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Parents giving teachers gifts before they give kids grades

Original post made by Theresa on Apr 7, 2014

My daughter told me that some of the parents now go to the teachers after the kids have taken tests and give them presents. They say this is just to be nice but they do it before the teachers give the grad. My kids tell me not to say anything because I will get kicked out of the school district. We dont do this so my kids have a bad time at school.

Comments (24)

Posted by Average PA parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Hello Theresa,

This sounds worrisome. Is this in Palo Alto? In what school? At least, what level? High school?

Has anyone else experienced this? I am curious.

Posted by Gifts, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Doesn't sound right to me. Some elementary school parents give little gifts to teachers who have done excellent work, but that's at the end of the year, when it would make no difference in grades.

Posted by Fer Sher, Fer Sher, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:42 am

This has been happening for twenty years that I am personally aware of, particularly in the case of wealthy parents who have kids who do not do well in school

One family I know of had two daughters three years apart. The oldest did very well in school, the parents never gave her teachers gifts. BUT, the younger one performed abysmally, seemed severely learning disabled, could barely read by 10th grade! Her teachers and especially her counselors got expensive gifts just before the end of every quarter.

This girl, who could barely read, was required to attend summer school every summer until she graduated from Paly ( she had frequent absences as well). She enrolled in Foothill, flunked out, enrolled in De Anza, flunked out again. Now, at the age of 31, she is still living at home with her wealthy parents and has spent the past several years attending West Valley in Saratoga.

This girl was not held back in any grade during all her years in PAUSD. Meanwhile, other less severely learning disabled kids, with less affluent parents were held back a year, but at least eventually got through college.

Go figure-- her parents did her no favors, but I guess THEY looked good!

Posted by parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

What kind of gifts are these? An apple for the teacher? Some extra school supplies? Or a new TV set?

I agree that grade level makes a big difference.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:39 am

I'm guessing they give gift cards. But what teacher would really be swayed by a gift? Maybe if the student was on the borderline, perhaps. Seems like a schmoozey, transparent action to give a gift.

We've given gifts, but after the grade is received.

Posted by no surprise, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I am very surprised at some of these comments. When I was occasionally room parent during the elementary school years I organized a group gift at the end of school or before winter holidays. This is very common and I see no reason to not show a little token of appreciation for the adult who spends so much time with my child each year. In 6th grade I did send in a small gift at the holidays and last day of school to the core teachers, again as a small show of appreciation, and because I was so fond of them. This in no way swayed my two daughters' grades. For my high schooler who likes writing notes of thanks to most of her teachers, I was very cautious as she needed to be aware of how potentially it could be misconstrued before grades were assigned. She literally was in tears as she decided against any notes, with the idea that authentic appreciation could not be shown at that time in that way. It was a hard lesson.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm

This sounds like hyperbole to me! Hard to believe. I don't believe it!

Posted by no surprise, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Just because you don't believe it, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Ignorance is bliss, but it doesn't change the terrible behavior of a few teachers.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by NoControl, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Of course they get gifts! There is no control of the staff in this district. In the corporate world, employees are limited in the gifts they are allowed to receive, and they must be reported. We are also limited in the gifts we can give. The laws on this are clearly set up to limit corruption.

I am surprised public employees don't have to follow similar rules…

Of course, there will be screaming outrage that I would propose eliminating gifts, but you know what - too bad. They are already well paid to do their job, and should not need to rely on corruption for income. Otherwise what comes next - leveraging parents for more and more gifts? The grades shakedown? Best to just stop this, or put a hard limit on the dollar amount and reporting requirements (mandatory). That would require managing our staff at the sites; something unlikely to really happen here.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:59 pm


Your comments are incredibly harsh. Suggesting any of the fine teachers my kids have had "rely on corruption for income" is beyond insulting. At the end of the school year my children often write thank you notes to express appreciation for what their teachers have done. Just because teachers or any other professional is paid for their work doesn't mean someone on the receiving end should refrain from expressing their gratitude. I can't imagine how a $20 Starbucks gift card is corruption. Your bitterness is overly evident and you are exactly right in that people would show outrage at your attitude.

Posted by I agree, a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Now you finally get it, why low income people get failing grades. Yes this is true. Teacher who get presents feel bad to give the real grade the child deserves because they do not want to make the parents feel bad. sometimes teachers get intimidated and do not want to have problems with those parents who are too involved with PTA etc. They have a lot of power and can make a big deal with the administrators and do not want to be fire, especially if the teachers do not have tenure.

Posted by pausd parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Grades don't really matter through middle school. I don't remember the kids getting grades at all in elementary school. In PAUSD at least.

We've been active now in two school communities and can't say I've ever seen either anyone behaving this way or any motivation for it.

I want to know how to give the custodial staff at our school gift cards, without creating an expectation or making them feel bad if others don't year after year. I know that's not why they do a great job.

The learning should be first and the incentive to put learning first. Maybe you could provide more details? I just can't say I've seen anything like this.

Posted by another corrupt PA teacher, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2014 at 5:46 am

I don't know about the rest of my colleagues, but I'm in this for the chocolate.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2014 at 11:17 am

When I have been the one in charge of organizing a group gift, the card is always signed "from all the parents in room X". Never, would I single out those parents who participated. Secondly, I can't fathom not showing some sign of appreciation at the end of the school year, particularly to elementary school teachers since they are more known by parents. This doesn't have to cost a dime, but having a student or parent send in a note to say thanks for the last nine months of educating me/ my child is more than appropriate. Encouraging children to have basic good manners is not corruption. When I use to drive on field trips, I was appreciative of the students who thanked me before running back to their classroom. Many kids are not taught common courtesies, and sure, other adults pick up on that.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 9, 2014 at 12:05 pm

@no surprise and Theresa: I can't help but think your accusations are wildly inaccurate. Grades don't count until high school and even if parents are very, very active in PTA, that will not influence the high school teachers to give a better grades.

Tempest in a teapot you have created here.

Don't believe you have any proof.

I love the comment by "I'm in it for the chocolate" !

Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2014 at 1:27 pm

This is officially the most ridiculous thread I have seen! This person thinks her kids will get kicked out of the school district for talking about this? "We don't do this so my kids have a hard time at school"?
Why is anyone even commenting on this, it has to be a joke!

Posted by gifts are childish, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

ok, I would agree that a small child hand drawing/writing a thankyou card with a small gift card is fine at the end of the school year. NO "HOLIDAY" gifts! NO high schoolers writing thankyou letters. Yee Gods. Talk about corruption. Be sensible and avoid being childish as if this were on the kiddie birthday circuit OR the possibility of corrupting someone (even semi-subconsciously) into better grades and perks for your teen.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 10, 2014 at 5:42 pm

While I have never heard of gifts influencing teachers, one of my daughter's teachers at Paly told the students that she has been offered money for grades several time by parents.

Posted by pausd parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 11, 2014 at 12:20 am

@another corrupt PA teacher,
NOW you tell me! If only I had known!! Good chocolate would have been easy! One for you, one for me, two for you ... :-)

Posted by pausd parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 12, 2014 at 11:59 pm

In all seriousness, we could change everything by having a serious discussion about how to make the focus learning rather than grades. Freshman year at MIT is pass/fail. You get your grade so you know how you are doing, but it goes on your record as P/F. Maybe we should start doing something like that?

Or maybe, we should have a serious discussion about how to let the people who CHOOSE that sort of academic approach to do so. A choice program, a school-within-a-school concept. Something that could be tried and if it works, moved to Cubberley with a given number o students already so district doesn't think it's a risk to reopen Cubberly. Or expanded if there is demand. Giving people the choice is a way of trying something different without the controversy of imposing one rule on everyone.

Just a thought. I hope our new superintendent is a little more open to things like that.

Posted by Ugh., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 13, 2014 at 7:09 am

Gifts before grades should be looked at as attempted bribery. Sounds like the attempt is being accepted by the teachers and is now a part of the process(?)
Gifts to teachers should be reported and tracked. They also should be pooled and held by the principal until the grades are locked in, then the teacher can see what was given to them.
Ugly ugly issue just waiting to come out. In this dy of Social media, the bribes will be exposed.

Posted by creepy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2014 at 10:19 am

gifts are childish,

"NO high schoolers writing thankyou letters."

I agree with that. It's creepy in high school.

Genuine expressions should not be dictated, but if they are - in high school - it's awkward to to write a thank you note mid-semester to teachers you do not want to suck up to, and anyway barely know.

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