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District looks to build schools, shrink achievement gap

Original post made on Dec 28, 2012

Plans to open new schools in Palo Alto and to raise the bar on graduation requirements highlighted local education news in 2012, which was an election year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 28, 2012, 9:10 AM

Comments (11)

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 28, 2012 at 10:46 am

> The Oakland-based Education Trust West, backed by funders including
> the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates
> Foundation, said Palo Alto compares poorly with other large school
> districts on metrics such as "size of achievement gap" between
> white students and black and Hispanic students.

The problem with any not-for-profit Education booster, like Ed Trust, is that they are free to push any agenda that they would like, and have no obligation to provide the truth to the taxpaying public.

Parents are a huge part of the education delivery model—yet it's hard to find any evidence of that fact in the agenda pushed by the Ed Trust West (for instance), which seems to want government schools to be the sole source of "education", and the "well being of children". The role of parents seems to have been virtually erased from this point-of-view.

Life-long learning/education is not something that 180-day a year/6-hour a day schools can instill in a nation's children like their parents can. From the day of a child's birth, his mother, and father, are far more committed to his success than the employees of a government school system.

The following is another look at the API scores of several school districts in the neighborhood of the PAUSD:

Another Look At PAUSD Student Performance Data:
Web Link

> She reported significant gains in both math and
> English for black and Hispanic students.

The API data obtained from the State Department of Education presents a somewhat different view of student performance of African/American students in the PAUSD (see link above) than that described in the Weekly article. Nationally, both African/American and Hispanic students have been showing steady, but slow, growth in their standardized test scores over the years. The same seems true in the PAUSD. However, the growth rates for each group is not something to "crow" about. The data shows that it will take up to sixteen years for the African/American test results to reach API=800 (Proficient), and forty-three years to reach 900 (Advanced). Hispanic achievement is more hopeful, with the statewide target score of API=800 being attainable within a couple of years.

Students without fully committed parents very frequently demonstrate lower academic achievement than those with fully committed parents. The schools need to create an education delivery model that acknowledges this fact, and seeks to support those parents without the same academic preparation as those who did manage 4-8 years of higher education. This additional support can be provided via distance learning, which should be delivered statewide, via the State Department of Education. Local education agencies should be able to augment these basic skills/training programs, as they see fit. With the advent of $100/device tablet/PCs that have audio/video capability, there is no reason that every conceivable sort of "education" should not be available to every grade level—including parents. Additionally, video conferencing should now make it easy for teaching staff to actually talk/visit with parents that might not be able to easily make a trip to the school site for needed conferences.

The number of students currently in the so-called "achievement gap" is not very large, in number. No reason the PAUSD could not experiment with these new, inexpensive, technologies to see if the students who have historically been seen as "underachieving" might not benefit from having access to on-line education.


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Posted by Anono
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Is "fully committed parent" determined by the "4-8 years of higher education" or is it supposed to be determined by the color of my skin or where my parents came from?

This attitude really feels like I am back on the plantation.

Perhaps the focus should be on the actual value of my children's teachers. What can they do in terms of while they have my kids at school? What happens when they teach it and my kids don't get it. Will I need to go to a parenting class because my parents didn't send me off to 4 years of undergraduate partying followed by a few years of make-up or grad school? How do we measure the effectiveness of the teacher and then compensate him or her fairly?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm



Asian immigrants do fine in American schools so do many Black immigrants from Jamaica.

They make their kids fluent in English and they follow the teachers advice.

They support nuclear families and American mainstream values.

If the parents are not aligned with American values and/or the parents are not fluent and literate in English then there is little or nothing " remedial" schools can do.

Trade schools are a much better solution


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Posted by Your fellow expert
a resident of Barron Park School
on Dec 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Sharon, your words remind me of the great Reggie White back in the 1990s. His words, like yours and Wayne's, remind us that just because many of us are successful in one narrow field doesn't mean that we are qualified to preach in other fields.

"If you go to a black church, you see people jumping up and down because they really get into it," he said.

Whites are good at organization, White said.

"You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature, and you know how to tap into money," he said.

"Hispanics were gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home."

THE JAPANESE AND other Asians are inventive, and "can turn a television into a watch," White said. Indians are gifted in spirituality, he said.

"When you put all of that together, guess what it makes: It forms a complete image of God," White said.


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Posted by many questions
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

How often the student moves must be a factor - how transitory are some of PAUSD's students?
There certainly are a multitude of factors.
Please avoid ridiculous steretotypes, even kiss-a__ ones: "Asian immigrants do fine in American schools.." per Sharon -- how about the fact that the type of Asian immigrant who has moved here to Silicon Valley within the past 35 years has usually been a very upscale, educated type? - hardly representative of the entire country of China or etc.
EVERY country/ethnic group has merit - don't be so self-centered and assured you know everything about everybody/every corner of this country, much less the world.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Some of the responsibility falls on the students. For the most part, we have great teachers that are more than willing to support students. BUT students need to take education seriously, do the work, and ask for help when needed. At least at Paly, if you need help and ask for it, there are free tutors, teachers and parents willing to help, etc.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm



However if we had an influx of North Korean immigrants they would fail in ours schools because they are brain damaged and stunted by pre natal and post natal malnutrition

-the average North Korean is 7+ inches shorter than the average South Korean.

Presumably this would correct after a generation of healthy pre and post natal nutrition.

IQ is a matter of genetics and pre/post natal nutrition.

Motivation to learn is a matter of family values and genetics.

Schools have a minor impact in the face of family values and genetics-we should still try

-and vocational/trade schools are a good step in the right direction.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Our school board and superintendent make Congress look good.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Where is the "achievement gap" defined? I really wish we could talk about achievement relative to potential, rather than achievement relative to some absolute standard. I do not believe that everyone has equal academic potential, just as I don't believe everyone has equal athletic potential. There are differences in biology, culture, family education/values, and more. Do our schools have to try to correct for all that? Is that an effective use of our resources? Or should we instead be working to ensure that all kids are challenged and learning?

I am concerned that this focus on bringing up under-performing kids to some absolute higher standard will effectively take resources away from the more academically inclined (for whatever reason) kids. Why should they not be challenged, encouraged, stretched to their potential? In the academic environment, of all things, where their abilities should be recognized and encouraged. Is it really good policy to work as hard as we can to achieve a higher minimum bar for everyone, than to work as hard as we can to help every kid achieve their potential?

I don't know where to draw the line. This same argument could be used to stop spending such a huge fraction of our academic resources on the tiny fraction of special-needs kids. That seems morally wrong. But it also seems wrong to me that we spend the vast majority of our money and special training on the under-performers, and effectively ignore the kids who are effortlessly succeeding. That is a clear failure of our schools. No one should be effortlessly succeeding. Everyone should be challenged in class and stretched to their potential. But that is not the case in our schools. Our funding choices ignore a large and important segment of our kids.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Parent, Downtown North - I don't know any student in high school who are academically inclined and not challenged. We have enough variety in our classes that students can choose challenging courses. Again, I feel that some of the responsibility for the achievement gaps falls on students who CHOOSE not to do the work, cooperate in class, etc.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm

It may well be that high schools are doing a good job of challenging everyone. But I would estimate that at least 10% of the kids in elementary school are not even close to adequately challenged. And elementary school is six long years. That is certainly helping to close the gap between students (is that the "achievement gap"?), but probably not in the way we'd like.


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