Town Square

Post a New Topic

Minority Palo Alto graduates reflect on the good and the bad

Original post made on Mar 7, 2014

The power of teachers and coaches — and of early, clear communications about college requirements — emerged in "exit interviews" with African-American and Latino graduates of Gunn and Palo Alto high schools that were recently released by the Palo Alto school district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 7, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments (33)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Could do better
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 8:03 am

Chris, this is quite a poor attempt at summarizing the actual responses from your PPR: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 9:18 am

It sounds like the PAUSD needs to start with the parents in Kindergarten to get them to think about college for their children. It is surprising that some students were unaware that they could go to college until they were Seniors. All those kids talk about is going to college. The discussion needs to start with Kindergarten and then every year after. If parents are not interested then students need to be told that they can do it themselves and how to do it. That should probably start when they are 13 or 14. Obviously these students, whether or not they did well, felt intimidated by the White culture.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Unintimidated
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Intimidates by the white kids? What about the New majority of kids in this district who ask you if you are retarded when you " only" get a B in trigonometry.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WTF
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Freshmen have Advisory nearly every week of the year, while seniors only have a few Advisory days and they need it the most because they have college apps. Since freshmen have so many worthless Advisory classes (questionnaires, etc.), the teachers should spend at least one time mentioning something about college. The Paly college counselors could type up a general orientation that the Advisory teachers can tell the students (such as, freshmen year grades DO count in the total GPA for colleges). Paly's requirements to graduate are good because they prepare our students to have taken the right amount of classes to be eligible for most "Palo Alto common knowledge colleges".

We have found that the majority of Paly teachers truly care about the students. Some just expect too much from them academically, mostly the younger teachers who are more egotistic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2014 at 11:33 pm

As a first time Junior family, non-minority, we have found the college information closely guarded by Paly. It's like on time release. We had a first meeting at the beginning of the year, and when we asked about how teacher references work, they said we would hear about it at the next meeting. We ended up consulting with an outside counselor, but they don't know Paly very well. It would have been beneficial to have one-on-one appointments with counselors before junior year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WTF
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2014 at 12:03 am

It's a shame, but there is misinformation from Paly staff about what colleges want (how many courses to take - 10th graders only need to take 6 classes, not 7, and many staff don't know this) and general college info (besides the two College & Career Counselors, who are very good). For instance, the advisors tell information to parents way too late. They were telling us in February of Junior year that the Juniors need to take the SAT (most take it the next month, in March). And they said that students can start their personal essays for their college applications at the beginning of senior year. The personal essay prompts are available in the summer, which is the best time to start on the essay, before the schoolwork starts at fall term. Wow, was it a lifesaver to have the rough draft completed by the start of school.

Paly does hand out a helpful college guidelines catalogue in May of Junior year - be sure to sift through it prior to senior year. Perhaps the CC counselors should make another one to hand out in freshman year so the information isn't so dependent upon advisors relaying information/misinformation.

Bottom line, don't count on Paly staff for advice - parents need to be proactive or else have a shocking OMG moment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent of a Student
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 8:59 am

I agree with the comments here that the high schools keep the college information a closely guarded secret, for some reason. Although I attended numerous meetings and parent ed events that were supposed to help with all of this, they focused instead on telling parents to chill out and not worry so much about college. This seems to be an attempt to get us off their back. As usual, because there is an extremely aggressive and vocal group of parents here, they are making anyone who deals with a Palo Alto parent wary, defensive, and always in cya mode. Also, I consider it racist to constantly be interviewing certain groups of students and not others, as if they were not fully included as students because of their race. This reinforces the sense that they are being educated as a favor by some ruling group that is inherently superior. Every student, regardless of their race, class, gender, or disabilities has the right to an excellent education. If that was being provided, all of this emphasis on the differences would not be necessary.Every time students are singled out due to their race is an incident of racist abuse of those students, not to mention that not also questioning other races as to their experiences is abusive of them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:59 am

Off the top, please be reminded that PAUSD now requires students to fulfill the UC A-G requirements in order to graduate. So this issue should be remedied by default.

However I have to say that Paly did a very good job of keeping us (parents) informed on HS requirements, as well as UC requirements. The college center hosted a (by class) evening session for parents each school year. They provided the latest information, what your student would be focused on that year and a review of what services & activities were available at the college center. All you had to do was show up and listen. And if you couldn't make the event, they posted the presentations on the web. Further, you could always make an appointment to see them.

The college center told us about how they worked with the students, the appointment process with their college counselor, when a parent could attend, etc. there were no secrets and no mysteries.

Try looking at their website... www.paly.net/college


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

Parent of a student,

I agree with everything you said. Asking only minorities could also make it seem that these students are not getting college information for other reasons when in fact much of the college information is actually being withheld for timed releases, it's not their imagination.

Somewhere on these threads somebody once described TA at Paly as homeroom with handouts, which is true. This means that the quality of Advisory depends on the teacher, but the fact is that it's not a real class, and it's at the end of the day, so it's not really taken seriously by the students. More often, they get to leave early too. Nobody takes Advisory seriously, except a few excellent TA's who actually care and will advise students who show up to ask question (very few students do so voluntarily). Reality is that before Junior year, the kids are not paying attention.

Arrive Junior year, the handouts are pretty important, but Juniors are busy (SAT, harder classes) so it's actually stressful to learn all the new information on the fly (or to discuss it at home). I can understand that too much college information is overwhelming before Junior year, but some things are not not rocket science. For example, when and how to get teacher references, or when to start personal essays for college. What is overwhelming is Junior year.

In retrospect, I found the annual grade level parent nights with the powerpoints not very useful. They mix everything together, and say a little about everything. These nights would be better off split between a college night only, and an everything else night. Alternatives to college would be with "everything else" to not confuse the college night.

On the first "college night" of each year Freshman families would receive a binder up front with ALL the future TA handouts (with tabs of what will be handed out in each grade). Students would not be overwhelmed by this because they will get only so much before moving on to their other distractions. TA could then be the repetition and slow digestion of the college nights information, but the information should not be withheld.

These parent and student college nights would not even need to be divided by grade level. They could be repetitive acts. For example, the Fall night could bulk certain college topics, and the Spring others like financial questions.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:13 am

Crescent Park Dad,

"Off the top, please be reminded that PAUSD now requires students to fulfill the UC A-G requirements in order to graduate. So this issue should be remedied by default."

Very true, and yet TA spends time on this. The few 10th grade Avisory classes last year focused on the A-G vs Paly requirements.

The website is not an answer for students or families. You can get college information anywhere. A guidance system is a different matter, and the student suggestions here are valid. Maybe not for your experience, but that doesn't mean it could not be improved for others.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

> what colleges want

Good God! How can anyone know what colleges want? Sure, and advisor might have some insight into the XYZ school, like a minimum SAT, or a minimum GPA, but how can any high school advisor know what a school is going to be looking for in 3/4/5 years from now—particularly when attempting to advise children who are called "freshmen"?

On the other hand, everyone knows that colleges expect students to come to class, to study hard, to seek help if they are having troubles, and not to expect that there were be someone there to hold their hand every time they trip.

If parents don't know that—then maybe it's time that the schools create some sort of aid to parents who have not been to college outlining what college is like, and pointing out that their children are their responsibility—not the school system's and not the taxpayers'.

If the parents don't care—there is only so much the schools can do. It's a shame that the PAUSD doesn't recognize the importance of parents in this scenario, and ask a few questions about how the parents of these students helped them prepare for a post-high school existence.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

@ Full. Agree - there will always be an opportunity to improve every process or program.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Bob,

You are confusing a broad topic of being college ready, with the increasingly tedious steps associated with actually applying to college.

College information is more about what happens when, and what you need to do, to qualify for this or that. There's a whole set of different requirements between UCs, CSU's and private schools. Financial information is not easy to digest. For example the state exchanges. On and on.

My point is that Paly already has valuable information ready (apparently there is a book we will soon receive), and I see some TA handouts I wish we had seen earlier, not just months before applying. Why not have full disclosure of all the book and TA handouts the first day of High School, and allow parents and students more time to get through it at our own pace. It's not like anyone can apply to college in 10th grade.

At the annual grade parent nights there are questions on some of these time released topics, and the answer is we will learn about that "at the next meeting" or "next year" you will hear about it. The current system allows parents who have been through that grade's routine to enjoy the information more comfortably and that must be nice for their students too.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm

> You are confusing a broad topic of being college ready, with the
> increasingly tedious steps associated with actually applying to college.

You are also likely to have created a distinction without much of a difference.

And again--the parents have a lot to do here--particularly where the financial end of this adventure is concerned. The schools should remind parents that nothing is for free, and perhaps keep parents aware of the CSU/CCC/CAL tuition, and perhaps a few Ivy's just for a point of reference. But the Schools should make it clear that it's not their job to hand-hold students through the application and scholarship paperwork.

Seems to me that being "ready" for College means being "completely ready".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Not in the PAUSD, but why isn't all the info needed to prepare for and apply to college not on the PAUSD website? It is after all Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Bob,

I don't think we disagree. No hand holding.

There is currently hand holding by releasing information only at an appropriate time. That's hand holding.

You get this information in 9th grade, not that. First semester junior year you get this other information, but the other information not until second semester.

These are all school resources and handouts which parents who have been through it before with another kid already have at their disposal. At least putting all the TA handouts online would be reasonable. You can even say in which grade it's released, and which half of which year.

If you can't see how that is helpful, not much to argue with your blame the parents solution.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Pete,

Excellent point, yet Gunn ad Paly have two different websites, and college guidance information is released in two different ways.

Everyone is graduating from the same district, applying to the same places, but there are two guidance systems. There is more energy devoted to keeping them different than making one darn central college information place.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Experienced Paly Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Full disclosure is correct, Bob. We are asking for information on the process, not "How to get into what college." We paid thousands or a private college counselor but much of her information could have easily been available from PAUSD.

The suggestion to put all info online is also a fantastic idea. The College and Career counselors could do that for us, as they are quite competent. The key is to send an email blast to parents so they know to look online. Handouts from Advisory don't always make it to the parents or student lose them for themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm

There is of course already a lot of information on online on both Paly and Gunn websites (and on the worldwide web), and there are emails with reminders from counseling, but the "guiding" information they give in TA handouts are piecemeal.

It makes sense to continue piecemeal delivery for obvious timing reasons, but at the beginning of High School, ALL the TA materials should be given up front. It helps to see what all is coming, and to already be familiar with things.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

@Moderator - may I suggest to add this thread to the "schools & kids" category?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm

May I suggest that there are tons of prep,for college websites out there? Including each college your child might be interested in attending...tons of free advice and planning tips at each college website.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents of a senior
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Honestly, Paly does a lot for kids, and for college preparation. They accompany the kids all along and provide tons of information, not to mention the workshops they offer.

Seriously, the info is there for those who care to pay attention.

Now, maybe a special outreach effort should be made, possibly starting earlier than high school, towards parents of underrepresented minorities. How though, and would it work? There are people who never show up to back to school nights and other info nights. How do you get them to attend?

Seriously, so much is already done. I think it's a bit of bad faith to say the schools are not helping. We think they have been a wonderful help. People need to be a bit pro-active too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:20 am

Parents of a senior,

"Seriously, so much is already done. I think it's a bit of bad faith to say the schools are not helping. We think they have been a wonderful help. People need to be a bit pro-active too."

I would say it's a real stretch to call suggestions for improvements "bad faith."

"So much" may be already done, but doing "so much" does not necessarily mean it's all good. Actually too much is bad sometimes, when you're talking about so much information. What you really want is some synthesis, and it matters a heck of a lot to have the word from your own school, as opposed to the suggestion to look for free advice online.

Hey, no need to improve of course.






 +   Like this comment
Posted by WTF
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:48 am

Re comment from "Parent of a senior" that "People need to be a bit pro-active too." One of the points of the article was that minorities didn't know college was an option or didn't have advice about college requirements. I'm guessing "Parent of a senior" already knows a lot about preparing for college and doesn't understand the viewpoint of a child of a totally complacent, uninvolved parent - and there are many in Palo Alto despite the belief that all Palo Alto parents are helicopters and bulldozers.

Paly advice is geared mostly toward UCs and CA State schools. If your child wants to go out-of-state, you're on your own.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm...
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Have Paly folks actually *really* looked at paly.net/college? The Viking Guide is available to everyone as soon as they'd like to access it, right from the main page! And, there's a wealth of other college info. As for Advisory, there is an outline posted on paly.net/guidance and lessons about teacher recs, for example, are covered. Want more? Check out a book from the College Center! There are great resources to educate yourself; no need to spend thousands. Not to mention special event programming on relevant topics too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents of a senior
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I don't believe one second that minority students "didn't know college was an option or didn't have advice about college requirements".

The fact that college is an option and how to meet college requirements is hammered into all students at advisory plenty ahead of time!!! Of course, if you cut advisory, you won't hear the info.

One more fantastic tool we all (students and parents) have access to is Naviance, with a wealth of info on all colleges, not just UCs and CSUs.

Jeez!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:18 am

Parent of a Senior,

Noticed your comments on the homework thread as well. You lead a charmed life, congratulations. Your kids "sail" through AP classes, and go to bed between 10 - 11. And you "don't believe one second that minority students "didn't know college was an option or didn't have advice about college requirements". They are lying according to you.

What I can say, as a non-minority parent, where college has always been an option in our family, the mechanics of applying and getting into college are not that simple for us. Perhaps because we are older parents, we may as well be classified as "first generation", the process today IS different.

I understand 100% what the students on this article are saying, and while paly.net/guidance may send chills of pleasure to what someone called the helicopter or bulldozer parents, that is not exactly what is usually termed as "counseling" or "guidance." What you and others are referring to is a website for the do-it-yourselfers - parents with Phd's MBA's, and many degrees, some who are college counselors themselves.

Contrast this to another community where you have similar access to home labor (parents doing research on sites like paly.net/guidance), check out what the Menlo School website has to say about "College Counseling." Nirvana you will see is personalized attention, when the counselor knows the student. Not saying that public school has to have the same, but can we at least keep it real that there is a broad range of parental efforts involved in helping students get to college? Bad faith is not having the sense to understand that not everyone is a paly.net/guidance athlete, and not everyone can pay thousands of dollars to experts. Thank you parent who admitted on this thread to paying thousands for college counseling.

Minority students do get supports, and they probably are aware of a lot of college talk, but that is talk and websites, it's not the real stuff that goes on to actually help kids with the process. Maybe like my kids, some students skip or forget Advisory, and maybe they lose the handouts. Maybe not everyone is German.

The kids in the article only ask for information sooner. Me too. Even a car navigations system gives you a panoramic of where you are going and what to expect, and you can peek at the steps ahead (as often as you want). Why is it so hard to release ALL the available information on a binder the first day of High School, and allow for people to see everything over the three years. The system of releasing it on magic Advisory days or on magic parent nights is silly.

Maybe the fear of actually doing a better job of delivering information up front would make the competition on who knows paly.net/guidance not as much fun?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:26 am

Parent of a senior,

Excuse me, you did not say your kids sailed through AP's. It must have felt that way after I read your comments, I was jealous. I admit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shanna
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2014 at 9:52 am

In some ways I believe that for emotional reasons kids from EPA should be schooled in their own communities where they feel comfortable, connected, and less pressure socially. PAUSD is so high achieving and it makes some minority students struggle that much more. It's like a double edged sword, where is it great to educate the minority students in an exceptional school district but on the flip side many feel that they can't fit in academically and socially. Sometimes I wonder if it's better to risk a child developing low self esteem just to go through a better school district. I think the Ravenswood School district should be working hard to educate their students and maybe some of our resources could better benefit children in their own community setting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:38 am

Shanna,

"I believe that for emotional reasons kids from EPA should be schooled in their own communities where they feel comfortable, connected, and less pressure socially."

There are many non-minority students who are not comfortable, connected, and who feel socially pressured in PAUSD, where do you suggest they go?

This report is about the good and the bad reported in exit interviews, there is a lot of good, but because the suggestions for improvements are coming from minority students, it is generating accusations that the students are lying about college guidance, and now they have special "emotional" issues.

This should make the schools very happy that everything is perfect, no need to improve. I have heard many many Juniors this year have private college counselors, I wonder what they will say on exit interviews. The data is not used or presented very well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents of a senior
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

@ full disclosure

You are asking for one "binder" (or document) with all the info on graduation and college. It exists!! It's the Viking Guide.

I don't know when the paper copy is distributed (my senior received the March 2013 copy, apparently when in junior year). It is called THE VIKING college and career planning GUIDE, known in short at "The Viking Guide". If you don't have a paper copy (easily misplaced or lost BTW), it is also posted online. The link is prominently posted on the home page of the Paly College and Career Center... It is a pdf file, so you can even print all or part of it. What more can the school do, seriously?

You can find the Viking Guide at:
Web Link

(You are right, my kids did not "sail" through AP classes, and for them the AP English and AP US History classes would have been the more difficult ones, which is why they did not take them).




 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Parents of a Senior,

I would rather have the Advisory handouts than the Viking book. Do you know where I can find them? That's the binder I have in mind.

Tabs by grade with all the Paly Advisory handouts that will be handed out each year and season. They may change somewhat obviously, and get updated so if you want the most current version, an online folder would be great. There is no online link to the handouts.

And I don't understand why the school cannot divide the Advisory schedule by a SINGLE grade instead of the awful one page list for two grades? This may be their internal organization but it would be clearer to separate. This is not the most friendly list.

Web Link

This list does not appear on the paly.net/guidance page. You have to search for it.

And why not VIDEO tape the parent nights? I still like my idea to split those little bit of everything meetings, and separate college from everything else. Have "college" nights in 10th grade and not wait to hear everything hand held in Junior year. Or maybe suggest all parents and students to attend the junior and senior parent nights to preview. In retrospect I should have attended the year ahead meetings. Anyway, like homework, we all have different lives,and different kids. I see no harm in improvements, and while I appreciate the link to the Viking Guide, that's not what I had in mind.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by full disclosure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Parents of a Senior,

Well, after spending more time on the paly.net/guidance page, I see some of the college handouts, like the "To Do" for Senior year, which I wish I had seen the "To Do" Junior year last year.

It would still be good to see the panoramic picture. A list of the grade handouts that are given, when they are handed to students, and explain where they are on the website.

Maybe I even learned all this at some point in a meeting, which shows that so much information is not easy to digest or always have at the fingertips. Repetition helps when you don;t have a private PhD or private counselor watching your back.


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

Email:


Post a comment

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

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

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

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

*Required Fields

Cho's, beloved dim sum spot, to reopen in Los Altos
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 5,661 views

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 10 comments | 2,178 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,697 views

Guest Post from HSSV: Adopt a Naughty Dog!
By Cathy Kirkman | 1 comment | 1,418 views

First Interview
By Sally Torbey | 6 comments | 851 views