Posted by Corncerned Parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:43 am
Way to go Mr. and Mrs. Dauber. Finally the district is going to think abut reducing homework and stress at school. Our kids will really benefit from that once it takes place (how many years?). This is a baby step.
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:55 am
Reducing the homework load would reduce stress immediately. Changing the definition of sucess would take longer but the school district would have to lead the way. Tiger parents who insist on academic pressure cookers, or as my Paly son is fond of saying "academic cmcentration camps" will have to decide if they want to keep their kids in schools that actually allow kids to enjoy their childhood and get some sleep.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:06 am
I am disappointed that in this report there is no mention of any discussion about the size of the high schools. When our schools reach 2400, which they will become when our present elementary schools reach high school age, there are no future plans. They are heading for a stressful time ahead.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:13 am
it is not fair to blame the stress on academic side.it is more often those kids stay late to do home work because they spend a lot afternoon time doing team sports or extra curriculm which is taking up a lot of time but also is critical in applying to a top school.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:20 am
If teachers were respectful, kind and assigned meaningful homework that would help a great deal. Returning assignments in a timely manner and teaching what they plan on covering in a test would also be helpful.
Posted by paparent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:24 am
The middle schools curriculum was supposed to help with de-stressing our kids. They were based on "Caught in the Middle" and in the 90's changed so that all laning was almost gone. Problem is that the English, Social Studies, Science curriculum were "dumbed down" or made very easy. But, the high schools did not change in the upper lanes so there is this big catch up that students must do if they want to be in the upper lanes and definitely adds more stress. (This also is why so many students are doing EPGY and tutoring during middle school so they are not so far behind.)
The schools answer to de-stressing was to make academics easy (in the middle schools). That's not a good answer either because students aren't prepared. We need to find a good balance.
Posted by Wants-To-Know, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:25 am
> Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he rejects what he called a
> "dangerous" premise of the parents' request -- "that there's a
> direct connection between the suicides and Gunn High School.
Interesting. Given that virtually no information about the students involed, and their home life, has been made available to the public, how is it that the connection between the suicides and Gunn was made? Doesn't home life enter into this dynamic?
Skelly is right to reject such a claim, without a lot of supporting documentation.
Posted by Greetings from the Land of the Utterly Obvious, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:38 am
"how is it that the connection between the suicides and Gunn was made"
1. All the students attended Gunn High School.
2. The district itself connected academic stress to depression, anxiety, and suicide. Skelly is subverting the process because he does not agree with the results of the PSN study task force report. His own director of student services, Carol Zepecki (now retired) wrote that section. He is now trying to disown it and not enforce it.
Don't let him. If they can have democracy in Egypt, we can have it Palo Alto.
We should recall Camille Townsend. She's the worst one, though none of them are really any good. Watch the video. It's a shocking embarrassment to this town.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:57 am
It isn't just a "Gunn thing."
Look guys, if you go only a few more years back, there were unfortunately several student suicides at Paly, as well as the well-publicized one done by a recent Paly grad who was at UC Davis. Others were a prominent theatre kid and a foreign student (age 17?) who had been left in care of his sister who was 18- you can see Paly is also included, it ISN'T "just" Gunn. People need to know the history, trends, not just what happened in the past 3 months.
Posted by Wants-To-Know, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:03 am
> All the students attended Gunn High School.
As do some 1500+ other students. Having a few commit suicide does not constitute anything close to "scientific proof".
> The district itself connected academic stress to depression,
> anxiety, and suicide
Maybe. One study does not a science make. A couple of years ago Santa Clara County claimed that one child in ten (1-in-10) attempted suicide. The Santa Clara report did not focus on Gunn High School, and certainly all of the schools in Santa Clara County are not exactly like Gunn High. So .. what did this so-called study provide as the "background" for suicide attempts in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California, and the US?
By the way, there are a goodly number of schools in California (and the US) where the academic achievement is measurably greater than Gunn. Did the PAUSD look at the suicide rates in those communities?
> If they can have democracy in Egypt
Interesting. The Egyptian Army is in control of the country, there is every chance that within a couple of years this country will turn into an Islamo-fascist state, and we've got people in Palo Alto worshiping this "process" as "democracy". Sorry .. but what we've got in Egypt is little more than "Mob Rule". While seems to be going on here.
> She's the worst one, though none of them are really any good.
Posted by Our BoE is Worthless, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:13 am
Thank you to Karen Kang and Ken Dauber for speaking for us.
Not sure if it was Phil Winston and staff (we love Phil, BTW) or who implemented the new Paly bell schedule, but it has reduced stress for our students.
The BoE don't understand our situation because they attended Ivys and they have children attending high level schools: Klausner (Stanford), Skelly (Harvard), Townsend (Princeton). Their children made it through fine so they don't care to help others. Much like fraternities hazing Pledges.
Posted by Our BoE is Worthless, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:18 am
Next time around, voters need to look past Ivy League degrees and find real parents who have common sense. I regret voting for Klausner and Tom; they are too weak and have disappointed. Skelly, with his Harvard degree is not an effective administrator.
Meanwhile, Phil Winston and his Hayward degree has been a superior administrator.
Posted by give some credit due, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:29 am
My observation is that there are a lot of vocal whiners and haters who are unsuppportive of the contributions, efforts, sacrifices, and overall success of the school board and district. These people are in a tough position serving both ends from the silent tiger parents to the touchy-feely process crowd ("district please save our kids and solve our family problems for us"). There is no concrete science as to one "right path" and some of these changes requested are about as possible as changing the weather. Cetainly the suicides are a sad sign that something within the Palo Alto education experience (including parents and peers outside of school) is amiss. It seems like there is a theme of "oh yeah your kid stayed up til 3AM on their project, well my kid stayed up til 4AM" competition, echoed in Silicon Valley workplaces BTW, also same between the kids themselves in a timeless "ain't it horrible" theme - remember college all-nighters!). So far my freshman at Paly has had periods of stress and a few late nights, but seems a manageable workload and she has more complaints about "dumbed-down" classes and the minority of sub-par teachers than overwork. My opinion is also that the average kids spends 1-2 hours a day on facebook, time that could be spent on homework or actually reducing stress by socializing in person with real people! Overall kudos to Dr. Skelly and staff and the Board for serving in this demanding community where everyone is used to and skilled at getting their way.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:30 am
I had five kids go through Paly. I agree the homework levels are ridiculous, none of them, and none of their friends, went out during teh week, or made it to bed before 1am...later, if they played a sport.
That being said, if you ask administrators and teachers what the problem is, they will say parent expectations. They are not incorrect.
Having put that many kids through the school, I have spent time around the administrative building and other parents. I have heard parents in the guidance office being quite vocal and demanding about their kids grades....they are quick to assign blame. I did not hear them complaining about the amount of work, quite the opposite at times. A lot of parents in this district have expectations of what the school can do for their kids that far outweigh reality. Sometimes a kid doing their best is what you get, but when that best isn't enough for their parents, they turn the blame on to the school.
Posted by another Paly Mom, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:16 am
I agree with Paloaltomom above who said:
f teachers were respectful, kind and assigned meaningful homework that would help a great deal. Returning assignments in a timely manner and teaching what they plan on covering in a test would also be helpful.
In my kids' collective 8 years at Paly, I can count on one hand the number of teachers who were very good or excellent. In Math in particular, the day to day curriculum is dictated by the department and if the students don't understand the material, well, too bad we have to move on.
We need more teachers who actually care about our students, and not just about their standing in the department. Way too many are on power trips. Others survive only by the grace of the tenure system.
BTW, ad hominem attacks on BOE members is spiteful and not productive. We can't even get candidates to run for these offices. And why would they want to, if all we're going to do is insult them. We need to model respect.
Posted by Steven, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:20 am
We live in a society where everybody blames somebody else for their own troubles. Stop blaming the school district. Take responsibility for the well being of your own family. Learn how to make your children feel appreciated. When your students do well, praise them for working hard, not for being smart. Is the academic stress difficult in school? Perhaps, but frankly, the curriculum in good universities (not just the top ones) is far more challenging, and the students need to be prepared to make that leap.
Posted by Annoyed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:28 am
Totally agree with "Another parent". Palo Alto parents are the true problem but you never hear that mentioned. The school board, teachers, adminisrators are doing a good job especially the teachers. But Palo Alto parents (I'm one) are the ones laying expectations on their kids. Your student doesn't have to take AP classes. They could select easier courses. In fact they don't *have* to do the homework (one of ours didn't). It's up to them. But then the parents get in the way. Rather than dumbing down our schools and denying the brighter ones the chance to do AP courses they want to lower things for everybody.
PS As a coach and referee, I see these parents by the way on the sports field all the time constantly getting in the way. The idea of advocating for the child has gotten out of hand and pevents children learning that in the real world there are always good and bad things that happen to you. We should learn to model for them how to deal with it not to prevent them ever experiencing it. It's called life...
Posted by Please leave and do not wait to be recalled!, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:28 am
I agree our board members suck!
I attended the meeting, and felt sick to my stomach to when the board responded the Daubers. I voted for Dana Tom, and Melisa. My mistake. Next time I will not do it. Tom came house by house and I thought is he is doing this, is because he cares and for sure will make a change. Little I know that he only wanted my vote, and once in the chair he will ignore or pretend that there are not serious issues at the schools and that our children are in a state of emergency crisis. They say we have to wait. For what, another student do die? so we can move another step higher? We need the board members to step out, first Camille, Dana, Melisa Mitchel, and if not shape up the other Barbara.
Posted by Please leave and do not wait to be recalled, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:35 am
To minor correction:
The student graduated from Terman, but yes, it was enrolled at Gunn and attended the orientation. Like it or not she was Gunn's. She got to feel the school climate on those days of orientation. By the way Skelly says that it is unfair to say that the suicides were related to school,l I want to see proves that they were not related to school. Does Skelly knows something that the parents of the kids who die do not know. Please back up your comment? The kids were at Gunn, Even the last one was a Paly student, but came from Gunn, (was affected from Gunn)
Posted by Retired Teacher, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:41 am
"Enough" has added a point oft heard and discussed - expectations placed on kids. Are those expectations realistic? Are they achievable? Who is checking? And what happens when those expectations are not met? How does that child internalize what he or she perceives as a sense of failure so early? I don't think this is an issue that can be solved by pointing fingers, assigning blame to parents, teachers, administrators, "the district" or a school. Having lived with the damage and collective pain of several suicides at Paly, I can only say that blame solves nothing; it only adds enormously to the sorrow. As I read this article, I understand the efforts being made to make children feel safe and stress resilient, but when we are also talking about preparing pre-school children to be ready to take standardized tests, I wonder if the best we can do right now is to make sure we are connected and listening to every child or student in each place where we have come to know them best.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:56 am
All of this blame and finger pointing is unproductive. In all of the responses I have read, not one addresses the importance of creating balance for the individual student. These responses make generalizations about students as if they were all the same. The range of intellectual ability and capacity is wide. AP classes and significant amounts of work are appropriate for some students but not for everyone. Academics, extra-curricular activities, family-time, eating, sleeping and socializing all have a place in a high school student's life. High school should be enjoyed not endured! It is up to parents, students, school counselors, teachers, and coaches to find a student's unique balance of activities. The efforts being made to relieve stress on a general level are helpful but let us refocus our attention on the individual student.
Posted by PG13, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm
Why do we constantly blame PAUSD? What about the parents/guardians who made the conscious choice to move in Palo Alto because of the excellent school system? What about those who set such high expectations for their kids so they can get into a great college? What about the rigorous and brutal college admissions process? What about the community at large? What about our children's peers who are also constant sources of pressures for them? Shouldn't they be responsible too for the stress our children go through. And last, but not least, what about our children themselves who almost always succumb to "bad stress" because of all these external environmental pressures. Let's stop blaming each other and work together. We need to have another community forum much like the one a couple of years ago where every stakeholder has a voice and develop a comprehensive approach to the issue at hand. I call on our community leaders to organize another forum for the sake and sanity of our kids.
Posted by Experienced mom, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm
As the parent of a senior at Paly, the district, the school board and high school staff must make more of an effort to recognize and accommodate the increasing importance of outside activities for high schoolers to get into decent colleges and to have a more balanced life outside of school & studying. We are now hearing about acceptances for the UC’s the last week or two. It is really surprising and upsetting how many really great students did not get into the UC’s – I am not talking about UCLA or Cal either! Not all parents can afford private colleges who live in Palo Alto and most do not qualify for need-based financial aid. Yes you can get some merit aid for private colleges but that tends to be reserved for the really high SAT scorers and over the top GPA’s. The best way to get into “better” UC’s or “better than average” privates is to have outside activities or “something unique” that makes you stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately though these activities definitely take away from studying, family & social time with friends. As a parent, I firmly believe there is a lot of busy work and time-consuming group projects assigned by high school teachers that also cause much stress. Facebook and other “multitasking online venues” also take away study time just as talking on the phone with friends did when I was in high school. The school district, board and staff need to focus on getting pertinent information from parents of older teens of what the schools can do to reduce at least school initiated stress. They cannot do a lot about parent & society generated stress though unfortunately. The Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors are the ones who really suffer from busy work, group project stress and testing anxiety. I also agree that middle school was extremely easy for my kids – they had a lot of time for outside activities then wham! - high school hit and it was a “major upgrade” in busywork, group projects, stressful tests & add to that teachers taking less time teaching difficult courses. This results in much less sleep and causes more colds, emotional upsets, lack of time to spend with family & friends socially outside of school and a huge increase in student stress. The school board is a reflection of our community. If you complain about them then why don't you run for the board? Most parents of high schoolers don't have much time to volunteer their efforts to improve schools so don't knock the school board if you can't contribute the necessary time to help fix this situation.
Posted by paparent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm
Thirty years ago it was much easier to get into one of the privates, and definitely the UC's. Now the UC's (as the poster before me points out) are getting very difficult. That's what is driving all this stress to look good on the application. Given there are fewer and fewer slots, more and more very bright students, we end up with students stress levels much higher now. The UC's are even giving more slots to foreigners who pay the full tuition because the UC's need money.
Many good suggestions have been made (reduce homework, get rid of busy work, reduce time consuming projects, expect teachers to explain advanced coursework and not leave it up to students, so on. And yes, tiger parents are also a problem) But, the university application process is really the biggest problem driving all this stress!
Or do we just tell our students forget about those privates and UC's? That's no solution either.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm
@Annoyed: Gee, you don't think that parents who meddle with the coaching staff, hire personal trainers to tape their kids before competition, pay private coaches then get ticked off when the kid isn't a starter, and are vocally loud and obnoxious (even to other parents) are too much? Oy, I have felt (and sat next to) your pain. Just think about it, all of that translates to the classroom.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm
The other problem I have is with the prevailing attitude at Paly among the kids and (and many parents) about technical colleges and training programs, and even, <gasp> the military. Also regarding our excellent community college's right here in the Bay Area. I remember my kids saying how some kids, even during more affluent times, could not attend a four year college, or were not perhaps as acacemically inclined as their peers, so some were interested in other types of after high school education. A few of the alternative type programs came to Paly to discuss their various course offerings, and kids were shamed into silence if they were interested. A presenter would give their talk, ask if anyone was interested, then would be met with either snickers or silence. The same goes for sports, if a recruiter from Foothill, DeAnza or even San Jose City college approaches a player, they act like they had been touched by an unmentionable. This attitude has been prevalent in Paly for many years now. Again, I doubt it's the teachers perpetuating these attitudes, so again Palo Alto, look into your collective mirrors and see who is really behind this pressure. Not all kids are Ivy league bound, for more than academic reasons, the economy comes into play too. It's time for Palo Alto to get real. I don't know too many PHD's who can fix my refrigerator or rebuild my engine, very necessary jobs in the real world!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm
Couple of things.
There were 2 suicides on the tracks at Paly within the last 10 years. There was very little community outcry at the time, perhaps it is due to Palo Alto Online that we hear the outcry now. This is not just a Gunn issue, it is a Palo Alto issue.
The last time there was a school board election, not one candidate stood against the present incumbents. This is different from the previous election when there were several excellent sounding candidates and Camille Townsend only squeaked by to be reelected. We may criticize our present board, but basically they are not professional educators just local parents who are interested enough to volunteer to do a thankless task. Perhaps once again it is due to Palo Alto Online that we are not getting people to want to stand for election to the BoE.
I think we should step back on our criticism of the Board if we want some new faces. Otherwise, we will once again have a non election.
I have spoken to Melissa, Camille, Barb and Dana at various times - sometimes as just fellow parents. They are nice people and I am grateful for them stepping up to do a difficult job. They may have made some poor judgment calls, but they do not deserve some of the harsh criticism they are getting. I doubt if I could do what they have volunteered to do.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm
even if our schools relax stress for our kids,would they not feel stressful if put them against others on a national level?would good schools consider this because pausd has relaxed stress and they still consider the schools are good and effective against other schools?if pausd become an average school district,would we still want to live here?
Posted by Trying to be reasonable, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm
It's not the school system's fault. It's not the parent's fault. It's not the student's fault. It's just a situation: high school students today across the world are under extreme stress.
Some of the stress is totally legitimate. Students today are competing against other kids nation-wide for admittance to college, and later on they will be competing against a global workforce, where kids from other countries are studying very hard in preparation for the same jobs our children would like to have.
My opinion is that the most effective way to make progress on this, where kids can still apply themselves towards academic success, but minimize the downsides (suicide, anorexia) is for the school system to play a leadership role, both in attempting to manage achievement vs stress within the school, and playing an educational role with both students and parents about the dangers from trying too hard.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm
i agree with the above post. i have heard this year even uc system are accepting more students from out of states,normally good local students can get into ucsd now they are being rejected.wake up parents.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm
If you ask any of the professionals that deal with multiple local school districts (SAT tutors for example), they will tell you that PAUSD high school classes are more difficult, memorization dependent and busy-work filled than other high schools. Regular level classes in PAUSD are comparable to honors level classes in other schools. Many teachers grade a lot harder in PAUSD than other schools.
Getting into college is all about your GPA, we shouldn't make it quite so hard for kids to maintain a decent one.
Regarding the Community College and Tech College comment, I have heard parents, wonderful supportive parents who do great things for our schools, refer to the kids who want to attend a Community College as "slackers". Its impossibly embarrassing for a student to admit they are going to Foothill, one of the best CC's around. "Shamed into silence" is a good description.
Posted by paly grad, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm
So much of what I witnessed surrounding PAUSD growing up only had the guise of being about the students. Adults, teachers, administrators and parents are so heavily involved in the school system here it becomes a competition between them for who has the best idea of how to improve our already successful schools. Students are rarely listened to. You do your best to over educate and simultaneously isolate and ignore kids. Not individuals, but as a community. The MBA turned stay at home moms need to back off, let people do their jobs. Just be at home ready to listen to and support your kid <i>no matter what</i> when he or she gets home from school.
Out of all my classmates, there is no one that will disagree that junior year of highschool in palo alto is the hardest, most stressful year of their education, no matter where they laned you. Even among those that went to an ivy league school, graduate or undergraduate, it doesn't matter. There is something very wrong about that.
Both my parents went to Paly, my children will most certainly not.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm
I m sure we can make the schools here a stress free environment. But let's not kid ourselves. The students from the schools will have an even harder time being admitted to universities... except for those who will continue to or start to supplement on the side. So, the problems will remain. Because the universities are not going to make admissions "anti-stress" just for Palo Alto students.
Watch out for what you wish for. It could completely backfire. I have a child in high school and I don't think this is a good idea, or that it will even prevent suicides...
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm
Amazing... I read some of the above posts and I find some where people basically demand grade inflation in Palo Alto. Sad... Not a good way to prepare our kids for the real world even if they immediately gain easier admission to some universities.
BTW one of my children went to a UC where indeed some students from other school districts got in even though they were weaker. Guess what? Those kids struggled tremendously once at that UC. If we make easier to get into those same UCs, we'll maybe be happy our kids made it in where they would not have before, but then they'll be miserable in college in many cases. Is that what we want? It amounts to pushing the depression and suicide problems from the high school years to the college years, when parents are even more helpless. Is that what we want? I don't.
Please wait at least until 2014-2015 to implement such changes. I want my kids to all be done with Palo Alto schools before this happens.
Posted by Sue, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm
How can you expect the school board/admin/teachers to fix everything? Define "supportive environment". What exactly does that overused term mean? How can it by implemented where parents push kids to get get good grades & achieve a certain level of excellence or at least competence? Does it mean telling a kid it's OK to get Cs & Ds? For every kid who gets an A or B there's going to be 1 who gets a D. That's why we call them "grades". Mere residence in Palo Alto doesn't entitle everyone to As. Grades measure performance within a group. That's it. Nobody has come up with a satisfactory alternative, so live with it. If you don't like it, move to a place where performance expectations are less rigorous.
Hello people! Grading is, by definition, comparative but you all want your kids in the top section. Where does pressure come from? Which of you will hug your kid & praise him if he comes home with a D? Or a C? You so want your little darlings to be Ivy-admissable that you demand AP & advanced classes in the curriculum but complain if it doesn't work out quite the way you'd hoped for your own kids. You blame the schools, teachers, & the BoE if your kids don't thrive in the system you requested. If you want your kid in bed early, limit extracurricular activities & take away his cell phone. Limit internet use. Social networking is a huge timesuck.
Want smaller schools & classes? Step up to a bigger parcel tax. Despite all the rantings & bragadocio, PA is not the biggest spender in this area. Los Altos & Menlo Park appear to run their schools without all the melodrama. Understand that whether the schools reduce OR increase assignments, half the parents will complain.
Here's what's coming, I believe. The BoE will resign because it isn't worth the ongoing struggle to satisfy the conflicting & unrealistic demands of a truly schizoid community. Teachers will quit at an even faster rate because what they want to do is teach willing students, not be forced to spend hours each week dealing parental interfence & verbal abuse by those who expect kid glove treatment for kids within a public school environment. If you want your kid in small classes where each one gets all the loving time needed to get a good grade, there are many private schools in & out of California where that service is available for a cost.
While you see who can complain most, consider the social effect of sending your kid to school with the best in cars, gear, clothes, and toys. The display of affluence is often intimidating to the students whose families don't provide such visible evidence of wealth. So is the constant conversation among students who aim, realistically or not, only at going on to first-tier colleges. Some kids will do very well at less-competitive & more budget-friendly schools, but they are made to feel inferior by the more vocal elitists in the student body.
Make your children happy & support the entire student body. Tell them you'd like them to consider some of the community colleges & Cal States. Suggest that if they didn't have so many after-school activities, you'd really enjoy their presence with you at family meals every night. Give your kid a hug a day. That's support.
Posted by Denese, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm
Good luck to all who fight, however, nothing is going to really happen. Klausner will move on, kids will graduate and 5 years from now .....the academic pressure will still exist, bulling will still exist, Paly coaches will still get away with treating kids like crap and Skelly will still be Superintendent of Palo Alto schools. We have seen the same old thing over and over. How long have we been talking about the achievement gap for instance. Skelly, said it could not be closed...... where are we with that one!
Parents go to the school to talk to many teachers or email them do they return your call/email! They want to deal with the child and not the parent. The child doesn't want retaliation from the teacher. Yes, it does happen! Complain and see.... the student gets' a low grade on work... coaches bench you and belittle you.
I know this seems like a rant...... but where is the change?
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm
I am also a coach and referee. This year we had the pleasure of a parent telling us that the kid that took her son's spot in the starting group was nowhere as good as her kid. Of course, she never played the sport and only became aware of it when her kid entered our school. We (the coaches) clearly had no idea what we were doing.
Before the season we have a parents meeting. One of the agenda items is sportsmanship (this is separate from the all-parents/school meeting...just for our team). We make it very clear to our parents that they are not to berate the officials, the other team's coaches, players or parents/fans. And we also make it very clear that we would have no problem embarrassing them by kicking them out of the bleachers and into the parking lot if they crossed the line. Needless to say, we don't have any problems home or away.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm
@ How do you know you have until 2014,
How do I know that I have until 2014? Because I do (I know my kid, you don't). My child is happy, engaged, connected, loves school and goes to bed at a reasonable time... My child has a life outside of school... My child knows that the name of the university one ends up attending is but a small factor in a person's life... My child is fine and will be fine (as my child's siblings were before BTW)... And we talk and communicate all the time. I keep tabs on my kids and accept them as they are, and constantly monitor how they are doing emotionally. That's why since you had to ask.
And how do you know that if you make our local schools so stress free, your child will be fine in the real world of college and work afterwards? I hate to rain on your parade, but we've had Palo Alto youths commit suicide once in college too... One of my children's Paly classmates did for instance. You just don't hear so much about these post Palo Alto suicides. And by having our local schools be an unrealistic little cocoon, we will make the college world automatically more dangerous for our kids.
Posted by Sue, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm
Do not go to school to talk to the teacher without an appointment. He/she may be in class or using the only free period in the schedule to correct tests or papers. If your kid is in HS, I beleve you were told at the beginning of the year that students & teachers are expected to communicate directly with each other. I believe it's considered preparation for adulthood. You are supposed to register at the office as a visitor, too.
As far as email, do not expect an immediate answer or be offended if you dont get one. Teachers will respond, generally in the order received, to emails - unless you've so effectively established yourself a constnt complainer or ranter that no responses are possible.
Posted by kmom, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm
There is nothing wrong with students, parent, teachers, administrators striving to do their best. But we struggle with the definition of "best". As parents(what I am) we want both a stress-free life for our kids and an excellent educational experience, K-12. There's nothing unnatural about this goal, except that it is really difficult to achieve. On average most AP classes will be really stressful, but that doesn't mean they can't also be a wonderful exciting learning time. And on average, most AP classes probably cause as many students to bond over the work as feel isolated from it. And on average most things that we strive to excel at can be stressful. Can we really get rid of stress and not compromise our goal for educational excellence? I don't think it is an issue of whether we want to, I think it's whether it is at all possible. Perhaps this is what Skelly feels. Parents want two things that seem to oppose each other or cancel one another out and he can't provide both: a no-stress environment and an AP laden curriculum. Do we need to help our kids strive to be their best? Of course we do. But to some that means the best they can be at football or soccer, etc or being able to go to school and hold down a part-time job, or handling several AP classes, or just being the best friend to someone. Seriously, I wish our High Schools were not as intense as they seem to be, which is what mean teachers, bullies, harsh work loads, all add up to-intensity. But people seem to be yelling NO! and Yes! at the same time. For example, I wanted my child to go to a 4 year college and he also wanted that, so I was glad Gunn HS provided him with the chance to make that goal happen. But at the same time I was not happy with the stress that he experienced from a few of his teachers and his own classmates. So I am saying yes to the education but no to the stress. I'd like to see the schools change without the academics being compromised. Maybe we need to figure out what realistically can occur at the HS level and make that(whatever the people decide)happen. Praise to the Daubers for seeing one problem and trying to do something about it.
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm
I think it is natural to be very fearful when there is a suicide cluster in your school or town. One way people react to that fear is to come up with stories about how it can't happen to them. That's natural. Even the mean things you are saying, I understand why you are saying them. Because I am suggesting that there is little or nothing separating you from the people who have lost their children. Last night at the BoE meeting there were several parents who have lost children to suicide, all nice families who were just like you. There were also several whose children unsuccessfully attempted suicide -- also, all nice families, with great kids, just like you. It is terrifying. The idea that something like that could happen to you or your child is so terrifying that a lot of people have your reaction, which is not the right reaction, but it is understandable. You have developed a false belief system about the world and how it is or can be safe. But it is false.
We need to see the similarities with these families not the differences and understand that we are all vulnerable to the same tragedies -- actually our kids who are here are even more vulnerable than those that are gone because of the increasing contagion factor.
This is a dangerous time and a dangerous place. There is no magic bullet. The people who post about "hug your kids" or "tell them they can get Cs" just have no idea what they are talking about. All the families who lost their loved children to the terrible disease of depression -- all loved their children. All hugged them. All told them they could get Cs. All thought they were connected to them.
I understand you but you are wrong that you can accurately predict who is safe and who isn't based on the factors you describe. I wish it was so but it isn't.
That is why it is important to address every possible aspect of this problem including stress in the schools. Because perfect knowledge of causes and impacts is not possible. We aren't dealing with a bacterium or a toxin that can be detected under a microscope. It is less precise than that and we need to be very cautious.
Posted by Sue, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm
To: How do you kno ....
Please consider that there is often a disparity between what we say to our kids about mediocrity being OK, etc, & what they witness & absorb within our households over time. Consistency is very important to kids, so the verbal message needs to correlate with the household behaviors & values. Very competitive people often transmit a need for superlative performance to their offspring.
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Well this is another example of what I am describing. Even if they told them that they were loved as they are, they must not have *really* sent that message. Please people, try to understand, these families are just like you. They are not different and they didn't do something wrong, and you don't know something they didn't. There is no magic way to protect your kids.
It makes sense that you want one but there isn't one.
Posted by Denese, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm
However......when this topic arise again in a year; let's see what your response will be especially for those of you whose kids are in 9; 10; or 11 grade.
And for the ref/coach..... some times your behaviors can be even more hurtful to a child. How, favoritism is played, because for some kids sports is their outlet. Paly is horrible for this. GUNN so far has been fantastic with celebrating the student/athelete.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm
@ How do you know that you have until 2014?
I see that "How do you know that you have until 2014?" has had posts removed because of using different names... Great way to make it look like there are a ton of "anti-stress" parents in Palo Alto when it may not be so true...
Anyway, your point is I don't know how to protect my kid, so that I should leave it up to you to impose solutions on the school district? This is not serious.
Posted by Paly Student, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm
This illusion that everybody at Paly is depressed and about to commit suicide is stupid. As a Paly student, I can tell you nobody i know is depressed or has ever mentioned committing suicide. In fact, all of them have specific, near-term goals for their life, which is not something a suicidal person has.
Also, I agree there is no "magic" way to protect your students, but there are steps to take to show that you care about them. If your child thinks you don't care about them, that's one less reason to continue living.
And @How do you know you have until 2014:
>>I think it is natural to be very fearful when there is a suicide cluster in your school or town. One way people react to that fear is to come up with stories about how it can't happen to them.
Another way to deal with fear is saying "it'll happen to everybody, so i shouldn't feel bad if it happens to me". And that's equally ineffective.
>>Because I am suggesting that there is little or nothing separating you from the people who have lost their children. Last night at the BoE meeting there were several parents who have lost children to suicide, all nice families who were just like you.
There are differences. Every person has a different version of "caring".
>>You have developed a false belief system about the world and how it is or can be safe. But it is false.
And you have developed a false system of belief in which the word is extremely dangerous and out to get you and you have to protect your child.
>>We need to see the similarities with these families not the differences and understand that we are all vulnerable to the same tragedies -- actually our kids who are here are even more vulnerable than those that are gone because of the increasing contagion factor.
Again, you are acting like every kid has the same chance of committing suicide, which is denying (in a sense) the fact that the people who do commit suicide had some problem in their life.
>>This is a dangerous time and a dangerous place. There is no magic bullet.
There is no magic bullet, but this is definitely not a "dangerous time and a dangerous place". It's not more dangerous than it's ever been. One or two people who commit suicide out of 2,000 doesn't identify a trend.
>>The people who post about "hug your kids" or "tell them they can get Cs" just have no idea what they are talking about.
I agree, those people are stupid to think that that alone makes a difference. Especially telling your child lower grades are OK.
>>I understand you but you are wrong that you can accurately predict who is safe and who isn't based on the factors you describe. I wish it was so but it isn't.
It is to some degree. Someone with a large network of friends, or with some specific goal in life, are much less likely to commit suicide than someone who spends their life only doing school-related things and never having fun.
>>That is why it is important to address every possible aspect of this problem including stress in the schools. Because perfect knowledge of causes and impacts is not possible. We aren't dealing with a bacterium or a toxin that can be detected under a microscope. It is less precise than that and we need to be very cautious.
Yes, but there is also such a thing as being too cautious.
Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Just thought I'd chime in to agree with the assertion that Palo Alto culture doesn't really kick in until high school. For me and most others I knew, the Ohlone and JLS experience was for the most part a perfectly normal and pleasant Kevin Arnold-type childhood. Once we set foot at Gunn, however, the proportion of good, nice teachers took a big nosedive and seemingly half the normal / quirky / average classmates started vanishing (perhaps banned to Foothill Middle College, where they can't do damage to Gunn's SAT scores). Two years in, all that remains are the homogeneous bunch of anal academic asshats that everyone rightfully complains about nowadays, even though this has been an epidemic since at least the early 90s. I hated Gunn.
Also, to whoever said kids don't have to load up on the APs, well actually, they kind of do. It's a fact of college admissions (at least private ones) that you are, to a great extent, competing only with your class, so if you end up not taking 14 APs per semester like everyone else, you look bad. And knowing the demographics of our city, for most PA kids it usually gets compounded by the similar double-whammy of only competing against your race.
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm
No I wasn't trying be misleading. I didn't know that you weren't supposed to use more than one name because it seemed like you were supposed to use a name related to the topic of your post. Sorry for that. It was unintentional.
Hopefully they will let me continue in the thread now. To the Paly student, I would like to say that you are right that people who end their lives do it because they have problems. But you are wrong that you can always tell. Sometimes there are no signs, or signs that are only evident in hindsight that no one would have predicted. Often in teens suicide is highly impulsive and can be triggered by reaction to extreme environmental stress.
You are wrong that the families who have lost children did not show their love appropriately. You are just totally wrong and there's not much more to say about that. Hopefully you will never have any reason to understand how wrong you are.
You are surprisingly unsympathetic for a high school student toward your peers who may be suffering. I feel that your comments highlight the need for education in Palo Alto. Two years into the epidemic we still have teens who have views like this and I think we really need to beef up our education and outreach. PAUSD are you listening?
Around 10% of teenagers nationally attempt suicide at some point. Contagion and clusters are a well-documented phenomenon and indeed that is what we now have in Palo Alto. This is a major public health problem and it does make Palo Alto a dangerous place right now.
Posted by Some Facts..., a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm
Jacquie McEvoy and Staff put the new Paly bell system into place. Winston had nothing to do with it.
Middle College kids' star scores are included in their original high school's stats.
And that's the problem with threads like these -- 99% of the people posting have no idea what they're talking about. Only the Paly Student above seems to have a grasp on what's really going on at the high schools. That should tell you something. Maybe the kids themselves should be the ones deciding what to do and let's leave the PA moms out of it.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm
@ Deneese - I don't if you're talking to me or the other coach.
We provide a list of guidelines for our Varsity athletes - so they know our expectations and what they need to gain playing time, let alone make the final roster. No secrets.
If a player is not a starter, that doesn't mean he isn't a valuable member of our team. We practice, play and compete as a unit. No one is better than the other. Everyone is on equal standing.
Further we encourage our kids to come to us (whether in team meetings or privately) with questions about playing time, assessment of skills & ability, what specific areas need development, etc. We want all of our kids to improve and contribute.
However, we're also very clear that Varsity HS sports is not an AYSO/feel-good/everyone plays activity
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm
The competitiveness, which causes extremely high expectations, of many(not all) Palo Alto parents seems to be at the root of it all. I have seen it manifested during my kids sports activities and found their attitude so repulsive that I stopped attending my kids games. The PAUSD bowed to the pressure of those type of parents and as a result the schools became pressure cookers that are rubbing students of their childhood and pushing some over the edge. It's time to reverse the process and have those parents at the receiving end of community pressure to return to relative sanity and common sense. I agree with the posters who promised not to vote anymore for board candidates who attended elite colleges. I would also recommended that parents put the same kind of pressure on overly competitive and obnoxious parents during sports competitions, as they are often the same type of parents who caused this mess in the first place.
Posted by Recent Paly Grad, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm
I am a former Paly student who has both witnessed the pressures of the Palo Alto educational environment and reaped many of the benefits. I think I am in a good position to contribute to this discussion--I was a student-athlete at Paly, took many upper level courses with the goal of gaining admission to an elite college, attended an elite college as a student-athlete, and am now on my way to medical school next year. My parents were very supportive and never explicitly emphasized the Ivy-or-bust mentality that “tiger moms” purportedly champion. However, despite the good face I put on for my friends and family, I struggled with depression throughout my time at Paly. Now, this is not to say that that depression was necessarily a function of being within the Palo Alto school environment, but I want to make the point that struggles with mental illness, or at least the propensity for mental instability among our youth is perhaps more prevalent than most would think. I think what’s important at this point is to raise awareness among all the players--students, teachers, administrators, coaches, parents--about what in our educational environment exacerbates the mental health and well-being of our community so that everyone can strive to contribute to the improvement of the PAUSD environment.
I don’t think this is fully possible, though, until we grasp the gravity of the situation. Of course everyone realizes that suicide is a horrible thing, but I think it’s sometimes helpful to be reminded what it really means: that someone is in so much emotional anguish that they take their own life. My sister (who also attended Paly) came quite close to this end, and I was acquainted with the two students who took their lives on the train tracks. I think we can all agree that this is an unacceptable end point. It’s also hard to ignore the increasing frequency with which suicides are occurring in Palo Alto. And although this is clearly more than just a Palo Alto issue, I think we have an incredible opportunity to be proactive about preventing more of these tragedies. Maybe not all suicides are avoidable, but if we can prevent even one from occurring within our community, I think it’s worth all the effort in the world.
So, let me end with a few practical suggestions:
1) Reduce “busy work.” To be honest, almost nothing more than having to waste time on assignments that were essential to my grades but did not significantly contribute to my learning the subject made me more bitter in school. For example, elaborate group projects, the copying of information onto a study guide without having to use any analytical skills, etc. Challenge students to learn the material in a profound and lasting way rather than waste the little time they have on arts and crafts or rote memorization
2) REWARD extracurricular activity, don’t punish it. For example, incorporate community service into more classes (I wish I had been given that sort of opportunity) or allow all student-athletes to use their PE period as an independent study period
3) Increase awareness among students and parents about the merits of all educational and vocational options after high school (and eliminate the unfounded stigma about community college, or even any non-Ivy like college, for that matter)
4) BEGIN BODY IMAGE/EATING DISORDER EDUCATION as early and often as possible. There is nothing like the culture of perfection to exploit one’s propensity toward developing an eating disorder.
My final point: Palo Alto is still one of the best places to receive an education in the country. I am extremely grateful for the education I received and do not believe we should stop trying to achieve the best we can. But given the incredible talent, motivation, and passion in our community, we shouldn’t settle for the status quo. We should always be striving for improvement, and I think at the top of our agenda should be improving the mental health of our future leaders and future parents, our students.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm
@ Recent Paly Grad
Thank you for your thoughtful contribution and for your suggestions. I particularly like the last 2 suggestions you make.
I am glad to see that you don't suggest that the schools should resort to extremist measures that have been advocated on this thread or other similar threads of this forum, such as:
1) Practice grade inflation to make everybody feel good and have a "better" chance of being admitted to some colleges regardless of aptitudes.
2) Limit AP classes or get rid of them altogether.
The 2 above examples are measures that would hurt more students than help. They would also hurt the school district as a whole. Not only is the coddling of students something that will back-fire on them, but with such measures the schools would actually punish a large segment of the student population for its aptitudes.
Posted by ohlone mom, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm
I would love to see one or two more high schools and middle schools. Maybe we can the Ohlone ideals through high school for those children/families who embrace these ideas. Also we can extend the Hoover model for families seeking the highest academic challenge. These differences don't end in the 5th grade.
Posted by Seen it all before, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm
The problem isn't the school, or the teachers, or the board. It's us. It's you. Over the long run, we form the educational community here by setting expectations of the kids and the teachers. Think about how you, as a parent, set expectations with your kids every time you talk with them. Which college? How many check boxes on the college app are you working to get your kids to check? Did you hire a college tutor? Did you set the expectation of taking all the AP classes they possibly could? How do you define success in your own life? Do you think that rubs off?
These are the issues that cause the stress here. Simple statistics says that not nearly as many kids can possibly live up to Palo Alto parents' expectations. Some will of course -- that's wonderful. But most will not. And those who don't often live under the cloud of failed expectations, with predictable results.
Posted by GUNN GRADUATE, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:31 pm
I attended Gunn High School, and it was very stressful to be assigned a lot of homework each night, the counslers were never there when we needed them because each one of them had more than 400 students assigned them, and it was impossible for them to help everyone. The counseling system at Gunn has to improve, even if the counslers want to help their students they just can't.
Posted by Janet Dickens, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:05 pm
Having lost a child, don't judge us
we are not just a (small number of insignificants to you Paly student only <n in nnnn>) -they were people just like you-we are just like you-we did not beat our kids-we love and support them, we were involved-i wish we had the "wonderful formula that you seem to have". If you know something that we missed during junior year or in life, please tell us, help us don't insult us with your smugness no matter who you are-students, parents, friends, teachers coaches/refs, super/BoE, we are in this together and no one is to blame -we we are trying to stop the contagin and help- don't judge us. I am exhausted and will not stop to help were I can for as long as it takes. You do not know us or may not have known our son, Will. I hope that none of you have to take trip we are on in this community-yes 5 years from now- so what-so what to you-indeed-we did not do this, all was well in our lives-we were not prepared and thought the school environment was great too. We need change here... I attended the board meeting and was sick to my stomach by 11 pm-What should have been a strategic approach to appoint a task force for P 8 turned out not to be a priority this year for the district-i am disappointed, given my limited time and bandwidth, I will now focus working with PAMF and the city through PSN. I am tired and finished with PAUSD after being involved since our kids attended from elementary)PTA president in 1st grade and on) to HS. Thanks to all that we thought cared. We still care..
Posted by Misha, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:01 am
To the people who would excuse the district and BoE from taking concrete steps to implement P8 -
Please understand that p8 is a plan drafted and adopted by the district. Let us be very clear, this is not something being imposed upon them.
Please also know that being healthy in mind, body, and spirit supports academic excellence. A supportive school environment is essential to our children's good health and academic efforts and achievement. They are not mutually exclusive.
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 5:25 am
The number one thing that would help the school environment here would be to (re-)open another high school and reduce the size of Paly and Gunn. The current school size is just too big, and it creates an unnatural level of competition. Schools could have as few as 600 kids and still be able to offer the necessary AP classes.
Schools also assign way too much homework, and some teachers do very little teaching in class, relying exclusively on homework. Schools should make sure that time spent in the classroom is productive learning, and not just a period to collect homework and assign more.
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:04 am
Opening more schools is a terrific idea but if the excessive pressure and competitiveness remain, we'll just end up with more schools and the the same problems. We need to stop treating our schools as assembly lines that produce future elite colleges students. We should rather perceive schools as facilitators of critical thinking and the desire to acquire knowledge, worldliness and wisdom. Massive homework burden and obsessive competitiveness are an anathema to those values. Our students are very bright and will do just fine in the best colleges. We need to get off their backs and allow them to enjoy their childhood. We get only one childhood per lifetime.
Posted by Think Before you Post, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 8:24 am
Thank you Janet. I am the one who was telling the student to think before she posted, and that goes for everyone else. I am glad her comments were partially removed. Since mine was erased too, here I will rephrase it. I did not want the mother of our last student who died to see such a judgmental posting mother, just like you did. This is sad, but I could understand when it comes from students because they are not mature yet,and obviously have not yet developed their thinking skills. Schools need to work on that more, and not focus so much on AP classes. We still need to teach our students to become critical thinkers and know that their harsh words might hurt someone a lot. Thanks for posting and you always come out with your real name, even though you are going through so much pain. We are proud of you. I am not sure I will be so strong if I was in your shoes. Blessings like always. God bless you and your family
Posted by Ken Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:03 am
I put the item on the school board agenda to discuss the implementation of item P-8 in Project Safety Net's plan (the P stands for "Prevention"). Here is a link to P-8, which includes both its rationale and the proposed next steps: Web Link
It's important to realize that Project Safety Net (PSN) is the district's plan, developed in coordination with the city of Palo Alto and a wide range of community organizations. The PSN subcommittee is co-chaired by the district. High level PAUSD staff, including the director of Student Services and the vice principal at Gunn, as well as the district's consulting psychiatrist and mental health provider, were all on the executive committtee that drafted the PSN plan, including P-8. The district is assigned ownership for implementing P-8 in the plan itself.
As the school board acknowledged at its meeting, this is not an effort by a group of citizens to press a new priority on the district -- this is an effort to get the district to implement its own plan. At the school board meeting on Tuesday night every board member and the Superintendent (with the exception of Camille Townsend) acknowledged that P-8 is part of the district's own plan, that it is important, and that the district should do it. Several members expressed support for making it a focus goal for the 2011-2012 school year.
The remaining issue is timing, but it's a critical issue. P-8 calls for the district to "study, discuss, and implement" changes to reduce academic stress in the schools, and to apply those changes across all schools in the district. That is going to take time, and we're already late in getting started. There's no good reason to wait longer to begin studying options, our own experience and the experience of other communities, and to reach out to experts for help.
I proposed to the school board that the Superintendent appoint a task force of parents, district staff, teachers, and administrators to begin the study phase of P-8 now. The Superintendent appointed a similar task force two weeks ago to study gifted elementary math education. But the Board of Education decided not to appoint the task force now. Instead, the board responded by saying that it has already set its planning priorities for this year and P-8 isn’t in them. The Superintendent and the Board agreed that it wouldn’t be “fair” to change existing priorities or add new ones without engaging in a long, drawn out, planning process that can only happen on a rigid annual schedule.
Ordinarily this response might make sense, but this isn’t an ordinary situation. The premise of Project Safety Net, shared by the district, is that our kids are suffering a public health crisis. The report from the developmental assets survey that almost half of our high school students are vulnerable or at risk underlines that. There is no higher priority for the district than responding to this crisis. The work that the district is doing on other parts of Project Safety Net is valuable and important, but there is no reason that it cannot do more than one thing at once. And if there are competing priorities unrelated to student health and safety that make it impossible to fully implement our suicide prevention plan, the Board should identify them and explain exactly why they are more important.
Clearly, the school board members have lost sight of what is really at stake here. The Board of Education is placing a higher value on its own bureaucratic processes than it is on our children’s health and safety. P-8 is an integral part of the district's suicide prevention plan. Their job in a crisis is to force the organization to break out of its normal routines in order to effectively respond, not to bless inaction by pointing to a planning process. They can correct that by instructing the Superintendent to move forward now and implement all aspects of the suicide prevention plan, including P-8.
I encourage you to watch the video of the board meeting, to check my version of it and to form your own opinion. It’s linked at Web Link -- it’s under “E. Information Item” and it’s Project Safety Net, and you will see my name in the text above it. Many parents spoke in support of implementing P-8, and their testimony is well worth listening to, in addition to observing how the school board members chose to react. One of the most moving statements was by Paly parent Karen Kang but the sound is missing from the video. Her statement is quoted in the PAOnline story.
At the board meeting, Kevin Skelly once again questioned the link between academic stress and depression, mental and emotional health, and suicide. He said that it would “unfair” to link the suicides with anything about the environment at our high schools, including Gunn. With all due respect, we didn’t make those linkages, Project Safety Net did. I am part of a community-based coalition of parents, including parents who have lost children to suicide, who seek nothing less than the full implementation of the district’s own suicide prevention plan.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:54 am
There is no way we can even begin to imagine the pain of a parent who has lost a child. No way. No words can express our sympathy adequately either. No one, absolutely no one here wants another parent to experience the same thing. Everybody wants ALL the children to be fine.
The problem as I see it, is that we have had a cluster of suicides by current, past or future Gunn students recently and two things followed simultaneously:
1) We are to not discuss these suicides, we are requested to respect the parents' privacy and we were given scant information on the suicides. I fully understand this. If it's the wish of the parents, we should respect it, absolutely.
At the same time
2) We are asked to adopt the education agenda, and schedule for implementation, of the parents of the lost children and their friends/supporters, on blind faith.
I wish everybody would realize that we are being asked too much.
What makes those people the experts on what should be done from here on out? Based on what can we judge this if we have no info on what led those students to their suicides? We should accept on blind faith that those privy to the information know better than the rest of us parents and that the schools are the root cause of the suicides, as opposed to factors external to academics?
I am sorry if I sound unPC (and I am not judging anyone by the way) but you are asking us too much.
We elected a school board to run the schools, and, as far as we are concerned, they get to decide the programs adopted for the school AND the schedule for the implementation of any program. People opposed to this can run for election next time. If they think it is so urgent and that we can't wait for them to run for election to the BoE, then we need to be given full information on what happened to those kids so that we can decide for ourselves the urgency of such reforms rather than blindly believe a small group of people privy to the inside information. It is patronizing and condescending to expect us to accept anything less while hammering at us that we "are wrong".
In closing, I want to stress that I never, never, will judge someone who lost their children to suicide. Never have, never will.
I will also say that the excellence of the schools is what draws the overwhelming majority of the people to this district and we should be careful that we don't throw this excellence away.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:24 am
when i was growing up, i read my city's news paper in asia, on the papers,it always says stuff like american youth have too much material stuff,too bored,so the paper tells us that is why the drugs and teen love fairs fill in.if they can only know and set their goals clear wheather be working for the big achievements or helping others, those positive things will fill up their lives and make them feel better to live in this world.
Posted by ow do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:36 am
I did not post under "Think Before you Post." That was someone else. I told you that since I found out I have only posted under the one name. Obviously if I was not telling the truth, PAOnline would have removed it again. I was telling the truth. Do you think that there is only one person posting here who thinks you are wrong? I think there are a lot of people who think that but they don't want to waste their time trying to educate you. That was my mistake yesterday.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:37 am
Repeat of what I posted way above: it ISN'T just a "Gunn" thing. Just a few more years prior, there were suicides at Paly, 2 that I recall of students and 1 who was a Paly grad who was a sophomore at UC Davis, from a prominent local family who bravely discussed this and called for action to reduce these tragedies. There is sadly more history than the Gunn losses everyone has in mind.
Thank you to the Daubers (I don't know you personally) - I admire you for your leadership and thoughts and action.
I ALSO think more diversity of background on the BoE would help here - there is an Ivy league bent.
Posted by onemorepar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:03 am
I watched the meeting online and it was clearly a defensive dance on the part of all the board members.
They had canned thanks the community speakers for "your" passion, and "your" interest as if it was "your" problem.
they admitted to signing off to hundreds of strategic priority items, and in the next sentence counted P8 as one of them, for the next time they can put it on the list.
did I hear some rumblings form board members about maybe Project Safety Net changing their recommendations based on the recent survey?
I wouldn't be surprised if they actually tried to influence PSN to change their words so that Churchill can only do what they can do, which is nothing. That will be visible if it happens.
I'm not a Gunn parent, but where does your Principal and Site Council fit into all of this?
best changes could be bottom up.
it seems the focus has been on touchy feely stuff, like connectedness, and getting kids to help each other (huge risk) instead of structural changes like schedules, may be time to hear more about what Gunn's admin and site council are doing.
Posted by Worried parent, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:29 am
@ Former Paly parent:
I had a child at Paly when those 2 suicides occurred there. There was more discussion about those suicides than there has been more recently on the Gunn student suicides.
I clearly remember that one of the 2 Paly suicides was blamed by the parents of the child on the Accutane medication that their son was taking at the time, and not on the schools.
As to students who commit suicide in college, this risk is not going away by making schools more lenient in Palo Alto. If anything, students will be less prepared for college, and their college years will be even more difficult, with all the risks that this entails.
Keep in mind that when they are in college it is much more difficult to detect their problems and help, as they are often physically away from home and adults (over 18) at which point the universities and health professionals won't release any information to the parents without the student's permission, and no one can force these young adults into any type of help, making the parents rather powerless.
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:42 am
You are mistaken that the intense levels of academic stress we have at the Palo Alto high schools are somehow positively correlated with achievement and good college preparation. In fact, no one does their best work under that kind of pressure. Even very high achieving people start to experience mental health issues under the workload pressures our high schools inflict. You are in the minority in wanting to maintain these workloads. In a survey conducted by PAUSD in March 2010, 75% of high school parents reported that their children were somewhat or very stressed by their homework loads, tests, difficulty of projects, and so forth. The idea that somehow we are giving our kids the best possible preparation for high achievement by overloading them this way is a false choice.
The choice is not between high stress and high achievement. Reducing stress goes hand in hand with realizing potential, for high achievers as well as for everyone else. Your definition of "excellence" is narrow, crabbed, and inconsistent with that used at actually excellent schools, universities, and workplaces. Google, where Mr. Dauber works, is not a sweatshop. It provides its employees with plenty of opportunities for creativity, excellent food, exercise, arts, music, dance, interesting authors and political figures, etc. Your idea of sweatshop education as the route to success is wrong.
The democratic process has already worked in this case. Project Safety Net made recommendations that were endorsed and adopted by PAUSD. It is you who needs to run for school board if you don't like those decisions. Please do that. Please run on a platform of increasing stress on our already Stressed-Out-Students. Please go and get endorsements from doctors such as at PAMF, who have already publicly refuted this position. Please also get endorsements from teachers who have already publicly refuted this position. Please also get endorsements and donations from engineers and professors and other professionals who want their kids off this ridiculous treadmill.
It's not only suicide. It's eating disorders and drugs and premature sexual involvement and drunk driving and emotional turmoil caused by sleep deprivation.
Palo Alto Parents: How much do you pay in property taxes? Do you think that you should be paying this kind of money and also donating to PIE so that your kids can be made sick by the district? If not, please support making us a leader in stress reduction.
Posted by onemorepar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:49 am
"i do not see risks by good model teens help to spot troubling teens.teens are really rebellious,they probably won't listen to adults anyway."
It would be interesting to get a doctor's or professional counselor's take on this. I would demand parent permission, and include the long lists of risks associated with "helping" spot troubled teens
I looked up camp anytown which sells itself as social justice, but it sounds like they also do highly emotional stuff, cry together, and under whose supervision and why? it has nothing to do with social justice
these programs should be subject to the same standards as medical or professional counseling, and parents and students be made aware of all potential risks
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm
IF IT IS ONLY AS SIMPLE AS GETTING DOCTORS OR COUNSELORS INVOLVED, THEN OUR COMMUNITY WILL NOT HAVE THIS TROUBLE.IT IS ALWAYS the HARDEST TASK TO IDENTIFY THOSE TROBLED KIDS FIRST.YOU THINK THEY WILL TELL YOU,I NEED HELP FROM DOCTORS BY THEMSELVES?THE REASON A GROUP OF TEENS ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY ARE TOGETHER EVERYDAY,THE CLOSED ONES ARE EASY TO FIND DISTURBING TROUBLES THE OTHER TEEN IS GOING THROUGH OR EXPRESSED THROUGH THEIR WORDS.THEN OUR PROFESSIONAL ADULT CAME IN,EVEN IN THIS STAGE,THOSE TEENS ARE VERY MUCH DEAF WOULD NOT LISTEN TO ADULTS IN THEIR LIVES LET ALONE STRANGE DOCTORS.
Posted by GUNN GRAD, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Mar 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm
I am the student who brought up the Camp Anytown issue. Camp Anytown is a youth leadership-development program specifically designed to address
and reduce inter-group prejudice and conflict, and to prepare youth to be leaders of a diverse community.In my case, this camp did not turn me into a leader, but it allow me to know other students from my high school that I have seen at campus but we have never spoken up. The bad think is that we heard so many sad stories, and our feeling got all stir up and the adults who hear the stories were teachers, who had teaching credentials not psychologist credentials. It was sad to hear that other students have been rape, discriminated, abuse and have gone through so many other private things in their shout life. At that point I did not know that real mental professionals should had been there to help us deal when we were all crying in the room, and there was not a single person with dry eyes. We went back home with all these sad and depressed feeling and did not know that we should had gotten help, or where to get it. Now that I am older, I understand it better. Hopefully someone takes a look at what really happens in this town, and provide students with real mental professional help for the students who participate. There are two opportunities to go during the school year. Yes during school days, and when we came back, we get behind in homework, loose instruction. I had to drop my Math class, it was impossible to catch up for me.There is not forgiveness for not doing the homework from teachers. The camp goes for 4 days. At least when I attended.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm
Sad to say, but suicide victims typically have psychiatric disorders that were diagnosed long before they took their lives. "Stress" doesn't cause them to kill themselves. And kids without such disorders don't think about taking their lives because of "stress."
I get the feeling that the anti-homework crowd is trying to use the suicides as a way of getting the schools to lower academic standards. It's sad that the Weekly accepts the idea that homework leads to stress, and stress leads to suicide. There's no evidence to support that, yet every story in the Weekly seems to push that idea.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm
if a student realizes that he/she needs help, it means this student is still good enough to withstand whatever bothers him/her. it is those who are closed refuse to open up or to seek help, really need our attention.
Posted by onemorepar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm
thank you for bringing this up and clarifying something so important, missing school alone is the worst thing that anyone can do, and nobody should be advised to do that, most certainly not for this type of activity.calling this leadership development is also misleading,
schools need to be more vigilant about promoting programs like this, you're generous to alert the board, and hope someone was listening
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm
Stress reduction is not something that should be left to the school board's discretion. They will not do much beyond lip service. This is something that needs to be forced on them by the community. It needs to be done immediately, so we don't have exhausted, highly stressed out bleary eyed kids with 3 hours of sleep, and hopefully, not even one more teen suicide in Palo Alto, ever.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm
I don't argue in favor of making Palo Alto schools more "lenient," as a poster above seemed to think was my thought.
For the most part, the HS curriculum seemed pretty solid. I let mine manage their own work. I am distressed with the outside readers practice.
Some bigtime issues with middle school (though scenario there changes frequently, so I wouldn't want to overly worry parents about that, things are probably much better currently -- high school is more a consistent issue in current times).
I am fully familiar with current challenging university conditions and strong academic preparation is, of course, very helpful towards a successful university experience. Learning time management is key, but sometimes here it seems there is so much that routine practices have to go out the window - I knew of a lot of kids staying up way too late -- (sometimes perfectionist streak owing to competition they well knew)
However, I have had occasion to meet university students who attended high school in other places (some also with very high standards like PAUSD high schools) and I have not heard of suicide and overt Tiger Mom activity to the extent this community is facing.
I had the sense of greater civility, more pleasant attitude, less overt stress felt than was witnessed here. In some cases, they experienced and enjoyed and learned from a much wider array of school clubs/ school extra-curricular activity opportunities that I perceived as more beneficial, more authentic, more rewarding and way less parent-arranged than has become typical here.
I noticed (in my limited sample, admittedly) far less secrecy than we experienced here, where competition sometimes breeds secrecy as students/Tiger Moms get closer to the finish line (top university applications). Unavailable to peers, this is the time when the secret weapons are completed for the apps.
We must find a way to maintain decent attitudes towards peers though we are "competing" with them for these university offer. Again, I think administration can make a difference in atmosphere, by stressing an upbeat, active, but PLEASANT environment in the school. Lack of consistency: certain teachers had great delays in handing back schoolwork, and this leads to stress. Teachers grade differently, too...and at the HS level I recommend getting them on one page.
Math is very strong at Paly, this is one reason I am disgusted by the parents who insist on prepping their kids ahead and pressuring them for the math contests, etc., requiring them to get one year ahead in honor's level through these artificial means, which raises the bar and leads to unnecessary stress on peers who are doing their own work, learning as the teacher (hopefully) teaches.
Posted by Sue, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm
"Stress" is not something dispensed externally, like a book or a cookie. It is an internal pressure created by the individual in response to his own very personal & internalized sense of danger. It is impossible to mandate blanket stress-reduction. My stress is not my kid's, nor is it yours. Stress is also not inherently bad. Stress is not the same as depression. Too much stress may lead to or aggravate depression, but they aren't the same. Some individuals relish stress & perform better in its presence. Others don't.
I have great sympathy with all who've lost a child to a self-destructive act. Adolescents can make devastating errors in judgment & perception.
There are many different recommendations here for reducing stress among our children. There is no blanket solution. Blaming the schools for creating stress is both inaccurate & wrong. We need to decide whether there is a middle ground between demanding rigorous course work and a stress-free environment. If we, as parents, expect AP classes to prepare our kids for elite schools, I think we have to accept the fact that some kids will "get" stress. How much is too much? Only parents might know, because it's different for every kid. Some kids will 'fess up to being overly stressed. Others won't & will act out in unacceptable ways or get depressed. Others will thrive.
I keep seeing both blame (aimed at the schools) & unrealistic ezpectations for a single standard which will suit all in this thread. Some of the demands voiced by posters are mutually exclusive. Choose. You can't have it all, despite Developmental Asset's wish list for 3+ hrs per week, each, for "creative activities", "youth programs", "reading for pleasure", as well as all the religious & community participation & the free time & nights out iterated. (Surprised he didn't include food harvesting & preparation.)
Schools can provide the type of curriculum the majority of parents request. Just look at the differences between, say, Cupertino & Palo Alto, even in elementary school. Palo Alto is an increasingly diverse community. Not all of us will be happy with the schools, but we've got to stop blaming schools & teachers for giving our kids "stress".
Posted by paparent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm
Sue, there is a problem with too much homework, teachers who grade too hard, time-consuming busy work projects, teachers who expect students to learn difficult material on their own, and these problems keep reappearing on these threads. I realize you and some other parents see this as blaming the schools, but I don't look at it that way. These are just areas of improvement and they can be changed soon if not right away. Tiger parents are a problem but how can that be changed? Let's change what we can. There are many good things going on in our schools, good teachers, and programs. But it's ok to discuss what needs changing in our schools.
And to the parents who think that lessening homework is making it too easy on our students, you are misunderstanding the problem: less homework but not busywork. And some parents here are thinking parents are asking for grade-inflation. No, not grade inflation, but grading that is reasonable and comparable to other high schools. Sometimes there are teachers in the upper lanes who make it incredibly difficult to get an A. That's what parents are asking to make this more fair and reasonable in comparison to how students are graded in other high schools in the Bay Area.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm
even if pausd gives out less "stress" under pressure from parents' requests,that does not mean pausd students will get nice special treatment from colleges and its admission standard remains the same or even much higher.just look at this year,already a lot of decent good grade students are being rejected from uc system,i am not talking about ivy league schools,just plain old ucsd,they are accepting more students from out of state,because they pay a lot higher tuitions.and every public schools have record breaking number of students applied,how can our kids compete in this dire environment with less stress.
Posted by Sue, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm
How much homework is too much? The curriculum is set by the District, according to state requirements. Can some kids work faster than others? If some kids in a class can get As, how is that teacher grading too hard? Tiger parents are a huge problem, as is cheating. Some parents have atually barged into classrooms & started a grade-rant & elevation requests in the middle of a class! This has happened at both Jordan & Paly. Something needs to be done about those people, like an arrest for trespassing maybe? Or something similar to a penalty called on a coach? Tiger parents might even be adding to potential stress experienced by their kids as well as the witnessing students who are distressed by this scene, and certainly the hapless teacher whose classroom & lesson plan have been interupted by offensive adult behaviors.
As an aside, UC was originally mandated to serve the needs of Californians. Higher out-of-state tuition was intended to discourage matriculation by non-residents. Perhaps it's time to vigorously lobby our state senators & assemblymen to restore that position & give priority to legal residents of California.
There are other public high schools, such as Lowell, Nission San Jose, Redwood, and in Poway-Rancho Santa Fe-Del Mar where test scores are very high, there are lots of AP classes, and acceptance rates are high to both UCs & elite privates which appear not to have as many dysfunctions as does Palo Alto. Maybe it's the silicon?
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm
Parent - If a student gets a 5 on an AP test, but a C in the class (which is much more likely in PAUSD then the other way around) than the teacher is too difficult of a grader. Also, if the first day of class (honors or AP) the teacher announces that they do not give "A's" at all, how does that make the students feel?
No one wants to inflate grades, they want:
Thoughtful homework (not busywork)
Reasonable turnaround time on papers, etc.
Teachers that spend class time on instruction
Grades which are appropriate given the age and the class, Freshman are not college students, honor classes are not college classes
Respect and politeness
Teaching critical thinking and analytical skills, not memorization
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm
Heavy homework load and hard grading by teachers do not make students academically better or more likely to succeed in college. My best teachers were those who stimulated me to expand my horizons, think critically and analytically and understand various subjects and issues by learning, investigating and figuring out their core principles. That's how I managed to succeed in subjects for which I had no great natural aptitude like math, algebra and geometry. From reading some of the comments above I can see that some parents still think that a heavy and stressful workload is synonymous with good college prep and academics and they couldn't be more wrong.
Posted by onemorepar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm
there are several different issues with grades
*you have to separate grading in the honors classes from regular classes, the distribution in the regular classes is likely normal, but honors classes pretty much require an A, and there is no way you can get into an honor class without being "for real"
*kids in honors classes are so far advanced from the state or national average, you could get vertigo from how high they can go, making classes harder for them is tricky. Do you make it increasingly harder to weed out more kids?
* if still too many rise to the challenge, do you keep making the work harder? I think many of the hard classes fall in the category of how do you distinguish between so many talented kids, these are the last people that want to ask for grade inflation, but there is WORK inflation and the consequences are pushed all the way down in a way that may not be healthy or about learning
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm
taking berkeley computer major, the highest GpA they can have is 3,if a student can get 2,they will be very happy. this does not mean companies in silicon valley do not recognize this,it is the highest school in computer science among national scale. students gruated from there with BA degree are equal to a Ma degree from other ellite schools.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm
The problem with grading, as I see it, is that a teacher doesn't want 95% of the class getting A+ which could happen in Palo Alto. Therefore, for the pickiest of reasons such as a name or a staple in the wrong place (or a staple instead of a paperclip), a slight typo, or a less artistic piece of artwork (in an academic class) can drop points on the grade. All these have happened to my kids. This does not mean that the students don't know the material, it means that they have fallen foul of the minutae required by each particular teacher where each teacher has a different requirement.
The real problem is that education is no longer an exercise in teaching the kids. It has become a game where the rules are vague, the standards are sky high, the competition is intense and the prize is an Ivy. Gone are the days when children go to school to learn. Instead they are going to school to compete. The playing field is not level and subterfuge and skullduggery are the norm.
Getting rid of group projects, art projects for academic subjects as well as similar busywork, replacing it with meaningful educational assignments, and allowing all students worthy of an A to get one would make a huge difference to the stress at the schools without dumbing down the curriculum or the standards.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm
today uc berkeley just release students names who have gotten into their school this year. i also heard this year is expecially hard for students to get in those good public schools,expecially ucsd,they are mad coz last year the students from gunn high are not as good as they expected. now this year students get punished by this.
Posted by pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm
Honestly, I think we think our kids are smarter than they actually are. All these stories about how PA kids think college is easier than high school....it seems to me that this is similar to those stories about getting pregnant... if you just relax and go on vacation you will get pregnant....maybe they heard about one person that happened to and all of a sudden it becomes the norm..so maybe one parent heard one kid say college was easier.... too bad we can't have snopes figure this out for us....
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm
the college will find out if the students got into their school are truly of high quality or not,if pausd relax "stress" then it won't take long for next or next year's graduating students' parents to cry out loud to find out their all "A" students got rejected from those reasonable schools.there is no short cut to do this businese in this town.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm
to be fair,it is very logical to think that it is much easier for the district to relax stress or to reduce requirements on the students,they would just lay back and work less and take the same salaries. it won't hurt them a dime, but think long term our school reputation will suffer.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm
in this world what is the important things to us?it is welling being of our kids whether we send them to a safe good school or just to gain a job at early age, it all require you have a decent degree whether it is from a high school or a college, and we want our kids stay with positive kids in a safe good schools, should our school reputation matter?
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm
To those who think "college is easier than Paly and Gunn" is an urban legend, my son (current Paly senior) has a couple dozen friends who are college freshman, with the exception of Vassar, EVERY kid has said that college is easier than high school. Not necessarily academically, but there is no busy work, no community service to fill their resume, 3-5 classes instead of 6-7 classes, a real break between semesters and even after midterms. Professors who test on what they teach, not random facts. Meaningful learning in subject that generally interests them.
Much of that is not under our control, but we CAN control what goes on in the PAUSD classroom (in theory, except for those few teacher who fail to cooperate and have tenure).
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm
it is not necessary correct to say that a college does a great job simply because it is easy for the students to learn, we can only say it when the students get their well paying jobs enough to support themselves or later for their families on their own.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm
we are living in this society where there is stress every step of the way,attending college is not the end of it,it is beginning of it, think of stress at jobs,stress at families or stress in a relationship, we can certainly expect it happen every step of the way.
Posted by Student@Gunn, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm
I continue, as a student of Gunn, to be frustrated and hurt by these particular writers. They seem to see the deaths of my peers, and sometime of my friends, as something they can use to put their opinions in the spotlight. The suicides at Gunn were a tragic occurrence, and I am appalled that people can acceptably criticize the schools and use the suicides, which have never been linked to academic stress, to back up their criticisms. I'm disappointed that this news source continues to publish articles like this.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm
Here is a radical idea - open a 3rd HS and track it to be more like the UC Santa Cruz experiment of the 70's. No grades, just pass-no pass. All of you who want to shield your kids from AP's, Honors and Ivy lane academic and athletic atmosphere can send your kids to the Cubberly-Santa Cruz school.
Yes, some tongue & cheek sarcasm - but frankly, that is what is going to have to happen to make some of the extreme opinions on this thread happy. Give them an alternative HS that will be less rigorous, easier grades, everyone plays on the Varsity and no one gets cut, etc.
However - PAUSD would have to communicate with the all of the universities in the world to let them know of the lower standards, etc. and let the Uni's decide whose grades/scores have merit in comparison with the other traditional schools in the world.
The academic HS's (Paly/Gunn) keep their high reputations and the parents looking for the easier/less-stress/alternative school will have what they want.
BTW - UCSC give grades now...the experiment was a bust. But don't let that stop you...
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm
@ Crescent Park Dad
First, I would definitely sign up for that third high school, even though you are being snarky and not making a serious suggestion. Lots of parents here would love that alternative. I hope that they have cooking classes and auto shop in addition to tie-die and "everyone plays." The stress is optional and does not determine educational outcomes for these kids who are bright and talented and will do fine without being pushed.
But between the "slacker" world you describe and the insane pressure cooker of Gunn and Paly there is a world of possibility. The fact that you can only imagine some kind of hippy-dippy dope smoking Pineapple Express high school with no grades and AYSO varsity just shows how narrow and crabbed your vision of success is. Your fears for your children are destroying this community. I'll be sure to see if the teenagers over in Stanford inpatient psych will send you a thank you card for making their lives so great.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:12 am
Both Gunn and Paly have Auto Shop --- my kid (who takes a couple of AP/Honors classes) is currently enrolled in Auto Shop (and loves it). Same kid loves to play sports and also enjoys playing in the school band.
And for the record, my older child (Paly grad) goes to an art school (college). This one tells me about how she can't believe how the other kids in her class don't know how to write a paper or have concerns for the environment, the 3 wars overseas, etc.
Yep, I'm a real jerk of a parent. Clearly doing a terrible job.
We let our kids decide on their classes/interests and then give them all of the support and love we can. There's always a parent at home (me) in the afternoon after school and we eat together as a family.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:42 am
And by the way - Paly also offers Home Ec., environmental science, art/media, choral, glass blowing, journalism, humanities, performance art (acting & dance), and adding marine biology next year --- with tons of kids in those classes and loving it.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:46 am
It is a radical idea - because no one has thought of doing it. It's outside the box for PAUSD and everyone on this thread.
Seriously - no sarcasm - if people really want a 3rd HS that offers alternative tracks for learning and subject matter, go for it. I would support it 100%. And the other 2 schools can still be the Ivy track if they so choose.
You just have to understand the trade-offs. And, as a parent, I would hope that you would allow your child to have some input in what type of school he/she would like to attend.
Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 7:39 am
Lowering the homework load and grading differently don't mean lowering the academic standards and the college readiness of students. I wonder how many know that kids from Israeli Kibbutzim, where the schools resemble the old UCSC philosophy- very little, if any homework, not much testing and the focus is on developing critical, independent thinking and intellectual curiosity, are famous for doing extremely well in the top universities in the world, including Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, etc. There are some highly successful inventors and entrepreneurs living right here in the Valley who grew up on Israeli Kibbutzim where their high school experience was diametrically opposite to the Palo Alto one. None is on welfare.
Posted by How do you know you have until 2014, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 8:08 am
This is what is so difficult about having these conversations about PAUSD. On the one hand, Crescent Park Dad makes a suggestion that (1) is not new and (2) is not outside the box. There have been 3d alternative high school advocates in Palo Alto almost since the moment they shut Cubberly and certainly during the intervening years as stress has ratcheted up at Gunn and Paly. There are advocates inside and outside the district. Many many people want that alternative. This is particularly true now that we are facing the fact that PAUSD has decided to make the schools into mega schools. You cannot both work toward connectedness and simultaneously make the schools bigger.
Second, Crescent Park Dad, you make no sense, When you first wrote you were actively mocking those of us who would like to get our kids off the insane treadmill and would like a different style of education. You made fun of us. Then, when called out on it, you spewed a bunch of facts about how your kids weren't even on the high-stress track and in fact took art and auto shop etc. It sounds like your kids might have liked the alternative you were mocking. And please spare us the superiority about how you are able to sit home waiting for them to get out of school -- some of us have to work and don't just live off the inflated equity in our homes.
That kind of brings me around to my last point which is that sandwiched in the self-contradictory, snarky, post is the fact that you don't want your house to go down in value. You like the "Ivy" track because it is profitable. Of course, some part of the tax burden is going to pay full-time track guards but I guess that is OK with you.
Figure out which side you are on. Stop mocking those of us who want an alternative. If you are posting just to be rude or mocking then stop.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 11:27 am
OK - I apologize for my smart/snark attitude last night. But I do get frustrated by the strident (and sometimes personal attacks) opinions that our HS's are broken. They're not. Could they use improvement - sure, but they are not broken and failing.
I work part-time from home.
My art student took AP and Honors courses while in HS. She wants to be an artist - it works.
My current student wants to be an engineer and hopefully attend a top-flight school - but still enjoys and prioritizes taking fun & enriching classes. It works.
So like it or not, I AM on both tracks and I love it. That's what makes living here and having your kids go to school in this area so amazing. The schools *are not* just Ivy tracks --- liberal arts are alive and well at Paly and Gunn.
And also - putting the parcel tax where their mouths are: you do realize that Paly is going to build a new Media-Arts building, as well as a new theater (and update the older theater while they're at it). So to say that Paly doesn't appreciate the arts and humanities (just is an elite college track school) seems to be a bit out of touch with what is available to the kids on campus.
As for the 3rd HS - the majority of arguments for re-opening Cubberly have been towards lowering the campus headcount - which in theory will help lower stress. I've seen one person argue for vocational training. But I really haven't seen an argument for developing full-fledge arts/humanities/vocational school.
Instead the arguments have been about too many AP's and Honors classes. Too much homework (true) and emphasis on doing sports, etc. But if you peel back the Paly/Gunn onion, the alternatives are there and are thriving.
OK - I'm sure enough people think I'm a blow-hard. So I'll back off and keep watching the debate for awhile. Slam away if you wish. But at least I'm honest and am willing to provide an opinion contrary to the folks who think the schools are failing our kids.
Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm
Here is another article related to this issue in case you have not read it yet. It was publish today on Palo Alto On Line
Editorial: A growing school movement
Deep concerns over the emotional health of our kids demand stronger leadership from school officials
A sympathetic but defensive school board did little Tuesday night to reassure concerned parents that they shared their alarm about an academic and achievement culture in Palo Alto that is threatening the health of our teens.
Instead, the board and Superintendent Kevin Skelly focused on the good work that is already underway and the obstacles to responding any more quickly in the face of other district priorities.
It is inevitable that some parents, especially those whose lives have been directly impacted by the teen suicides of the last two years, will never be satisfied that the district is moving fast enough.
But what the school board and Skelly do not seem to acknowledge is that a large and growing number of parents, including those of academically high-achieving kids, are questioning the competitive and stressful culture we are all responsible for having created in our community.
Challenging this culture is very threatening to all those who embrace it and whose policies contribute to it. It leads to the uncomfortable posturing witnessed at Tuesday's meeting, where school board members and Skelly come across as unresponsive and bogged down in their bureaucratic policies, procedures and jargon.
We don't for a second believe that our school officials are as insensitive as they appear. They correctly point to a number of initiatives, including the just-completed student survey aimed at assessing how well 5th graders, 7th graders and high school students are doing by measuring their development of 40 "assets" that have been shown to foster emotional health.
They deserve credit for embracing the Project Safety Net program, which issued an outstanding report and recommendations last summer and is the focal point for community collaboration on addressing concerns over teen stress and health.
But the school board and Superintendent Skelly keep missing opportunities to demonstrate they aren't as tone-deaf as they appear, and to truly lead our community.
At both board and community meetings, they find themselves trying to convince concerned parents that much is being done rather than clearly articulate how we as a school community will discuss and reconcile the desire of some parents for the most rigorous and competitive academic environment possible and the belief of others that we need to redefine success and implement policies to impose limits on things like AP classes, homework and school projects..
In compelling remarks at Tuesday's meeting, former Paly parent Karen Kang called on district officials to make PAUSD a national model for reinventing the school culture in an achievement-oriented community.
She quoted her 24-year old daughter, who wrote "Getting A's, being in AP classes, doing extracurricular activities and attending a prestigious college was all part of the religion of achievement."
"The five years I spent under the spell of this religion of achievement were a complete waste â€” I spent my time working hard at what I didn't care about, got physical and mental problems, and was extremely miserable. I've had to put every ounce of my energy for the past few years unlearning those backward lessons I learned as a student in Palo Alto."
Such stories abound, and Palo Alto parents are bravely starting to share them, only to discover that many others have had similar experiences.
To be sure, the problem is much bigger than the school system and it's not fair to expect the school board or administration to unilaterally "fix" it. The entire community must take responsibility, including parents, students and teachers, as well as the college application imbroglio.
It will take bolder and more courageous leadership if we are to succeed in redefining our school culture.
But as one of the most respected school districts in the nation, we can have an enormous national impact if we really commit ourselves. It is especially important that admissions deans from elite colleges hear our voices and be engaged in seeking change.
Could there be a more perfect district â€” the one that educates the kids of Stanford faculty â€” to lead this movement?
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm
I just asked my kids do the best they could, then made sure as a parent I watched over them, helped them when I could, and enforced rules such as no going out during the week, no cell phones after midnight....otherwise I gave them freedom of choice over the classes they took, when they went to bed, and their sports...they were stressed at times, but overall they enjoyed their Paly experience and all graduated and went on to various colleges.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm
I slightly disagree with a poster who said college is easier than Gunn or Paly. Like anything, that may depend.
I DO agree students get time off from schoolwork when they finish a term. Sometimes college students have to take courses/professors they don't especially want, also, that's a fact of life. However, I do hear of a more positive though still hardworking atmosphere.
As a parent of college students, for examples of today's experiences, I notice that community service IS fairly typical (meaningful activities chosen by the student rather than the contrived nonsense in our local high schools just meant for the college apps); "Alternative Spring Break" volunteering is also done nowadays by some students.
Be aware that quarter system schools have a demanding, fast-paced schedule (I realize now I was lucky to be on the semester system back when I was in college).
Good high school academics do help one in college; but exhaustion and meaningless stress from the very open competition here is a shame and does NOT contribute to good mental health.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm
We have created a facebook group for those interested in supporting our efforts to form a district wide task force to examine the issue of academic stress, as mandated by the Project Safety Net suicide prevention plan. Please join this group and look over the documents and videos posted there. Post your own academic research on stress, ideas, or comments.
The group is called We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Find it at:
Posted by gunn parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Mar 31, 2011 at 11:17 am
Be specific about what changes you want at Gunn and maybe we can start to work on them. Please come over to the school and enumerate things which you think will help. Email parent leadership with your suggestions if you do not have much time.
Posted by newcomer, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2011 at 5:44 am
We are newcomers to this area but are coming from a very similar sort of place on the east coast. We are very familiar with the high stress levels associated with a high achieving high school. I don't presume to understand the specifics of life in Palo Alto. I do wonder though if the parental and student anxiety might stem from the fact that contrary to what an earlier poster asserted, many of these kids are indeed deserving of A's and DO belong at the top of a class. The population isn't entirely homogeneous but it's a pretty darned high achieving group of people. Couple that with the fact that the college admissions process has gone crazy and that even the most talented students struggle with it and you have a recipe for extreme and unrelenting stress.
The school model doesn't seem to accommodate the ways in which these trends have changed the school landscape over the past 5-10 years. We've seen this in our current school as well: the old model of grade deflation, teacher mediocrity (mixed in with some truly excellent teachers of course), inept and inadequate counseling from the guidance department leading to families being left utterly unprepared for the stress of high school and the prospect of what comes after. They are starting to get it but change is slow. My advice would be to each family: rid yourself of the stereotypes, allow your kid to follow a slightly unconventional path (give up the extra AP in favor of a class like auto shop or dance or musical theater or concentrated community service, spend a semester abroad or in a different setting if it's affordable and manageable for the kid) and research the heck out of excellent colleges that aren't yet on the general radar screen of the relentlessly Ivy-focused. There are merit scholarships available at places like Davidson College or UNC for example.
One other observation: college isn't necessarily more challenging than high school. Depending on where a kid ends up, and I have no experience with the UC system so can't comment on that, there are far more avenues for support than there might be in a large public high school. Professors have office hours, there's usually a writing center, a good peer tutor network, and counseling available. As for grading, there are some very elite institutions that grade inflate beyond one's wildest expectations. There's no need to ramp the demands up into insanity with the reasoning that it's necessary training for college level work. Not necessarily.
I applaud you all for having this dialogue. Even with the heightened emotion, it's clear that you are a caring community.