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Hoover Elementary

Original post made by whyhoover on Mar 28, 2008

Hi. Why is it that Hoover Elementary consistently scores 20-40 points higher on the API tests then other Palo Alto elementary schools? This has happened for at least the past 5 years in a row.

I've heard all school board info about how all schools give the same education and instruction, that just the approach is different but this seems pretty significant.

We all agree that we have 2 top high schools, but our other elementary schools API are generally lower than Los Altos and Menlo Park.

Comments (56)

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Why? Because getting high API scores (in the guise of focusing on a structured academic curriculum) is what the school is focused on. And because they have a self-selected parent body who all drink the cool aid -- so the school approach is backed-up at home. Frankly, it's amazing that the school only manages a 20 point bump from that self-selection.

Personally, I'd much rather have our schools focus on the whole child -- to recognize that child development is about academics, sure, but that it's about a whole lot more than that. Drilling a child will get them to do well on standardized tests. But lay off the pressure to 'achieve' at such a young age and nurture the child's love of learning (which you can do while also having high academic expectations) instead and you'll get a life long learner and innovator likely to make a great contribution to society.

On the whole I think the neighborhood schools in Palo Alto do a pretty good job at this. Where they need to improve is in further nurturing the creative, curious learner. Not in drilling kids to get higher APIs.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm

At the primary and secondary school level, we can only fairly judge effectiveness through national and international level standardized testing.

"Love of learning" is an abstract. Some, perhaps many, of such kids will end in glass blowing private colleges, and then earning their living by asking, "Would you like fries with your burger, sir?".

It doesn't really matter what approach is used, as long as the result is accomplishment, which is best measured on standardized tests. The Hoover approach or direct instruction, is working better than other approaches in this city. Why all the whining about it?

Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Standardized testing has its place, but personally I wouldn't put too much weight on the differences in test results from young children. As long as the students are reaching standards for proficiency, the state tests have filled their role. After that it would be up to parents to judge whether a school is providing a suitable academic environment.

And while direct instruction approach has its supporters, it doesn't seem that hordes of parents are banging on Hoover's door for access. Apparently the Ohlone method is more desirable, judging from the "lottery" numbers.

Posted by ns parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2008 at 5:14 pm

At elementary school level, I find it is more about the education that the parent wants to give to the child instead of focusing on academic results. That comes later along with the associated pressure.

Just compare the number of applicants for Ohlone (non-MI) vs. Hoover in the latest lottery:

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

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

So, the school that came ninth in the district based on API scores gets a much higher ratio of applicants per place to the school that comes first.

Herbert Hoover Elementary School 985
Addison Elementary School 952
Duveneck Elementary School 950
Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School 944
Walter Hays Elementary School 941
El Carmelo Elementary School 936
Fairmeadow Elementary School 927
Palo Verde Elementary School 922
Ohlone Elementary School 910
Escondido Elementary School 905
Juana Briones Elementary School 887
Barron Park Elementary School 854

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm

I find it intriguing that whyhoover posted this in the first place.

Posted by Hoover Supporter, a resident of Hoover School
on Mar 28, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Very interestingly I had a son who went through 5 grades at Nixon, and because he was rather young I decided to have him repeat 5th grade at Hoover before going on to Middle School. My son LOVED it at Hoover so much I felt guilty I hadn't put him in there first. He blossomed under the discipline. He said his classmates there were so much better behaved he could concentrate.

Where is my son now, he's a physicist, a senior staff scientist for NASA. I just had not recognized his academic skills but Hoover did. It was the best year he had in the PAUSD.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:42 am

Hoover's Direct Instruction and DI works very well for some kids. My issue with Hoover, actually, is that because of the API scores it draws a pool of applicants that may not get the greatest benefit from DI. DI works well, for example, with disadvantaged kids--some of those successful inner-city charters are Direct Instruction. I think it can be a great choice for kids who don't come into the school system with a lot of structure.

At the same time, DI isn't a great fit for kids who learn best through a creative response. If your kid tends to be self-motivated, I don't think DI does much and it can be a tedious approach for some kids--too rote.

I think Hoover's gotten the reputation of being very gung-ho and competitive and the program does focus on individual achievement. However, I'm not sure a DI program has to be that way and, as I say, I think a lot of kids who aren't high achievers would do well in a DI program.

I mean it sounds like Hoover gave Hoover Supporter's child external support and discipline that he needed to thrive. My own kid works in a different way and, yes, thrives at Ohlone.

I wish with the schools--given that every single one of them scores well--that parents would look more at what works for their kids instead of the API scores. And while I've been discussing two choice programs, I think being in the neighborhood with kids in their neighborhood can be a key factor with some kids.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2008 at 9:07 am

I want to know when the white-asian achievement gap is going to be addressed. (sarcasm)

forget the achievement gap based on is culture, culture, culture ie: family, family, family

Posted by HooverSupporter4, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

I tried to get my kid into Hoover this year, but we were not selected in the lottery. I'm still excited for my child to go to the neighborhood school. I'm sure Ohlone is great, and I know that people are banging on the door to get in, but I totally disagree with the philosophy.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 30, 2008 at 7:31 pm

We are very lucky to be in a district where all of our schools are grea - with wonderful teachers, students and parents. Elementary school is not a contest, our kids will end up in two high schools - both have their strengths but both are terrific. Lets appreciate what we have and not belittle our neighbors.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2008 at 11:36 pm


Just out of curiosity, in what way do you disagree with Ohlone's philosophy? The goals? The approach? The efficacy? As I said above, my own take is that different approaches work for different kids, so my choices aren't philosophic in that sense.

Palo Alto mom, I agree with you.

Posted by more perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2008 at 10:19 am

John posted:
"It doesn't really matter what approach is used, as long as the result is accomplishment, which is best measured on standardized tests."

I couldn't disagree more with the final clause in this statement.

Accomplishment is important, healthy development of the whole child is important, but I daresay neither is best measured on standardized tests. The STAR test touches a narrow piece of the PAUSD curriculum, which itself focusses on a narrow interpretation of intellectual development. Standardized tests let us compare something, but whatever that something is, it is not the best measure of educational quality, and it is not the best measure of accomplishment. An aggregate API for a school tells you even less than an individual API.

I do agree that students have the best chance to succeed when given educational opportunites that matter to them, offered in a way that works well for them, supported by an involved family. No one strategy fits all (and Hoover would not have fit my accomplished child).

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2008 at 11:33 am


You're dead right. I don't even agree with the first part of what John said (accomplishment). School isn't just about teaching kids facts and skills--it also shapes their approach to future learning. Much rather have a sixth grader who loves to learn though she doesn't get where to put commas than a sixth grader who can punctuate perfectly and hates school.

Great accomplishments in high school or college are nice, but they are just snapshots whose meaning fades over a lifetime. We need to educate kids for the long haul.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I think there are basic skills that need to be mastered that can be measured by standardized tests, but there are a couple of crucial things that aren't measured by tests at all and that may, in fact, may be damaged by an emphasis on standardized tests.

One is critical and independent thinking. Learning how to problem solve creatively and think for one's self isn't something you can measure by having kids check one of five bubbles. That won't get you through college--kids have to move past simply not making mistakes. In fact, they need to make mistakes and then progress past that. Too much emphasis on testing creates too narrow an emphasis. There's a useful art to taking a test, but it's just a narrow range of skills that don't apply to most things.

The second is passion. Kids need enough to space to make some choices and pursue them on their own steam. Again, over the long term, learning can't simply be about getting approval and pleasing your parents. Those kids burn out and don't know what they want as adults.

So much of success is knowing how to deal with failure--falling off the horse and getting back on. It's easier if you like riding horses and you always wanted to ride horses in the first place.

Oh, and a third issue I have with standardized tests is developmental. The tests are standardized, but kids aren't. You really see this in reading and writing. Some kids have an easier time holding a pencil correctly--of course writing's easier for them at an earlier age. You see similiar things with reading--some kids have earlier and easier pattern recognition. I'm fine with standardized tests as diagnostic tools (and Ohlone uses tests that way) and as a way of measuring a child's progress, but I think it's counterproductive to use those tests to measure one child against another or judge a school's quality.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2008 at 2:12 pm

"The tests are standardized, but kids aren't."

That is a true statement, but how does it relate to our educational system?

We are in an internationally competitive world. If a student in 8th grade is going to be competitive, then he/she needs to be up to grade with students in Japan, China, Russia, India, Europe, etc. Otherwise, he/she will, indeed, be asking "Would you like fries with your burger, sir?"

All this feel-good nonsense only applies to children from privileged familes (e.g. trust fund babies) and artists. The rest of our kids need to compete...and feel good about competing. They are currently made to feel bad about individual accomplishment, and competing agaisnt other individuals, due to various 'cooperative learning' models. There is always a soft landing, until they cannot find a job, once they get out of the current educational warm-and-fuzzy womb.

We need standardized tests to tell us how our kids are doing at a given grade level, and on an international level. The current standardized tests need to be raised to international standards. How else can parents begin to understand that their children are passing or failing on a world level?

There is no need to "teach to the test". A good teacher can provide very interesting materials that are educational. The test will take care of itself.

Failure is part of life, and it can be a very constructive lesson. However, fear of failure is usually very destructive. We are currently teaching avoidance of failure. This needs to end in Palo Alto, and elsewhere.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2008 at 8:46 pm


I think you;re not seeing the big picture here in your attempt to see the big picture. Most of the countries you mention send a small percentage of their kids on to higher education. Percentage-wise, we produce a lot more engineers, programmers per capita than does China or India. Or Europe for that matter. I mean, I don't remember a time when people weren't fretting about American test scores and losing our technological edge to the Russians--remember that? Or the Japanese--remember that? And now the Chinese, Indians and Koreans.

So why haven't we lost that technological edge, anyway? Maybe it's because while our average scores may be lower because we try to get every kid through high school, we may be letting in an overall high portion of future techies than do programs that screen out future engineers at the age of 14 or even 16. (So, in other words, no our eighth graders don't have to do as well as their peers in Japan--they just have to match 'em when they get out on the job market--and that we seem to. We tack on an extra year of college or grad school, basically.) And we are, of course, willing to welcome talent.

There was a recent article in the New Yorker on the Beijing Olympics a couple of weeks ago--at the end, the writer expressed doubts over China's continued boom because he said no one looks to China for expertise in anything. He tied the relative lack of innovation to the country's lack of intellectual and political freedom.

I don't know if I agree with him or not, but it's an interesting question--is our talent for innovation, despite our mediocre math scores, really a reflection of our genuine openess of expression?

Back to schools--you're making an erroneous assumption that co-operative learning negates the possibility of individual achievement. That's dead wrong, actually--Ohlone, for example, has both co-operative learning wheren kids work in groups and teams and differentiated instruction. The co-operative learning actually makes the other possible--kids learn to work independently and with one another--that means a teacher can have multiple reading groups and have all the reading groups working without having to be in all places at once. It also takes advantage of the fact that children do a lot of learning from peers (and benefit from teaching peers).

It's also a reflection of the real world--succeeding in this world means playing well with others--there are very few jobs that don't require that. Scientific innovation, in particular, has been famously dependent on dialogue and co-operative work--it can be cutthroat competitive and there are all sorts of ugly examples of credit-grabbing, but the sciences rely the existence of scientific communities (and shared standards).

As for "Do you want fries with that?" Just a little scary, don't you think, how globally successful American fast food has been? I don't share your apparent disdain for those early grunt jobs that teach kids how to work. But then, some of the fast-food corporations make a point of promoting within and giving preference in dealing out franchises to those who have worked their way up. Some of those fries-servers have ended up quite well-off. It's all about how many fries you're serving.

API scores are a crude way to measure education in my book. I think it's valid in that a 400-point difference is meaningful, but when you get within a 100 points and you're comparing schools, well, then, I don't think it means that much.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2008 at 10:08 pm


Hard to know where to begin, in response to your post, so I will take the following:

" It's also a reflection of the real world--succeeding in this world means playing well with others--there are very few jobs that don't require that. Scientific innovation, in particular, has been famously dependent on dialogue and co-operative work--it can be cutthroat competitive and there are all sorts of ugly examples of credit-grabbing, but the sciences rely the existence of scientific communities (and shared standards)."

Tell that to Galileo or Newton or Einstein. They will laugh in your face (from their graves). Actually, Newton will just have a pained grimmace. Apples do fall to the ground, but people playing games cannot figure out why.

I would add that American technological corporate leaders are decrying the fact the we produce so few home-grown engineers. I happen to know a PA student who earned a perfect 800 SAT in math. He went to college, and decided he did not want to compete with Asians, many of them foregin elites. He became a salesman for an Asian corporation, in this country. There is something wrong with this picture. What made him lack the confidence? Too much 'feel good'in our schools?

The shere number of foreign elites, at the top level of educational and technological sophistication, will overwhelm our former superiority. We are, currently, on a life raft, becasue we sunk our own ship.

Posted by Ex Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2008 at 10:48 pm

The boy with the 800 SAT probably realized he could make much more money as a sales person than an engineer. Engineering is not a field you can grow old gracefully. Granted you can make 80-140K, but that is about it (other than a few founders of a few companies). Sad thing is you can't live decently in Palo Alto on an engineer's salary (my hubby is a brilliant one, so I know!). Sad, I know, but the truth.

Posted by Euro Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2008 at 6:08 am

Just got back from Spring Break in Europe and got some local feedback on education issues through reading and talking while I was there. What is really interesting is that they are making comparisons with their own systems against other countries (not on other parts of their own countries) and never is there a comparison mentioned containing US data. It seems that they just discount it as not comparable. Instead, they are really comparing themselves against the rest of the world (including Canada).

Here, we continue to compare against our own state or the country and leave the rest of the world as not worth comparing.

Interesting, isn't it.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 7:18 am

Agree Euro parent: I use the Singapore education stats as a comparison for how well my children are doing in knowledge, but still believe that there is no place like home to breed innovation with the good education, once received.

It is truly unfortunate for my own country, this one right here, that 1/2 of grad students in science and engineering at Berkeley are foreign, that the full H1B visa quota is filled in one day ( today is the day that will happen), all because our own education system graduates loose thinkers who are not dedicated to math or science.

( Women's Studies are so much more important than learning how to build a bridge!!)

Posted by more perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:34 am

1) It's sad, and more than a little offensive, that "do you want fries with that" is the most horrifying statement one can make. What incredible disdain for honest work. Ringing up coffee on the cash register, and then washing the cups, paid for the first of my fancy technical degrees, and I learned a good deal more than the value of a paycheck working those jobs. Across the counter from the polite and the snobbish alike, I've learned to deal with all kinds of people, and to respect the value of good work.

2) Since when does lack of support for a flawed system of standardized testing equate to embracing soft thinking? On the contrary, the belief that you can compare work-oriented skill sets via these tests is a bit naive.

3) Worklife actually is built around teamwork. Without it, you get very little accomplished.

4) Science, engineering, and the art of computer science are enormously creative pursuits. There are less creative roles one can play, but to really make a difference, you need to be able to think outside the box, express your ideas clearly, and work well with others. You also need a solid academic background, which STAR tests barely attempt to measure.

5) If we're concerned about America's ability to compete academically on the world stage, we should be working on adequately funding California's public schools (especially those not enjoying basic aid status) rather than bickering about whether or not a Palo Alto education is up to snuff. It is, while plenty of other districts are really struggling.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2008 at 11:22 am

more perspective,

"Would you like fries with your burger, sir?" is a common internet joke about privileged kids who don't study very hard, go to glass blowing schools and end up with low wage jobs. It is akin to all those waiters in NYC who, when asked what they do, answer they are actors and actresses, just temporarily making ends meet in the resaturant business (there is a great scence about this in the mvoie "Serpico"). Most of them remain in the restaurant business for the remainder of their lives. If you aspire that your kids or other kids be satisfied flipping burgers for the long term, then perhaps that explains why you oppose standardized testing (at an international standard).

If we set high standards, and test for them, we will get more kids trying harder. We have set low standards, rewarded poor performance, praised self esteem, extolled "teamwork" (however ill-defined) and suppressed individual rewards for individual achievements. If California schools would go back to rewarding excellence, I suspect that you would see more support for public education.

Posted by more perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2008 at 11:46 am

John, I'm afraid we're out of common ground, and out of constructive issues to discuss. I have already explained that I find standardized testing an inadequate vehicle by which to judge student achievement, and that has nothing to do with embracing low expectations. Reading for comprehension IS part of most standardized tests, so I'm surprised that you made that incorrect leap.

But I'm sure that's not the point. If you prefer to throw around hyperbole, so be it...shame on me for feeding the trolls.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 11:54 am

To more perspective:

Funding is not the answer, as evidenced by the worst performing schools being in the highest funded area of the nation:DC.

It is setting standards, and failing those who don't pass, as happens in every other country that has better education outcomes than us. It is having a culture of good behavior in the classroom, doing homework to practice the skill sets once home, and valuing educational outcomes above sports or teamwork or "feeling good". It is stopping to give excuses for those who fail, and blame the system, instead of poor family culture.

It is also returning a high value and acceptance of the fact that we NEED non-"academic" education, such as auto mechanics, construction workers, well run restaurants, good plumbers etc. What happened to accepting the fact that some folks are just better at doing these jobs, and shunting them off to learn these skill sets when they are 16, instead of continuing to try to force fit them into colleges, where they fail and end up with nothing? I think it is exactly what the poster above was referring to, a lack of respect for the jobs that aren't "academic".

I will not support "more money" until someone, somewhere, can demonstrate that more money actually makes a difference. Last I checked, the students who did the best on all tests in any part of the nation were the homeschooled, and nobody paid them any tax dollars to teach their kids.

Posted by more perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Perspective, how about substituting "more support/involvement/whatever" for my remark about funding? I know that my reasonably affluent lifestyle opens a lot of doors for my kid, simply by being able to offer a broader range of experiences than he would otherwise have, and because I understand how to succeed in that world. I think you're right that cultural support for schooling and teachers/administrators, and working harder with kids who don't meet the requirements, is a part of the answer.

I also think it's worth noting that life isn't a direct straight path from birth to "success". Our careers, our interests, and our lifestyles can shift, sometimes dramatically, and respect for less prestigious occupations can actually enhance resilience to life's temporary setbacks whether or not you happen to be ambitious.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2008 at 2:15 pm


Einstein, Galileo and Newton--I don't think any of them worked at corporations and I think only Einstein held a job outside of academia. I think it's interesting that you didn't pick anyone alive today. Newton was an interesting dude, by the way--considered himself a magician.

And why aren't we producing more home-grown engineers? Simple--there are more lucrative career options--in part because outsourcing overseas brings down wages for the job. Notice there's no shortage of home-grown hedge-fund managers--or lawyers.

One of the things *I've* heard tech honchos complain about, in fact, is that engineers trained in China aren't up to the level of American-trained engineers. This seems to be less of an issue with India, which has had a strength in software for quite a long time.

Ex engineer has it right. Twenty years ago, PA had tons of engineers living here. You don't see that anymore. If you don't already own here, you're not going to be moving in on an engineer's salary.

Re: fries and actors in NYC. Why on earth do you assume that people with college educations remain waiters until retirement age? Some succeed, a lot go on to other jobs and careers. There's a lot to be said for personal charm, good people skills and ambition when it comes to climbing the ladder. Your naivete--again--about people with interests outside your sphere shows again. Would-be actors don't wait tables because they have no other skills, but because it's a relatively lucrative job with flexible hours--you can work nights and weekends while auditioning and wait lunch if you've got a show.


It's kind of sad and funny that you can see only value in math and science--that you see no value in history, the law, literature--that your perspective is so narrow that you don't seem to be even familiar with the sort of careers people outside of math and science have.

Euro Parent,

I think the U.S. educational system probably isn't comparable--it's so diffuse. Education in one place can be just awful and top-quality in another. It's decentralized in a way that I think is unlike any other country's.


California had one of the best school systems in the country and the top university system. Then we passed Proposition 13 and dove downwards fast.

You really, really think there was *no* correlation? DC has a very poor, uneducated population with no well-to-do pockets to bring up scores. What you don't mention when you bring up DC--is that except for DC, the correlation between performance and expenditure per state is very high--take a look at the states with top schools---hmmmm, Massachuesetts, Connecticut--yeah, states famous for having high taxes.

You know, I suspect when it comes to something like computer equipment you know darn well that you get what you pay for--but god forbid that you see that that also applies to education. For some reason, we think that teachers should never ever consider money when taking on a teaching job or that run-down, overcrowded facilities couldn't possibly have an effect on performance, though I doubt any of you here would want to work in those run-down buildings or live in a run-down house.

The main reason our schools aren't worse is because a lot of parents have stepped in to volunteer and donate privately. When I was in grade school parents weren't asked for $500 a year in donations, but then there was also a budget for school supplies.

And, yeah, that's one other things--other countries, such as Ireland, figured out that they have to spend money on education to get results. (Ireland's recent boom was preceded by a major commitment to education by the Irish government.)

By the way, hasn't it occurred to you that anyone qualified to teach math is going to do the math and work in the private sector? Would you encourage a kid with an 800 Math SAT to become a math teacher?

Why not? Oh, yeah, the money.

Posted by Relax, a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Your schools are almost all above 900...
We'd love our schools to all be ranked that high.

and just because your child might love learning and want to be an artist does NOT mean they will be asking "do you want fries with that" in their career.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 7:02 pm

I never said I see value only in math and science, and I can't possibly understand how anyone could construe that is what I said.

I see value in all the other academics IN ADDITION TO, not instead of, math and science. We owe our kids, all of them, the best education possible, especially in math, science and strong English, to give them the best chance to choose which door they want to walk through when they are grown. I know a brilliant mathemetician who has decided to switch careers and go teach history. How lucky is he that his parents gave him so many choices that he is prepared to follow his passions. Strong math and English skills are not something that can be backfilled once you are in college, but the "soft" academics, if someone is talented and has a passion, are passions that can be followed and blossom after middle and high school. You have to remember that great artists and musicians have come out of my generation ( older) and we had no art or music in elementary school. Yet, I have heard of nobody who was denied math in elementary and middle school who went on to excel in this subject. Math is more than numbers, it teaches how to think, how to put together logical concepts and ideas. Why do you think some of the greatest philosophers have also been mathmeticians?

I feel sad that you don't value math and science ( Sorry, I am being sarcastic in making the same conclusion on faulty evidence that you made.)

Posted by Ex Engineer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:16 pm

One of the most important things that standardized testing lacks is evaluation of writing and communication. At work, I had to spend two hours helping an educated engineer (English was his first language!) write down one of his ideas. Most of us cannot not communicate well, let alone write very clearly. My understanding is that the best writer in the district usually comes from Ohlone.

Everyone needs a strong math and science background (to sell fries, you need to know how to make change, at least you did before the electronic cash register), but other factors such as communication, interpersonal skills and writing are very important, probably more important for an individual's success than science, from my experience. Granted, collectively, math and science is KEY to create business for a few executives to get rich off of and support a middle class. Also, it can pull kids out of poverty who really work hard. The issue is Palo Alto kids need to be those few executives if they want to remain in their hometown. To do that, they need a broad education that helps them be emotionally and socially intelligent as well as excel on standardized testing.

Posted by Some People's Parents, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:37 pm

No wait, instead of english, math, science, technology, lets really keep up with the world in education and teach our kids.... mandarin. Please. What are some people thinking.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2008 at 6:19 am

Agree completely, ex-engineer.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2008 at 8:07 pm


I see I conflated some of your comments with John's, so my comment wasn't fair to you. I apologize.

I disagree with you though that the "soft" subjects can be taught later while math and science must be given top priority. Math is actually one of those subjects where pushing it too early can be counterproductive--kids need to be able to grab certain types of abstractions. The tendency has been to push down the math curriculum, but there's really no compelling need to do so and kids might do better if we didn't.

Music, on the other hand, actually does require early instruction--instrument virtuosos tend to have been prodigies--because early and strong finger coordination needs to develop. There's a window of opportunity with basic musicality--it's much, much harder to learn to sing on pitch after childhood than during it--the optimum is around ages 3 to 5 with a big drop in ease coming after nine.

It's really analogous to sports and other physical activities--the one exception being singing--voices need to be strong and matured before serious training.

Parents who are serious about music simply look to the private sector for musical education.

Art, too, is another facility that develops over time and begins in childhood. Unlike some areas, though, a fair amount can be self-taught--and because of the way visual intelligence develops, I actually think certain kinds of art instruction are counterproductive for kids.

Drawing, by the way, is taken very seriously in Japan--particularly the introduction of perspective from the West--the Japanese feel that Western visual techniques were fundamental in developing their later engineering and technical expertise.

In other words, what you consider "soft" subjects may not, in fact, be soft at all. It's not random that Da Vinci was both a great artistic and scientific thinker. The greatest benefit of a true liberal arts education (rather than our current tendency toward more and more specialization) is to be able to see the connections between subjects.

The older I get the more I think the subject that's under-taught is history--and our general ignorance of history has had a dire effect on our political discourse and ability to self-govern--I'm with your brilliant mathematician.

Posted by PA Mom and Teacher, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2008 at 11:55 am

Going back to the original question of why Hoover's API scores are higher than other schools, I may have some insight on the subject. I have been an educator at Hoover for ten years. We do teach the same curriculum as the other schools and in some cases our approach is different. As a staff we adhere to a given set of expectations. For example quieter classrooms (most of the time) Quiet orderly transitions in the hallways from one building to the other(example going to library) Whole group teaching is done the majority of the time, but many teachers do partner work, small group work and hands-on is a big part of our curriculum. We may do more skill practice after a hands-on lesson to back up a skill taught. We assess like other schools are required. Projects are also a part of our curriculum. We have 1 hour of art per a class each week from a spectra art teacher. We have a ridge homework policy of four days a week where we ask for accountability each day. We stress safety, respect, polite greetings(making eye contact). I don't think any school teaches a child without teaching the whole child. Why is Hoover different? Well it is true we have a very supportive parent population. Teachers report every two weeks to the parents through our bimonthy progress reports. The academic progress and social/work habit skills of the child are communicated to the parents. This communication hold students accountable for their actions. Don't forget other factors like cultural factors, genetics, motivation, a love of school, learning and of course all those extracurricular activities! These all affect performance. Are we concerned about stressed out children? Yes sometimes and we deal with it and talk to parents about these issues. What I see everyday are students who love school. They love activities, reading, making books, doing reports, projects all done in an interesting fun way that engages them. They love to keep busy and it is a very demanding day. However, I don't hear complaints from the kids or the students. Some of them even tell me they love doing workbooks! Others love the projects, art, plays or guess speakers and field trips. I don't know if this answers the question completely, but I'll leave you with this comment. The most important thing I read in the blogs was the fact that we should be thankful for the incredible school system we have. Not many districts offer choices. My oldest was 13 weeks when I got the Hoover job. When our neighborhood school(out of district) recommended a retention for our daughter, we turned to Ohlone for there multi-aged classrooms. My job at Hoover had nothing to do with what school was best for my children's learning styles. Parents should go to the open houses and really look at the school and think about where their child will learn best. I will say, you can't go wrong with any school in Palo Alto. I have been in many other places and we got it good!

Posted by Non-Random sample, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:19 pm

In essence you just described what occurs at every school in Palo Alto with only a few minor differences (biweekly reporting).

The bottom line is the selection process of the population, and the resulting 'math' in computing the averages. A choice program is fully populated with parents who are DRIVEN for achievement. There are NO parents there who are not.

A regular school has all sorts - some that are casual about test scores, casual about homework, casual about achievement - no hurry no worry, and kids with disabilities and learning gaps who's parents don't choose a high pressure program on purpose. And there are those who are equally as driven for achievement and gifted as those who 'lucked out' and got in the choice programs. The FULL spectrum.

When you take an average view of the second (regular) school, the average will be lower because the first has no low results.

So the average of
10 + 10 + 10 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 9.5

The average of
10 + 10 + 10 + 9 + 9 + 5 = is 8.8

Put all the sub-5's at Hoover, you think you suddenly conver them to 9's and 10's. No.

There's nothing magical about the Hoover program, its just the selection process that's different. Change the selection process for Hoover direct instruction to completely random (no lottery, no voluntary transfers (pure boundaries like a neighborhood school) - and you'd see Hoover's scores drop down to average PAUSD.

Put this way - if you taught ALL schools in PAUSD the Hoover way (with all types and abilities of students (and parents) in the mix) - you wouldn't magically change all schools to Hoover's API - because the lower performers would still be in those averages.

Hoovers just been able to filter them out at the door with the lottery process, keep the inevitable low scorers out of their scores. No mystery here.

While PAUSD generally goes around patting themselves on the back for their great education system, the "quality" of the schools are a actually a byproduct of the socio-economics of the area - a high proportion of wealthy, well educated parents that value and support achievement. And Hoover is a just microcosm within a microcosm. Give me a filet mignon, I'll make you a great steak.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm

PA Mom and Teacher,

Thanks for your comments--some of what you mention, though, seems pretty standard at all the schools. Do any of the elementaries not have Spectra Arts? (A great program, by the way) I'm also not sure what you mean by "genetics". I mean, are the kids who go to Hoover genetically predisposed to outscore other PA kids? I don't really buy that. There's not enough of a difference in scores and the other factors you mention would, I think, account for the relatively small difference.

You mention one thing that I found telling--you teach at Hoover and clearly admire much about it, but you sent your own child to Ohlone--after another school suggested retention. My reading between the lines (feel free to correct me) suggests that Ohlone-style appeals more than Hoover to parents who think their kid will face challenges in school.

In other words, if you think your kid might have a hard time settling into academics, you're less likely to enter the Hoover lottery than Ohlone or the neighborhood school. It seems to me that some self-selection bias is happening right there--enough, actually, to explain the difference in scores--a lower percentage of underperformers.

When I've talked to other parents, there seems to be more concern about their kid managing the Hoover approach than the Ohlone approach. With Ohlone, I hear concerns about it being gung-ho enough to produce results, but little concern about it being a stressful environment. I do know of one family where they didn't apply to Ohlone because they felt their kid was too spacey and needed a structured environment.

Again, thanks for your comments.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm


Our posts crossed, but I think we're making the same point, but you're doing it in math and I'm doing it in anecdotes. <g>

Posted by PA Mom and Teacher, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I am not sure what you meant by Hoover being able to filter out the low scoring students with our lottery. The lottery is done at the district office and is fair. We have, like all schools, seen a recent increase in students of special needs. (Spectrum disorders) They are mainstreamed and often parents decide on Hoover because they think our structure will suit them. Like I said, all parents try to find the best fit for their children. Anyway, except that we have no control over who signs up for our lottery, we certainly don't pick the kids ourselves or choose them based on test scores. Hoover's staff is an incredible dedicated group, and like all Palo Alto schools we aim to meet all students needs social, emotionally and academically through the use of best practices. One major difference between PAUSD and some other districts is the amount of input teachers have on deciding curriculum. Many districts just have administrators who may not have had classroom experience determine what is best for kids. Palo Alto is exceptional in that way.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2008 at 3:14 pm

I think that the selection process at both Hoover and Ohlone makes the two schools have motivated parents, not necessarily motivated students although that does follow. For the average parent who has moved to Palo Alto for the schools or is living here for reasons other than the schools, they are not going to enter the lotteries unless they are highly motivated and put some preparation into the process. When these parents register for kindergarten for the first time they are bombarded with choices and if they don't really understand what the differences are for whatever reason, they are not going to enter the lottery schools. This means that the schools are elected by the highly motivated parents who have put serious thought into the education of their children and have chosen something other than neighborhood schools for these type of reasons. The only exception to these families would be for a family who lived very close to either Hoover or Ohlone and decided that they would try this system because the school is on their doorstep and it would make life easier.

It would be very interesting to see if the lower achieving kids at these schools are living within 1 mile of the school, but I doubt if that information can be gleaned.

Posted by PA Mom and Teacher, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm

OhlonePar. Bingo! A lot of what you said makes since. I recognized that our neighborhood school was very similar to Hoover and wanted my daughter to not only save face in a neighborhood of students advancing to the next grade level, but also to give her a chance learn in the way Ohlone described. I think many parents think that way about Ohlone, and this could change who ends up going there. Except for a few issues I have with supervision at Ohlone, I have been extremely happy in that choice. My genetics comment may have come out wrong. I guess I meant that given that I feel all of Palo Alto seems intellectual, perhaps parents who think their child is exceptional send them to Hoover to be challenged. I have heard some parents say they came because their child was bored in other situations. Of course I think the main reason people choose Hoover is they hope it is the most like they learned when they were a child. Hoover's Spectra art is not just for the first two years of a teacher's career in Palo Alto. Hoover, has used other money to pay for it, for all teachers, all the time. Maybe other schools do this too. It is hard to explain the difference in Hoover than other schools. The progress report is huge! Student's behavior is significantly changed with this type of consistent communication. Some substitutes have made comments on how our student's behavior is so good. As a parent, whenever my child was in the same grade level as I teach, It seemed the type of expectations were quite different. Basically the same curriculum, but seen in very different styles and forms. This is exactly why we are so fortunate to have choices.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2008 at 1:19 am

PA Mom and Teacher,

My take on what's being said about the lotteries isn't that Hoover fools around with its lotteries, but that there's a self-selection bias in who applies.

Curiously, my take on Hoover is that I wish it seemed more accessible to kids with possible issues--from what I've read Direct Instruction has worked extremely well at some of the inner-city charter schools. Yes, Hoover's scores might drop, but it might serve the community better if it had kids from a wider variety of SOE backgrounds. (I'm not sure Hoover is being used in its fullest capacity to help close the achievement gap--I think there's more cross-pollination within the district from Ohlone. It appeals, perhaps, to more liberal views about education and concerns about stressed-out students.)

Ohlone, on the other hand, gets applications from parents who are worried that their kid can't stay still in a classroom. I don't actually think that's an ideal Ohlone fit just because there's such an emphasis on learning to work independently. The other thing about Ohlone is that I think that running these kind of schools--where so much structure and planning has to be done way ahead of time to allow "freedom" in the classroom. There's an Ohlone teacher that I (and others) think is terrific--she's also one of the most hyper-organized people I've ever seen and very on-the-ball with classroom management--not only would she hear a pin drop, she'd know who dropped it, why and probably stop the pin dropping in the first place.

Not every teacher at Ohlone is like that. I think it's a pretty hard balancing act myself. When it works it's amazing, but it doesn't always work--and then you get a bit of chaos and annoyed parents.

My sense is that the Hoover experience is a bit more consistent--but that's just from talking to Hoover parents.

Posted by Non-Random Sample, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

If you put 100 gold nuggets into a hat, what are the chances you'll come away rich if you pick 20 randomly? The fact that you open up a lottery at all puts only the motivated parents in pool. Unmotivated, uninterested, uninvolved, uninformed parents joining the lottery for Hoover? I don't think so. But do those kids show up at the neighborhood schools? Sure. where do you think they go. Hoover is the beneficiary of a non-random sample. (sure once they get that non-random sample they pick them blindly out of hat - kudos for them!)

Hoovers program is not necessarily any more successful than a neighborhood school in regular PAUSD. The only way we'd test that would be to turn hoover into a neighborhood school, leave the direct instruction method in place, and see what happens.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2008 at 8:42 pm


Even then, I'm not sure you'd get a truly random sample as people would choose to move to the Hoover draw area in some cases. Or move away. Kind of the way Gunn's not random.

I suppose the most random draws are the middle-of-the-pack schools--people are neither actively seeking out nor actively avoiding them.

Posted by Science on a International Scale, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2008 at 8:21 am

As to an earlier posting's comments on US's edge in science - recent reports show that the US' advantage is eroding quickly as our competitor nations up their high school and college graduation rates.

From the 2006 PISA Report:

PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment, an internationally standardized assessment administered to more than 400,000 15-year-old students from 57 countries, including the 30 OECD countries which make up close to 90% of the world economy.

"The US can draw on the most highly educated labor force among the principal industrialized nations, when measured in terms of the formal qualifications attained by 25-to-64-year-olds in the labor force. However, this advantage is largely a result of the "first-mover advantage" which the US gained after World War II by massively increasing enrolments. While the US had, well into the 1960s, the highest high school completion rates among OECD countries, in 2005 it ranked, with a high school completion rate of 76%, 21st among the 27 OECD countries with available data, followed only by Spain, New Zealand, Portugal, Turkey and Mexico.

Similar trends are visible in college education, where the US slipped between 1995 and 2005 from the 2nd to the 14th rank, not because US college graduation rates declined, but because they rose so much faster in many OECD countries."

Science graduation rates are low in the US compared to OECD countries: the number of people with a college degree per 100,000 employed 25-to-34-year-olds was 1,100 (US), 1,295 (OECD countries) and more than 2,000 (Australia, Finland, France and Korea).

In terms of high school science skills, the US' mean score was 489 points compared to the OECD average of 500 score points, ranking 21st among the 30 OECD countries.

Web Link

Despite US below-average performance,

- US 15-year-olds (along with students in Poland and Canada) express the highest confidence in their science abilities and

- The US has just an average level of top performers.

Posted by Science on an International Scale, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2008 at 9:14 am

Ohlone Parent

It is nice that you are so sure ("Percentage-wise, we produce a lot more engineers, programmers per capita than does China or India. I don't remember a time when people weren't fretting about American test scores and losing our technological edge to the Russians--remember that? Or the Japanese--remember that? And now the Chinese, Indians and Koreans.).

While the numbers as a percentage of the counties' population may make the US look better, it is really just a question of absolute numbers as to who will fill those science/tech/math cubicles in the future and whose population benefits from the technology and revenues those companies will generate.

The National Academies study (Rising Above the Gathering Storm) reported that 70,000 engineers graduated from U.S. higher ed institutions in 2004, compared to 350,000 in India and more than 600,000 in China. Even if you believe the debunkers who say that the US number is double that, it is still far below the numbers in India and China.

And what you call "fretting" happens to be something the national experts are quite worried about:

In the recent National Mathematics Panel Report, written by a committee of experts formed in 2006 by the President to address US' prominence in math on the world stage after 2 years of testimony and study:

"Without substantial and sustained changes to its educational system, the United States will relinquish its leadership in the 21st century."

"International and domestic comparisons show that American students have not been succeeding in the mathematical part of their education at anything like a level expected of an international leader. . . only 23% are proficient at Grade 12. Consistent with these findings is the vast and growing demand for remedial mathematics education among arriving students in four-year colleges and community colleges across the nation."

Echoed by Bill Gates:

"During the last decade, the number of college students who study math and science in the United States has declined dramatically. Today, there simply aren't enough people with the right skills to fill the growing demand for computer scientists and computer engineers. "

"The economy's need for workers trained in these fields is "massive--and growing," Gates said. He said the U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, from 2004 to 2014, there will be more than two million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004 ... higher-education degrees awarded in the U.S. ... in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences--"[declined] about a third since 1960."

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm


It's not that I think there should be zero concern. My point was different--we don't produce engineers because corporations are willing and able to outsource to countries with lower labor costs--or import engineers willing to work for less.

In a free market, people will choose professions where they'll be financially rewarded--thus no lack of American-born hedge-fund managers.

When I hear CEO types complain about the lack, I just have to laugh--over and over again, they support public policies that limit their tax burden and short-change the public schools that are supposed to supply their future engineers. They lobby strongly for visa programs that gets them engineers at a lower cost. We know that lay-offs are the classic way to restructure--even as the discrepancy between executive compensation and that of everyone else's grows and grows.

Want American-born engineers? Make it a desirable profession again. Places that are seen as desirable workplaces have no shortage of applicants--i.e. Google a couple of years back.

Want better math results with 12th graders--making teaching math a profession that provides a living wage.

The absolute numbers of engineers being graduated don't tell the whole story--as I've said, the quality of Chinese engineers is apparently low. In other words, there are companies that want to outsource to China and can't. In both India and China, you have problems that come with a lack of infrastructure--that would be the public infrastructure about which libertarian types complain about paying for.

European countries are small--but they have been able to create highly successful global corporations--i.e. Finland's techie innovations.

I think Big Business in America got a lot of what it wanted over the last couple of decades--business-friendly administrations, deregulation, lower taxes--but, lo and behold, it turns out that shrinking the government, putting science to weird political litmus tests, and going to war for oil (after having derailed plans from 30 years ago to develop alternative energy sources) was a mistake.

We're just getting what we paid for.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2008 at 4:15 pm

I know of one local small high tech company that would love to hire more American educated engineers, but they are just not up to par with their foreign educated competitors. Many of these are coming to US universities after completing their foreign educating and like living here and want to remain. They are bright, intelligent, know how to do their jobs without too much training, and do want to be paid the average wage going not happy with less than a US worker.

The advantages of a US educated engineer that would make them more desirable is generally the fact that their English is better and they speak English without a strong accent, both desirable attributes but not essential. They are also able to fit into the culture of the company without too many culture shocks.

But, there are not enough US educated college graduates with the right kind of stuff to make them work without plenty of additional training and supervision. They just can't hack it.

So, really, those who have had at least some of their education overseas are the ones who are getting the jobs.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm


I'd guess from the situation that you describe that there's another factor here--the American-educated engineers who would meet that small company's standards are taking jobs at companies that offer more earnings potential--i.e. hot start-up, stock options, etc. So, my guess is that it's less the quality of the education overseas--since U.S. grad schools continue to rank at the top, but the quality of the people you're going to get. If you can make a regular salary in the U.S., but can use it to live like a king in India, that's a very different prospect than being an engineer who doesn't have family outide the states.

In other words, it's also a question of competition for talent not simply a lack of talent out there. I have a young relative--American-born, top student and, yes, an engineer.

He's worked for Google for a few years now and my guess is that your small company could never afford to hire him. They could match his salary, but they can't match his options.

Posted by Science on an International Scale, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2008 at 5:28 pm

OhlonePar --

It's not that simple.

It's easy to blame companies on the plight of our schools or call them hypocrites, but what they do and why they do it is quite complex.

Companies lower their tax burden to keep profits high so they have money to invest in research and so they can keep prices low to remain competitive with international competitors; investors like you and me demand this of them.

If it is excessive salaries you object to, you need to ask what happens to that money and really how much it is overall. Many tech billionaires give back in ways that benefit society, many would argue in better ways than taxes would which are eked out to individual schools and not tied to improvements. Look at the work, in education, that the Gates and Hewlett Foundations are doing with their private riches.

Engineering is an undesirable job here in the US? I know plenty of happy engineers, even those who work in "undesirable" companies that don't have their own gourmet cafeterias, doctors on staff and workout rooms like Google.

Quality of engineers from China and India low? Look around you. Plenty are employed here in the Valley with much success. The problem again is that the tech firms cannot hire enough US born engineers because many of our graduates just aren't as smart in math and science as foreign employees are. Engineers working at any of the companies around here with comparable experience are paid the same regardless of their country of origin.

I will echo your point that recent cuts in education spending may be responsible for the lack of funds available to attract math and science teachers away from industry (if that was your Bush administration point), but you can blame teachers for that just as easily, as they push their unions to reject compensation programs that pay according to need and skills in favor of locked step and column scales based simply on years teaching.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2008 at 7:37 pm


Rather than contradicting my point, I feel you in fact underscored it. Yes, there may be some good US educated engineers and yes, given the Googles and the like there are some very good jobs with good prospects for them. However, there are not many Googles and there are a lot of very good up and coming companies that may in fact become Googles in the future. These companies also need very good employees, they need to be willing to work hard and yes they will be paid very well and get options and benefits that may realise great wealth in the future, but as you say they are not Googles with their company gyms and childcare, or whathaveyou. Just because these companies are smaller, do you think they deserve to have second best employees. No. There should be enough good employees to fill all the vacancies in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately there are not. Yes the best home grown are there, but they are by no means enough. Apart from the hitech engineers in Silicon Valley, there is a great demand for Visa lawyers and the only reason for them is the number of visas that need to be applied for.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2008 at 8:54 pm


It's not a question of "deserved"--the companies don't "deserve" anything. I'm simply pointing out the realities of the market--the small company gets what it can recruit. My point is simply that the company probably isn't in the position to attract top U.S. engineering grads, whereas it may be able to attract the top students from overseas. So, it's not a question of the top students not being equal, but the company's ability to recruit.

We could create a stronger and better U.S.-born engineer workforce, but our state hasn't been willing to put that kind of investment in secondary and college-level education for about 40 years. You can only bargain hunt so long 'til you look overseas.

College is expensive, living here is expensive. It's not worth living here if all you can expect is an engineer's salary.


Of course there are counter-arguments, but they don't invalidate what I've said. Overcompensating top-level employees, by the way, is a *poor* investment--they put a smaller percentage of their income back into the economy than do those in lower-income brackets. So, it's a bad approach to putting the money back into the economy. Didn't work in the 80s, didn't work under Bush.

I don't think I'd bother calling corporations "hypocritical"--it's just a reality that their short-term policies shortchange their longterm needs. What I think it points to is that we don't do well as a country when corporations have too great a say in how the country's run and who's elected. I think we ask too much of corporations in a sense when we have too much deregulation. The job of corporations is to make money, not create long-term policies for the good of the whole economy. We're reaping the results of a government that's been too much in bed with corporate interests in that way.

But, again, I don't think corporations are innately evil, but they are self-interested and short-sighted--and we should expect them to be so and regulate accordingly.

I'm glad you know happy engineers--doesn't mean that this isn't a very expensive place to live for them and that there are higher-compensating or more secure jobs--in part because of outsourcing and overseas recruitment on the engineering profession.

Re: China and India--you need to actually talk to instead of just looking at those engineers--you'll hear a different story. (And they are here, putting money in the U.S. economy--not a real problem for me except when I was in the housing market.) As for being employed here "with much success"--lots of Indian entrepreneurs behind some very successful companies--but the Chinese seem to be facing more of an issue that way--both here and in China, itself--China should become a powerhouse of technological innovation, but with a couple of exceptions, it's been a non-starter. I've heard various theories about it--but I think one things clear--building successful technology companies isn't just about engineering.

My point about math teachers wasn't a criticism of the Bush Administration--teaching's been out of whack in this area for far longer than that. It's just a reality--I'd never tell a kid talented in math to look at becoming a math teacher--far too many other jobs that pay better and offer more opportunity.

At the same time, you get what you pay for--it's not the unions that have made the schools so deeply short of money, it's an unstable tax-base and a hamstrung budget. We have the same union in Palo Alto that they do in other districts, but we're basic aid and occasionally choose to up the funding of our schools--and the scores reflect it, which in turn brings in families who care about schools and their kids doing well, etc. It's a self-perpetuating cycle--and the opposite of ones in district's that have gone downhill.

In other words, is it really random that basic-aid district are among the strongest academically in the state?

Posted by A Math Teacher, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2008 at 9:37 pm


"It's just a reality--I'd never tell a kid talented in math to look at becoming a math teacher--far too many other jobs that pay better and offer more opportunity."

There are many people in this world who look beyond a paycheck to find meaning in their careers or for their lives. Thankfully, I have known many talented math students who are pursuing a career in teaching.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 7:06 am

I think that was hilarious. I know a kid in the top 1% in the nation in math if you look at his Math subject SAT and some other math tests, and yet, because of his love for the beauty of math, he wants to teach it and help others learn to love it the way he does.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 7:09 am

by the way, re: "cuts in education spending" by Bush..his admin has more than doubled k-12 spending. But, since it isn 't the feds job to educate our kids, it is EACH STATE's job, their share only went up to about 5% of total k-12 spending.

Look to each state for funding.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 7:11 am

And, lastly, OP, "overcompensating top employees" done with full market input. There is no overcompensating at the top. It may look like it to you, but if it is a private company, or one with stockholders, the owners and stockholders are more than happy to pay top execs what look like absurd amounts in order to have their stock prices double.

Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 7:12 am

Reading a great book, yet another, by Thomass Sowell called "Economic Facts and Fallacies". HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who believes some of the "common wisdoms" about economics and how it works best.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Math Teacher,

Right, you're counting on altruism--would you expect a private corporation to rely on that to recruit the best and the brightest?

That public education works at all is due to some of that altruism, but altruism has its limits. If altruism means never buying a house and shortchanging your own kids' education, you might look elsewhere and limit the altruism to charitable giving.


So you know one kid. So doesn't change the overall fact that people like to be fairly renumerated for their work. And why do we require altruism out of our teachers, but not our other professions?

I didn't refer to Bush's cuts in education--thus, states that finance their schools well tend to do better with their schools than states that don't. Other countries, however, do federally fund their educations. And there may be something to be said for that approach in terms of results.

California screwed up its education funding with Prop. 13. This isn't news.

And sure it's overcompensation--overall corporate results and top-executive compensation don't correlate well at all. You should do some research on this one instead of drinking the Kool-Aid.

Re: Thomas Sowell--you seem to be kind of upset--but when recommending a book, it helps to spell the author's name correctly. I've never been impressed with his thinking--he's just a guy with a bunch of axes to grind.

In general, you're showing a basic rhetorical weakness--you're not actually countering what I've said with any specifics. You're reading Sowell---soooo, what are the guy's compelling arguments, then?

Do your research, think things through and then get it into one post. Otherwise, you just come off as kind of agitated.

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