Palo Alto earns 'D' in service to minority students Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:07 am
For the second year in a row the Palo Alto school district has earned low grades from a group that evaluates how well California's largest school districts serve Latino, African-American and low-income students.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 23, 2012, 9:44 AM
Posted by resident, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:44 am
So, which schools are earning A or B? Maybe PAUSD can learn from them. I try to look at the data following the link, but could not find an easy way to see who is the GOOD school district. And, what is percentage of these A and B schools sending kids to UC and CSC?
Posted by Former Gunn Parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:51 am
So, the school district thinks that requiring every kid to pass the A-G requirements is going to help them close the achievement gap? How absurd! Just making it a requrement is going to make those kids smarter??
The only thing that is going to close the achievement gap is to change the way they teach starting in kindergarten, identifying kids who need help (which means not resisiting parents efforts to get their kids tested for learning problems), and put tutors and specialists in place to support those kids. And how do they fund that?
The school district has shown that it doesn't know how to close the achievement gap and has failed for the past 4 years. Why do they think that harder requirements will magically work?
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:55 am
Good question, resident.
There were no "A's." Eight districts were in the "B" range and those were almost all in southern California -- Riverside, San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties. They were Lake Elsinore, San Marcos, Clovis (Fresno County), Los Alamitos, Arcadia, Corona-Norco, Covina-Valley and Temecula Valley. The full listing is here: Web Link
Posted by Ambivalent, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm
I"m somewhat ambivalent about this report. One reason the gap is so large between white/asian versus low-income and students of color is that the white/asian kids are off the scale. Performance of low income and students of color would look better if compared to white/asian kids in an "average" district.
That said, my opinion of PAUSD is that they don't serve "average" kids very well either. They're totally geared to the high achiever who basically brings those skills from home so PAUSD is actually doing very little, overall, in the area of education. They do, however, pay a lot of "assistant superintendents" a lot of money to sit around think big thoughts.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm
I'm inclined to agree with Ambivalent. Statistics can be funny things. E.g., on the other thread when it's claimed that Clovis and Gilroy and Turlock do a better job, does that mean, say, the lowest income 10% of PAUSD students do worse on standardized tests than the lowest 10% of those other districts? Really?
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm
@musical: The achievement results are collected for groups of students, including economically disadvantaged, rather than by deciles, so it's not possible to compare the bottom 10% of income among districts. But for groups of poor students, the answer is yes. For more detailed examples, see the "economically disadvantaged" comparisons on the spreadsheets for math and science for 2011 (Web Link) and 2010 (Web Link). For the science results in those spreadsheets, click on the "Science" tab. (We Can Do Better Palo Alto generated these spreadsheets from publicly available data on the California Department of Education website).
@Arch Conservative: Oakland is actually near the bottom of the rankings, only 16 spots above PAUSD.
@Former Gunn Parent: The goal of aligning the graduation requirements with the UC/CSU entrance requirements is not to make the kids smarter, it's to require that district staff take as their responsibility preparing all children for post-secondary opportunities, including college. I do agree that it's going to take sustained attention, including continuing pressure from the community, in order to make that happen at a reasonable pace, given the district's record to this point.
Posted by PAUSD parent, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm
I know many if not most Palo Alto parents invest big bucks in after school enrichment programs, tutoring services, expensive educational camps and other educational activities for their kids. In addition, we buy loads of books and invest in other education aides. All of these things offer advantages that are hard for poorer people to take advantage of. Most of us also have higher education degrees along with the understanding of what it takes to make it through the education system. It is really difficult to bridge this gap without a lot of money and effort beginning at the earliest stages of a child's life. We can do better but it seems like it is an issue that will never go completely away until all things are equal.
Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm
This Oakland based firm should also rate the home life of these students of color. The blame does not rest entirely on the school district, in fact, the home is probably more to blame. If education is not worked on in the home, then the student falls further and further behind in school. My kid works on highly advanced math subjects in school and I explain them to him every night. If I were unable or unwilling to do this, there is no way he would get it.
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm
@PAUSD parent and Old Palo Alto
One of the virtues of comparing districts to each other, as Edtrust West does, is that it makes it clear that we could be doing much better in Palo Alto than we are, since other districts do much better with students with similar backgrounds. We don't have to invent solutions out of thin air -- we can ask what more successful districts are doing, and do that. (Some of the success factors mentioned in the report are a strong commitment from the district leadership to the success of all students, communicated to the school sites, and the serious use of achievement data to assess curriculum and teaching strategies).
In terms of home advantages -- first, many of the parents of students of color are highly educated professionals, and most of the kids not graduating with A-G in PAUSD are not members of minority groups.
But I also think that if students need help from parents or tutors "every night" in order to get the material, there's something wrong in the curriculum or teaching -- in fact, teachers may be getting distorted feedback about how things are going in class based on outside tutoring that they don't see, which could be exacerbating the problem, not to mention further disadvantaging kids whose parents don't have the money, time, or background to get them tutoring.
Posted by Toady, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm
"But I also think that if students need help from parents or tutors "every night" in order to get the material, there's something wrong in the curriculum or teaching"
No there isn't. It is simply the effect of living in an area with competitive, high-achieving parents where SAT's and college entrance is prized among all things. It's basically an arms race to see who can get (however small) advantage over peers.
What, are we going to outlaw after-school programs now to make sure everyone has an "ostensibly" even chance? Sounds very Soviet to me.
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm
I didn't suggest outlawing after-school programs, I suggested that classes should be taught so that students can learn without outside tutoring. Do you disagree?
I do appreciate your use of "Soviet" to attempt guilt by association, though it might be lost on a younger generation. Unfortunately, the Soviets had an "elaborate network of after-school programs" for gifted children, which I suppose undermines the analogy (see Web Link).
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:40 pm
Regarding your red-baiting accusation that Ken is advocating "Soviet" style communism, you are not correct. When the taxpayers and citizens of Palo Alto call for public accountability of the school district to ensure that our curriculum and teaching enable all kids to have a fair chance to succeed, and when we point out that Gilroy and Turlock and Clovis are doing far better than Palo Alto in teaching poor and underrepresented minority kids, we do not mean that "we plan to redistribute all your money and houses to the poor until everyone is equal and the children of VCs have to dig ditches just to keep themselves in rags and gruel." We mean that we want equal opportunity for all regardless of race or class. This is just a clarification.
Posted by confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm
"In terms of home advantages -- first, many of the parents of students of color are highly educated professionals, and most of the kids not graduating with A-G in PAUSD are not members of minority groups."
Sorry, I am confused. Then how does the PAUSD teaching problem relate to this study- referring specifically to district's service to minority students?
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm
I'm sorry, now I'm the one confused -- I was making a point that the economic and educational backgrounds of minority students are not homogeneous, and that many non-minority students (some of them no doubt economically disadvantaged, though it's hard to tease out) are also not well-served. In fact, most students not graduating with A-G are non-minority, although minority students are overrepresented in that group. What contradiction are you seeing between that and the Edtrust West study?
On your second comment -- yes, we are definitely not the only district without equal educational opportunity. However, the fact that we're very near the bottom of districts in the state on this dimension means that we have a long way to go before we could even say that we simply reflect a broader social problem. Our "homegrown achievement gap" as we've termed it, is particularly wide, as this study underlines.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm
I'm not sure why the Weekly thinks this report is that significant, and I hope the school board doesn't take it seriously. I went to the group's website and they didn't bother to rate any of our neighboring school districts, such as Sequoia or Mountain View. So, in isolation, they can make Palo Alto look bad.
Then I checked out the API numbers for myself, and PAUSD has so few black and Latino students that doing any kind of statistical analysis is meaningless. If one Latino who doesn't speak English shows up at one of our elementary schools, the rating drops dramatically.
Look, anybody with a fax machine and a phone can call themselves a group pushing for educational equality. They can send out press releases all day, using the old school PR trick of assigning grades to people or an organization. Members of Congress get letter grades from all sorts of lobbying groups. This "study" strikes me as the first step in a shakedown of PAUSD.
Posted by Skeptical46, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm
Remember that Palo Alto is widely known for the quality of its public eductation and for the performance of its students. Parents pay ridiculously high prices to live here just for that reason.
So what's missing here -- perhaps too conveniently -- is a reason *why* these "minority" groups perform worse. Is anyone suggesting that the teachers are prejudiced or racist? Or is it that they as a group have lower academic aptitude that just happens to correlate to their racial or economic background (due to any of a variety of socioeconomic forces beyond the scope of this discussion)?
If it's prejudiced teachers, address that. If it's lower aptitude, then give them remedial attention. But it does not seem reasonable to change how all the children are educated simply because a small percentage of them are underperforming.
Posted by confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm
So the minority students that are not well served by PAUSD in your opinion came from different economic and educastional background. This group is certainly not the same as the group in this low income minority study, am I right? On the other hand, if most students not graduating with A_G are non-minority,even minority students are overrepresented, it tells me that minority students are not worse served than some of the non-minority students. That's what I see contradiction.
Why is race always sth people look at? Why are not effort, family support, motivation and etc measured?
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm
I think from your last comment that there's a point that you want to make -- perhaps it might be clearer if you stated it directly.
The Edtrust West study reports on minority students and low income students. Those groups overlap but are not coterminous -- there are some minority students who are not low income, and some low income students who are not minority. I'm still not seeing the contradiction, can you please be clearer?
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm
anonymous - the reason that Menlo Park and Sequoia are not included in the study is that they are just high school districts, not unified districts (K-12).
I don't know if requiring A-G is an answer, but I do know that teachers who are responsible for teaching classes required to graduate take their responsibilities more seriously and are less likely to grade and teach as if they are at an elite private school.
Ken - you are absolutely correct that students should be able to pass most classes without any outside tutoring. Help with an occasional concept is fine, but teachers should be teaching their students. If a student requires daily tutoring, either the teach is not instructing appropriately or the student is in the wrong class lane.
According to both of my kids, many of the students of color in their classes could use encouragement to take school more seriously.
Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm
@Ken Dauber...you said: "But I also think that if students need help from parents or tutors "every night" in order to get the material, there's something wrong in the curriculum or teaching -- in fact, teachers may be getting distorted feedback about how things are going in class based on outside tutoring that they don't see, which could be exacerbating the problem, not to mention further disadvantaging kids whose parents don't have the money, time, or background to get them tutoring."
Nah...my kid is way beyond the PAUSD curriculum, he's in elementary school and beginning to work on calculus. We've covered algebra, geometry, trig already. Disadvantaging other kids? So no one should excel too much? We should just do what the teachers assign us even though you think they are not doing a good job? Strange logic.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm
Old Palo Alto - if your child needs more challenge, it is wonderful that you are able to provide that. I believe that Ken means that if a student needs daily help to pass a PAUSD class, then the teacher is probably not teaching the class appropriately.
Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm
The article implies that student without color get different "services" than students of color. And the students of color's "services" are suspect. What "services" are these? Don't they sit in the same class room?
It used to be if you flunked out in school, you were to blame. Now, if you flunk out, everyone else but you is to blame. I feel sorry for these kids when they get out into the working world.
Posted by Toady, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm
"When the taxpayers and citizens of Palo Alto call for public accountability of the school district to ensure that our curriculum and teaching enable all kids to have a fair chance to succeed, and when we point out that Gilroy and Turlock and Clovis are doing far better than Palo Alto in teaching poor and underrepresented minority kids,"
No, we all not asking for PAUSD to ensure "all kids have a fair chance to succeed." Where the heck did you get that? If you ask most parents here, I'm sure you would be hearing that we want PAUSD provide a place where *our own kids* have that opportunity.
Is that selfish? Sure. But at least I'm being honest.
As for Gilroy, Turlock and Clovis - can you let me know what the percentage of their students that place into competitive colleges and universities? Get back to me with that info before you advocate those districts as being models to which PAUSD needs to aspire.
The problem with most groups asking for education equality advocate dragging high achievers down rather than raising the quality for everyone. This is no different.
(and no one as answered why Asian-Americans are not considered people of color. Sounds vaguely exclusionary to me)
Posted by Maya, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm
Thanks Education West. I, personally appreciate your fine grading system. I will be sure to let all of my Hispanic students who are completely happy, high achieving, and involved, (yes from EPA, attending PAUSD), that we get a "D." Additionally, I should probably let their parents know that all of the hard work that they are putting towards supporting their children is food for fodder; for all of the "know it alls" to judge and criticize. Could we for once, please have a report on what IS working? Does all of the reporting have to be negative? Do we have to invite and tolerate these horrible accusatory comments? Believe it or not, it's not all bad in the world of educating minority students in Palo Alto. Really. There are many success stories every single day, they just don't seem to draw any attention. I wonder why that is?
Posted by anonymouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm
I have some inside experience with pausd.
A previous writer is largely correct that many palo alto students form a self-selected high performing group. However, the persistent song about our parcel taxes and real estate prices fails to remember two points: 1) palo alto has a whole lot of apartment complexes, filled with a whole lot of students, and 2) palo alto is mandated to educate Tinsley kids, who parents pay zero property taxes into our district.
Even with all of our well-equipped (often over-equipped) classrooms, I think many property owners would be surprised by how much money is NOT spent on the average and high performing kids, compared to vast sums spent directly and indirectly on low-performers (counselors, aides, special low-class size teachers, student incentive gifts, and above all professional time). Some of this is mandated by law. Some of this one might argue is driven by the very professionals whose salary requires identifying and maintaining a needy group.
I agree with the prev poster who said it used to be when you failed, it was your fault; I would add, it used to be your family would be ashamed and shoulder some of the blame and remedy. Not only do low performers need interventions from K on, but their families need to step up and be involved in those interventions, part of the solution. As it currently stands we've evolved into an education culture that does more and more on the family's behalf instead of at their behest, including taking responsibility.
An interesting group to consider in this discussion are ESL kids. We often see students arrive in pausd from a foreign country, speaking considerably less english than our resident low-performers, but who understand that hard work is just that: hard work.
Posted by Sally, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm
How does the district know who is economically disadvantaged? How is that linked to student achievement? Are they polling the students of color to get the families income information?
They do get some data from applications for subsidized lunch program, but not all parents who are eligible apply. There's census data for the areas where PAUSD draws students (most of Palo Alto, Stanford, and Los Alto Hills) but that won't take into account the Tinsley kids or the Voluntary Transfer Program kids. Census data won't tell you the grades of any particular student.
Posted by kk, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm
Teachers will complain that parents make the difference.
If I teach my child at home and he can write his name and read before he attends first grade I have done the teachers job. The teachers become dependent on kids being "ready" which really means the parents did the teachers job.
YOU cannot depend on parents to do the teachers job because you are making the kids responsible for their parents short comings.
Create lessons plans and be responsible. You have kids that parents that can barely read, you can't penalize those kids.
Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm
It seems the Dauber's idea of closing the achievement gap is pushing down the top. Total non-sense. There will always be a greater achievement gap in Palo Alto compared with other non-academically competitive places. The academic top in Palo Alto is pretty lofty, and that's great. The bottom should take note and learn to follow a great example.
Posted by College Student, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Mar 24, 2012 at 9:03 am
I agree with many of the above comments in opposing this articles view. These kids who are supposedly low income or disadvantaged shouldn't be put on a platform and singled out bc of their socioeconomic status. This is unfair to ALL the kids who are not at that status and who work hard/ along with their parents helping them to do well, are not appreciated. No matter if you live in a slum, or a mansion you can chose to study, or fail and English class. Not everyone is at the same income bracket.. SO WHAT that's how it goes. I am a low income student from East Palo Alto completely supporting myself for school, and guess what. I have a 4.0. So all you ellitest,righteous, "serving-the-underpriveleged-population" that don't give fair credit to everyone else are WRONG in my opinion. And guess what? Our wonderful bay area (which I loveee) offers FREE FOOD, FREE INSURANCE, and FREE MONEY to the low income population. Stop making excuses I don't care if you white or black anyone can study.
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:28 am
Consider whether these heralded school districts did better on closing the gap because they falsified their student test results.
The news is full of reports about teachers and principals who falsify student test scores or give students test questions ahead of time -- Georgia, DC, New York, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, PA and even CA - Oakland back in the early '00s and Los Angeles just a few months ago. LAUSD is not a shining star of integrity if 130 of its educators are being investigated by the state for misconduct as is being reported this week.
If CA teachers in Southern California, who are under immense political pressure to close the achievement gap to get funding, have fabricated their students' scores then the Education Trust West report might just be saying that PAUSD teachers are at least being honest about the gap and challenge.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:54 am
Wouldn't it be easier (and more 'honest') just to say you don't care about minority achievement than to come up with a convoluted conspiracy theory involving 150 districts across the state (and maligning tens of thousands of teachers supposedly involved in this conspiracy)? Just say you don't care. That would be 'honest."
Posted by Sara, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:59 am
It is true that many of our white/asian students are quite high achieving, but I'm not sure how we feel comfortable saying that it is acceptable for our latin@/black students to not be as high achieving! this double standard is what Skelly and the Parent Network for Students of Color are interested in addressing: if we hold everyone to higher standards, and higher expectations, people will need to work harder to achieve them. right now, it seems that we occasionally (whether inadvertently or on purpose) hold our black and latin@ students to a lower standard because we make assumptions about where they would like to go in life. some people think this must change.
i think we have to think about the academic, as well as social factors, that create this achievement gap. many kids are behind academically AND (more importantly, in my opinion) may be disengaged by the time they get to high school. i believe this has to do with feelings of isolation for being a student of color (by which i mean black or latin@) or socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:10 am
What part of "saying that PAUSD teachers are at least being honest about the gap and challenge" says to you that I don't care? I do. Very much.
I just don't trust Ed West's (or your group's) comparisons with other districts' CST scores for many reasons, some having to do with high stakes testing creating an environment that can bread cheating. I also happen to agree with other posters' comments that it is not sound to draw sweeping conclusions from very small sample sizes which some in this community have done on this issue.
We need to focus on how we are doing for each kid and what more we can do for each kid, not on how we compare to others.
Embarrassing the district with reports like this and telling hard-working teachers that they are failing makes the people we need to do the hard work defensive, distracts from the work that needs to be done, and creates an environment that makes it hard-to-impossible for parents and teachers to work together to get kids the help they need.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:23 am
Apparently, educational equity has turned into Cuba on this thread, so maybe people can relate to the bottom line.
The bottom line is that the "D" is the equivalent of doing less for the same dollars, which others do more with. If Palo Alto somehow spends more money on the achievement gap, then that D would probably be an F, of course.
Now, I've read this thread and most related threads, and there is zero indication or proof that the Daubers or PAUSD have a conspiracy to close the achievement gap by "pushing down the top." And nobody has brought up this conspiracy theory except in these threads, since the Algebra 2 issue.
Can we get that story straight? The request for an Algebra 2 class, to be taught at state standards for the students in the lowest lanes, would (in theory) have NO impact or change for "the top." students. There are multiple Math lanes (about 5) in Palo Alto.
What is the point of the five lanes if the same Algebra2 class is identical for all the lanes? As long as as the lowest lane is taught at basic state standards, what is the damage to the "top"?
My observation is that by not using the lanes effectively, current lanes are simply a way to perpetuate success or failure depending on which lane you're' in. The Education Trust West study reflects that there are umpteen best practices to perpetuate success for the broadest range of students, readily available, why would anyone need to push anyone down?
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:40 am
It's fine with me if you choose to ignore the data about student achievement, or attempt to cast it as the result of a vast conspiracy in hundreds of districts across the state, in which our relatively poor showing is a result of being the only honest district. I think that reflects more denial than intellectual honesty, but you have plenty of company as you can see by scrolling up.
I do agree with you that bringing forward facts about how we are doing relative to other districts does sometimes produce a defensive reaction, though I've observed it much less among teachers than among district staff leadership and school board members (and in fact the Edtrust West report makes the point that comparing districts is useful precisely because school staff don't necessarily control the policies, curriculum, and incentives that they are working within). But I also think that we should expect our district leadership to be able to deal professionally and honestly with data about student achievement. After all, we've entrusted them with $160 million a year and our kids. If the cost of deferring to defensiveness is that we can't talk about reality, I don't want to pay it.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:43 am
If Palo Alto is the only one you trust, no other schools, the achievement gap data it has for itself is not exactly rosy. And the teachers themselves self-report on a need to improve the gap. Most are interested in doing this, so it's not "impossible for parents and teachers to work together to get kids the help they need."
I'm sure correcting that D is not about what, or why, it's when.
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:53 am
I always understood that you are to measure the achievement gap by the space between where a minority group is and where the state says it should be (scoring proficient and above on state tests), not by comparing how wide the space is between different racial groups.
Ed Trust's "Gap" measurement does the second so districts which have very high performing students like Palo Alto (by virtue of tutors, parents and/or teachers - hard to tell which) will get a bad "gap" grade even if all minority students reached the state's proficiency bar.
It is better to look at Ed Trust's "performance" grades for students of color; PAUSD earned a B, putting us in the top 1/3 or so in the state. This is the better measurement - and the one the federal government and state uses - which is based on how close our district is to meeting "the statewide performance goal of 800" for each racial group.
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm
Thanks for refocusing the discussion on the data. In terms of definition, "achievement gap" typically refers to differences between groups, not between a group and a standard. See Web Link for example.
PAUSD's gap is a function both of the high achievement of the reference group (in the Edtrust report, white students), and the achievement of minority and poor students. To the extent that the achievement of all students is linked to the resources available in the district, I think it's reasonable to expect that there should be some link among groups in terms of achievement scores.
For performance, PAUSD gets a B for minority students and a C for poor students because we are are not reaching the state's proficiency bar (in fact, our high school API scores are worse than our overall LEA API scores for minority and poor students, because their relative achievement declines markedly after elementary school). I don't see the source for your statement that that puts us in the top third of the state -- can you point to your source?
The federal and state government actually use improvement in achievement over time in accountability metrics. Our relative lack of progress is captured by our D for minority students and F for low-income students.
We've also looked in more detail at achievement results for math and science courses, linked in one of my posts above, which show that in several subjects our performance for minority and poor students is substantially below many other districts in the state.
So in short, I agree with you that we should be looking in more detail at these results, but focusing on one area in which we receive a "B" is as partial as looking at one summary without looking at more focused measures.
Posted by elementary logic, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm
"Wouldn't it be easier (and more 'honest') just to say you don't care about minority achievement than to come up with a convoluted conspiracy theory involving 150 districts across the state (and maligning tens of thousands of teachers supposedly involved in this conspiracy)? Just say you don't care. That would be 'honest."
I love the way the Duaber's argue. If you don't agree with us and do as we say then you don't care about minority achievement!
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm
What more do you suggest that our school district do for students of color who are scoring proficient if other students' with advanced CST scores are getting them because of the help they get from private tutors and/or parents, as many parents in this forum allege?
Do you think PAUSD dollars should be used to hire private tutors to take proficient minority students from proficient to advanced just so PAUSD can narrow Ed Trust's unique definition of the achievement gap too? Or is it that you think that our teachers have copious free time that could be used to do that too?
The federal goal is for schools to get students to proficient. CA's bar for what constitutes proficient is among the highest in the US (one of the few states which gets an A for high standards in both math and English). Web Link
Given unlimited resources your lofty goal may be appropriate, but turn on the radio and you'll hear how CA education funding is going south, fast.
Many would argue, and I'd agree, that our limited resources should be spent on getting more of our students to proficient as the law mandates and not short-changing them in order to chase after advanced standing just because others have attained it.
Posted by Toady, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm
@can improve says
"Now, I've read this thread and most related threads, and there is zero indication or proof that the Daubers or PAUSD have a conspiracy to close the achievement gap by "pushing down the top.""
No, we do not believe that there is any conspiracy -- it's about the lack of understanding (are they just being naive?) of unintended consequences of all these fantasy programs to "lift" lower achieving folks.
I've seen years of these programs with good intentions that end up screwing up everything and lowering performance all around. I've seen people try to use schools as a means to engineer social policy or stupidly attempt to overcome impossible home situations (see SFUSD).
There are thousands of Daubers around with big hearts and, frankly, no understanding of how what they advocate doesn't work.
Posted by anonymouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm
@College Student E.PA -- Yes! Way to speak the truth that anyone can succeed. Thank you for pointing out the treasure of free services that are already provided to disadvantaged students.*
@elementary logic -- Yes, I agree. Too frequently are skeptics/realists painted as racists. Fact is, the education system has made decades of valiant and very very expensive efforts to boost minority achievement... pausd is no stranger to these efforts. Let us remember we have been busting our tail$ already on the behalf low-achievers. This is very tough nut to crack... therefore, it's worth discussing, without being labeled a racist, is this really a problem? if so, is it fixable by this institution alone? and if so, at what cost?
I'm all for holding ALL kids to the same high standards. Fact is, however, at the schoolsite level, advocates for low-achievers more often seek the opposite! "Can you reduce the homework for her?" "Can you give him a different test than the rest of the class?" "Can she retake this test (after bombing it the first time)?" "Can you make up a special study sheet for him?" "Can you check her invidually each day to make sure she has written down the homework assignment?" "What can he do to raise his grade?" "Will you provide her some kind of extra credit opportunity?"
Regarding FREE, FREE, FREE -- helping the bottom comes at a cost to the middle & top, since there's only so much property tax pie to go around.
* Do people realize pausd pays to drive Tinsley kids to/from school? that we provide free yearbooks, field trip fees, even computers to disadvantaged families? that we feed kids with free or reduced cost lunch? [don't get me started on the conflict of interest concerning school food bureacracy])
* And our money woes are just beginning as a babyboom of special ed lawsuits is just beginning to saddle district level budgets with footing the bill for incredibly expensive private school alternatives for disabled students.
Big picture. There's ideal, and there's cost. Pausd is a fantastic place to learn, with owners, renters, VTP lottery winners, and even out-of-town cheats willing to do what it takes to get into our classrooms and take advantage of a rigorous academic milieu.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm
"The federal goal is for schools to get students to proficient."
This could in fact be the federal goal, I do not know, and it could be the state goal. I would say it's an empty goal if "proficient" leads nowhere.
College readiness, or future technical training readiness would be two criteria I would use instead as a goal. For both, a solid Math and Science education is critical.
You asked me what more would I suggest that our school district do for minority students:
I would suggest that the district improve the goals for minority students, and I agree with everything the Daubers have pointed out about the Math and Science lanes, not because i belong to their group, or know them, or anything like that, it's practically common sense.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm
"* Do people realize pausd pays to drive Tinsley kids to/from school? that we provide free yearbooks, field trip fees, even computers to disadvantaged families? that we feed kids with free or reduced cost lunch? [don't get me started on the conflict of interest concerning school food bureacracy])"
And Palo Alto is still getting a "D" in services to minority students.
Sounds to me like the focus has been on the wrong services. Or maybe Education Trust West might want to add free yearbooks, field trips and computers and iunch to the services criteria.
Posted by citizen, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm
This community cares education very much. Yes, we should help those less fortunate students, make them study harder to improve their grade. However, I don't think all white/asian students who have good grade because all of them have private tutor. For whites/asians, they have to study harder to get to the "same" lane as URM student for college admission, very unfortunately! Just look at UC admission stats, whites/asians need to have much much high SAT score and GPA to get in, while URM students take the advantage of their race, entering UC with much lower stats. I am not racist at all. I truly believe every citizen is equal in America. Every citizen should have equal opportunity, but that is not applied to college admission, interesting. My advise to white/Asian students, please study hard, try your best to get good grade. Otherwise, you would be left behind when you apply for college!!!
Posted by Parent of an average student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 6:01 pm
Some students, for whatever reason, whether minority or not, will always not perform at the top level. It's impossible to level the playing field at the very top level.
I think some people in Palo Alto won't be happy unless and until the education provided by our school district is so watered down that every student is mediocre. Attempts to "level the playing field" typically end up lowering the level for everybody.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm
Parent of average student,
It would take a long time to "water down" five lanes in Math. And why would you need to water down Calculus, for example, for students who will not need to take that class. Even if you watered down, there are state standards.
Posted by Editor?, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm
Doesn't this fall under the heading of "attacking another poster" which should result in the post being edited or removed?
Wouldn't it be easier (and more 'honest') just to say you don't care about minority achievement than to come up with a convoluted conspiracy theory involving 150 districts across the state (and maligning tens of thousands of teachers supposedly involved in this conspiracy)? Just say you don't care. That would be 'honest.""
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm
VTP/Tinsley costs. I'm sorry anonymous, but you're only telling part of the story. Yes PAUSD pays the costs - but it is also true that PAUSD receives approximately 80% of the state funding that would have gone to the "home district" for those students who are part of VTP.
I asked this question in the other thread and did not see answer yet, so please excuse me if this is redundant to some of you.
There has been much discussion of the achievement gap within PAUSD when measured by the results of the California HS exit exam. This is a key argument point by the We Can Do Better group.
My question(s): How many PAUSD HS students are not "proficient"? I might be wrong, but I recall that the number is somewhere around 36? If we can agree that the approximate HS student populations is 3700 (Gunn & Paly), then it is safe to say that we are talking about approximately only 1% of PAUSD HS student body is not proficient on the exit exam.
Should we find ways to get to 0%? Sure, why not. But @ 1%, I would argue that we can hardly categorize the school district as failing or receiving a D.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm
Proportion of students Not Proficient on the STAR Test and CAHSEE by High School. As you can see it is far more than 1%. Numerically the majority of students who are not proficient are white, however black and hispanic students are overrepresented in these groups.
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 7:09 am
This is the most surreal discussion about education in the USA..err excuse me,.... in the Palo Alto Bubble about how "WE" deal with "OUR" minorities.
And as we pontificate about how to re-arrange the minority deckchairs inside the state room of the Titanic...
a local Stanford Professor of Education wrote an excellent article which shows how inane and absurd all this back and forth is when one steps back a bit and looks at the national problem of education in our country....
And we don't even have to go to Cuba to find a possible remedy...(though the fact that a third world country at our doorstep makes a mockery of our supposed efforts to optimize education for all should embarass).
from the article..
"It’s not as though we don’t know what works. We could implement the policies that have reduced the achievement gap and transformed learning outcomes for students in high-achieving nations where government policies largely prevent childhood poverty by guaranteeing housing, healthcare and basic income security. These same strategies were substantially successful in our own nation through the programs and policies of the war on poverty and the Great Society, which dramatically reduced poverty, increased employment, rebuilt depressed communities, invested in preschool and K-12 education in cities and poor rural areas, desegregated schools, funded financial aid for college and invested in teacher training programs that ended teacher shortages. In the 1970s teaching in urban communities was made desirable by the higher-than-average salaries, large scholarships and forgivable loans that subsidized teacher preparation, and by the exciting curriculum and program innovations that federal funding supported in many city school districts."
But what do I know? I once made a mistake in the nomenclature of marine mammal dentition. :)
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:38 am
@Crescent Park Dad,
The raw numbers @ Michele and @ Ken posts do not show the whole picture.
PAUSD educates all children who live in the district and many who don't, including children in Special Education and those who can't speak or read a word of English when they arrive.
Special Education students in PAUSD = 10%
English Learners = 11%
These students sit for STAR tests just like everyone else does so we should expect that at least 11% - 21% of our students at any one test sitting would score below proficient. Some students with special needs take a different test but their scores are folded into the STAR statistics.
Looking at it with that lens, PAUSD is doing amazingly well.
The data the state reports gets even more granular, breaking down special ed by disability and ethnicity. This data shows that the stats people have thrown around to "prove" that PAUSD has "failed" our minority students don't go deep enough either.
Our underrepresented minority students are over represented in those groups: 25% of our Black and Hispanic students are in special ed and 8% of our Asian and white students are. The subset of our students with learning disabilities or autism only: 16% (B/H) and 3% (A/W).
I expect to see posts following this one attacking PAUSD for discriminatory placement of minorities into special ed which I'll try to pre-empt by saying that, without proof, those claims are conjecture.
To qualify for special education, parents must request it and testing to determine eligibility is required. Because of the high cost of special education services, school districts are reluctant to be over inclusive when classifying students as special ed. If true here too, PAUSD's special education population may be even higher than what the official numbers show, making our test scores even more impressive.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:38 am
Crescent Park Dad,
Academically, turns out that the heaviest weight is being lifted by the Elementary and Middle Schools. It's really overdue for the High Schools to step-up, or let's just fund K-9.
If I'm reading this correctly, 25% of ALL students in PAUSD are not proficient in Math. Would be good to know if that is pre-Algebra, Algebra 1or 2. Science is not as bad, for 9th grade Science? The next argument will probably be that for 1/4 of students, 9th grade Science is too high a standard to meet, pre-Algebra should be the highest level to test.
What is the point of a K-12 system?! if the system quits on so many students by 9-10th grade, minority or non-minority. While there will always be a normal range of student performance levels, the rock bottom expectation for K-12 schools can't possibly be a 10th grade exit of 25% of the students in Math and Science.
Should the funding be the same after 10th grade for these students? I completely disagree with your idea that there is a magic number of students with which schools stop being accountable for, or a date by when everyone decides to gives up. If you give up, don't get money for it.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:54 am
If 10% is Special Ed, with exceptions to go above 9th grade level academics, the heaviest weight is still being lifted by the Elementary and Middle Schools. I agree, they do an impressive amount of the academic lifting. Still unclear what the added value of High School is for too many students.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 9:00 am
You make an excellent point and one that is often overlooked. The state pays the same dollar for each student regardless of whether they have essentially stopped taking academic classes or not. For students who are thrown off the college-bound track in 9th grade and stop taking math or science entirely due to our low graduation requirements, the district receives a windfall. Rather than spending that money on science or math courses for that child, the district is able to take that funding and essentially transfer it to the education of high achieving children in the form of expensive laboratory equipment, smart boards, and other equipment and offerings that child will never see or use. For the last 2 years that the underachieving child is in PAUSD not taking math or science his or her budget allocation is spent on other, high achieving kids in order to boost the district's AP and SAT scores.
There is an unfair expenditure of funds going on but it is not from the high to the low achiever, it is the reverse. This may be another reason why the Paly math department opposed A-G for all -- they get the benefits of having those kids in the school in the form of dollars without actually having to teach them.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 9:30 am
Michele - the majority of school funding goes to teachers, not equipment. That is funded from a different budget. A tremendous amount of funding goes to Special Ed so in fact those kids are receiving more money and attention than the rest of the kids. If the district wanted divert more money to the advanced kids, it wouldn't have so many children in Special Ed. If you really want to change things, run for school board so you can do your own bidding.
Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 9:38 am
> For students who are thrown off the college-bound track in
> 9th grade and stop taking math or science entirely due to our
> low graduation requirements, the district receives a windfall
Hmmm .. not certain that this is true. The PAUSD is a Basic Aid District, where funding is concerned. About 70% of the funding comes from local sources, and about 30% comes from State sources (historically).. The actual direct aid for students from the State is usually in the $200-$400/student range. What State funding that is received is often intended for instruction that is mandated by the Legislature—such as classes in “drug use awareness” (and the like).
It would be very interesting to have some talking about “windfall from the State” pointing to line items in the PAUSD budget where this money can be seen to have been received by the District, and trace it to use in the college-bound tracts.
Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 9:43 am
"You make an excellent point and one that is often overlooked. The state pays the same dollar for each student regardless of whether they have essentially stopped taking academic classes or not. For students who are thrown off the college-bound track in 9th grade and stop taking math or science entirely due to our low graduation requirements, the district receives a windfall. "
We are a basic aid district and received the same amount of money NO MATTER our enrollment. I am very surprised that you don't know this. We don't received direct operating costs from the State, it comes from property taxes and with our growing enrollment the per pupil dollars available has declined over the past several years. This has all been extensively reported at Board meetings.
Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 10:01 am
> but it is also true that PAUSD receives approximately 80% of the
> state funding that would have gone to the "home district" for
> those students who are part of VTP.
This is not true. Many years ago there was some direct funding by the State for the VTP students, but when the Legislature shipwrecked California's financial stability with its constant overspending, this funding was withdrawn. The State does help with the transportation costs, however (or at least it did a couple years ago).
The majority of the costs for educating VTP students is paid by PAUSD taxpayers.
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 25, 2012 at 11:53 am
If I understand you correctly, your argument is that that
(a) 10% of PAUSD students are designated as special education, and
(b) 11% of PAUSD students are designated as ELL, and
(c) none of those students should be expected to score proficient or above on a CST test, and therefore
(d) PAUSD is doing amazingly well.
You don't present any evidence for (c), but in fact it's incorrect both in principle -- many students have IEPs for reasons that don't present a significant cognitive impairment, and ELL students aren't cognitively impaired -- and empirically. CST results for special education students show that many achieve proficient and above: Web Link, and similarly for ELL students: Web Link. Conversely, many students who are not designated as special education or ELL achieve below proficient.
Given that your point (c) is incorrect, I don't think that (d) follows. It's also worth pointing out, though, that the other districts who are doing better than we are also have special education and ELL students, so even if your point (c) were correct, you would also have to be arguing that it would improve our relative and not just absolute results.
(Parenthetically, I think you should be able to get this data for yourself, rather than making unsupported assertions that require others to post corrections so that readers aren't misled. Your post includes a link to Dataquest, which has a pretty easy to use interface for finding achievement results).
In terms of disproportional assignment of students to special education, it may be helpful to recall comments that Virginia Davis, who was Associate Superintendent of PAUSD until her retirement last year, at a school board meeting last April (quoted from the Palo Alto Weekly coverage [Web Link]):
Palo Alto teachers must change their "mindsets" if the school district is ever to escape state sanctions for having a substantial overrepresentation of Hispanic and African-American students in special education, a top official said Tuesday.
"Every adult in our system must understand that every child can learn, regardless of who their parents are," Associate Superintendent Virginia Davis told the Board of Education.
"Unfortunately, we still do hear that comment that (minority students) 'are just not ready for my program.' We have to turn around that belief in our district," Davis said.
Palo Alto is one out of 17 of California's 1,000 school districts to be labeled by the state Department of Education as having "significant disproportionality" in special ed.
Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm
> One more question, if the schools receive no money from the state
> what is the connection of meeting state standards?
The schools get upwards of 30% of their funding from the State/Feds.
But at a more fundamental level, public schools are a "political subdivision of the State" .. which means that they are not only run by the State, but are, at some level--the State itself.
Doesn't it make sense that all schools in the State, that are the recipients of public funding, all operate under the same rules, and standards? It's hard to believe that most people are not of that opinion.
Posted by skeptical46, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm
These discussions are devolving into some kind of social policy debate. The core issue for most parents with kids in the Palo Alto School system is that Palo Alto schools serve the vast majority of our kids very, very well. So much so that families from all over go to great lengths to get their kids into this system (by moving here or other means)...including minorities. I don't think anyone on this discussion board would disagree with that fact.
If we have a small fraction of kids doing worse than the others, we should give them some special attention to try to improve their performance. But we should not change how we teach all the kids just to try to lift performance of this small fraction of kids performing less well. This is just common sense, and I think the vast majority of parents with kids in the school system would agree with that.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm
"These discussions are devolving into some kind of social policy debate."
I guess you mean evolving. The reason it is a social policy debate because it's public school.
No need to change the teaching of the majority to improve the minority, that makes no sense with the multiple academic lanes in Palo Alto. Nobody is asking for that, that conspiracy theory only appears on the these threads.
Thank you for the clarification about state funding.
Posted by Honesty, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm
Did you read my entire post carefully? No where did I say that "none of those students should be expected to score proficient or above on a CST test." So your c and d don't follow.
Some of them do not score proficient, which is demonstrable when you sort by those groups on the CA Department of Education website. The groups less likely to score proficient, at least as far as special needs kids goes, are at a minimum what I reported:
"The subset of our students with learning disabilities or autism only: 16% (B/H) and 3% (A/W)."
As for the state's dis-proportionality concern, that report could fail on the same grounds as Ed Trust's report does by looking at general stats, not the information about individual students in our district which would show why they happen to be in special ed.
That's the problem with data - it's helpful to spot possible issues but not at all helpful to draw conclusions from. The conclusions and solutions are derived only via a very human process that takes time to learn about the children and their individual needs.
Hence my initial point: "We need to focus on how we are doing for each kid and what more we can do for each kid, not on how we compare to others."
Posted by Ken Dauber, a member of the Barron Park School community, on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm
Yes, I did read your entire post carefully, specifically:
"Special Education students in PAUSD = 10%
English Learners = 11%
These students sit for STAR tests just like everyone else does so we should expect that at least 11% - 21% of our students at any one test sitting would score below proficient."
That means precisely what I wrote, that according to you "none of those students should be expected to score proficient or above on a CST test." It's fine for you to disagree with yourself, but please at least take responsibility for both sides of that argument.
Given the vast sea of data that the STAR tests generate, it's not clear how many schools offer these tests as a check and balance against the difficulties that an English learner might have during the early days of his/her enrollment. Nor is it clear how many English learners actual take the Spanish version, or how these Spanish test results differ from their English tests results.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
My take on this issue is that there is an exit from Math and Science at 10th grade, for those students scoring below proficient and that's two core subjects not being taught to 25% of students for three grade levels.I assume these students don't need college counseling either. The Elementary and Middle Schools have the same amount of Special Ed, ELL, perhaps even greater burdens to achieve progress, and they don't get a free pass for not teaching two core subjects to a chunk of students for 2-3 grade levels.
Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm
"My take on this issue is that there is an exit from Math and Science at 10th grade, for those students scoring below proficient and that's two core subjects not being taught to 25% of students for three grade levels.I assume these students don't need college counseling either."
Is this actual data? I don't believe so.... there was data presented at some point that showed over 90% of students are enrolled in a math class at Paly. I don't remember seeing the numbers for Science, but students have to take 2 years of Science to graduate, so I doubt students don't take science for 3 years.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm
@Palo Verde Parent
Regarding school funding, you're totally right. I forgot about being a 'basic aid district." Although PAUSD receives state funds, it categorical and categorical funds are not based on headcount.
Rather than saying that PAUSD is collecting money from the state for these kids it is not teaching I should have said it is collecting money from their parents in the form of real estate taxes (both paid directly and paid to landlords who pay them over to the county). It is thus property tax revenue rather than state tax revenues that are being redistributed away from poor and minority kids who are counseled out of math and science to their advanced counterparts.
Posted by can improve, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm
It's my conclusion from the test data posted earlier that there is a number of students who do not take Math or Science after 10th grade, and there may be many with exceptions who do not take it after 9th grade. I used the 25% of students not scoring proficient in Math, to be that universe of students. You have added that only two years of Science is required to graduate.
That further supports my point which is that High School caps out a chunk of the population on two core subjects by 10th grade, and any or most of the academic progress on these students is primarily being shouldered by the Elementary and Middle Schools. It's probably not news to anyone, and not looked at in any negative way. I think it speaks to the fact that other schools make different choices and are doing more, for the same or less funding.