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Palo Alto schools lottery process revamped

Original post made on Feb 21, 2008

The man in front of the white board jotting down complex equations Thursday morning was no algebra professor. It was Palo Alto schools Superintendent Kevin Skelly attempting to do the math for entry into the district's limited-enrollment programs in the first-ever group lottery at the district office.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 21, 2008, 12:34 PM

Comments (46)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Thank you Arden for your report.

Thank you Kevin, for reading our concerns on this Forum and taking note.


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Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 21, 2008 at 3:46 pm

I agree with Parent. The new process may not address everyone's concerns, but it is a very positive step in the right direction, providing much improved transparency and consistency across programs while protecting the privacy of PAUSD families and maintaining a dignified atmosphere.

I'm impressed that Skelly and the BoE heard people's concerns and didn't just blow them off.


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Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I agree with Parent. The new process may not address everyone's concerns, but it is a very positive step in the right direction, providing much improved transparency and consistency across programs while protecting the privacy of PAUSD families and maintaining a dignified atmosphere.

I'm impressed that Skelly and the BoE heard people's concerns and didn't just blow them off.


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Posted by Never-picked
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Arden -- Thank you for your reporting on this. I was also impressed with your piece on the Bond. It was great to see the history so thoroughly reported. Very educational. I appreciated it.

Kudos to Dr. Skelly for making these changes in the "random selection" process. I don't know that any system would ever be perfect for everyone, but forward steps, good intentions and an open door go a long way toward engendering good will.

Arden (or any parent involved) - Did Ohlone or Ohlone MI do a waitlist? Are people being notified about their position on any of the schools' waitlists? Or are they just being told if they made it through the first round?


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Posted by Mom of a Very Young 5
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:33 pm

I would like the Young 5's Program to give special consideration to those children with October & November birthdays. Yes, I'm sad that my child did not get in : ( But I'm also sad for the other parents of sons and daughters with October/November birthdays who may now be wondering what the heck they will do with their VERY Young Five next year... It's just too young for many to start school.

It doesn't seem quite fair to me that a kid born in July could attend the Young Fives program, and a November 29th baby could get turned away...does it?

Yeah, I know, we could still get a spot, but I'm not counting on it.

Remind me to use highly reliable birth control during January and February from now on, as I never want to go through this saga again.


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Posted by Arden Pennell
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Arden Pennell is a registered user.

Hi.
Never-picked asked:

Did Ohlone or Ohlone MI do a waitlist? Are people being notified about their position on any of the schools' waitlists? Or are they just being told if they made it through the first round?

Ohlone and Ohlone MI did waitlists. Susan Charles told the room that Ohlone usually calls those who got in and sends postcards to all others. All parents have a week to choose, so by next Thursday or Friday, the schools should be calling waitlisted parents if there is any room.
Arden


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Posted by Parent of Nov child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:49 pm

To Mom of very young 5

My daughter has Nov 22nd birthday and started kindergarten while she was still 4. She was full of enthusiasm and delighted to be going to "big school" with her friends from preschool. She did very well and I have no doubts that this was right for her.

At this stage in the school year when your child has really just turned 4, going to kindergarten can seem daunting. But, rest assured that six months is a long time in the life of a 4 year old and with preparation your very young child can be ready. If you are not enrolled in some type of preschool, do so now. Even two or three days a week is good. This is good for socialization skills as well as academic skills. Make sure the preschool is structured with different activities, eg circle time, snack time, project time, outside time, etc. and make sure they do some beginning reading, writing and math activities.

Take your child to the elementary school they will be attending. Let them see the school while children are there, you do not have to enter, just watch from the entrance. Take them there at weekends to play in the playground and in particular the kindergarten playground.

Take them to story times at libraries, the junior museum, and other places where they may make friends with those who might be starting at their own kindergarten. Some of the schools have prekinder playtimes at school weekends so get in touch with your school pta to find out. Also, attend open house when it comes up and also science fairs and anything else open to everyone.

Get your child excited about kindergarten and by the time August comes along, they will be nervous, but ready to go.


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Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Arden, Thank you for taking the time to answer people's questions online. Do you know what was done if people entered more than one lott... uh, random selection (Ohlone MI and Ohlone, Hoover and Ohlone MI, SI and MI)? If someone got into two programs, does the district just wait for them to select one and reject the other?


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Dear mom of a very young 5,
I too feel the school should give priority to October/November birthdays. As a teacher I see these children struggle the most in the classroom; especially the boys.


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Posted by Mom of a Very Young Five
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:35 pm

To Mary:

Thanks for your support : ) This is, undeniably, the response I've gotten from teachers (parents results may vary), that an October/November child can have the potential to struggle.

To Parent of a Nov child:

Thanks for your positivity and constructive advice. : )
How old is your daughter now? From what I've discerned, the problems with girls tend to show up much later, i.e. in middle and high school, when they are so much younger than their peers. I know 6 months is a long time and we will keep our options open, however, it would take a huge shift in my perspective to put her in K in the fall. She is small for her age, frustrates easily, gravitates toward younger children...etc.

I feel so strongly about this that we will most likely pay for another year of the preschool she's in (which is ok, but not ideal for her, it's more of a daycare) rather than set her off on a track she may not be ready for.

Things could be worse than not getting into this program. Ultimately, I'm glad we have these "choices".

However,...I feel some additional changes are in order to the selection process, at least for the Young Fives program.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Arden, thanks for the report. You gave a small taste of the kind of details we were looking for (ie: 6 spots for 96 English speaking applicants in SI). But where can we get the rest of these details? (for example, the number of spots and number of applicants for spanish speakers in SI... etc etc etc...) For MI there should be several iterations of groupings for applicants and number of available spots. When are we going to get the full data set?


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Posted by Mom of a Young 5
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 21, 2008 at 6:01 pm

I agree with the previous posters on hoping that the Young 5s program focuses on October/November birthdays in the future. Perhaps also it's time for us to push for a third class. (Yes, I'm well aware of the budget issues.) That aside, as enrollment in the district increases it's inevitable that we'll have more Young 5s as well. Over 70 applicants and only room for 40. It just doesn't make sense. We should have spots for all of those Young 5s. It's not really the same kind of choice program as SI/MI or Ohlone/Hoover.

Another thought is that we could just try to push for the cutoff date to finally change to Sept like the rest of the country. :p


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Posted by Parent of Nov. child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

My daughter is now at college and yes there have been times over the years when she has been frustrated by her age. The hardest for her at the time was that she was the "last" to get her drivers permit (she wasn't as many of her friends didn't have the determination with drivers ed. that she had) and the last to drive, but she got over that one. She is now in college and since she left home at 17 she found that it was a little more difficult for the first few months of college as she still needed parent signatures on many forms which caused some problems, although for some things they told her to sign herself anyway.

Her motor skills were the hardest for her in the early years as she found writing neatly very difficult, but her reading and maths were well up to grade level. She also found herself slightly less well co-ordinated with things like hopping in early years, and running the mile in the later years of middle school, but in both areas she caught up.

One other problem is that for activities like ayso, the cut off age is for birthdays before July 31st and this meant that she had to play sports with those who were generally in the grade below, but she enjoyed being the big kid anyway. Baseball (Little League)now has a cut off age of April 31st which means that about half the kids in any grade level have to play with the lower grade.

As for the maturity level, I found that she was young at the beginning of kindergarten, but she made many friends quickly and caught up without problems, in fact acting more grown up than she should. She found that she wanted to keep up with the older ones and since there were some in her class more than 12 months older than her she did her best to keep up with them. Unfortunately, the birthday crowns with either 5 stars or 6 stars at the beginning of the kindergarten year proved to be a problem because she knew straight away who was older by a lot and talking to the parents of these children, they were embarrassed at being so much older and not in first grade so it worked both ways. Celebrating their birthdays and not their ages would have helped.

I also have a son with a July birthday and he could have been the one to have benefited more from a young fives, but he is managing well now that he is in middle school. Sport is definitely his motivator for keeping up with his peers and not being as tall or as fast as those who are older than him is upsetting to him.

Girls can be a problem in middle and high school, particularly with physical development, but girls do develop at different stages than age, particularly across different ethnicities, that I wouldn't put age as a factor in this.

Some constructive camps during the summer may also be a good idea. Check the Enjoy catalog from the City rec. dept. and sign up for those that match your child's interests, but make sure that they are not designed for those who will still attend pre-school. Many that say 5 years old will take younger kids if they are starting kindergarten. Also, the summer school program from PAUSD is also a good option as they will be at a real school in a real kindergarten room and it will be a good introduction.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 7:13 pm

The young fives program issues begs the question as to why public resources go to this program. I see the benefit to the kids, but it also has an adverse outcome. Then, the May and June boys end up young, and failing in the shadows of all the young five boys. It seems that many do it so their kid has an "advantage" over everyone else (or that is the actual outcome). If someone really wants to hold back their kids, the parents should pay for it.

Sorry, I am sure I am going to get a lot of flack on this one! Either offer pre-k for all, or don't offer it at all. Why must we have SO many lotteries? Maybe I am bitter having lost EVERY one. But if we have to cut something, that should be the first to go. It couldn't be "cost neutral".





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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 7:25 pm

This really brings the question of why we have a cut off date in December anyway. Do other states have the same cut off? As we now start school in August rather than mid September, we are making kids start what is now a much more academic kindergarten year at a younger age. I know that some of our elementary schools put in a longer day starting in November and that does make a lot of sense.

As what we now have is 13 years of school, the idea of kindergarten was to prepare kids for 1sst grade which was in fact a year of preschool. Now this has changed and kinders learn what used to be done in 2nd grade. If we started preschool for everyone, we would end up having 14 years of school and before you know it, the pressures on our 4 year olds would be what used to be in 1st grade.

But to get back to the optimum age to start kindergarten. It strikes me that changing the cut off date to August 31 would make more sense. Those with summer birthdays would be the youngest but at least the whole class would be 5 at the start of school. It would also make them all 18 when they started college, something worth thinking about at the same time.

In Britain, there are two intakes of kindergarten equivalent each year. For those that start in September, they are getting into the routine of being at school and starting to learn and for those who do not enter until March, they catch up quickly because their development skills are ready.

There is a lot to think about here, the young 5s should be for those with birthdays in the last quarter of the age bracket and for those who, when kindergarten has been going for a couple of weeks, the teachers think would benefit from waiting another year. Don't leave it to the parents to decide as we have already seen from comments above, many parents decide to hold back kids just to give them an edge in sports or somesuchnonsense and we know from the closed thread on high school sports that this is a biiiiiiiiig issue for some families.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 7:32 pm

I agree with Parent in making the cut-off August 31st, and make it a firm line. No redshirting, unless there is a TRUE issue the school district identifies. My son would still be the young one, but someone has to be it.

Get rid of young-fives all together then. There is always preschool.


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Posted by Mom of a Very Young Five
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

According to Sharon Keplinger (I attended one of the young fives tours, she is the director) the powers that be have been trying to change the cut-off date for years. Yes! August 31st would be a great cut-off date : ) Of course, this is where the real problem lies.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I think it's politically for a state to take away an extra few months of 'free child care' for those who need it...probably opened up a whole can of worms there...

The majority of states have cutoff dates earlier than California, this is from Web Link (reliability unverified)

Alabama- September 1
Alaska- August 15
Arizona- September 1
Arkansas-September 15
British Columbia, Canada- December 31
California-December 3
Colorado- September 15
Connecticut-January 1
Florida-September 1
Georgia- September 1
Hawai'i-December 31
Idaho- September 1
Illinois-September 1
Indiana- JULY 1 (moved from June 1 -- SB157 to roll back to Sept 1 month-by-month over 3 yrs to Sept 1 starting 99/00 July 1; 00/01 Aug 1; 2001/02 Sept1)
Iowa- September 1 or 15
Kansas-August 31
Kentucky-October 1
Louisiana- September 30 (except Orleans Parish 12/31)
Maine-October 15
Maryland-Entering kindergartners must be 5 by Dec. 31
Massachusetts-September 1
Michigan-December 1
Minnesota-September 1
Mississippi-September 1
Missouri-AUGUST 1 (moved from July 1)
Montana-December 2
Nebraska-October 15
Nevada-September 30
New Hamshire-September 30
New Jersey-November 30
New York-November 30
North Carolina-October 16
North Dakota- December 2
Ohio-September 30
Oklahoma- September 1
Oregon-September 1
Pennsylvania (dates vary from district to district)
Rhode Island- Variable from September 1 to December 31
South Carolina- September 1
Texas-September 1
Utah-August 31
Vermont-dates vary from 9/1 to 1/1
Virginia-September 30
Washington- August 31
West Virginia- September 1
Wisconsin-September 1
Puerto Rico- September 1
Department of Defense (DOD)-October 31 (changed from December 31)

So there you have it.

My current theory is that I can always have her skip a grade if she's bored, but holding her back a grade is not something I can see myself doing to her.

Either way, I'm sure it will all work out for us all, the way it's supposed to be (I have to think like that for my own sanity : )



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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but from what I've seen there are October kids who do just fine and July ones with developmental delays who really need an extra year before kindergarten. You see that with preemies, who are developmentally months younger than their chronological age.

The justification for a Young Fives program is that it avoids problems later--less holding back of kids in later years--and I've seen kids who were Young Fived and who really are just managing at grade level when they do get into school. And for those kids, I think Young Fives was the way to go.

So, I think kids where there are learning, development, behavior issues should have a shot at Young Fives even if they're August or July.

Alternatively, we could quit pushing down the curriculum so much. If kids didn't need to learn reading in kindergarten, we wouldn't have the issue of kids not being developmentally ready to read.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:09 am


I was not clear. I am not questioning that some kids do need to be held back another year for certain developmental issues. However, I am not sure the school district should be paying for it, thus encouraging some parents to redshirt a kid just for an advantage. If there is a true need, the parent can pay, or, if someone couldn't, it might fall under the free-preschool for certain delays that the school provides. I have noticed that the young-fives program doesn't necessarily attract poor kids (rather rich kids, who mothers know about it).


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Posted by Parent of Nov. child
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:52 am

I will add a couple of things to my earlier posts.

My daughter with a Nov. 22 birthdate was also a preemie and if she had been born on her due date would have been in the next grade level. As I have always said, she was in a hurry to be born and a hurry to grow up. At this stage in her preschool year I did wonder if she would be able to fit in with kindergarten as her readiness skills were doubtful. She was basically still scribbling with crayons rather than trying to draw, color in or even write and her playground skills, pumping on a swing, throwing a ball, hopping, were definitely poor. But, she loved books and spent hours happily looking at books on her own and enjoyed being read to. In fact, by the time she started kindergarten she was reading simple unseen books to herself.

My son with the July birthday, was and still is very interested in sport, but that would not have been my reason for holding him back as a means to do better with his grade peers. No, the only reason I may have held him back was because he wasn't interested in books (except for a bedtime story) and anything to do with paper and pencil. He was unable to stay focused on anything for more than 5 minutes unless it was sport related. His co-operation and understanding of simple instructions were also poor. But, with him, although he is doing well at school, I still see the same lack of focus, taking instructions, and no interest in reading or writing unless he has to, so these things that I thought were problems of slow development for him in his preschool year, were in fact part of his character and just a precursor to his disorganizational skills that no matter how hard I try we still have problems with.


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Posted by Arden Pennell
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:19 am

Arden Pennell is a registered user.

Hi,

A poster asked for all the numbers. What I jotted down at the lottery is below.

Note: The number of applicants vs. number of spaces available is affected by how many siblings apply -- they are guaranteed a spot -- and how spots are reserved for voluntary-transfer students.

Retention students who stay in their grade level rather than move on also affect acceptance rates.

Hoover
Applied: 39 male, 34 female Siblings: 25
Voluntary-transfer students: 3
Accepted: 18 male, 17 female, siblings

Ohlone
Applied: 74 male, 63 female. Siblings: 21 male, 18 female
Voluntary-transfer students: 6
Retention: 8
Accepted: 7 male, 10 female, siblings

Mandarin-immersion at Ohlone
Applied:
Kindergarten (K), English-speaking, male: 32
K, English-speaking, female: 36
K, Mandarin-speaking, male: 9
K, Mandarin-speaking, female: 13
First grade (1st), English-speaking, male: 20
1st, English-speaking, female: 10
1st, Mandarin-speaking, male: 13
1st, Mandarin-speaking, female: 7
Voluntary-transfer students: 2

Accepted:
K, English-speaking male: 7
K, English-speaking female: 7
K, Mandarin-speaking male: 3
K, Mandarin-speaking female: 3
1st, English-speaking male: 6
1st, English-speaking female: 5
1st, Mandarin-speaking male: 4
1st, Mandarin-speaking female: 3


Young Fives
Applied: 47 male, 25 female.
Voluntary-transfer students: 5.
Accepted: 35 students, roughly equal male and female. (I didn't get the exact gender breakdown written on the board, but it was within a couple students, I think.)

Spanish-Immersion
Applied:
Spanish-speaking: 15
English-speaking: 96
Siblings: 19
Neighborhood applicants: 27
Spots reserved for neighborhood residents: 2
(If neighborhood applicants' numbers didn't net them a designated "neighborhood" spot, they were added to the general English-speaking pool.)

Accepted:
Spanish-speaking: 13
English-speaking: 6
Plus two neighborhood students and siblings.


As mentioned in the story, parents can call Assistant Superintendent Scott Laurence with questions at 650-329-3717.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:09 am

Mom of a very young 5,
-cutoff dates for K are different in different states. I have occasionally encountered criticism from misguided persons regarding my slightly older children. Anecdotally, I see a lot of "younger" children for their grades here in PAUSD and I have experience in other school areas so I have some comments. I sure wish I lived in Georgia when my kids were little so they would have been clearly in a particular school year/grade (friends at the time had August cutoff date)...
-I think there was been a move in California to move the cutoff date to August. I would support that so we have ALL kids at the same age - 5 - starting K and not a mix of 4,5,6. So the cutoff should be Aug 1 to turn 5 if we have some CA schools starting in Aug and some in Sept.
-As a parent of Nov and Dec kids (note the distinct situation: one w/bday just before the cutoff here, one just after the cutoff who are both almost completely grown up...they both started school at age 5 (August) way back when, in another area (not Palo Alto)and they have generally been among the more mature kids. I object to the idea that I "held" my child back -- speaking of the Nov child--, that is not correct. Each started pre-school in the August timeframe for starting for preschools in the area where we lived, when they were still 3 years old. Each did two years of preschool then moved to K.
It does not confer any advantage to have an older child(we are not involved with sports). Over the years I am slightly surprised that I have encountered children with summer birthdays who are in the same grade as my children (turned 16 the summer before going into sophomore year of high school, for example). THOSE children seem quite mature! What we are ending up with is a very large range of ages in a particular grade.
-What I DID notice in the very early school years is numerous very young children who were not ready to be in a social setting of school, who took inordinate amounts of the teacher's time for several grades. I am not really referring to academic readiness, by the way. My children received little personal attention.
-I have had mothers tell me they district shopped, that Cupertino would not take their young children for K (sometimes just turned 4 in Dec.!) so they came here to Palo Alto; some people want to stop paying for childcare and are not focused on whether their child is "ready" for kindergarten.
-in some cases parents are transfixed with "giftedness" of their young kids, I have noted that their pushing their kids ahead has necessitated extensive paid tutoring and support in order to make that happen.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:12 am

BTW this PAUSD Young Fives program sounds great, I would have welcomed that but we did not live here. I do think November children should get priority as they are currently the ones who will either be labeled as "old" or "young" by others.


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Posted by Mom of a Very Young 5
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:57 am

Thanks 'parent', for your insight.

Here's a link to an interesting NY Times Magazine article regarding this issue. Pretty much confirmed my thinking, especially the teacher sentiments of: if you can keep them back, do it.

Web Link

I just think kids should be kids for as long as possible, I'm in no hurry for her to grow up so fast. But that's just me.

I still feel that October & November kids, (+ a few earlier birthday kids who are clearly not ready), are just too young for the high pressure world of academics-based Kindergarten today. At least mine is.

Ok, now I have to get back to work so we can pay for that extra year of preschool... ; ) sigh.


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Posted by former Y5 parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm

All very valid points.. in the end every parent should do what is best for the individual child. our preschool teachers recommended it for both our children who were very shy. some kids love the challenge of keeping up with the older/bigger kids and others don't. in the end, what is the big rush to get them out of the house and into the working world? it was a great program for our family and i was eternally grateful that we got in. the kids developed self-confidence that made the transition to kindergarten much easier. now they're right on track with their peers in social skills -- which is all they really care about anyway.


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Arden,

thanks for the numbers. This helps a lot.
Is there a reason Ohlone MI 1st graders accepted totals to 18 and not 20? Without siblings and greater than 20 applicants, I think the total should be 20.


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Posted by Mom of a Young 5
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:42 pm

If you take the Young 5s tour and fill out the application you'll note that holding a child back for the program has very little, if anything, to do with academic readiness. Most of the issues are social and emotional.

My daughter would probably do fine with the academics in September if I had to send her. It's the social part that she would be young for. I'm not holding her back for her to get an advantage over other kids. I'm holding her back to give her an equal footing when she does go to Kindergarten. Starting Kindergarten and repeating a grade can be very detrimental to the child.


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Posted by Mom of a Young 5
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:43 pm

If you take the Young 5s tour and fill out the application you'll note that holding a child back for the program has very little, if anything, to do with academic readiness. Most of the issues are social and emotional.

My daughter would probably do fine with the academics in September if I had to send her. It's the social part that she would be young for. I'm not holding her back for her to get an advantage over other kids. I'm holding her back to give her an equal footing when she does go to Kindergarten. Starting Kindergarten and repeating a grade can be very detrimental to the child.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Arden,

Thank you very much for giving us all those numbers.

So, once again, Ohlone proper has far more applicants than any other program--and Ohlone's planned half-strand expansion was limited because?

Ohlone's retention rate is interesting--that's slightly more than one kid per K/1 class. Is that the case at the neighborhood schools?
It goes with my sense that the Ohlone method is totally great for some children, but that kids do have to be ready for it--able to focus and work independently.

Also, regarding retention--wow, the Ohlone staff already knows which kids it will be holding back? It *is* only February. (Hmmm, you know they didn't mention the retention rates when I went to the orientation--it's an interesting issue, actually--and maybe one the school could be more upfront about--that a certain level of maturity helps in this open a program.)

I note, too, more boy applicants than girls--that goes with what parents have told me. They figure their kid won't be able to stay still so Ohlone's more open approach will fit them better. I'm not sure that it's actually not the other way about.

Ohlone used to hold spots for people who got into both Ohlone and Young Fives, but parents protested so that was changed. Given the retention rate, I can see why the school had that policy.

Relatively low numbers of first-grade MI applicants in either language. Kind of goes with what we've seen around here--people want a school or program, but once their kid starts, they don't want to uproot them.

It also says that there's not a lot of back-up if there's much attrition over the next six months--some of these kids are probably entered into more than one lottery. If your kid gets into MI, but is waitlisted at SI, but then gets in at SI--that sort of thing.

And, also, given what looks like an 11 percent retention rate in regular Ohlone--what are we looking at in MI/Ohlone? And how can we tell what grade-level is?



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Posted by Mom of a Young 5
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:12 pm

OhlonePar,

I'm not sure the retention rate at Ohlone is due to the kids not being able, qualified, ready, whatever, to move to the next grade. It's possible that the parents choose to keep them in kindergarten (or first grade, or whatever) because that was their plan all along... I've had that thought myself. My daughter was in the Ohlone lottery as a backup choice for next year, and I've thought about doing that, since the grades are bundled k-1, 2-3, etc. I just think it's possible it's less of a stigma there, and the structure is more loose, etc. She didn't get into that lottery either, but upon further consideration I don't think I'd 'retain' her in a grade at Ohlone anyway. Maybe some do though.

I love the Ohlone idea, but I do think that it's not right for some families, and maybe some kids.

The thing that is kind of a bummer about that lottery is the number of actual parent's I've heard with my own ears say they want to get in because it's close to home. What??

We live 1/2 block from our own, cute, local elementary, and I still would schlep across town to have my kid at Ohlone when the time is right (next year) if we were lucky enough to actually get in.

Ok, now I'm sounding bitter ; ) I'm trying to take everything with a grain of salt, but my salt lick is wearing away : ) !

But seriously, did I mention how glad I am that we have these "choices" ; ) ?


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Posted by PADad
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Arden, thanks for the numbers.
We applied for the Ohlone program and didn't get in. From your numbers, we see that Ohlone had 70 open slots and only 17 "new" families got in. I understand why the district has the policy that siblings get in, but it really chaps me that less than 25% of the open slots are available for new parents (or a bit higher if you include the interschool transfers). It's even uglier when you look at the acceptance rate for new boys - <10% of getting in. (Of course, this might change a bit after next week, but the numbers are still ugly.)

It would be nice if the district considered adding another Ohlone class!


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm

PA Dad - the district was originally going to add space to Ohlone - but the MI program (aka charter threat) took the space.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Hi Mom,

I'd be very surprised if the parents had a say as to whether their kid could be held back. Ohlone doesn't grade kids, but they do test them one-on-one a couple of times a year.

You do get a huge age range in the classes. A K/1 can easily have an age range of 4 to 7 at the beginning of the year. Range of abilities as well--kids who can barely hold a pencil and kids who read chapter books.

As for Ohlone's location--that section of Midtown (Colorado to Oregon) isn't really in easy walking distance of its neighborhood schools. You have to get over to Loma Verde or to what I think of as the South Palo Alto corridor of El Carmelo, Fairmeadow and Hoover, which are all pretty close to one another. The grade schools really do seem to be clustered together--Addison, Walter Hays and Duveneck aren't far apart either, but meanwhile there's no elementary between Oregon and Embarcadero and none between Alma and El Camino.

There are private Young Fives programs around that are smaller and supposed to be quite good. If you have a November preemie, I can understand why you'd really want a Young Fives program.

And at least Ohlone is big enough that it doesn't take a miracle to get in--a la SI--I mean getting into SI is like getting into Stanford--or are the SI odds worse? One in 16.

Hmmm, actually, I take that back--the odds of getting into Ohlone are one in six for girls, one in 10 for boys . . .

Okay, remind me, again, why we gave away Ohlone's half-strand expansion to PACE?

For at least the next three years?

The board has a lot to answer for.






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Posted by Cat
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2008 at 6:43 pm

My twins have a Sept birthday, but we sent them to Kindergarten because we thought they were ready. Of course we had no idea just how academic Kindergarten now is. I was led to believe that Kindergarten readiness meant mostly social skills and maturity. Boy was I wrong! All year long I kept hearing from my daughter's teacher that she was doing ok, not great, but not badly enough to repeat next year than suddenly in mid-January we were called into a big meeting and told that she had fallen way behind her classmates and that repeating next year was an option we might start thinking about. And many of these classmates are young fives - younger than she is - and they came in reading chapter books and with the ability to write independently in their journals.

My son, on the other hand, started out badly. Right off the bat, his teacher warned us he may have to repeat because he was immature and didn't seem to have a clue about how to behave in Kindergarten. I never would have predicted it because he was the more social twin. Less than two months into the year he miraculously improved and did excellent on the academic part of his first report card. His teacher said his behavior greatly improved too.

Would Young Fives have made a difference? Probably, but I'm sure if my daughter had been in the program I would have been hearing the same concerns about her lack of phonics skills from her Young Fives teacher and that in turn would have freaked me out about sending her to Kindergarten next year. But maybe a Young Fives program would have been better able to tell me if she was showing signs of a learning disability. So far the school has no clue, because she is too young to test. Also I suspect that what we are going through with my daughter might have more to do with her temperament, personality, and learning style than her age, but maybe not. Who knows? We took a gamble and sent them to Kindergarten, and so far one is thriving (the boy, amazingly enough) and one is not.

Because of all of this, one or both of my kids might be repeating next year, especially after I was told that by the end of their school's first grade, the students are supposed to be academically two grades ahead of students at most other elementary schools, I guess meaning non-PAUSD schools. I have heard that it is not just Ohlone, but that it is also common at my kids' school for kinders to repeat. I think it is encouraged if the student is at all borderline, because they want the students to really learn the skills and also after first grade students are no longer retained. Anyway, the point of my long treatise on Kindergarten is to say that Academics, Academics, and more Academics is what is really important and that many of the kids with the academic skills in both of my kids'classes are young fives.

I was also hoping to get my kids into Ohlone, but for the second year in a row, did not. I thought that maybe Ohlone's more Montessori style would be a better fit for my daughter, who is a visual and hands-on learner. Oh well!


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Cat,

Thanks for speaking up. My understanding of Young Fives is that it teaches half the kinder curriculum over the course of one year. So, when the Young Fivers go to kindergarten they've already been exposed to a good deal of what they're going to learn--as well as being a year older.

I know there are kids who enter kindergarten reading chapter books. This means kids who don't come in recognizing letters are at a serious disadvantage. They tell you your kids don't need to be able to read, but that doesn't mean you don't need strong preliteracy skills.

I know of one neighborhood elementary where the kinder parents were told they'd be responsible for a lot of their kid's learning to read. This wasn't the case at Ohlone--but it was still a steep learning curve.

I think there's a sort of wishful thinking by the school administrators and teachers--they don't want to think the elementaries are as hard-ass as they've actually gotten.

But this retention rate interests me. Are we a district where 10 percent of our kids repeat kindergarten because we expect our kids to be two years ahead of "average" districts? And would that number be doubled if we didn't have Young Fives programs?

My kid, by the way, is also visual and hands-on--and, yes, the Ohlone program works very, very well for that sort of learner.


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Posted by fulldisclosure
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2008 at 10:02 am

"Yet he was unsure whether a completely public lottery would work, he said. The mixed atmosphere of jubilant, celebrating parents and disappointed parents might be inappropriate, he said."

Oh, Please!!!!!!

I live in a city with magnets, optional, immersion and design center schools with entry based on a lottery system. With a greater number of disappointed parents and it is not considered inappropriate.

The fact PAUSD has not moved to full disclosure is ludicrous. Upon receipt of an application it is stamped with a number - it becomes the lottery number.

The lottery is held at a central location and is open to the public. The results (the lottery #s only) are put onto the district website for families to access that evening so they don't even have to go to that location.

By not offering full disclosure, the process has the appearance of possible collusion.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 11:27 am

fulldisclosure. right. exactly.

Cat - can you imagine the precidament you would be in now if you had your child in a Mandarin Immersion classroom? The school (the strong willed MI proponents more like), would be encouraging you to stick it out. You'd have no idea if your kid was having a 'normal' level of struggle with Mandarin or some other possible learning or attention issue.

You'd probably have gotten her in to some sort of Mandarin speaking after school program (to make matters worse?)

And you would have no idea if your child was behind in english literacy as a natural course of the immersion method - or having learning problems. I wonder how long you would be encouraged to wait and see if you in a kindergarten immersion classroom? first grade? second grade? Would they be encouraging you to hold her back in kindergarten? (or would they be more concerned about how that would reflect on the pilot?)

I'm wondering why we never hear about the real life cases like this? To hear them tell it - MI is a miracle working program -every kid who shows up succeeds. And if you believe that - I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.



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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Parent,

It was interesting what came up when I did a search on attrition and immersion. I started pulling up studies on the 40 years of French-English programs in Canada and a more complex picture of immersion than the one we've been presented comes up.

Basically, with the long-term programs (elementary through high-school), the attrition rates are extremely high. What happened with the Potomac MI program isn't extreme--almost predictable, in fact.

So, as you've noted before, when we look at those immersion-miracle test scores, we *are* looking at a group where there's been a big issue of self-selection. One Canadian study showed that the main reason kids dropped out of immersion programs was academic difficulty.

When you're looking at attrition rates of 50 percent--that's a lot of kids who can't hack an immersion program--and that's with a relatively easy language.

The sad fact is that Cupertino's shrinkage of 22 kids down to 6 isn't bad for an immersion program.

Over on the informal side of things, a MV parent was telling me that MV's Spanish-immersion program has a different issue. There are so many Spanish speakers at the school that the Spanish-speaking kids in the immersion program aren't learning enough *English* by eighth grade. They're not speaking English outside of school or on the playground, so they're not getting enough practice in it. (I don't see this problem with the Mandarin speakers at Ohlone, but it's interesting.)

Fulldisclosure,

I really don't think the district has any business offering numerous lottery programs where kids have only a 10 percent chance of getting in. Too many programs and too few spots. I think Hoover's reasonably well-balanced and Young Fives, actually, seems to offer reasonable odds, but the other lottery programs are out of whack. The language programs both have serious imbalance issues--tons of English speakers and minimal numbers of the immersion-language speakers.

And, of course, people are pissed off.

I think with the language programs that FLES is the obvious answer--I think a lot of people would be happy with some language instruction instead of this all or none nonstrategy the district currently has.


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Posted by anotherparent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:14 pm

What is the status of the PACE people who entered the lottery? Did any of them win a MI spot? How many of them had incoming kindergartners or first graders? If they did not get pulled from the lottery, do we need to be worried that the charter threat will come back again?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Mr. Skelly has said that there would be a reporting of the outcome of the lottery process after the fact. (Particularly since he held this as a meeting closed to the public.)

There is nothing on the Feb 26th Board meeting agenda with regard to the reporting of process or outcomes for choice program lotteries (or 'random selection processes' or by any other name).

We expect to see a full reporting of the process and the numbers. While Arden's information above is helpful and interesting, its not complete and its not official PAUSD. When will we get an official reporting?


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Posted by fulldisclosure
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2008 at 10:05 am

OhlonePar,

I was not suggesting PAUSD should have numerous lottery offerings. I was using the programs a large city has and that the number of disappointed parents is exponentially larger than PA and the public does not think it is an inappropriate process. The city has provided confidentiality with the lottery number.


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Posted by Arden Pennell
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Feb 26, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Arden Pennell is a registered user.

Hi,

I asked Superintendent Kevin Skelly via e-mail about the announcement of results, mentioning the earlier poster's concern about the announcement not being on tonight's school board agenda. Here is his reply:

" We will be updating the board on March 18 regarding next year's
enrollment. Families have until [this] Friday to decide whether or not to accept the offer and then we go to the waiting list. Having complete, or near complete data feels more important than doing it piecemeal. "


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Feb 26, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Were the waiting lists drawn at the lottery?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Hi Fulldisclosure,

I didn't mean to suggest that you were making a suggestion about PAUSD's lottery options, just more an observation about the reactions people have and why.

In some ways, if this were a large city with lottery programs, I think people would be less disgruntled. Instead, we have a situation where a fair number of kids are in choice programs, but the choice programs have few openings. Basically, the sibling preference slots play a huge role. Two-thirds of Ohlone's slots are taken up by sibling preference and nearly all of SI's. So app. 20 percent of our kids are in lottery programs, but most of them didn't actually have to go through the open lotteries to be there.

It's sticky--the sibling preference is understandable, but it does create bad odds. Also, because enrollment's increasing, it's getting harder and harder to get those slots--it's more applicants for fewer openings.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2008 at 5:50 pm

These sibling spots, as you say are understandable, but the fact that there are so many of them raise some questions.

Are the Ohlone families larger than average? In other words, do people who like big families also like the Ohlone way? And, do some families try to get into Ohlone by winning a Kindergarten spot and then hope that the older siblings get preferential treatment in the wait list for the higher grades?

I am using Ohlone here mainly as an example because I think that OP may have some input here, but the same could be said at other choice programs.

I feel that Hoover and Ohlone may work that way for some families. We have some neighbors who moved here with a child in 3rd grade and moved into our neighborhood school. When it was time for the next child to start kindergarten, they both moved to Hoover. As the mother's English is not good, I was unable to find out from her how she lucked out.

I think that MI and SI would only work if they were native speakers of the target language, but if they had been taking lessons in the target language elsewhere, they just might be able to pass the test to get in as language proficient at whatever grade level.

When we have so many sibling spots in these schools taking up space for completely new families (as is their right), I wonder if there is something we are not seeing here.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Parent,

When we applied to Ohlone we were told that usually half the spots went to Ohlone. Well, that actually hasn't been true for a few years--we're seeing few than 20 out of 70 spots go to non-siblings--though it sounds like they hold some spots for retentions, which is why those figures interested me. (Arden, if you see this, I'd like to see an article on retentions in PA at the kinder level, compared to the state in general, historically, etc. I just didn't know it was that kind of an issue--I mean 10 percent of the kids repeat kindergarten here? In my lonnggg-distant youth, this was unknown.)

Parent, back to you--two things. Yes, there are a number of large families at Ohlone. I think the nuts-and-granola approach tends to appeal to very child-centered families.

The other factor is, I think, is that spots do open up at Ohlone and the people who take those transfer spots tend to have at least one younger child. I know of a couple of cases where the older child was transferred because the parent really wanted the school for the younger one. If it's just one child or a youngeest child, I don't think families are as inclined to uproot the child.

With the case of boys, parents of boys are more inclined to apply (they're affraid their boys won't sit still.) at the same time, girls are more likely to get in. Parents of girls with younger brothers are a little more likely to apply, again, to get the brother in.

So with boys, you have a case of more boys applying overall while simultaneously having more younger male siblings.

It's substantially easier to get your child in at a higher grade--there's always some attrition and at that point, most people won't transfer their child--unless they're trying to get a sibling spot for a younger child. With the case of the Hoover parent, her child may have gotten into kinder and then a 3rd-grade spot opened for the other child. At this point, too, Hoover's substantially easier to get into than the other choice programs. I expect that if you cry and plead, at some point you'll get in there.

There's also simply a numbers game, the longer a program's been in existence, the more chance it's had to pile up younger-siblings-in-waiting. Ohlone's crowd is partly the result, I think, of Susan Charles pulling together the school. And Hoover's relatively low number of applicants I think, frankly, has to do with its fairly rapid change in demographics. Six years ago, it wasn't a predominantly Asian school. While I don't think families are leaving the school, it's clear that it no longer gets the same percentage of Caucasian applicants. (The gung-ho white parents put their kids in Duveneck, Walter Hays and Nixon).


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