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ISO feedback about our middle schools!

Original post made by parent on Apr 15, 2012

Please share your experience with PAUSD middle schools! I find a lot about elementary and high schools, and have little personal experience to go on for middle schools. I would especially like to hear what you think about the educational and social environments at Terman and JLS.

What about your experiences with the choice programs: Direct Instruction (at Terman), Connections (at JLS), and Spanish Immersion (at Jordan)?

I would most like to hear recent experiences and current opinions. Have the social environments improved in the middle school with all these district initiatives on connectedness, especially at Terman?

Thanks!

Comments (17)

Posted by Kate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

You live in the Terman attendance area so you will have no choice unless you are intending on moving to another attendance area or driving your child to school every day for a choice program. People usually attend the school in their attendance area and make the best of it because the grass is not greener on the other side.

There are pros and cons at every middle school. No one school is loved by all.

Connections and Direct Instruction only separates children even more because they are with the same students all the time, rather than helping them connect with other students. I think it stifles children because they will not adjust well to high school. Middle school is the time to make mistakes before high school, therefore, it should be like high school.


Posted by Terman Parent, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Terman is great. I think the school does a lot to integrate 6th graders beginning with Tiger camp There is a social kindness program that is worked into the curriculum. Each grade has their own counselor who stays with them throughout their 3 years in middle school. Sixth grades take all their core subjects with the same set of kids and 2 teachers, but are mixed up for PE, music and electives. This includes the DI students.


Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I have a 6th grader at JLS and could not be more pleased with the school. Contrary to what poster Kate states above, Connections kids have some of their classes with non-Connections kids so it is not isolating, as she states.


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I have heard bad things about the social environment at Terman in the past, particularly about kindness and bullying, and I was wondering if the initiatives have worked. They sound good but you never know how things work out in practice.

Does JLS feel like a big school? It's much bigger than Terman, isn't it?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Parent, you cannot find a middle school which has no bullying. There is bullying at every single middle school here, and probably in the nation. Middle school is just a time when bullying occurs. Even private schools have bullying. This is not to say it's equal to inner-city schools here. I'm just saying it occurs every now and then because children have mouths, especially with all the social networking these days where people can be aggressive behind their computers and it transfers to real life.

You might try a mini school such as Woodside Priory, where class sizes are 12, and perhaps bullying is more contained, but students are sly and know to bully when no adult is around.

There are anti-bullying campaigns at the schools and all, but when it comes down to it, the schools cannot regulate home life and parenting. If parents are doing a poor job and their child has no respect for others, the schools can only do so much. It takes a lot to kick out a bully from a public school and that would usually have to be physical violence, not just verbal. And even if a student uses self-defense, the student can get in trouble for engaging. So the word to students is: just take the hit and then tattle.


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 17, 2012 at 1:29 am

Dear Kate,
Respectfully, I would ask for your and everyone else's specific feedback about our middle schools, rather than broad speculations and opinions about bullying. I don't buy the argument that bullying is equal at every school, because my experience differs with that contention, nor do I buy the defeatist idea that proactive measures don't work. However, if you'd like to have a discussion about bullying in general, please start a new thread.

Being more blunt, I have heard there was a "culture of bullying" at Terman, and that the kids at JLS tended to be more kind and connected. It is a much larger school, though, and the administration at Terman has done so much to be proactive about creating a positive environment, I would like to know from parents with actual experience if it is working.

I would also like to know if Connections kids do well in our high schools? Anyone have direct experience?


Posted by Terman Parent, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Dear Green Acres Parent,

I would suggest stating that Terman has a "culture of bullying" is relying on the type of broad speculation that you decry.. I don't know where you get your information or how dated it is, but you should visit the schools, talk to the assistant principals and principals, observe in classrooms and talk to parents active in the PTA. You are describing a place I haven't heard of, nor do I believe that any Palo Alto school would tolerate such a generalized negative environment as you describe. If you like the Palo Alto schools for elementary schools, you are likely to feel the same way about the middle schools. There are smart, thoughtful, experienced people working there who understand the developmental stages of pre-teens and help guide them through their middle school education process. While individual instances of bullying are nearly impossible to prevent, there is broad support and acceptance of the social kindness program which permeates the curriculum. You are more likely to hear a 6th grader talking about the eighth grader who helps in their classroom, which class and grade is ahead in sprit points and what the theme of the next dance is rather than worries about being bullied.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Well said, Terman Parent, although I think talking to administration and PTA won't provide the answers being sought - diving in and finding out if it is a good fit is the only way to really know. Can't really send out a survey to all parents. And administration does to a great job of stopping bullying in its tracks.

It seems to me that the original poster is seeking input on social environments of the schools and whether there is bullying or not, thus her gossip of "culture of bullying." And "larger school" doesn't equate with less bullying.

As I mentioned prior, no one school is perfect for everyone. Maybe only a few parents had bullying issues but that is to be expected in middle school in general. I have heard both good and bad about every PAUSD middle school.


Posted by JLS Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm

A friend has a child in Connections at JLS and there is bullying there also. She doesn't like Connections, while I have another friend who has a child with issues and they love Connections. Some people think it's better to have their children with the same children (as in elementary school) but what if the children they are with are not ideal? My children couldn't wait to get to middle school to meet new people.

Because bullying is mentioned above, it doesn't correlate with your child being bullied. Not everyone encounters bullying.

Parent of Green Acres, you really have the best intentions, but there are too many variables to be able to make an educated guess as what's best for your child because everyone has a different opinion with children with different experiences. And there are different students each year.


Posted by Rachel, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I have had a shy son and extroverted daughter go through Jordan, and the district, Jordan staff and entire school community have been very good for both of my kids, though each had very different exposures and experiences.

I think the district in general, and the schools specifically are very concerned about the social and emotional well being of each of student, and do as good a job as they can to ensure bullying, teasing, and any social isolation is minimized.

You as the parent are going to be the best judge of what kind of learning environment is the best fit for your family values, and what is going to fit best for your child. I would make a personal visit to each school to get a feel for what it's like. If you can go during a book fair or community gathering, you can really see a lot. Good luck! We are lucky to live in such a great school district, and there really are no bad choices.


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Rachel,
Thank you for sharing your experience about Jordan.

@Terman parent,
I didn't state that Terman has a "culture of bullying". That was one of many concerning things I had heard from a parent and wanted to get further input. I don't have an opinion - that is why I am asking. I wouldn't even have brought it up except that Kate got on an off-topic soap box, making lots of inappropriate assumptions, but never bothered to leave a post about her experience with Jordan to answer my question. She's now followed me to this thread from another one, and in all of that, has not once left her input about the school!

Please note that I haven't said anything at all about my own interests, experience, and children. You and Kate have now spent a lot of words to berate me because you've both made broad assumptions about intent that just aren't there. Kate went off of the topic of bullying, not me.

You were quite defensive for a reason, so you must have positive experience to share. WILL YOU PLEASE DO ME THE COURTESY OF SIMPLY READING MY ORIGINAL QUESTION AND SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCE? IF YOU HAVE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE TO SHARE, I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR IT! DITTO ON ANY OTHER EXPERIENCE! (That's all! Sheesh!)


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Parent

I see you have started a third thread, but I doubt if you will get the information you are seeking here.

My advice would be for you to talk to parents in your elementary school who also have middle school students, talk to neighbors, and get in touch with the PTAs at the various middle schools and talk to those parents. A face to face conversation, perhaps over a coffee, may provide you with honest feedback with the opportunity to ask supplemental questions much better than an anonymous parent requesting information from an anonymous online forum.

Also, remember that most middle school parents will have only experienced one middle school and not able to compare against any other school.


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Hi Resident,
Thanks for the suggestion, but out of a very large parent community at my elem school, I know very few with middle school students. Ditto on the neighbors, at least for recent experience. Those I do know have already offered their opinions. I was hoping to get input from the broader community.

I'm a part of a number of online communities, I have to admit to being disappointed with this Town Square experience - lots of people holding up score cards for various things, many opinions going off topic -- sometimes it even feels like that gossip game where the next person who takes up a sentence hears and passes on something completely different -- but very few answers to the question I asked! (I thought it was pretty simple and straightforward!)


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

It looks like the third thread got deleted. Apparently the Weekly isn't confident I'll get any information, either. I guess most of the middle school parents don't post on these boards! Very discouraging to get such vociferous input from some parents who never answered the question asked!


Posted by Middle School Parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Apr 20, 2012 at 9:35 am

Dear Parent,

It may be hard to answer your question because middle school lasts for such a short time. Unless you have more than one child, you don't observe the school over an extended period of time for the middle school years. I will try to describe the atmosphere through my child's experience. My child's heard a lot of rumors about bullying in the 5th grade. For the first week of the school year, the 6th graders are broken into "tribes" - each tribe consists of students from each of the feeder schools plus new students. Each tribe spends orientation and assessment time with all the 6th grader teachers. At the end of the week, the students are placed in classes. By that point, they know all the teachers and many other administrators. It is hoped that they can call on members of their "tribe" as the year goes on. The core class meets for Math and Science, (one teacher) and Language Arts and Social Studies (another teacher). Then the core class is split up for Music, PE and a rotating elective. DI students are the same as the other students. They have their DI core class, but are mixed up with different students for each of PE, Music and electives, so all students meet other 6th graders beyond their core class. In September, all students are encouraged to participate in the Science Fair. The projects are not graded and can be done individually or in a group. The projects are evaluated by parent and teacher judges who ask each student about their project. There is a big science fair night where the whole school gathers - 6th, 7th and 8th graders and their families gather to present and look at each others projects and talk about their experiments. My experience was that it was a further bonding experience for the 6th graders as they went looking at other students' projects and talked to them. There are parent scientists who help the students with their project ideas. In November, the entire 6th grade spends 3 or 4 nights away at Science Camp in the Marin Headlands. They travel together by buses. Again, my experience was that this was a big bonding experience where my child met additional members of the 6th grade class. They spend their time in a small group with a guide and sleep in a large dormitory atmosphere and eat in a cafeteria. Listening to my child talk to her friend in the carpool, it became clear that the two of them knew who most of the students in the class were fairly quickly. The 2 teachers who teach DI also teach another Non DI core section. My sense is the the DI experience mirrors the experience of the other members of the class and isn't significantly different. In the fall, there is a Teacher conference with both the parent and student, so you and your child get feedback together on how the student is doing. That experience was very positive for my child because the teachers broke down things they saw that were positive and offered praise and encouragement, as well as goal setting. The principal at Terman is in her 2nd year and seems very low key, but very thoughtful. In one of my child's classes, an eighth grader served as a volunteer, and it was a great opportunity for the 6th graders to know an eighth grader - he was very outgoing and there was a lot of camaraderie. On some Wednesdays during a "homeroom" period, eighth graders would come and play games with the 6th graders. There are activities that include all 3 classes - such as crazy hair and pajama days where classes are awarded some kind of "spirit" points and there is a year long friendly competition. There are times where these include games and races where each class has a representative - such as a donut eating contest. It seems like the 2 pair of teachers each include one teacher who is strict. My child has kept old friends and made new friends. The issue that arose in the social atmosphere regarded the first school dance where some kids started asking other kids for "dates." At the dances, there are always some slow dances and it seems the sixth graders will push a boy and a girl into the center to dance together. Sometimes they dance and somethings, they don't. There also seemed to be a "popular" crowd anointed early on based on being interested in boy/girl pairings. I find that my child's and friends don't participate in this because they are not interested in the opposite sex at this point. There is a guidance counselor who the students can go visit during the day and who helps with social and academic problems. She is very accessible and knows all the students by name. She keeps a jar of candy in her office which helps with her popularity. There are many clubs that meet during lunch time, based on students interests. In the 6th grade class, I assume there are difficult social interactions, but they seem more likely to be small group issues, rather than class wide issues. I hope this gives you some feel for the nature of social interactions at one Palo Alto middle school.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 20, 2012 at 10:11 am

@Terman parent - what an excellent write-up. Thank for taking the time and trouble to lay it all out so thougtfully.


Posted by parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Dear Middle School Parent from Terman,
Thank you so much for your detailed and helpful feedback. It sounds like Terman has a nice program and that the new principal is being proactive about maintaining a good social environment. I really appreciate the time you took.


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