The unthinkable happened and yet nothing really changed. It is sad and discouraging.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

@ stressed out mom of stressed out student

I am so sorry your student is stressed out. I really think that the schools actually listened to parents. Having been a parent in the district for many years, I have witnessed a decrease in the overall amount of homework. I even asked my high school senior about it yesterday, because of this thread, and my senior said that there in less homework now than in freshman year.

I know that, last year, the math teacher made part of the homework optional. In other words, out of what used to be mandatory homework, part was not optional, and part still mandatory. So, that was a decrease.

Maybe not all teachers have applied this reduction, but it seems to be there has been a decrease. I also happen to think that homework is necessary because mastering a subject requires practice whether we like it or not (just like learning to play a musical instrument). On the other hand, some parents would be happy only if there was no homework at all. There is not way to please everyone.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm

part of the math homework is NOW optional (sorry for the typo).


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I don't think the problem is solved. I think heads went back in the sand. But what can we do?


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

PA Parent,

My stats were 15% for Paly. That is still very close to my point that the very top are admitted and where BTW, GPA in the UC admissions index is critical. Those Bs that are supposedly A's everywhere else, do not count for UCs.

You say

"Remember that UCs promise a spot to only 9% of all California students."

per UC website

"Over 90 percent of UC undergraduates are California residents" Practically all the admissions are destined for California students.

You are referring to the automatic admission or guaranteed process (which is not necessarily to the UC of your choice).

Statewide path

You must rank in the top 9 percent of California students according to our admissions index.

Local path

You must rank in the top 9 percent of your graduating class at a participating California high school. This is also known as Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC).

would you know if this is mutually exclusive or both are used by PAUSD students?

Private schools would likely fare better in the first path.

I am not arguing that PAUSD does not do a great job at placing the top 10 or 15% or that 10-15% are not competitive. In the case of UCs it is automatic if you fall in the top 9%.

I do think A-G in 8th grade is bizarre and if this is a must, it should also provide families with the reality on UC admissions. Yo don't think this adds to stress when students eventually become aware that they are never getting in?

Altogether, the thrust for raising the bar for the top 10-15% I believe negatively impacts the health and well being of the rest, given the tutors, parental interference, and so forth.
















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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

@ Back to learning

You requested the stats for all UCs. So, I gathered the stats for all UCs, but for Paly only. The numbers below do NOT include Gunn, so we CANNOT say they are Palo Alto numbers. They are only PALY numbers.

UC Campus applied / admitted / enrolled (Paly only)

UCB 118/65/18
UCD 128/73/8
USI 62/37/1
UCLA 120/58/2
UCM 9/3/2
UCR 22/8/1
UCSD 126/69/5
UCSB 116/58/11
UCSC 85/37/7

Interestingly, on Naviance you can see the data for the last 8 years or so (don't ask me to post it, I won't). It seems that a number of years ago, more students chose to enroll at UCs. It looks like the 2013 generation is almost an all time low for Paly. Just one example: 18 Paly kids chose to go to UC Davis in 2008 and 18 in 2009, vs. 8 in 2013 (there were also more applicants and more admitted students at UC Davis in those 2 years than in 2013. I noted a similar trend at several other UC campuses).

It could be a one year fluke or a real trend. Draw your own conclusions.

It seems you have a child in 8th grade. Having my last child in senior year, I'd like to invite you to relax a bit. Your child will be fine. There are many, many good options. There is a good "fit" for each child in the end.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:32 pm

The above stats were enrollments for 2013 graduates of Paly. Iforgot to mention the year, sorry.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

@ Back to learning

California is a big state with 30 or 35 + million inhabitants. and large numbers of high school graduates each year. So,

"UCs promise a spot to only 9% of all California students"
and
"Over 90 percent of UC undergraduates are California residents"
are not two mutually exclusive statements.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm

PA parent,

Thank you for the numbers. It's shocking to me. Maybe it's just me.

Thank you for the invitation to relax a bit. Sort of condescending but I think you mean well.

I will relax if district leadership will maybe accept some Homework from me.

Assignment for the District:

Go to the most PAUSD underrepresented UCs and ask what we could do better, to increase enrollment of PAUSD students at their campus.

Report back why, for example, UCLA only has two enrolled. Was it that they offered admission only to the top 10% (who declined for bigger better fish), or something else.

Set a goal to get more students enrolled into the UCs. Yes, like the rest of the world, some kids like sunny California, want to be closer to home, and not all are rich legacies at other private schools.

If you are not determined to do this, explain why not.

Last but not least, have oversight to make HW meaningful in every sense of the word. These are young people, and they actually need the space more often than not. Take this seriously.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Sorry if I sounded condescending. I only meant to be reassuring.

As I said, earlier in the thread, I have 2 children who graduated from UCs not in the "top 3' in recent years, they now live in the Bay Area and are doing better than many classmates who went to UC Berkeley, or say USC (private), or even Stanford in some cases. So, all in life does not boil down to attending a "top" university (not even future academic or professional success). That's all I meant to say. It boils down to finding the right fit, and also being to work hard enough. I am sure this applies to people who went to some non UC colleges as well.

Here is one suggestion for you: try to make an appointment with one of the Paly college counselors, or the freshman counselor, if you want. They'll be able to answer many of your questions. If they won't give you an appointment because you are not yet a Paly parent, make one first thing when you are in freshman year. They are great people and really try to help. I am convinced they'd be more than willing to talk with you.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Re: Back to learning

I've been reading this thread, and can't quite understand why you are so concerned about the UCLA enrollment rate. Isn't that more of a statement about UCLA - worry about funding, large school, dislike of LA, etc. - than anything else? Why should PAUSD care about any particular campus of the UC system? Don't students/parents "vote with their feet'?


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Posted by Hold on a minute
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

This thread is fascinating. I'm learning so much, although much of it is very concerning.

One thing I wanted to note is that everyone seems to be under the presumption that Menlo school kids do better than PAUSD kids. I'm not sure about that. The public website that Menlo school puts up regarding its college acceptances is cleverly done, albeit a bit deceptive. The list mentions ACCEPTANCES only, and therefore is subject to the same biases related to multiple offers. Also, the list is a compilation of THREE years worth of students. Therefore the true rate needs to be decreased by a multiple of three.

So, regarding UCLA as an example, since there has been so much talk about it...49 acceptances over three years which equals average of about 16 per year, out of a class of about 136, equals about 12%. Not that impressive compared to PAUSD. And you saved yourself a boatload of money.

Still, I agree. LESS POINTLESS HOMEWORK!!


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Paly 2013 Senior Statistics--note that the class was approx. 500 students.

UC Berkeley: 65 admitted--13% of the senior class.
UCLA: 58 admitted--11.6% of the senior class.
UC San Diego: 69 admitted----13.8% of the senior class.

The UCs are doing their job--they are accepting 10% of California applicants (presumably the top 10%). It isn't their fault that the top 5% is choosing to go to school elsewhere. they are doing their job.

As far as I can see, either the UC system needs to overhaul, or we need to limit the number of colleges these students apply to so that those that will never enroll at the UCs (because they want to go private, Ivy, out-of-state, whichever) so that the students who want to go to the UCs get in.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm


Paly parent. Old PA

"Don't students/parents "vote with their feet'?" and why my focus on UCLA.

UCLA is where I think the story has more to it.

For example, which is is it - PAUSD is voting with their feet, or UCLA is a top UC that is out of the reach for most PAUSD students.

99,0000 apply to UCLA, what is it about Palo Alto the accepted accepted decline?

Maybe UCLA is "doing their job" by accepting the top 10% that they know will never attend.

Every year they can do the same thing, and nobody goes, and we all bemoan our pitiful fate or justify it by saying we are voting with our feet or UCLA is out of our reach.

What if the same happens at all the UCs?

Who exactly is voting with their feet? If it's only those that are accepted, the top 10% that were never going to say yes to UCLA in the first place, that's not much "voting" from a broader range of applicants.

Yes, so I am paranoid at this point because I do not buy that nobody wants to go to UCLA or that nobody qualifies. I am suspicious of the mechanics involved.

So, let's pick another UC, the one with 1 student going there, and I want to know what the story behind it is.

By the way, I don't see UC Irvine, is that the one with 1 going form PAUSD. Maybe nobody likes Southern California, but plenty go to USC.

I want to know for sure that the UCs are not "admitting" the same top PA candidates over and over again, those that are headed to Stanford anyway.

Also, the best way to know more about how we really stack up is to see comparables, private school and public.

Anyway, what would be wrong with improving UC enrollment, at any of the UCs with 2 or so enrolling this year? Our distinguished district and all.

That's the other reason I call us masochists, we justify at any cost why we don't get into UCs (voting with our feet) and then flagelate with more Homework and rigor.










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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

With regards to UC, if you are are a PAUSD student outside of the top 9% then you are pretty much screwed.

The 9% rule is intended to even the playing field for all students regardless of socioeconomic class or school. The same proportion of students from a weak school will get into UCLA as PAUSD. This is kinda like affirmative action for socioeconomically deprived.

To make space for all these 9 percenters from every school, there is not enough room for many qualified PAUSD students.

A top 9 percent student from a weak school would be thrilled to go to UCLA, and therefore the enrollment rate will be higher. The type of students from PAUSD that get into UCLA are not particularly thrilled, and probably have more desirable choices and will go elsewhere.

If you want to change this, do it with your vote. Or move to a different district and crush the weak competition.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

With regards to UC, if you are are a PAUSD student outside of the top 9% then you are pretty much screwed.

The 9% rule is intended to even the playing field for all students regardless of socioeconomic class or school. The same proportion of students from a weak school will get into UCLA as PAUSD. This is kinda like affirmative action for socioeconomically deprived.

To make space for all these 9 percenters from every school, there is not enough room for many qualified PAUSD students.

A top 9 percent student from a weak school would be thrilled to go to UCLA, and therefore the enrollment rate will be higher. The type of students from PAUSD that get into UCLA are not particularly thrilled, and probably have more desirable choices and will go elsewhere.

If you want to change this, do it with your vote. Or move to a different district and crush the weak competition.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

@ Back to learning

Please, forgive all my typos.

In my list of UCs, you should read UCI where I wrote USI, and it is UC Irvine.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Back,

You're making assumptions that the admit numbers don't necessarily support. Most Paly and Gunn seniors don't apply to Cal. Of those that do a much higher percentage than the statewide average are admitted. The UCs are a numbers game--and several factors play into those numbers. By accepting top students from a wide variety of high schools, including underperforming ones, the UCs are attempting to serve a diverse community--for the reasons Parent points out.

Since the yield rate is so low in this district, there's no compelling reason for the UCs to admit a higher percentage--PA students aren't manifesting a strong desire to go. This is a fairly sophisticated group of students--so more applications, presumably a wider range of offers. Particularly since the UCs are no longer affordable in the sense that you can work your way through school. For those short of cash and financial aid, the JC to UC route is probably the most affordable route to brand-name degree. I expect it has something to do with the relatively high percentage heading to Foothill.

As for this district compared to others--no, it's not "average". That's pretty obvious from the test scores here. Our grade schools are litterally a year ahead of "average" districts in some subjects. I've known families for whom this has been a real shock. Those families are an exception as most families who can now afford to move here are A)fairly competitive and B) tend to have sussed things out already.

As for parental blind spots and when they appear--oh, I've seen them among preschool parents and the perspective problems continue. We're an ambitious group of parents and we tend to focus pretty narrowly on our own kids, filtering information accordingly.

This doesn't mean, by the way, that I think the district does a great job. Skelly leaves me underwhelmed as does the weak board. I also think the UC system needs to clean up its act--there's too much overhead and not enough attending to its mission of educating Californians at a reasonable cost--honestly, I think the UCs have no business going after foreign and out-of-state candidates, particularly at the undergraduate level.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm

@ OPar and others

Maybe there is too much overhead at UCs, but look, since 1990, the state's contribution to educating each UC student has decreased by 65 percent in inflation adjusted dollars.

Web Link

So, it's also a funding problem. But as long as noone cares too much, this sad situation will continue.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Opar,

Can we just leave it that 15% are attending UCs from Paly and 25% form Gunn?

That's the number, and let's stop kidding ourselves that the admissions rates are higher than state averages, or that any of the UCs are doing us any special favors. The admission rates vary primarily by the number of applicants. The fewer PAUSD students that apply to any one UC, the bigger the admission rate looks for that UC when, as everyone already knows, about 9% are already auto accepted by the rule. Discouraging students from applying increases the admission rates.

Beisdes trying to fix the UC system, it would be helpful to know how the process works at Paly and Gunn, and how with all these standard or stellar admit rates, in most of the UCs we have 1 or 2 students enrolled this year.

On that note, I am out of here. Peace. I think the original post and question is brilliant.












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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Opar,

I said "in most of the UCs we have 1 or 2 students enrolled this year."

sorry, it's not most, I'll just repost the actual numbers. Note that UCB accepted 7 more than UCLA, if that's "much higher" than the state average, ok.

UC Campus applied / admitted / enrolled (Paly only)

UCB 118/65/18

UCD 128/73/8

USI 62/37/1

UCLA 120/58/2

UCM 9/3/2

UCR 22/8/1

UCSD 126/69/5

UCSB 116/58/11

UCSC 85/37/7


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm



BTW I reposted the numbers, courtesy of PA parent, Adobe's earlier post.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:58 am

Back to learning: Thanks for calling my original post "brilliant", ha. I didn't realize the thread would take off as it did and started it merely to vent about my second child's teachers. Postings from TooMuchHomework, PalyDad, were written well and helpful to all. Other postings were informative too. Although I don't agree with "Regular lane classes are completely normal, by any standard." It depends on the teacher, but clearly, if one were to have a string of regular lane, easy teachers, there won't be much homework (thank your lucky stars).

My senior has experienced some of the easier teachers, and he learned more from them than from some of the more challenging teachers. Why? He was learning at a good pace instead of cramming in a huge load of information. Plus, often, these easier teachers were more straightforward and organized - no tests with whopper questions that weren't covered in class or questions only the top students could answer.

We are also fortunate that the teachers at Paly are superior to those at Jordan.

As for PA Parent's "relax a bit" and "they'll do fine," and "there's a good fit for everyone in the end," I don't quite agree. I think there are many schools which could be good fits but our children don't have a chance to attend them. There are many Stanford students who have not endured the rigor our students have experienced. I think we all just adjust to what we get. Even Sandra Cernobori (one of the Paly college counselors) asked a panel of admission directors, "But do the colleges know that our students work really, really hard to just get a 'B'?" The answer was "yes", but I still find this grey zone difficult to accept. I still find it disturbing that there are no enforced guidelines on "rigor" and it all depends on the teacher, as one poster questioned why we have to be subjected to the "gamble". I agree that what we see represented on Naviance and in acceptances is a skewed view because it's the same top 10% who apply to Ivy Leagues. One SAT tutor said, "Don't freak out at what is on Naviance - a lot of my students have. It's conservative."

As for people saying "it's the learning that counts", the colleges don't care - they are looking for scores and grades. Simply learning a lot isn't good enough.

The drama on this thread has been interesting. It seems there isn't much more to say than has already been posted. However, what a shame we couldn't get through this thread without someone snarling about elitists driving BMWs (they are great cars and my other car is a minivan).

I will always go around in circles of whether it was the right decision to move to Palo Alto. Fortunately, we have the finances to pay for tutors and the time to help our children but it's an unfair advantage that some children don't have.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

[Post removed.]



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Posted by PA Parent is a district sock puppet
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

[Portion removed.]

@PA Parent: You think there is too little homework at Paly, thus, your children have been fortunate to be able to learn without your tutelage. Lucky them, their parents don't need to be involved. This entire thread is irrelevant to your experience so you should feel fortunate for more time to yourself and your children have time to relax. As far as assuming all parents are helicopters doing everything for their children, including their children's homework and all parents want their children to attend Ivy Leagues and highest tier universities, that's simply childlike assumption. This thread was for analyzing and exchanging opinions and helpful information, not for throwing stones. This reminds me of the statement they say about children, "Doesn't play well with others."


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Posted by tom
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Is the workload really that difficult? I have family in Palo Alto and it seems the teenagers are constantly booked with leisure activities, ie. going to the mountain house, sports, dinking around with iphones, etc. Supposedly, they are doing well in PAUSD.

Regarding getting in to a UC, most just do the guaranteed admission through a community college. There are certain classes required and a GPA standard. I know some seriously lacking individuals who got into Cal via this method.


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Posted by TooMuchHomework
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

@Tom - your post is quite illustrative of the issue of drawing inferences from small sample sizes. Yes, it is very easy to send kids to PAUSD who get the right teacher, and they will have time for extracurricular. The workload will be normal, the teacher is clear, organized and engages students. From thi, you might expect everything is okay.

This is blind however to the next classroom over, where all is not well. For the same lane, the same subject your child can experience very different learning environments. Poor organization, excessive homework, or teaching above-lane levels of difficulty. Dropping down a lane might help, but honestly, so would moving to a different teacher in the same lane.

But you would never know this from a small sample of a few kids.
Quite a number of teachers are good, or adequate; however not all.

This is a source of a lot of contention in the community, as it is easy to draw generalizations from one's own limited experience. For example someone who has gotten an overly difficult teacher may voice their issue honestly. Then a parent who has never experienced such problems views this as an unjustified attack on a school system they love. So out comes the accusations, name calling, parent-blaming, and accusations of unjust privilege (my god! You use tutors!! Why on earth when our schools are great)

This is a simple matter of narrow perspective. Mixed with strong emotional attachments to defend either a) you kids or b) your school. I doubt most posters intend to dismiss others perspective outright, but there is plenty of evidence that we believe only what we see; and dismiss anything contrary.

But it is a large school, and very easy to understand that any one person may only experience 10% of it.

That is why we argue so fiercely - we cannot see the full reality occurring here.

P. S . Your friends kids are lucky; and may well continue to be so. Good Luck!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2013 at 1:01 am

So well said, "TooMuchHomework". This quote of yours says it all: "Dropping down a lane might help, but honestly, so would moving to a different teacher in the same lane."

This year already, between my two children, one quiz and one test was postponed, and an assignment postponed. My children stayed up until 1AM studying for those tests and completing the assignment, only to have it postponed when they walked into class.

Back a step, PA Parent suggested erroneously, ". . . make an appointment with one of the Paly college counselors . . . I am convinced they'd be more than willing to talk with you." Paly college counselors will only grant appointments with Juniors and Seniors because they are too busy.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2013 at 2:46 am

PA Parent,

Yes, I agree the UCs have a funding problem--it dates back to Reagan, followed by Prop. 13. The UCs have been staggering for decades. But they're also not well run as a system at this point. I do think they're failing in their mission to provide affordable higher education to California students.

BtoL,

I saw the figures earlier. I interpret their meaning differently than do you. I know what the admission rates for both Cal and UCLA and PA's admit rates are substantially higher than the overall acceptance rates. Non-applicants don't count. Yes, we can guess that there was some self-selection at work, but we don't know. So when we look at the percentage of students accepted at Berkeley we have to look at it in comparison to the no. of kids who applied, not to the number of kids in the senior class.

I think what's going on isn't about Palo Alto, per se, but the fact that the top-tier UCs are very hard to get into these days. The PA students who can get in often choose to go elsewhere--financial aid packets are a big part of that. Or, in many cases, the families can afford private tuition. I know personally of two cases where the kids went Ivy over the UCs, in part, because it was a lot more affordable for them.

This particular family (not in PA, by the way) did have a kid go to Berkeley. The main difference between this kid and his siblings was that he didn't have the extracurriculars to attract the top-tier privates.

My impression of his fellow Berkeley students (this is about five years back) is that they were kids with excellent grades and test scores, but they didn't have a compelling "narrative" for their applications.

I think with PA kids, given the sophistication of the parents around here, that if they're the kind of kid who gets the grades and the test scores that qualify for Cal and UCLA, they've probably also learned how to write the right kind of essay and build up a good-looking extra-curricular resume.

To go way back to the original question--is the rigor worth it? Not in terms of getting your kid into a particular college--I almost feel sorry for the families who move here with the idea that our high schools are feeders for Stanford--almost.

I do, however, have friends and family who have kids in mediocre districts with funding problems. There are very real trade-offs. Palo Alto's got an amazing array of programs for kids and teens. Its schools are overcrowded, but they're also well-funded. Yes, I think the workload in the middle schools and high schools could definitely be dialed back. But in other districts, your kid might be one of three who's engaged or advanced and it's isolating. Our kids are not in schools (this would be elementary) where they're ignored because they're doing fine and several kids need help learning to speak English.

If you're living in California and sending your kids to public schools, I think you're pretty much stuck with two extremes--highly competitive or seriously inadequate. I lived in Palo Alto long before I had kids, so I don't know if I would have moved here just for the schools. I have chosen to stay here, though, and part of that was that I thought my kids being around smart, focused kids was mostly a good thing. I still think that, but I'm not through the system and in a few years I might feel very differently about the trade-offs.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 6:50 am

Another thing about the teachers is the unknown quantity of a new to the district teacher. I don't know if we have a large turnover of teachers, but we seem to always have a sprinkling of new to the district teachers and this year more so. They often take a semester to get into the flow and may end up being a lot better after a few months of teething trouble. But, our kids are the ones who are struggling to keep afloat while the teachers are finding their feet.

We have one teacher in particular who seems to be having a hard time adjusting to Palo Alto. I don't mean because we are "special" but just because this is a new job and sometimes people, teachers, take time adjusting to a new job. Whether it is the long commute, something going on at home, lack of teaching experience, or something else, when a teacher is new they take a while to settle in. They may show this by confusion in their instructions, changing due dates, misunderstanding the methods of dealing with redtape, or just plain newbie nerves. All of these are hopefully short term but it doesn't help when it is our kids who are helping them get settled in and our kids' grades end up being lower than perhaps they should be.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2013 at 9:52 am

Opar,

I'm back only because I see a big problem with the way UC admission rates are used, as you are doing, along with the anecdotes about two kids someone knows who got in.

I saw an article with alarming charts showing the decline in UC admission rates of underrepresented minorities. Nobody bothers to count or mention that URM's applications have exploded. All it means is that more applied.

For all the talk about UC funding and out of staters displacing residents, UCLA had an overall increase of 626 admitted students from 2011 to 2013, and a decline of 1,374 students from CA. I believe this means that net net, the loss to out of state or international was 748 students. It's not that different for the other UCs.

Please refer to my earlier post to Paly parent, Old Pa about why I wish we knew more specifics about PAUSD enrollment (not admission rates) at UCs. (No interest Weekly? even the smallest town journals in CA write stories tracking how their local kids are doing with the UCs)

There are many measures of "worth" of our schools, and obviously there is a lot of good, but notice that the two areas of "rigor" discussed here - workload and grading are relatively absent in Elementary School. So, we are really looking at the worth of rigor in middle and High Schools.

The worth in rigor in workload and grading, and focus on AP's would be better measured with more data on what happens with this circus after it's all said an done. If only the top 10% are getting the benefit, I would would agree we need to dial it down and stop pretending we are all headed to Stanford - not just in term of aspirations but in terms of of workload.

We should not be referred to Naviance (only available to HS) or anecdotes to find out how we're doing in college enrollment UC and otherwise.







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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

I think that there is a misunderstanding of two key or core concepts:

A. What is "rigor"? Rigor is not workload, and may be inversely related to it. Rigor refers to the level of intellectual challenge, and the extent to which students are expected to think creatively and independently, to synthesize materials, and to produce research, work, ideas, and arguments based on that synthesis. Rigor does not mean hours of repetition. It does not mean endless memorization of disembodied facts. It is generally not obtained through a "banking" method which a teacher deposits information into the students by standing at the front of the room droning on while students scribe down furiously. Yet parents and students in Palo Alto cling to the idea that the outmoded pedagogical methods utilized in PAUSD, particularly in math, equate to rigor. Excessive workload is not rigor.

It may be that in order to meet the intellectual challenge of a course with high expectations that students will have to study, and perhaps even long hours. But rigor is measured by what is accomplished and what is expected NOT by the hours spent memorizing facts or completing many many repetitions of the same problem.

Just because your child is up until 1:00am studying does NOT mean that the class they are in is rigorous. I'm sorry to break it to you but it likely means the opposite. It probably means that the teacher is lazy. It is lazy to assign excessive homework (do all the odd problems...) rather than come up with a few problems that will capture the essence of the intellectual challenge and then to work through a smaller problem set with the class taking the lead so that everyone participates. Teaching to a differentially able group is harder, and more rigorous for both teacher and student, than endless reps.

All of this is well summed up in Dickens' Hard Times, in its unsparing view of the Victorian educational system (which PAUSD quite resembles in many chilling respects: "So, Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and leveling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council's Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass."

But of course, we would not say that Dickens was describing "rigor" only that he was describing mindless memorization and effort which had the intent and result of producing one of the most rigidly stratified class systems that the world has ever known.

B. Endless homework today leads to rewards later (elite college admission). The Calvinist underpinnings of the PAUSD educational message are harming our children. The idea that sufficient work proves worth, and that there is a just reward for those who are only willing to set their shoulders to the wheel is a deeply flawed approach to education of children. It ignores reams of research on what works. It also carries with it an under-theorized moral cast. Those who work hard deserve their reward, and those who can't keep up - well Dickens wrote about them as well when Gradgrind chides Jupe that she has failed to measure up: "The course you pursued, you pursued according to the system — the system — and there is no more to be said about it. II can only suppose that the circumstances of your early life were too unfavourable to the development of your reasoning powers, and that we began too late. Still, as I have said already, I am disappointed.'"

We are "disappointed" in those children, like Jupe, who seem not to be able to handle the "rigor" of the "system". They are problematic remnants who did not excel at the "system", and the system itself is not the problem -- it is not disappointing. The children who do not work hard enough (the Protestant Ethic being another of Dickens' primary themes) are the disappointment. They can be sent off to Alta Vista or SIL or Middle College or anywhere else out of sight -- one of the internal special ed dumping grounds now set up within some of our schools will do the trick. They are not able to handle "rigor," and rigor as Gradgrind or M'Chokumchild can tell you, is good for the soul, good for society -- it is, of course "the system."

In the now-infamous terms of the Paly Math department, such failures and disappointments can go to "jobs or community college." They are "slackers." The Dickensian overtones of the Paly Math letter have not been examined but would make a nice paper by a Stanford student, perhaps in sociology or education where they have actual rigor rather than its pale PAUSD imitation variety.

Although PAUSD exists in the heart of one of the most creative spaces on earth and at one of the most creative times in history it is chained to the industrial revolution and to its least salutary aspects.

This is in part due to the fact that although our parents and children are very bright mostly teachers are average or below average in their creativity and ability, and administrators even less so. This has led to a mismatch between the ability of the fathers and kids at the top or even middle and the abilities of those teaching the kids. When teachers fear that they can't keep up with their parent and student population, rigidity, authority, and hierarchy are increasingly called up.

It is also affected negatively by one other social trends and movements that appears to be unrelated but that has had an enormous impact and has done it no good: the exodus of highly educated women from the workforce to the home. Fathers are largely absent in the educational issues of the community and when they do appear they are often treated as unwelcome interlopers. The schools are the domain of the moms. These are usually highly educated, high powered women who left the workforce to raise their children, and have devoted themselves to their childrens' happiness and success.

[Portion removed.] They invest hundreds or thousands of hours in what they think will improve the schools, and in developing the kinds of sycophantic relationships with principals, teachers, and counselors that will aid their children. Their motives are a mix of public and self-interest.

[Portion removed.]

This description of the misinterpretation of rigor and the use of the Protestant ethic, and its interaction the the stunted careers of upper class women is not unique to PAUSD. It characterizes other communities that are similar. What is unique is that it is occurring at the epicenter of the biggest social and economic revolution society has known since the invention of the Guttenberg press. What is odd is that the architects of this revolution are off working to build a vast social transformation but are oblivious to the fact that their children are being educated for a 19th century competition, and that their wives are presiding over that and defending it.

We need a new concept of "rigor" that is consistent with the values of Silicon Valley not Victorian England. And we need a new pedagogy to fit it. And we need the power women who really run our schools to enable that rather than defend the old system.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

Opar,

Of course the best would be to make this more like the "everywhere else" people talk about. Don't make it so hard to get an A.

Make the AP's more regular, no gymnastics in the Math classes.

The competition would continue, and there would be a top 10% that surfaces.

Those who fear this would not prepare kids enough for college, ask again which colleges, and who you are competing with at college. If people are thinking Stanford, remember only a few go there and when they go there, even at Stanford there is a range of abilities and backgrounds.

This year, more kids are going to Foothill 31 from Paly, than any other school.

Below is a re-post from C which has Paly data.

"Regarding the colleges all Paly students attend -- for the past few years, the Campanile has made a list of where everyone is going. I couldn't find an online version, but I stockpile the hardcopies so here are the stats for 2013 according to it for California colleges:

1 CSU Chico

4 University of the Pacific

7 UC Davis

2 Sonoma State University

1 Saint Mary's College

2 SF State University

28 UC Berkeley

3 University of San Francisco

1 San Francisco Art Institute

1 CSU East Bay

11 Stanford University

4 College of San Mateo

31 Foothill College

2 De Anza College

2 San Jose State University

2 Santa Clara University

7 UC Santa Cruz

2 UC Merced

1 CSU Monterey Bay

2 Cuesta College

11 Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo

12 UC Santa Barbara

3 Santa Barbara City College

1 California Institute of Technology

10 University of Southern California (USC)

1 Whittier College

5 Loyola Marymount University

2 UC Los Angeles (UCLA)

1 California Institute of the Arts

2 Pitzer College

2 Occidental College

1 Pomona Cal Poly

2 Azusa Pacific University

1 University of Redlands

1 Chapman University

1 CSU Fullerton

5 UC San Diego (UCSD)

1 San Diego State University

1 University of San Diego

1 Scripps College

2 Pomona College

It looks like 53 to UCs, out of a graduating class probably near 370. That's not too bad.

And since some will probably ask, attending the uber-academic/recognizable named schools (only some listed): UChicago 2, 5 Wash U. St. Louis, 3 Duke, 4 Wake Forest, 3 BYU, 3 Rice, 1 Vanderbilt, 1 Dartmouth, 2 Northeastern, 2 Harvard, 1 Boston College, 2 Yale, 7 Carnegie Mellon, 1 UPenn, 3 Cornell, 4 NYU, 3 Columbia University, 1 Princeton University, 5 Johns Hopkins University, 2 American University, 2 Georgetown University in addition to a bunch of other state schools and smaller private colleges. I just listed something like 57 -- add that to the 11 going to Stanford and the 53 going to UCs and 32% of the class is going to a well known university (from my random sampling -- lots were left off) or a UC."


THe graduating class, is not 370 btw, more like 465. I disagree that 53 going to UC's is not bad. It's not great.


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Posted by back to learning
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

Paly Dad,

I would extend the "blessing and a curse" to all parents, not just PIE or PTA. Actually, to staff and leadership as well. People mean well, some do great things, but some do real harm.

The ones who are paying for the curses are the kids, and I find that the most disturbing.

If people would be more objective about measuring the success of current practices, it would go a long way to help. Not just the selfish "this never happened to me" or "it's someone else's fault."

Most of our kids are headed to regular universities, so there is a real opportunity to shift from "doing school" to loving learning. If anyone has room to do it, it's PA.

We need a reset button.



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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2013 at 11:57 am

Back to Learning,

I'm with C. I see 53 attending the UCs as a decent figure, given what I know about the current situation at the UCs, and a decent percentage are going to a selective school. Yes, 31 are going to Foothill, but that's also less than 10 percent of the class. Yes, the percentages at Castelleja would be better, but Paly's a big, public school and even now it has some socioeconomic diversity. I'd even guess that there are some kids who want to slow things down and take some time off by taking a couple of classes at Foothill, along with the sad anecdotes we hear about the kid who didn't get into any of his or her choices.

And it's not a case of someone who knows someone. I know lots of people, including family, who have attended Berkeley and taught at Berkeley over the years. It was always a competitive school, but it's become increasingly difficult to get in and the resulting range of admits is a lot narrower. The faculty complains about it.

PalyDad,

That was quite a rant, so sorry it was edited, so I missed the full glory of your invective against school moms. I agree that a lot of schoolwork is busywork, but there's enough variation among the teachers, parental perceptions and how the kid handles the homework load that I don't think the answer boils down to a simple solution.

I've been wandering around this forum for years now and I've noticed that every time there's a push for a less strenuous school environment, someone else will come back and fuss about how we're losing are competitive edge to Asia


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Posted by Most?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

@paly dad:

Regarding your statement: "This is in part due to the fact that although our parents and children are very bright mostly teachers are average or below average in their creativity and ability, and administrators even less so."

Most of the teachers in the district? Or are you just referring to Paly? Or the teachers your student has had?


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Posted by mary
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

As a former teacher, many of the students are average. There are those who can't hack Algebra as 9th graders. The district fails to mention the children who have nervous breakdowns, are anorexic, and are on drugs and alcohol. I was a tenured teacher at Paly and was appalled at the pressure the kids are under. A good topic for a doctoral student at Stanford would be to do follow up studies on these PAUSD graduates.


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Posted by feeding frenzy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2013 at 11:19 am

mary,

students who have "nervous breakdowns, are anorexic, and are on drugs and alcohol." is unfortunately not uncommon in HIgh School, but Palo Alto is likely on the higher range of stressed out students.

A good topic for a doctoral students at Stanford would be to look into the whether the competition (among the students, the parents, and schools), for not being average is impacting the students, their education, and their futures in a positive way.

And then what is average?






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Posted by Mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hey folks just to let you know there was a Stanford phd student who did that study a few years ago. Her name was Denise Clark Pope. She wrote a book that is understood to be about Paly called Doing School. You can get it on amazon. She went on to found Stressed Out Students which became Challenge Success. This district basically ignored her.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

No, Palo Alto children are not average intelligence. Even I realized it in 1975 when I moved from Fremont (a working class town back then) to elementary school here. I was the star student in gifted classes there but only a regular student here. It took some adjustment for me. And anyone who has parents who can afford to buy a house in Palo Alto is going to have inherited some above average intelligence. The problem is that teachers realize our children are smart so they pile on more work and rigor that average Americans could not handle. And then they use the general curve of only allowing the top 6/30 students earn "A"s when many more should earn "A"s. There are great teachers who understand the stress our students are under and they know how to teach properly (so kids learn but are not stressed out) and they are appreciated.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

The kids at Paly are like any kids anywhere. They aren't extraordinary. They just happened to fall into the petri dish of over achieving parents. The nature/nurture thesis is proven to be heavily weighted towards nurture. I felt sorry for the students at Paly who could have had much better high school experiences at other high schools without the major stress these kids experience.


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Just because parents can afford to buy in Palo Alto doesn't make their children smarter. That argument is so elitist, Alum. It is being discovered that many of the highest/most successful adults didn't attend schools that were Ivy League or feeder schools for the Ivy League. People are like sheep they think they can buy success. Read the periodicals that don't agree.


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Posted by feeding frenzy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Mom,

"Hey folks just to let you know there was a Stanford phd student who did that study a few years ago. Her name was Denise Clark Pope. She wrote a book that is understood to be about Paly called Doing School. You can get it on amazon. She went on to found Stressed Out Students which became Challenge Success. This district basically ignored her."

You're right, and the research indicates that too much homework is counterproductive. Not to mention that piling on stress and stealing private time from teenagers (even if it is to get god forbid get bored) is not healthy. Teenagers literally get sick when it's too much. In High School if you're sick though, there is sometimes backlash from teachers.

Who suffers the most when there is too much homework? Everyone, but especially the average normal kids. The ones who can handle it are actually not regular or normal. They are both capable but also extremely well managed, and their parents have ways to game the system.

Paly alum,

Parents here are accomplished, but most kids are actually still the average teenager. Even if they are endowed with special genes. There are only so many hours in the school week, and it is the doers who appear to "win" so parental management is where the real "above average" comes in.

The normal teenager is also not doing three sports, or five different extracurriculars.Teachers blame the parents for the stress, using the large sample of professional doers. They do not see through the pain it is inflicting on everyone to just pile on more work. Maybe they actually just want to punish the parents?

As you say "There are great teachers who understand the stress our students are under and they know how to teach properly (so kids learn but are not stressed out) and they are appreciated."

One look at the Paly Math chart though, and it is not just the teachers.

Even in the highest lanes, and AP classes, why is Palo Alto overdoing it? The poorest districts in the country are graduating kids with as many APs, heck you could do the classes online maybe. Why does it take so much work in Palo Alto to do what average America is doing with less punishment?




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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

There are a lot of assumptions in the last two postings. Most are not bombarded by extracurriculars - many are seeing tutors or doing their homework. These kids are clearly more intelligent than the average. Even the "partiers" are smarter than average. We have lived in several different places including the midwest, southern CA, Florida. To see "average", one needs to experience other public schools outside of Palo Alto. My freshman at Paly has a new biology teacher from Florida who keeps saying, "You guys are so smart! I'm going to teach you SO much this year! You will have homework every day!" It is the bad teachers who are stressing out our students, not the parents. Sure, there are the pushy, over-the-top parent, but the majority are not.


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2013 at 7:50 am

There is an arms race of tutoring going on in Palo Alto. As to why teachers go along, the Paly math letter has a clue. A lot of them seem to think they are college teachers in disguise.


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Posted by Rigor Mortis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

There is a crystallized equilibrium of perspective, thought, action, and environment around Palo Alto's high school education approach.
It involves college admissions, money, real estate, hope, parents' education, culture and social mobility.

The high elite admissions and Stanford connection pull parents to Palo Alto, raising the real estate prices, which in turn biases the population toward the upwardly mobile. The high level of parental education brings high expectations for outstanding performance in the schools, and the high emphasis on admissions warps the values surrounding education. That means more people are willing to cheat, do drugs, and make other distorted choices in order to help do better in the college beauty contest.

It's normally good for there to be a bunch of well educated, motivated, smart students with supportive families at a school. But here, parents, if not students, are as likely to hide their successful strategies of education as they are to share it. And teachers feed the fire with focus on numbers of admissions to the famous elite colleges as a measure of their effectiveness.
This stuff is held inextricably together.

The associated real estate situation is not really a Ponzi scheme; it's more like a series of bubbles. People buy as long as the prices are going up; it's the buy-until-leaders-lose game.

All in all, Palo Alto high schools are stuck in the Buy Until Leaders Lose - Stuff Held Inextricably Together approach to education. It's been around for millennia. It sucks.


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Posted by feeding frenzy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Rigor Mortis,

Seeing your handle, I had one of those laughs that makes you feel bad at the same time.

Could be a Halloween costume.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 6:01 am

@ Mom
The community, employer of PAUSD, is the party that ignored Challenge Success.


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Posted by MOM
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:21 am

What I want to know is what is being done at the schools to ensure that all the teachers teaching same subject same lane have to grade the same way. It is TOTALLY unfair to get either an "easy" or a hard teacher for the same subject same lane. It can change your future odds just by luck of the draw. Totally unfair, and why is this tolerated in PAUSD? This isn't about differences between the 2 high schools in grading or difficulty of curriculum which is also quite unfair and unnecessary. But I am talking within Paly, same class, why are there differences in grading between teachers? Who allows this and why?


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