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The other difference between Gunn and Paly

Original post made by Parent, JLS Middle School, on Jun 17, 2007

We always hear about the academic differences between the two high schools, but sports is definitely worth a mention.

To look at JLS, which was traditionally the ms feeder into Gunn (although that is changing) we only need to look at what is happening. The band and orchestra programs are growing so much that the concerts have to be separate to enable both programs enough time and space for parents at the concerts. Music is often the one extra curricula activity that academic minded parents allow because of all the studies that says musicians produce better academics.

On the other side, for example the 6th grade basketball program at JLS struggled to field three teams, some members of which had never played Y Ball or NJB and had perhaps done one summer camp in the sport, whereas Jordan had 6 or 7 teams. The calibre of these teams were also much higher than the JLS offering.

Another way of looking at this is Little League Baseball. This sport is run outside of schools, but does have a north/south divide on Oregon and Page Mill which is similar to the high school divide. The teams in the north are growing at an alarming rate and the increases are being made here. The teams in the south are not, and in fact there was discussion this season of reducing the number of majors teams because of lack of talented players at this level. The fact that the good south teams struggle to beat an average north team coupled with the fact that this weekend's tournament is between two north teams shows where the talent does lie.

It does appear that the families who are interested in doing well in academics move into the Gunn area, whereas those who want to do well in sport move to the Paly district. For an average sports player, it may be argued that they move to the Gunn district so that they have a better opportunity of getting onto one of the senior teams.

To say that the people who value academics are typically of one ethnic group and the sports from others, may lead to this post being edited, so we should not go there. But, the fact remains, this city is getting divided by the American love of sport!!

Comments (59)

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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2007 at 2:19 pm

I'm not sure I follow your reasoning about middle school music. Jordan has a huge, successful music program with multiple bands. Jordan feeds into Paly.


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Posted by tired of bickering
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Jordan has a great, successful music program (including needing to have separate band and orchestra concerts) and I believe the majority of the 7th and 8th grade kids choose music and foreign language as their electives.

Each school from elementary to high school has its own personality, down to the sports they play. Some schools seem to be into baseball, some into soccer, some into tennis, swimming, etc. Jordan girls seem to be really into volleyball - I don't know if thats true at Terman and JLS. I don't think it matters.

Rather then assuming that Gunn kids are not into sports, maybe the ones they enjoy are just not the mainstream team sports - baseball, basketball and football. Maybe there are great tennis players, etc.

While there is certainly a different demographic at the two schools, if you look at the colleges that both senior classes got into, I think you'll find that its a fairly even representation of great schools.


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Posted by not necessarily so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2007 at 5:33 pm

The winning "Paly" basketball team from the class of '06 had three of it's top players that were students who lived in the Gunn attendance area and but chose to go to Paly. One of the quarterbacks from the winning Paly football team actually maintained a Portola Valley address (went to middleschool there and claims it as home for college). Many of the students in the south are recruited by private schools. So I think that it is not actual attendance area that makes an athlete.


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Posted by Newbie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2007 at 9:34 pm

"We always hear about the academic differences between the two high schools"

I'm new here, and I don't know about these. What are the perceived differences? Pros and cons of each? I thought scores, for what they're worth, are high at both schools.



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Posted by been around a while
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 19, 2007 at 6:48 am

Newbie,
Scores ARE high at both schools. For a wealth of information, go to Web Link. Click on the Testing and Accountability tab, then on Accountability Progress Reporting (APR). Select API Reports - District Level, and enter "Palo Alto" when prompted for district. Hit submit, and when you get a list of reports, choose the second option: Base API List of Schools in District.

There you will see API scores for all of our elementary, middle and high schools. Gunn and Paly are two points apart. By selecting other reports you can see the breakdown by ethnicity and other categories.


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Posted by Newbie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2007 at 9:25 am

Thanks, Been Around. That is interesting data, especially the breakdowns. I think I saw some of this in the paper this spring.

The high schools do seem nearly identical as far as scores, but I get the sense that Gunn and Paly have different academic reputations. Is there anything to this? Is it based on past differences that have since disappeared? An economic difference?


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 19, 2007 at 9:47 am

Way back when, Gunn had the reputation for getting the Stanford faculty children, so there was a large concentration of children of parents who seemed demonstrably interested in their academics. I have no idea how the city is divided a few decades later, and whether the Stanford faculty kids are still mostly concentrated at Gunn. There was also a general sense that Gunn was stronger in math and science and Paly was stronger in English and more liberal arts type subjects. My impression is that this division is no longer so true, but that's only based on what I read in these posts.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2007 at 10:14 am

There is a traditional perceived difference between the two high schools which is possibly perpetuated more by realtors than anyone else. The couple of points apart in scores can put them quite a long way apart on lists of "the best high schools in the country". The reality is that they are both very good schools.

Gunn gets the LAH kids and Paly gets the EPA kids, although I think that Stanford kids are now in both schools due to the fact that Stanford people live all over PA and not just on campus.

Many people think their homes are worth more just by being in the Gunn area. It is also fairly easy to get a student transferred from Gunn to Paly and nigh on impossible to get a Paly student into Gunn. This is more to do with the size of the catchment area rather than as a guide to grades. Gunn fills up first with students coming from the middle schools and residents who enroll on time and when it gets full (whatever that means) it is closed to new enrollees.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2007 at 11:02 am

Seems to me, I started hearing more about the split when Gunn was, I think, no. 50 or so on the Newsweek listing and Paly was in the mid-300s. That ranking is based on AP test taking and Gunn students average more than Paly. It was around then I started seeing RE ads boasting of "Gunn High School".

Also, I thought Paly was having some administrative issues around the same time, losing principals at a fairly rapid clip.


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Posted by been around a while
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 19, 2007 at 4:24 pm

What Newsweek uses to determine the schools that get on its top high schools list is the number of AP tests taken divided by the number of graduating seniors. The actual scores received by the students do not figure into the equation at all. See Web Link

Depending on the college, a student can conceivably save a lot of money in tuition expenses by getting a 4 or 5 on an AP test and getting college credit instead of having to take the course.

In my opinion, any analysis of what makes a high school great should be free from criteria that have financial incentives associated with them. There could be lots of reasons why more Gunn than Paly students choose to take AP tests, and I'm really happy the PAUSD administration opted out of Newsweek's poll this year.


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Posted by been around...
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 19, 2007 at 4:26 pm

Oh, and to Parent: "The couple of points apart in scores can put them quite a long way apart on lists of "the best high schools in the country."

Paly's API Base is two points higher than Gunn's this year, not the other way around!


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2007 at 5:25 pm

There is also a small but statistically significant difference in ethnic make-up of the two schools. Gunn has about 32% students that report themselves to be Asian, while Paly has about 19%. Gunn has 54% white (not Hispanic) while Paly has 62%. Other ethnic groups are much smaller percentages and probably not a significant difference between the two.

But as the numbers show, this has not turned out to make a difference in API scores or college acceptance rates. Not sure about SAT scores, but they are probably quite close as well.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 19, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Houses are more valuable in the Gunn district? Would you rather pay for a house in Barron Park (no offense, it is a lovely, walkable neighborhood) or Crescent Park?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Threads,

I'm not sure you can extrapolate much on the ethnic difference. Asian SATs average higher than Caucasian, but the Caucasian group is much larger and economically diverse. This is still somewhat true in Palo Alto, which has some middle and working-class Caucasian holdovers--mostly in South Palo Alto, which has noticably lower Caucasian API scores than Paly.


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2007 at 9:54 am

I have heard that Paly has a more economically diverse population - the extremely wealthy Old Palo Alto and Crescent Park neighborhoods, along with lower income apartments along Alma and downtown. Gunn is reputed to be more homogeneous middle/upper middle class.

But I don't know if that is true.


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Posted by knows Gunn and Paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 20, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Well, Gunn has the Los Altos Hills kids.


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Posted by nota wanna be
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Would you rather pay for a house in Barron Park (no offense, it is a lovely, walkable neighborhood) or Crescent Park?

Are you kidding....Hands down, I would rather be in Barron Park. Different strokes for different folks; that what makes the world go round.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

The Barron Park comment was based on a previous one that parents think a house is worth more in the Gunn district than Paly's. North PA real estate (Paly district) is worth much more, often ridiculously so.

IMHO - Barron Park is wonderful.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2007 at 6:13 pm

I think that it is not the real estate itself that is worth more, it is more that there is a hidden bonus included in the price. In other words, that if a boundary change was made moving a house from Paly to Gunn it would increase house prices in that changing area by a certain amount. Some old timers feel this is the case and realtors are definitely giving prospective buyers and sellers that information.


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Posted by enough already
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

"if a boundary change was made moving a house from Paly to Gunn it would increase house prices in that changing area by a certain amount."
I always thought it was the other way around, especially for old-timers. It's the great North-South divide. Actually, it's an even finer resolution, divided into approximate thirds: North, South and West. It's based more on elementary school borders. Just look at the big uproar within the Southgate community about - horrors - moving their neighborhood school from Walter Hays in the North to Escondido in the West. Their fear is based on property values and the perception that their real estate values will go down with a neighborhood school change.

If things have changed (evened out somewhat) then I agree with OhlonePar that it's an outcome of the Newsweek ranking from a few years ago.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2007 at 9:15 pm

The North/South split was pretty clear when I first moved here, with the north being distinctly more snooty. It's partly the housing stock--the north had the big old houses of Crescent Park and Professorville, while a lot of the south was Eichler land and ex-military housing like Sterling Gardens. Eichlers have since gained a certain cache and, of course, a lot of McMansions have been built.

The Paly district has some of the Alma apt., but Gunn has the Ventura area and some of the apts on Middlefield. The lowest scoring schools--Barron Park, Juana Briones and Escondido feed into Gunn.

But this is all very relative--I love Barron Park and have lived on both sides of the divide. And as far as Gunn and Paly are concerned--two points for Paly this year, I think it was one point for Gunn the year before.

At which point, I think we can really say statistically insignificant.

And, yeah, the Newsweek ranking should use test results as a measure. Well, no, actually it just sucks.


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:35 am

OhlonePar, (I sure wish I knew who you are!) Escondido actually feeds into Jordan and then Paly.

I get a kick out of the whole discussion of which elementary school is better than the next, and which high school is better than the other. You really can't go wrong with any one of them. A superficial look at Newsweek's ranking system or other similar rankings gives a correspondingly superficial view, with hair-splitting differences between them. However, a close inspection of the STAR test results across grades and over a period of years puts Paly's math department ahead of Gunn's - which isn't necessarily the common perception in the community. There are some rather alarming statistics, for those with the patience to go digging for comprehensive answers. STAR test results for all schools within the district (and state) are here Web Link.

Some of the more interesting statistics:
Over the course of 4 years (2003-2006) Gunn tested progressively fewer Freshmen in Algebra I (55% down to 38%) while Paly tested roughly 55% for each of those 4 years. Of those tested, Paly's mean test scores were even or higher than Gunn's. A larger percentage of Freshmen at Gunn take Geometry, progressively more every year. When the percentage of Freshmen taking Geometry was similar between the two schools, Gunn scored higher than Paly. As more Freshmen enrolled in Geometry at Gunn, their mean scores dropped compared to Paly's Freshmen.

So the first trend that these numbers seem to indicate is that there's more pressure at Gunn for students to enter a level of math that they may not be fully prepared for. Or maybe it also indicates that Paly is more rigid in their entry requirements?

The next statistic that I find disturbing is how many Juniors are doing 'below' or 'far below' basic. The Freshmen at both HS's are failing at a similar rate. The Sophomore failure rate is somewhat improved at Paly and somewhat deteriorated at Gunn. Both schools have an increased percentage of 'below basic' and 'far below basic' Juniors, but while Paly saw an increase and recent correction, Gunn's trend is bothersome. The percentage of Gunn Juniors in any math class who performed below/far below basic for the years 2003-2006 were approximately 11%, 19%, 24%, 24% respectively. (!) For comparison, Paly Juniors were 16%, 17%, 19%, 14%.

One way to interpret this is that students who aren't fully prepared for the level of mathematics they enroll in are more likely to fail – eventually. Or, perhaps it indicates that while Gunn's math department is serving the top students well, the students who struggle in 9th grade are at greater risk of being left behind by the time they are Seniors. I don't know. Maybe it's the middle school math foundation that differs. Maybe the high school math departments are very similar but it's parental pressures that contribute to the differences.

A brief look at a school's overall API score might simply reflect that there are many high-achieving students who attend the school. That one little number doesn't tell *how* the students became so advanced (is it a reflection of the school, outside tutoring, extra summer classes, parent involvement, innate ability, etc.), nor does it demonstrate how well the school advances 'average' or below average students. I would argue that a better measure of the quality of a school is how well it is able to progress ALL students, not just those at the top.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Yet Another,

Oops, sorry about the Escondido mistake--I was thinking of the west side schools, but, of course, Escondido's closer to Paly. Nixon's enrollment splits then, or does it just go Gunn--heck, maybe I'll just stick to the north and south clusters . . .

I'm a pretty obscure person in real life--if you figured out who I was it wouldn't mean much, frankly.

Regarding Gunn and Paly's math score. I was told by a school admin type that Gunn allowed kids to take the math track (that's not the right word) of their choice, while Paly requires that kids pass a test to be on one of the accelerated math tracks.

So, yes, you could well be right that kids at Gunn are taking math courses that are beyond their skill level whereas the Paly kids are prevented to some degree from doing so.

The other story I've heard on the PA high schools is that they're great when you're on the upper tracks, but if you're not, you can end up in basketweaving--literally. But this is third-hand. there's no question that there's a lot of parental influence and innate ability--I think there is an unusually high percentage of very bright kids in the district, and I think it's accidental stress factor. And it's such a techhie area, there's a lot of push to be *good* at math. I suspect a lot of the kids who are "average" at math here would be good elsewhere. Which leaves the average types quite possibly just sort of disengaging from a subject where they already see themselves as "dumb."

I'm with you that a high school should be measured by how it does with all its students--teaching bright, motivated kids with advantages isn't that difficult. In many ways, the school that impresses me is Menlo-Atherton--huge range of backgrounds, skills and expectations. That school's a demographic juggling act and, so far, it seems to keep its balls up in the air.


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Posted by tired of bickering
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Both high schools are good and have terrific students. At least for incoming freshman, the 8th grade math teacher decides what math level you will take, based on a placement test, your grades, effort, etc. Ellie Slack (former Paly Math teacher, now Jordan Math Instructional Supervisor) puts it well when she says that it is better to do well in a lower math than poorly in a higher math.

I think at the middle and high school level, the top students do well, the bottom students get support and the middle get left out. Many of these students would be star students in most other districts.


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Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 21, 2007 at 3:44 pm

The last comment reminds me that I recall the newspaper (Paly's student newspaper, Campanile??) had a story about how 8th grade parents at Jordan pretty much insist their kids be placed in the higher 9th grade ENGLISH lane when sign-ups for 9th grade take place, and they have the ability to make that choice, and this results in a certain amount of apparent incorrect placements and students struggling to keep up with the higher lane (more reading, longer essays, etc.)

The point was, almost nobody IS in the lower lane, there is such a stigma, and this COULD not reflect reality/ accurate placements. It was stated that parents were worried about their kids being around disciplinary problems in the lower lane. It was recognized that something needed to be done to alter the perceptions that are out there among parents. I suspect there is a lot of work for tutors out there!


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 21, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Ah, yes, another Paly parent, it's all coming back to me now. The kids at Paly who aren't in the advanced lane call the regular lane "stupid-kid English", as in "I'm in stupid-kid English". Funny thing was, most - if not all of them - were FAR from stupid.


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2007 at 4:14 pm

I have heard similar comments from JLS students, i.e. I'm in the stupid kid math class.

But at least from JLS to Paly we were told that the teachers assigned lanes for English and math.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2007 at 5:09 pm

The irony with English is that too much studying and tutoring can be counterproductive. Top English students like to read--a lot. And that takes time. If you're overbooked, (or maybe underbooked) it's not going to happen. Vocabulary lists can boost an SAT score, but they won't give you a feel for how to use a word.


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Posted by Thank you
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2007 at 9:10 am

What a fascinating and helpful,and respectful discussion! We're struggling right now to decide where our children will attend high school and these are just the kinds of issues that are so difficult to discern by looking at information from PAUSD itself or the newspapers that are sponsored by the local real estate industry. Please add more!


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Posted by Erik Krasner-Karpen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Another Paly parent,

I think you need a student to clue you in. Unless the Paly administration changes the academic requirements of each lane, the number of kids choosing the higher lanes DOES accurately reflect reality.

What´s taught in freshman through junior year English and science is a joke. Even in the ´accelerated´ lanes it´s a joke. In the non-advanced lanes it´s virtually no work. Anyone who´s willing to work at all in those subjects enters the advanced lanes. Only those who are totally unwilling to work (and this includes some of my best friends) choose the lower lanes.

Social studies is not laned in freshman and sophomore years. That´s a mistake. The material in those classes is worth about twenty minutes on Wikipedia. I did not work in freshman and sophomore year social studies. I remember talking to my friends quite a bit, I remember getting an A, but I don´t remember working. APUSH overwhelmed me a bit, because I´d never been made to work in a social studies class in my life.

Only AP and honors classes involve anything resembling work at Paly. Don´t worry about ´accelerated´ classes.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 25, 2007 at 12:54 pm

OhlonPar,
Your comment really hit home, and while this is slight tangential to the discussion....

"The other story I've heard on the PA high schools is that they're great when you're on the upper tracks, but if you're not, you can end up in basketweaving<...snip snip-comments removed>.. Which leaves the average types quite possibly just sort of disengaging from a subject where they already see themselves as "dumb."

I have to jump in here, as the parent of one of these kids, I can tell you that Gunn can be toxic (I wish it were just basket-weaving!). Gunn (and I presume Paly) are great for above average, traditional learners. If you have a kid who is not it can be h*ll for all concerned. My child did graduate, barely, after 5 years of struggle, much of this against the school and administration. I learned that there is very little room for average or below average (and I do mean Gunn/Paly average)kids in PAUSD. Do not kid yourself, there is a cost to the average or below average kids for those high test scores.

I did see great improvement once my child was moved to "District School". At District School, kids are allowed to work out a course of independent-directed study with a single teacher. Its very hands-on and personal. I count this as a major contributing factor in my child's graduation. This must be expensive for the school district, but I consider it a cost of those high test scores.

My child is doing well now, but with 20/20 hindsight, I would have definitely pulled this child out of PAUSD before Middle school. PAUSD is like Lake Woebegone.... (...all our children are above average)


Leslie


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Posted by curious mom
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 25, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Can someone explain why Gunn/Paly are considered so much better than Menlo Atherton or Los Altos High School. It seems like the students are quite similar, other than some lower income communities feeding into the other schools. Are there other differences in education? College admissions?


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Posted by tired of bickering
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Differences:

English Language Learnerrs
Paly 1.0%
Gunn 8.0%
M/A 23.0%
L/A 10%

Socioeconmically disadvantaged:
Paly 3.3%
Gunn 4.9%
M/A 31.8%
L/A 10%


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Posted by tired of bickering
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 25, 2007 at 3:36 pm

Dear Erik -

I'm glad you are sharing your thoughts about Paly. It sounds like you are one of the lucky students who do well without studying too hard. Many students are not so lucky.

I have asked Paly and Gunn students about the work and many of them spend HOURS on homework and projects. They do receive good grades, but they work very hard.

Academics come easily to some people, just like baseball comes easily to some, art to others. Your comments are not fair to those who truly have to study to get good grades.


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Posted by Amy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Not only do schools have their own personality, grade levels do too. If you could sit in the teacher's lounge, you would learn that by 3rd grade the class has a personality. Do the parents volunteer? Do the kids work hard? Is it a rowdy group? A thinking class? Do the parents show up for school functions? Do the kids volunteer in the community? Are they kind, athletic, talented? It Pretty much sticks with the class through 12th grade, with some minor changes.


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Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Erik, I'm going to have to disagree with you about Social Studies - it makes a big difference which teacher you have for freshman year, the standards and work varied a lot depending on the teacher this past school year and I saw that with my own two eyes...


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Leslie,

Thank you for sharing the flip side of the district. When I was in school, bright kids pretty much coasted through, for better for worse. But in Palo Alto, I talk to teenagers who just seem to feel so inadequate--they're perfectly bright hardworking kids, but they're not stars. On the whole, I find them very likable--they seem sincere, idealistic and not hugely egotistical, but there's just this sense of feeling that they're not going to measure up to the endless expectations here.

The other thing I'm seeing is that the big disparity in districts really hits kids in the worse districts. I have a friend whose kid, she thought, was performing perfectly well academically--until she tried to get her into a private school and found that her child was a year behind--literally--the competition.

I mean, in Palo Alto, do you even blink if you hear a kid's a year ahead in math? So how do you feel if your kid's at grade level?

Or, for that matter, that being a year ahead in math doesn't make you a math star around here.


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Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2007 at 9:10 pm

I heard sports are better at Paly because NorPA families have more $$$ to pay for private trainers. Have no idea if true.


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Posted by another mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2007 at 1:34 am

A few comments to this nice thread;
It used to be that VTP kids went to Jordan and Paly. Now they can opt to stay with their elementary cohort provided they don't need ESL services offered promarily at Gunn.
Soc Studies at Gunn DOES depend on the teacher - 5 years ago it seemed my son spent a lot of time with that awful textbook; this time around (child #2, different teacher) the work load seems less.
Don't forget the legendary 11th grade SAT stories: Because they mean absolutely NOTHING to the kids as far as college aps go, they legend is that they go down the page and fill in all of one bubble. I've heard kids admit to this, but don't know if it's really true or not. There is a corresponding dip in 11th grade SAT scores, so maybe the students are smarter than the admin who keeps pushing this ridiculous assessment(?) tool down our throats - oops my bias is showing...
BP VS CP: If you want a more rural setting, donkeys, a maypole, no sidewalks, then BP is for you. If you need a little more maintained feel, then you probably should consider living in a different neighborhood. As the French say, to each his own taste.
Finally - sometimes Escondido's SI kids go back to their home school for high school (I know, Erik, not you!), so that could skew the #'s.
In terms of soc-econ housing - Gunn gets kids from Terman apts, the trailer park and the apts on Los Robles. Many of these units are for lower income families just as some of the Ventura addresses are NOT low-income anymore. Data are only as useful as the little stories behind them!


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 26, 2007 at 9:49 am

"Don't forget the legendary 11th grade SAT stories: Because they mean absolutely NOTHING to the kids as far as college aps go, they legend is that they go down the page and fill in all of one bubble."
Did you mean to write STAR? You would think that the test givers screen for such antics, but maybe that's too obvious to expect.

I've been analyzing the 2003-2006 STAR math test scores at both high schools and there is a big dip in scores in junior year. There's also a large decrease in the % of 'Advanced' students. One explanation could be that, at least for math, the high-achieving juniors aren't being tested anymore: they're taking calc, stats, analysis, etc., whereas the tests are primarily for Alg1, Geo, Alg2.


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Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm

they must have meant to write "STAR."


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Okay, what's the deal with the social studies teacher. I heard of a Gunn student who did a huge project and got a zero on it because the margins were wrong. I heard it from the teen involved, so it's not a third-hand exxaggeration, but is this sort of off-the-point nonsense standard?

CP v. BP--I like BP, but CP strikes me as having a wider variety of large, older housing stock. I like the lot size and quietness of BP, but there are some stunning houses, okay, mansions, in CP.

Sigh, I was sort of bummed out when I realized my dream house in Palo Alto was owned by Steve Jobs--I mean that just sort of underlined how *far* that residential dream was from my reality.


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Posted by iuiuiuiu
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jun 27, 2007 at 4:25 am

OhlonePar,

Steve may someday move to Woodside. The house may be on the market in a couple of years.


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Posted by another mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2007 at 9:20 am

oops, yes, I meant STAR, sorry!

The AP debate is a very interesting one and probably could be its own thread. AP classes, from what I understand (my son took 3), are more interesting, and provide challenging material. You don't have to take the test for college credit at the end. But if you do, there is some studying to be done and if you focus on that and blow off the STAR because the dates are close, then your STAR score won't show your actual proficiency.

The debate comes in when the discussion about the "pressures" of taking AP classes, how many is too many etc? But as I said, another thread...I hope kids take the APs for content and fun learning, getting through college in 3 years - why?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2007 at 9:57 am

iuiuiuiuiu,

Well, maybe there will be an open house and I can look inside, but I don't think even winning the lottery would qualify me as a buyer.

Maybe some Google millionaire will enjoy it.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

another mom,

I thought a lot of the private colleges don't give AP credits--mine, long ago and far away, didn't. A lot of them won't give them for just passing scores of 3.


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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:49 am

My college (also long ago and far away) did not give credit for a 3 but getting a 4 or 5 allowed you to take some pretty interesting, more advanced courses as a Freshmand and skip the intro -- like US History, English, French etc. You didn't get to apply the AP classes toward graduation I don't think (though I can understand that not every kid has parents willing to sponsor a four year college adventure, and for them it would be useful to take and pass as many AP classes as possible in order to avoid paying for that 4th year).

But takingthe APs and then going on to more advanced classes was fun. Which brings me back to a problem I discussed on the other thread about taking math twice -- as a student I always was excited when I could move forward in learning. It would have bored me to tears to take the same class twice just for the grade. Not only that, but my parents would have derided me for wasting my time and their money. My kids are only in elementary school, but I can confidently say that from me they will get the message that the point is to learn and stay intellectually curious, not to get an A+. It's served me well in life and I don't want to raise people who are afraid to take intellectual risks.


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:52 am

I'm sure that STAR tests are important to PAUSD, but I can't see why they would ever be important to the student taking them - particularly when elementary school kids have the tests forced on them year after year.


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Posted by another mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2007 at 11:09 am

Sorry I wandered off the Gunn v Paly thread. I went to High School in Oakland 30+ years ago. We didn't have AP offerings, but your counsellor could recommend that you apply for a program called the AHSSP (advanced high school student program) where you could take classes at CAL or Merrit or Hayward State. If you did that your senior year, you were pre-admitted for the Fall. But, yes, you did need a car to be able to do the commute one day a week. I took 5 years anyway (double major, year abroad). I loved CAL and would have stayed a student forever, but at some point my folks were tired of paying that exhorbitant $250/quarter fee!

The point is that high school and college were fun. Failing was an option, and learning from it was the preferred outcome. I hope my kids understand that as well... If Gunn and Paly provide life lessons and a challenging and engaging set of course offerings, then the rivalry is moot.

Thanks, Threads and Natasha, I'm with you...


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Posted by Threads
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

The original point raised was about athletics, which is an interesting question in itself. It doesn't seem likely that there is an innate difference in the athletic abilities of the two districts, but Paly does have some very successful teams.

Perhaps one successful team leads to another. Star athletes ask to transfer to the school with the better team; better qualified coaches want to work at the school with the better team; lesser players improve because they are practicing with more skilled players . . .

Add in a well-regarded athletic director at Paly, and it is easy to see why one school dominates in competitive sports.


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Posted by Erik Krasner-Karpen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Tired,

I think you should give my experience a little more credit. I´ve spoken to my smartest friends and my dumbest friends about school, and they tend to see the situation the way I do. My friends, smart and dumb, in higher-lane classes take them because they want to work. My friends, smart and dumb, in lower-lane classes take them because they do not want to work in those subjects.

I've spent plenty of hours on Paly assignments. I've worked on some, too. There´s a difference between hour-spending and working. Hour-spending is the process of doing an assignment, while working is the process of committing a subject to knowledge. Hour-spending does not become easier with greater aptitude, while working does.

The lower lanes at Paly tend to involve hour-spending and zero work. The higher lanes at Paly tend to involve a little more work. Only AP and honors classes tend to involve more work than hour-spending.

Those students who are willing to work at a given subject (however hard they may have to work at it) choose the higher-lane classes. In two-lane subjects, there´s a hard and fast choice: students choose between the class that makes them work and the class that makes them spend hours. Only math has more than two lanes, so only math gives students anything like a real choice.

Another Paly parent, I think I know which freshman social studies teacher you´re talking about. He´s an exception, and there are a couple of other exceptional teachers, but they don´t change the situation.


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Posted by confused
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2007 at 2:16 pm

"dumbest friends"? They may consider this an oxymoron.

Social studies is as hard as you make it. You can breeze through it with little thought or you can actually try to understand all sides of the issues and consider various options/approaches. If you think it's easy, it's because you aren't trying. You can still get an "A" by simply regurgitating what you're taught and that may be the only criteria that drives you.
Given your comment on the Mandarin 4-1 forum, it would appear that you need to apply yourself more in this area.

I'm still not clear on this thread. If Paly is better both academically (per latest test scores) and at sports - what is the "other" difference here?


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Posted by Erik Krasner-Karpen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 29, 2007 at 10:19 am

Confused,
Disagree with me if you want to, hate me if you must; in fact, feel free to slight my principles, but if you´re going to do the last one, put your good name to it. I go to school because I want to learn. If you want to accuse me of anything else, and you think you still have the right to post anonymously, then you´re a coward and I have nothing more to say to you.
Between the snide ad hominems and the condescension, confused had a point. Social studies--as a subject-- is as hard as you make it. That´s why it´s so disheartening that so much of Paly´s social studies curriculum emphasizes regurgitation instead of learning. Only APUSH, out of the classes I´ve taken, regularly demands that students consider multiple approaches to an issue. The others tend to demand that students repeat words they´ve heard in lectures.
That´s the situation as I, a direct witness, see it. If any of you out there see it some other way, I´d love to hear your reasons.


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Posted by confused
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:42 am

Erik, you really don't get it do you? You don't make the rules and the world isn't black and white.

Here's some advice (though I'd be surprised if you followed it given that you'll see it as condescending/patronizing): Take a copy of your posts, keep them for another 20 years, take them out and read them. I guarantee you'll appreciate the experience. You may cringe a little but you'll have a good laugh.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 10:48 am

Erik - interesting that your favorite class is AP history - a friend's son, who loves history, thought that was the worst, cover things briefly, teach to the exam class.


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Posted by S of Oregon Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2007 at 7:17 pm

I was talking to a friend today who had moved from my neighborhood to North of Oregon. This meant that they had changed leagues in baseball. They told me that there is a huge difference in attitudes. When they lived here they felt it was all about having fun, learning the game, and very even balanced. Their opinion changed when they moved to the other side of Oregon (which makes a difference in baseball). They found that the teams on the north were much more competitive, more aggressive in style and not as laid back. Families were willing to spend more money on specialized training and the goals of the players were very different from what they were used to.

If this is just Little League, then I wonder if the difference in attitudes to the athletic programs at the schools are similar?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2007 at 1:23 pm

I think the difference in Little League is the opposite from the difference in HS. Gunn appears to be the more competitive aggressive school.


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2007 at 5:13 pm

hey - are people just in this to promote their real estate investment?


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Posted by soaki
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

That is so not true!!! I have a sibling who goes to paly and she was top in her class for all of middle school in most subjects. Bad reasoning!!!


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