French or not at Paly? Schools & Kids, posted by homme de palo alto, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 22, 2007 at 5:05 pm
i have heard that one of the high schools (Paly) will cancel the upper most French class (French 5AP) or has actually already cancelled it. I am not sure why one school would offer european languages (Gunn Does i hear) and not the other. Is this an indication of the differences in quality in the two schools. I also see by looking closely at cirriculum offered that Gunn still offers European hsitory but i hear that Paly does not. Why is there such a difference? Isn't it normal to have equity in classes offered between high schools in the same town? What do the unfortunate students do now who have completed the 4 years of French at Paly and then suddenly have it pulled out from under them. 5 years is necessary for some colleges in the US. So Play does not care about these Students?
What does the new principal have to say about this?
French is a useful and important language - am i right?
Is there anything that can be done to reverse an apparent decision to cancel out such an important program?
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 22, 2007 at 5:21 pm
I am always very suspicious of languages in Palo Alto schools.
When my daughter was in Jordan and choosing between languages we were told that there would be French and German offered in Paly as a matter of course and that the availability of both would be the same. In fact, her class at Paly was the last German class and for her younger brother we had to choose a different language because German is now only offered at Gunn. This has caused us difficulties because we had envisioned them being able to help each other out and possibly sending them both of to Germany one summer.
I heard the same rumors as you appear to have done about French. I think that the flavor of the month is now Mandarin and previously it was Japanese. There was also a big move a couple of years ago to include American Sign Language as a language option and I have a feeling that that too died a death.
It proves the point that there is no language policy in PAUSD regardless of schools and rather than all the talk about MI v FLES, we should at least sort out the problems we have already got in the language department in the high schools.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 22, 2007 at 8:29 pm
Yes, Gunn and Paly vary with their course selections, but this does not indicate quality between the two schools. Gunn and Paly both have different sizes, diversity, percentage of students taking APs, etc.
AP Physics C is offered for four periods w/ class sizes of 20-25 at Gunn. At Paly I have heard it is considerable smaller and also that Paly does not offer AP Physics B.
AP Economics is a year-long course at Gunn (macro and micro APs) while Paly offers a non-AP economics class for a semester.
AP Chemistry is offered at Paly for quite some time... will be offered at Gunn starting next school year. It has been a student run club for several years at Gunn instead of a class.
AP Environmental Science is not offered at Gunn wheras Paly offers it.
The differences go on and on but the key thing to note is how colleges look at high schools. Every high school is different and the fact that how some schools offer less APs than others does not disadvantage the application process for students. Gunn and Paly both do not offer IB courses... does that affect acceptances to high ranking schools? Counselors submit school profiles and courses offered to colleges and colleges base a student's class selection on that profile and class offerings.
Student A takes 5 APs in a school that offers 12 AP classes
Student B who takes 2 APs at a school with only 2 AP classes
Colleges also know whether or not the high school limits the number of APs or IBs a student can take. So calm down... Paly student... there is no need to panic just because you can't take a fifth year of language. The college that requires five years will know that your school doesn't offer that fifth year. Most schools I applied to only require minimum three years with four years preferable. If you really need that fifth year take it at Foothill or another community college for transfer credit.
Harvard, Princeton, Yale all prefer four years btw. =)
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm
umm, four years of the same language during high school is what is expected... and regarding Foothill, etc. you can't transfer the credit, so the students who planned on taking French 5/5AP this next school year *really* need it to be offered at Paly. Paly SHOULD be consistent with Gunn.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 22, 2007 at 9:40 pm
Homme (BTW, nice "nomme de plume!")
Here is a practical suggestion to getting your question answered: approach Norm Masuda or another lead instructor in PALY's world language department, ask what is going on with French 5AP, and if you are interested, what the plans are for language instruction at PALY for the next 3-5 years.
What is going on with language instruction at PALY is largely site based decisions, meaing that the faculty there decides, with input from others as needed, and checking with the District to be sure policy guidelines are met.
There will be under way a proposal for a FLES world language policy at the elementary school level, consistent with the board vote on that earlier this year. While the introduction of FLES, if it does indeed happen, could have bearing on what goes on at the high school level several years from now, that work, as well as the Mandarin Immersion program, do not currently have impact on what is taught at the high schools.
Spanish Immersion, which has been around for about a dozen years now, has had an impact on Spanish instruction at this point for all grade levels, so it is fair to project that the MI and FLES programs could similarly affect what goes on at the high schools some time out. But, at present, MI and FLES have no bearing on what the high schools are choosing to do, since there are not students feeding from such programs to the high schools at the present time. Other factors are determining what decisions are made by the high school world language faculty.
I do think that at some point, the entire world language instruction curriculum will need to be looked at comprehensively, from K-12. I don't perceive the new work around MI and FLES being in conflict with existing curriculum at the middle and high school levels, but common sense would suggest that after FLES and MI approaches are determined, the next logical step would be to make sure each component is meshing optimally with the others. But that is for another day and time, we have to much immediate work ahead of us to be concerned about that question right now.
Posted by parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:21 pm
Paly should be consistent with Gunn?
Take a look at both course catalogs for the 07-08 school years. Such a restructuring would squander district resources and funds. Why should Paly be a carbon-copy of Gunn when the demands and preferences for classes are so different?
The period schedule between both schools are already completely different meaning that Paly and Gunn CAN'T have the same courses without changing their schedule lineups (because of shared classrooms, teachers teaching multiple subjects, etc).
To take French 5/5AP a student must have already taken French 1, French 2, French 3, and French 4 there are your four years. Yes I understand French 1 can be taken in middle school as 1a and 1b, but colleges already know that as well. As 'graduate' already said above, colleges can see what classes a particular high school offers. So obviously if a school does not offer four years of language instruction it does not automatically disqualify all students from that school from applying to a college. You can also explain situations to colleges in the application process if you feel necessary.
Posted by bystander, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:33 pm
"What do the unfortunate students do now who have completed the 4 years of French at Paly and then suddenly have it pulled out from under them"
-Homme de palo alto
Responding to the paly parent:
The student said he/she already completed four years. Based on his/her post he/she is taking the fifth year of French already ("5 years is necessary for some colleges in the US" -Homme de palo alto). Five years of a language exceeds the preferred amount by most US institutions. All the brand names, ivies, and UC schools recommend or state four years not five. Does anyone know of any schools that say five years?
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:47 pm
Thank you to "parent" from Gunn and others for articulating the important point that both schools can be and are excellent in part because they're *not* identical. To expect that would be stifling to both schools. Regarding the concerns in the initial post, I'm sure no one suggests that French is unimportant, no one takes lightly the effect on students who wanted to take this class. Any decision like this is in a school is usually weighed carefully and thoughtfully, but must involve balancing a lot of factors..... educational, logistical, and financial, for starters. Schools can't offer every wonderful class imaginable to every wonderful group of students so they have to make some difficult decisions sometimes. I read that the fate of this particular class depended on some additional funding or additional students signing up. The extra funding would have to come from the Paly Site Council or PIE. (My source was the Paly Voice, but with kids on summer break there's no updates since early June). But please, friends, if you have questions about what's happening in a school (or a library, or a task force, or other public/civic group).... just ask! - without immediately suggesting that those making the decisions don't know or don't care about the important elements involved.
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 23, 2007 at 9:23 am
Actually to be reasonably competitive, I have heard from parents of recent high school grads that a student should take four years of one language during high school.
It is supposed to be hard to explain to prospective colleges that the high school suddenly did not offer 5th year one year, when it has been offered as a standard course previously. It looks odd for the student to apparently suddenly "quit" taking a language.
Also, what about those students who are taking the language because they intend to KEEP studying it - now they will have a one-year gap and that's very detrimental.
I don't know anyone taking "one year of Latin" nowadays.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 23, 2007 at 9:37 am
It seems to me that in the current climate all that is needed is pressure from a group of parents and yes, pausd schools will teach what a small group of students (or their parents) feel they need.
"Schools can't offer every wonderful class imaginable to every wonderful group of students so they have to make some difficult decisions sometimes" SkepticAl, this has now changed and of course what is good for the goose, is good for the gander.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:02 am
I'll say the same thing about 5th year (!) language that I've said about MI in elementary school - since when is it the public school systems responsibility to provide this level of specialization in subjects that are utterly optional? People in this town have gone completely off their rockers. This is a matter for private school education, and people after this level of specialty education should go buy it from the market place - not expect tax payers to provide it for free (and complain if they don't get it besides.)
What PAUSD should do is offer level 5 French for fee, and see who shows up, if they have enough for a class, then let those people pay for it! Simple. Free market economy at work.
All this bull about what the ivy league colleges expect - well they're private schools too! So go fill those unreasonable private school college criteria with a private school education! Why should the tax payers be footing the bill to get you into a luxurious private school education?
San Jose State has no such 5th year AP lFrench criteria. And they provide a perfectly fine education. Many silicon valley professionals have done just fine with a San Jose State education. I say, you take what the public school can afford to hand out, and if you want more you pay for it.
I can't believe how entitled people around here feel they are.
(As for MI, when Palo Alto can afford to put language into the elementary schools for every student, only then should they be considering a 'level two' for some students. Ridiculous that they should be considering level "X-treme" for a few students and zero for the rest.)
Posted by Andy, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 23, 2007 at 12:03 pm
As a fairly fluent French speaker (having been born in Quebec) I discovered to my surprise on a recent trip to Mexico that I could read almost anything, and fairly quickly, and get the gist of it, in Spanish. (This did not extend to understanding it any better, since it's hard to hear the word breaks when Spanish is spoken at a normal pace). I also found that I could read more Italian than I would have thought, having never studied any of it.
In addition, English and French have significant similarities, so it's comparatively easy for an English speaker to learn French, and you'll pick up alot of Spanish and some Italian understanding too.
By contrast, while there is no doubt that Mandarin is a useful language, and getting more useful as the world gets smaller, it's also much more difficult for an English speaker to learn a useful amount of it in just 2 years of high school.
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 9:35 am
parent, are you familiar with Paly and Gunn (and neighboring public high schools)? Of all the school issues out there, this seems an odd one to receive your attack. The request that Paly keep French 5/5AP is *not* an extraordinary request. PAUSD students typically start language studies in 7th grade: 7th and 8th count as one year of study; then they take 2nd year as freshmen in high school, 3rd, 4th, 5th. This is not a new scheme. I am pretty sure that French language studies are offered very widely across the U.S. in comprehensive public schools. As far as we know, this class will return the following year. There are a lot of kids scheduled to take French 4/4AP this coming year and most will go on to French 5/5AP. It's a question right now of keeping it for a slightly smaller number than typical group of students who will be SENIORS this next year. For some of these students, continuing their French studies is critical for their futures. It WILL look odd for them to discontinue their studies as they apply to colleges, whether Ivy league or not. There are NOT other options to study at Stanford, Foothill, etc. There are other small classes out there in the public school system; I understand that so many kids drop out of math classes that they can end up quite small.
It's NOT a matter of your questioning the schools for "this level of specialization" - it's partly a matter of being consistent with reasonable expectations/requirements for college admission. Believe me, there are lots of "specialized" subjects that are far more unusual than French -- how about "environmental science?"
This has nothing to do with this being French vs. Spanish, or Japanese, etc. I AM wondering whether someone is trying to stop the French program to make room for another program.
Posted by language options, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:11 am
Just as some kids go to Stanford for advanced math, could there be some cross-city movement where kids from Paly go to Gunn for German, for example, and kids from Gunn go to Paly for classes that are only offered at Paly?
As far as dropping French 5 in midstream - yes, we were almost in the same spot when German ended at Paly. Fortunately for us it happened after we finished 5AP - it was a 4/5 mixed class since there weren't enough students to fill a 5AP class. It's very frustrating to start a language that you believe the district is committed to, then having it swiped from under your feet before you're done. This isn't an 'entitlement' thing. If, in grade 7, you have a choice between 4 years of German and 5 years of French, that could make a difference in a student's decision.
Posted by Language lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:39 am
I am not a native speaker of English.
However, as an answer to all those who debate the "usefulness" of any given language, I would say that the only really "important" and "useful" language is ENGLISH when it comes to international trade and relations.
Sorry, not even Chinese makes the cut. The reason is that English is the only INTERNATIONL language for trade and diplomatic relations. Go to any country in the world, and see for yourself: English is the language almost everyone learns as a foreign language, for pragmatic reasons.
This said, I lament the trend in this town to get rid of the instruction of European languages in schools (German first, now French). Spanish is more a language of the Americas not. European language instruction is being replaced by Asian language instruction. We are further moving away from the European cultural roots of this country. It is a sad fact, because our country was founded and still is based on European ideas and culture. Yet there is a determined effort to forget that fact and to "de-Europeanize" this nation. It's been at work for a number of years now, and is intensifying in Palo Alto, with the language instruction trends.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:40 am
Wow, so folks around here have their kids in six years of foreign language. And for what I wonder. What a waste. But of course, thats just my personal point of view, obviously we disagree, and that's perfectly fine. The district in general has secondary foreign language as a priority based on community wide needs and inputs, and so I can live with that (I just won't particpate).
But I'm just curious, how is a senior year of french "critical" for their futures? Can you elaborate?
If its "critical" for their futures, perhaps the 5th year french parents can get together and hire a french teacher for private afterschool lessons. I guess it depends on just how 'critical' it is. I'm sure that kind of extra curricular dedication looks alot better on their transcripts anyway. Can they find a way to incorporate practical usage of their foreign language with community service? - they'd probably look like geniuses on their applications for something like this. It sure would have more 'real world' meaning.
In terms of school district - they should put their FL program on a six year cycle, then committ to it, so kids signing up as 7th graders will know for sure whether their language will be around as seniors. I ASSUME that knowing this would make a difference - like instead of signing up for French (if were drying up in year three), they'd sign up for Spanish or something. But then again, maybe they'd sign up anyway, in which case buyer beware.
But I'm quite positive there are plenty of other ways to get in to college. However, if the kids are banking on this in particular, and the district is making rash judgements (particularly if squeezing French out to make way for the latest FAD) then it stinks just from the perspective of district policy. But then again, what doesn't stink at 25 churchill?
But seriously? 6 years of foreign language? What a waste. People around here have lost all sense of perspective.
Posted by Language lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:42 am
I am not a native speaker of English.
However, as an answer to all those who debate the "usefulness" of any given language, I would say that the only really "important" and "useful" language, these days, is ENGLISH when it comes to international trade and relations.
Sorry, not even Chinese makes the cut. The reason is that English is the only INTERNATIONAL language for trade and diplomatic relations. Go to any country in the world, and see for yourself: English is the language almost everyone learns as a foreign language, for pragmatic reasons.
This said, I lament the trend in this town to get rid of the instruction of European languages in schools (German first, now French). Spanish is more a language of the Americas nowadays. European language instruction is being replaced by Asian language instruction. We are further moving away from the European cultural roots of this country. It is a sad fact, because our country was founded and still is based on European ideas and culture. Yet, there is a determined effort to forget that fact and to "de-Europeanize" this nation. It's been at work for a number of years now, and is intensifying in Palo Alto, with the language instruction trends.
Posted by Polyglot, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 11:04 am
Language Lover: "his said, I lament the trend in this town to get rid of the instruction of European languages in schools (German first, now French). Spanish is more a language of the Americas nowadays. European language instruction is being replaced by Asian language instruction. We are further moving away from the European cultural roots of this country. It is a sad fact, because our country was founded and still is based on European ideas and culture. Yet, there is a determined effort to forget that fact and to "de-Europeanize" this nation. It's been at work for a number of years now, and is intensifying in Palo Alto, with the language instruction trends."
Yes, Language Lover, this IS sad. Every language has its literary treasures, and clues to the social thought processes that various cultures engage.
That said, the fact is that languages chosen for instruction - even in the classical education scheme - have always been determined by those who see functinoality in their use.
Mandarin is a great language - so are French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, etc.
China is growing, and will have far more influence in the world 20 years hence, so it's probably wise to include Mandarin as one of the languages from which to choose.
There is a constraint; how can a school district afford to pay teachers in lightly attended languages - like Portugese, or Swedish?
Some of this has to do with the way the state reimburses districts. It IS a problem for those who want something other than the ""everyday menu" of language.
I'm not Russian, but I don't understand why Russian isn't offered at more schools. As Russia develops, it may turn out to be way more influential and powerful than China or Japan - in ways that might surprise many of us.
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 11:39 am
parent, there are some Paly students who will be seniors this very next school year who have definite goals of college courses of study/majors and careers planned directly connected to their French language study, and for privacy reasons I am not sure I can get really specific because they and their parents have not agreed to have this listed because they could very well be identified if I do so, but I can tell you, for one example, a student is planning to major in International Relations, and this student's French language studies are a major part of this student's preparation for that career. I think people around here are so hung up on having their kids go into bio-med that they don't realize there are also students here who are dedicated musicians, artists, etc. I know one high school student who is studying very hard towards a career to be a linguist! By the way, I am not aware of 6 years of language study being offered here UNLESS one was fortunate enough to have gone through the district's Spanish Immersion program. Like I wrote earlier, if you start a language as is customary for PAUSD in the 7th grade, then in 12th grade, you will be studying 5th year and getting to accomplish something worthwhile, in my opinion.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 11:51 am
The other aspect is that you are assuming that all these language students want to get into US colleges. Many studying languages actually want to go abroad to study at the college level. Even if they go abroad to an English speaking college, the entry level requirement will be for a standardized examination of their knowledge of a second language and that will include its literature, not of the number of years studying the language. So, the higher level courses are in fact extremely important as it is this level that will teach students what they need to know for overseas colleges.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 11:51 am
Arabic? Hindi? Which one is better? Why? I think the US for economic and "strategic" reasons would do well to ensure that English flourishes as the predominant world language - far more pragmatic and cost effective than attempting to customize education in 101 flavors of language.
Language academies should be a private enterprise, and if there are 'strategic' reasons for a particular language then demand will drive the supply and the funding, including public and private scholarships of those programs. This would create a very specific targeted tie between those learners who value mulitple language education and those who value having multiple language educated people.
As it stands the FLAP grant process is a woefully inadequate funding source for a public school system to try to support language education, with scarce resources receiving a drop in the bucket toward one or maybe two languages, which leaves the school district still required to rob from the other priorities of the district in the long run to support those programs. Language programs are not 'one time' investments. As this debate on 5th year French (or not) prove, the language education proposition needs long term committment from the school system and long term funding - something the public school system is just not set up to provide.
Basic 1-2 year foriegn language exposure should be given to all kids in the public system, but the specialty language education (4-5yr+) should definitely be a private school matter.
Just like we don't expect the public schools to train our kids to be concert pianists (but we give them a little bit of music exposure), and we don't expect the schools to train our kids to be olympic athelets (but we offer them PE and some teams), we shouldn't be expecting our school system to train our kids to be bilingualists.
As for environmental science vs 5th year language? No brainer. The world is more likely going to be saved by an environmental scientist, than a language arts major. Lets make Environmental Science a requirement for graduation! I'd feel ALOT better about our future.
Blindly moving along the college requirement curve like a herd of sheep is bad business for our future.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 12:00 pm
a parent - by the time you've taken language starting in 7th grade, through 12th grade, you have devoted six years to that study - for five years worth of credit. Wasteful? Depends on your perspective. Many would say yes, that's a waste. Depends on your goals - maybe the kid likes languages and doesn't have anywhere else they'd rather be. That's fine, as fine as any other goal.
But what you described seems like a few corner cases, I would disagree that the school district should be catering to corner cases - we can't afford to. We (Public Schools, on Tax Payer Dollars) should be training kids to go to overseas colleges? Do you believe that For Real??
Posted by another citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 12:16 pm
Sorry, I have to say that the "school district still required to rob from the other priorities" is all wrong.
It's unfortunately true that school funding is messed up in Calif, and the district won't have money unless we PAUSD residents pony up more money to pay for those programs which were canceled long ago when Prop 13 started to strangle school budgets.
Yes on the bond and parcel taxes, along with good oversight of the usages of the money.
Posted by a parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm
parent, you are really misplacing your criticism - so should Paly AND Gunn do away with not only French 5/5AP, but also THE OTHER 5/5AP foreign language courses (Spanish, Japanese at Paly and likely Mandarin in a couple of years) or is there some specific reason why tiding over French 5/5AP for one year bothers you? We are not talking about "luxuries." I am not sure what 5th year languages are offered at Gunn, can someone look in their course catalog and advise what is listed?
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:19 pm
"It WILL look odd for them to discontinue their studies as they apply to colleges, whether Ivy league or not."
Responding to paly parent:
No it WON'T look odd because obviously the college will see that the class isn't offered. The UCs have a database of courses updated and reviewed by each high school in the state of California (doorways.ucop.edu). Private institutions will also know what classes are and aren't offered. The student will not have discontinued study of their language, but instead would have finished the language program offered by their high school.
If you really want your fifth year of French... do the cheap alternative of Gunn's Japanese 4H/5H program. Combine both classes into the same period and have them teach the exact same thing but make it look as if the student took two separate classes in two years. Yes, a boring repetitive for two years but you get that fifth year. Happy?
*5H became 5AP last year but 5AP and 4H were still in the same classroom and period
Responding to another post:
"I think people around here are so hung up on having their kids go into bio-med that they don't realize there are also students here who are dedicated musicians, artists"
Most people and parents already know that top tier schools don't just look at academics. Many institutions emphasize extracurriculars and activities. The parents that want their kids to go into bio-med or 'brand-name' schools typically encourage their children to pursue music, community service, student government, clubs, etc.
If the dedicated linguist you were talking about wanted to show his interest and emphasis in linguistics. Make use of summer... traveling to a foreign country (even as a vacation) shows that interest. An experience such as a vacation also makes a great college essay. Study abroad programs offered through colleges/universities during the summer are enjoyable and a great learning experience.
High school language classes show the bare bones surface of a language and its culture. Remember... colleges also like applicants that go beyond the high school experience and illustrate their aspirations.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:34 pm
"so should Paly AND Gunn do away with not only French 5/5AP, but also THE OTHER 5/5AP foreign language courses"
Only if the demand for the languages is not sufficient. Paly got rid of German after faltering interest and failing to meet the minimum quota of students (read article here Web Link). German at Gunn is extremely large and so it makes sense for the continuation of this language at Gunn. There must be some reason for the possibility of hacking off French 5AP whether it be budget problems of decreasing demand.
***The class still appears on the course catalog for 07-08 at Paly so the paly student who started this thread might've just heard a rumor that could be completely false.***
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:41 pm
I found the article regarding French 5AP...
There isn't enough student demand for this class. Just 17 students signed up for this class, three short of twenty students set by the district for AP classes. What amazes me is the lack of demand for language at Paly... Just seventeen students? First German got the axe and now French 5AP. What languages do Paly students actually take? j
Posted by Once again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:51 pm
To Another Citizen: Prop 13 didn't destroy funding of schools in California. Per Student spending has gone up 30% in real dollars since Prop 13 was instituted. Look to many other factors that are straining our system. This is not the thread to go into it, if you want a link, I will provide it.
And, if you own a home now, come back in 20 years and beg to pay 4 times your current property tax bill when your earnings have stayed stable or decreased.
Posted by French Speaker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:56 pm
My French 5 class in a school of 1200( 35 years ago) was with 2 students only, I and another guy. We received guidance from the French teacher in our self-studies, helped each out, listened and practiced with tapes, went to State competitions and won..He went on to live and work in France for awhile after his studies, I went on to become bilingual and culminate it with 6 months in France.
Why can't the students who are interested take the initiative and study on their own during an elective time? Go create the class and ask the French Teacher to advise on materials, then get to work.
My son just studied for the Chem AP on his own because he loves Chem and wanted to take it..and he passed with flying colors. No class.
Take the initiative, talk to the principal, don't sit around and wait for someone to do it for you, students.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:57 pm
The fate of French 5AP rests in the hands of PiE for funding. The funds in the PiE account have already been allocated before the issue of the French 5AP class. This means that to fund $12,000 for French 5AP, something else goes on the chopping block. ( article here Web Link )
The big question... Should we axe another extracurricular or elective in order to offer French 5AP?
But then again... we'll see another thread like this one complaining of the so-called 'unfairness' of the district for not funding someone's cherished elective class or program. Now we'll be playing whack-a-mole with the budget.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:58 pm
a parent - to answer your question "should Paly AND Gunn do away with not only French 5/5AP, but also THE OTHER 5/5AP foreign language courses (Spanish, Japanese at Paly and likely Mandarin in a couple of years)". In my opinion, Yes, all of them. (I have nothing against French).
And you said "We are not talking about "luxuries."" I couldn't disagree with you more! That's exactly what we're talking about. I believe advanced language studies in high school (and elementary schools), are indeed luxuries. Its unnecessary overkill. And the public shouldn't have to pay for this. Parents who want their kids to specialize like this should pay for it.
Most people hone their particular hobees, obsessions, interests through private programs, and that's where advanced foreign language education belongs. I just disagree with the concept that a advanced foreign language education is something the public schools should be providing at tax payer expense.
You are probably lucky this district has a strategic planning process that includes broad and comprehensive community input - because the broader community probably disagrees with me and agrees with you..
Oh woops, sorry, I guess there is no strategic planning process around here. Uh Oh - that means who's running the ship again? Puts a whole new perspective on the importance of the upcoming school board election, doesn't it?
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 2:04 pm
Re: French Speaker
That's more like it!
Chem AP has been a club here at Gunn for several years in a row. Taught by students to prepare other students for the exam with some consulting from a Chemistry teacher. So I share parallel views with you French Speaker.
This club existed for many years while Paly had AP Chemistry offered as a course. Did Gunn students complain? Yes, of course. But instead of sitting around we worked around the problem and collaborated. The club officially ended last year with the creation of AP Chemistry for 07-08.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 2:18 pm
"I believe advanced language studies in high school (and elementary schools), are indeed luxuries. Its unnecessary overkill. And the public shouldn't have to pay for this. Parents who want their kids to specialize like this should pay for it."
Now I'm talking to the parent from another palo alto neighborhood.
Okay, true taxpayers pay money to the schools unwillingly at times, but what about people who dish over the money out of generosity and willingness? From day one of each and every school year at Gunn every department that offers electives will hand out papers asking parents for monetary donations. Science Department, Language Department, Music, Visual Arts, and Sports are the primary ones. Taxpayers don't have the burden of paying the true full cost.
Based on your argument music seems like a thing that should be taught privately as well through youth orchestras and private tutors. I guess art and photography fit in as well. Sports... well I guess we should join little league and AYSO instead of school sports. Well there go all the electives at PAUSD! We'll never have budget woes again!
In fact take it a step further and eliminate public education all together! We can all go back to European times when rich households hired teachers and private tutors for their kids. No public education then!
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 2:21 pm
Oh yea I forgot to mention...
What about the return on your property or house? Doesn't the money you fork over as taxes add to the value of your home? Without the district here in Palo Alto we might as well slash off a zero from the value of our homes.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 2:39 pm
It is portuguese not portugese ( incidently, a language spoken by more than 200 million people, 190 of which are in a very fast developing country, with incredible natural riches, with which the US is already trading ethanol, airplanes...etc. According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Brazil is (by PPP) the 9th largest world economy and the 10th at market exchange rate). Not a bad idea to pay attention to its language...
What I take from this discussion is that a Palo Alto education is not that good. My childrens' school had classes in french (only 5 students), german, spanish, greek and latin (and saturday extra-curricular japanese). But what do I know I ? I am not a philistine.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 3:04 pm
graduate - if you read thoroughly you would have noted that I think basics in many subjects and electives such as music, art, drama, sports, language are appropriate. Its the highly advanced and specialized levels of any of this that I think are outside the public schools purview and should not be funded at public expense. I'd rather see more introductory electives to give children exposure to many many options for their futures, than a fewer high specialized subjects with five or six years worth of progressive advancement. I feel that the basic subjects deserve more advancement attention (math, science, english, technology).
And to your comments about private funding - I say fine! Great! If private donations are paying for it, then its not public funded its private funded and that's fine with me. But go outside the public school system to administer that then - because if its in the private school there ARE public resources being used up. Space being one of them.
And yes, parents should sign their kids up for Little League or AYSO, (music lessons) if they want to give their kids more exposure and finer skills in those particular hobees and activities than basic rudimentary elementary PE (music) program provides
(I personally think PE is one of the things that is a BASIC NEED and is being underfunded. I'd much rather see PAUSD institute 1 hour per day of physical fitness than one hour per day of foriegn language in the elementary schools.)
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 3:35 pm
This is getting a little out of hand.
I am not sure how many, but I know that there are indeed a fair number of students from Paly who get sports scholarships to various colleges. In fact, these students are getting to college and a good education for the sole reason that they are good athletes. These students therefore need a good sports program at Paly to enable them to get to College. If there was talk of axing the sports program that enables them to get there, there would be an outcry.
Of course sports programs at high school are paid extras, but the amount that is paid is presumably worth it to those who do it.
Sport at this level is what some people might think of as a luxury. I think language at any level is more important than sport, but that is my opinion. I would rather see language education focused on rather than sport, but who am I to change things, so I leave it.
My point is, if we are able to give our athletes a first class athletic program, albeit with some costs involved, shouldn't we also be able to give our linguists a first class academic program.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 4:13 pm
Mandarin and arabic are justified but when my children were in school (now they are in college and one has graduated) the choices reflected the time . I just check the school (public) and they now offer mandarin, french, italian, latin and spanish.
California doesn't tax property as it should. Proposition 13 has indeed been a drag on school funding. I am not suggesting that people should be taxed to death, but a balance and proportionate manner of taxing would go along way to increase funding and therefore more school choices.
Lack of funding already afected the PAUSD when I was a local parent.
But it seems that now it is reaching a critical level: courses started (like French) not taken to conclusion. California law has a minimum number of students mandate for financial reasons. If there was more money maybe the minimum number would be revised.
As other people have said there isn't enough money ALL electives should be proportionally cut: why not cut a bit of the sports electives?
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 24, 2007 at 8:58 pm
I question why languages are disappearing at all in the PA school system. PA spends more per child than most districts within CA. Are they prioritizing incorrectly or spending too much on overhead? We live outside of CA now in a school district that spends half per child than PA. In my child's high school there are five langauges: French, German, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish. All languages go to AP level and French is the least popular.
Posted by curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 9:17 pm
Hello looking from the outside in,
Is the cost of living much lower in your new district than in Palo Alto? Are salaries about 85% of your new school district's budget, like it is for PAUSD? And how much property tax goes to the schools, compared to state funding? I don't know exactly, but believe that CA schools have a small amount of property tax, and a not great amount of state funding. I'd guess that your new district gets lots of property tax and reasonable state funding.
Of course, there's also the economic supply and demand of housing and cost of living which greatly affects the school revenue in property taxes (again, I'm guessing that your property tax is a high percentage, but house price is low).
Posted by Language lover too, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:04 pm
It's budget that limits advanced language classes (or even lower levels). The district used to "make up" for small class sizes at the upper end by crowding more students into lower level classes. But with budget cutting came a more rigid rule for whether a class would continue to be offered. Language courses are offered if there is sufficient demand. Demand for American Sign Language was on the low side, so it went bye-bye. That seems to be the fate of French 5AP also.
The notion that advanced foreign language is a luxury, and therefore ought not be be paid for by taxpayers, is about your value system as opposed to someone else's values. The fact is, our kids have to take a certain number of credits, including a certain set of specific required courses and a smorgasbord of electives. Most kids graduate with more credits than required more electives than required. To save taxpayers money — and cut out all those "luxuries" — we could just limit students to required courses and only enough electives to total the minimum number of credits to graduate. Why keep students hanging around taking more than the state requires? Let them graduate in 3 or 3.5 years instead of sucking up more resources beyond the basics. Why shell out money on "luxuries"? (Don't take me seriously on this. I'm just playing with the logic of eliminating "luxuries.")
Most students take two electives per semester, but historically, one of those electives has been on the chopping block when budgetary belt-tightening was called for. Conclusion: PAUSD allows students to take more electives than needed for a diploma or for college admission.
As for which specific elective courses are luxuries, and which are not — well, it doesn't make a dollar of difference. Our teachers are paid the same whether they teach required subjects or electives, French 1 or French 5AP, or French 5AP or English I. In terms of budget, a teacher is a teacher is a teacher, regardless of subject matter. The reason we offer "luxuries" (choices) is so that kids can find their niche and find their way to shine. Who knows — that kid who aspires to French 5AP may also aspire to become a French teacher in high school or a U.N. interpretor. (Are those frivolous and unnecessary?) Not all kids are destined to be doctors, lawyers, and engineers (thank goodness!).
Posted by Paly student, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 25, 2007 at 12:53 am
Regarding other options besides taking a class at school-
We have already researched and found that:
Stanford - We talked to the Assistant Director of their Language Program. We cannot take the class there, not even by auditing.
Castijella - We need to enroll full time to take their classes.
Gunn - We would need to transfer there to take the class.
DeAnza/Foothill - They don't offer advanced level French.
UC Berkeley extension - They don't off advanced level French either.
As you can see, we are trying. I, for one, am not taking French to have another AP as it seemed implied in a few comments above. I am taking French because I love the language, the class, and everything about it - in essence, to learn.
Don't dismiss this recommendation with a roll of your eyes. I did at first. It was recommended to ME by a native French teacher 5 years ago. It seems absurdly simple, but we are talking FLUENCY, not academics. It is only, I think, 90 minutes of CD per level, but the trick is to absolutely reflexively memorize each sentence within that 90 minutes. If you practice this only 20 minutes per day until you have every section down absolutely reflexively, you will find that you have the basic structure to substitute various words into "pre-made" sentences for you and that you are much more fluent than you are now.
It took me about 4 months to have it totally memorized, and what a difference it made. I was MORE fluent than when I had first graduated and gone to France. It is how a kid learns, by hearing AND REPEATING the same sentence structure over and over again until it just pops out, without any academic understanding of verb forms or grammar, or even separate words. Have you ever noticed little kids repeating sentences to themselves that they hear the adults say?
This is the Learn in your Car series by Penton- I linked you to level 3, but honestly I benefitted by starting and reviewing at level 1 ( simple verb conjugation fluency) and worked my way through Level 3 in my car ( of course, you can do it anywhere). Granted, I had been out of school and hadn't been to France in 15 years when I reviewed, so if you are very confident of your ability to express yourself fluently in the beginning level, then I would start with level "2".
There is a new set coming out in September, it looks like. Maybe you buy 2 now, and then get the new 3 when it comes out.
It looks like there are now other options for fluency through CDs at Amazon. I can only attest to the efficacy of this series.
Posted by Euro Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 11:43 am
What I think no one understands is that learning a 2nd or 3rd language is what goes for education in other countries. Here we look on learning a language as either a luxury or not necessary because we all speak English. The other idea about learning a language is that it will help with foreign commerce.
Learning a 2nd language is actually an educational skill. It should be part of a rounded education for anyone. Learning another language and learning about the culture and literature that surrounds it is as necessary to education as history, art, geography, science, etc. True, it may be good for commerce and those sort of reasons, but from a personal level, it is part of being educated.
Foreign countries teach languages because they educate their kids in a global light. The look on language not as a luxury skill, but as a part of the education process. They start early and they keep it up. They have "mother tongue, English and one other language" as a requirement for 3rd level education.
Posted by tri-lingual, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 12:30 pm
And how much of a priority is the "one other language"? Probably about the same as a second language in the US. So, basically, the "European" way is the same as the US way - Mother tongue & English.
The European "third" language isn't required. It's only there since, given a choice, everyone's second language choice would be English. No other european languages would get a look in if students were only forced to choose one other language.
Posted by Also Tri-Lingual, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 12:51 pm
Tri-Lingual- You are correct, at least in France. One side of my family is French. France requires only English for most Baccalaureates ( High School degrees, on there an HS degree is like at least our first year of college). There is only a requirement for the 3rd language if the student chooses the "L" ( for liberal arts) Track in high school, which means that student intends to pursue a liberal arts degree in college.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:11 pm
To the parent who says:
"graduate - if you read thoroughly you would have noted that I think basics in many subjects and electives such as music, art, drama, sports, language are appropriate. Its the highly advanced and specialized levels of any of this that I think are outside the public schools purview and should not be funded at public expense".
I have a daughter who graduated from Paly and went on to college. She now is a junior in college. While in Paly she took AP (advanced classes) in maths, science, English, and Spanish.
Well, guess what? Now she is very comfortable in college, successful in her classes and her chosen major (a challenging one) while her classmates who came from other Bay Area school districts, where there were no advanced classes or very few, are struggling and have to drop out of their preferred majors.
What does that say? It says that the PAUSD does an excellent job preparing our kids for college, through its offering of advanced classes in particular. Don't kid yourself, eliminating the advanced classes will lower significantly the value of a PAUSD education and its usefulness to our children.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:16 pm
To all those who mention prop 13.
For many of us, who bought our houses here 15 years ago or more, paying more property taxes is simply not an option. Not only did we not choose for our property values to increase so much, but also, oftentimes, as is my case, our income level has not increased proportionately, far from it. Our has actually stagnated. Even if we WANTED to pay more property taxes, we just could not. What are we to do? Sell our house here, move to another, cheaper, town with a worse school district and yank our children out of Palo Alto schools so that you can force everyone to pay as many property taxes as recent arrivals ?....
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:39 pm
LL - believe it or not, property values do go up occasionally in other states, and none of them need Prop 13-type plans to handle it.
For means-qualified (often seniors), there are programs for deferring partial payment while granting a tax lien on the property; so when you sell it, the tax gets paid first. You could also of course take out a mortgage/home equity line against your much appreciated value and use the proceeds to pay additional tax obligation (and make payments against the loan).
Note also that of course if home values, say double, over 5 years, but town expenditures go up by only 50%, the tax rate (on fully assessed properties) will actually go DOWN. So don't assume that if your property doubles in value (wow!) that your taxes would double; since everyone else's property value goes up too, your tax rate should go down.
The point is, you would pay your FAIR SHARE - if your house was, say, .01% of total assessed value in town in 1987, and you paid .01% of taxes then, it seems fair that you'd have the same %'s in 2007. After all, one presumes you use about the same % of city services then as now, right? Is it fair that your neighbor who struggles under a much bigger mortgage and uses the same amount of services, pays much much more tax than you? Should he/she have to live in Redwood City so that you can live in Palo Alto (AND have all that home equity $$ to boot)?
Posted by Pantagruel, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jul 25, 2007 at 10:15 pm
While it's true that French is facing a challenge at Paly right now, it's important to note that the end of French isn't necessarily near. These may be pretty standard fluctuations that will correct themselves. Consider the following:
As far as I know, Gunn is offering 10 sections of French this coming year; Paly will offer 9 or 10, depending on whether the community can successfully deal with the shortage of three key students for the 10th Paly class. Not much of a difference.
The French program at Terman, which feeds into Gunn, is shrinking from 06/07 to 07/08, not as a result of the growth of some other language but because kids signed up for the new forensic science class in droves. If that class doesn't end up being as fun as it sounds, perhaps there will be a swing the other way in following years.
At the same time, the French program at Jordan, which feeds into Paly, is GROWING from 2 sections to 3 sections for 2007/2008. That's something to cheer about.
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 25, 2007 at 11:42 pm Nora Charles is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I took French in high school and was happy I did. Would Spanish have been more useful? Yes. But I wanted to learn French and was lucky to have had choice.
I confess I am confused about the whole Mandarin immersion program. I try to follow the local news stories about the ongoing saga, but only seem to pick up bits and pieces. (Also, I am not a parent.) Does this mean the ENTIRE curriculum would be taught in Mandarin?! Say it ain't so. Also, I noticed that those pushing Mandarin seem rather aggressive. Why do they have this agenda? Call me old-fashioned, but it I would be alarmed to see European languages (and history!) disappear from the schools.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 9:08 am
Language Lover, I never suggested dropping all advanced classes, I certainly would never condone that. I think the core curriculum should be expanded and differentiated to the greatest extent possible (for example, as many levels and types of math as are needed to ensure all children get the most effective math experience they can, and to make sure they all maximize their potential in math.) That would be both advanced and remedial levels.
I am singling out language -and being that its an optional subject, I think it doesn't need to go as far as it does in specialization.
Basic levels of many languages should be offered as electives as part of the basic education (just as we offer basics in many other electives - like cooking.) But we don't offer culinary academy level 5 and I don't think we should offer that specialized level of language either. If parents want to take it that far - they should pay for it. Just like parents do in any other specialization. Its not an imperative, its a luxury - as opposed to math, science, technology, English Language Arts, etc.
Now here's some food for thought for you... I'm glad your daughter did so well in college. Was she smart because she took AP classes? or did she get to the AP level because she's smart? Can you put any average kid in an AP class and get the same results? Don't you think the odds are that SMART kids do well in college generally, because they're SMART (have good habits, good level head on their shoulders, goal driven)?
Here's another perspective - I took NO AP classes, in fact I got alot of C's and D's in high school. After working my way into college the hard way (ie: by getting good grades in jr college and excellent SAT scores about 2 years after graduation), I ended up doing quite well in college. I graduated in the top 5% of both my undergraduate class and graduate class. I got straight A's at a prestigous private university in my graduate program. So maybe I succeeded because I'm SMART and GOAL DRIVEN, but not because of AP?
I have no problem with AP classes. But I think parents would be wise to spend more time making sure the kids are getting good smart habits, and good postiive attitude toward life, than obsessing about which AP classes they're going to miss out on.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 10:39 am
Regarding the usefulness of French. If you're interested in the liberal arts, it's the most useful of the languages, simply because of the long cultural and historical entanglement between England and France (and thus the United States). Thanks to colonialization, it's also a language spoken in countries all over the world.
While Spanish would be the most useful language on a day-to-day basis here, French was, by far, the most useful language in college.
Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 12:54 pm
You asked "Does this mean the ENTIRE curriculum would be taught in Mandarin?"
No. The Dual Immersion model is a form of bilingual education in which students learn the core curriculum making use of two languages, in this case Mandarin and English. At kindergarten level, the ratio of Mandarin to English would be 90-10 or 80-20, decreasing to 50-50 by upper elementary grades. In middle school, schools may or may not have programs that help students maintain the foreign language.
As to why people are pushing to increase the availability of Mandarin instruction in Palo Alto schools, the reasons are many and varied. Some have to do with perceptions of global economic trends, others with cultural interest, and yet others connect to "heritage language" concerns.
We won't see a disappearance of European languages and history, but the mix is certainly changing. For my part, I'm encouraged to see an expansion of our linguistic and cultural range and optimistic about PAUSD's adaptation to changes in the global context that our children will see in their lifetimes.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm
"because of the long cultural and historical entanglement between England and France (and thus the United States)."
When Benjamin Franklin arrived in France in 1776 as America's first Embassador his main goal was to secure aid both financial and military from the French. No historian ever doubted that without that aid America would not have won the Revolutionary War.
The French influence in the America is far reaching and wide.
"La liberté éclairant le monde" that is the Statue of Liberty is the result of that long friendship between the US and France.
Though nowadays French is no longer the language of diplomacy, it is a most widely spoken Language in many Arabic and African countries and has an enormous political role. If we will ignore this fact it will be to our own loss.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 26, 2007 at 2:42 pm
French is justified in many ways. One of them. as I point out is its spread throughout african and arabic countries. You may not think the knowlege of french is of great importance but try to combat terrorism without it....
Since I actually have have had a little impact in shaping "your" present through my work, I can assure you that living in the past is hardly in my horizon, but ignoring the benefits of friendship with present day french speaking countries has its own perils. Be my guest.
I speak a few foreign languages myself ( english and french to name two) and I am pleased I do for its cultural usefulness, commerce, turism etc . Not everybody has had the same access to the excellent education I received paid by my my native country so I can understand if not everybody is as appreciative as I am of the need to have diverse menu of languages in school. But as a parent of children who had that choice in one of this country's public school I think PAUSD is shortsighted on this matter. Pray tell me why is a foreign language not as important as, for example, water polo (which is one of PAUSD sports choices ?). What does water polo do for the majority? It is fine to offer it, of course, but it costs money and only a few benefit....
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 5:56 pm
Sohill, that is a good post. I happen to agree with your counter-poster that French is not so useful, but the quarrel is more with foreign language being required than with French in particular. Your point that studying French is more beneficial than water polo for an educated person is a pretty good one. I tend to think "chacun son goût" when it comes to academic, but academics should come before sports.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 6:23 pm
You still don't seem to get it. When we bought our house, we could afford what we were to pay and the 2% yearly increase thereafter, because our taxes do go up, 2% a year (including when property values go down, because in those years we make up the difference). Our income goes up about the same rate. It is pegged on the cost of living increase as determined by the federal government. My husband is a (federal) civil servant.
A person that bought their house here, say last year, made the calculation presumably that they could afford the mortgage payment + the property taxes on the $ 2 + million house, which we could never afford.
Do I find this fair. Yes. I don't know why people who bought long ago should be penalized for it by having to sell their house, be it to a bank... to pay their property taxes.
And just so you know, in a few years from now, our person who bought their house here 2 years ago, will think exactly the same thing I do. Mark my word.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 6:33 pm
While I think that from a practical stand-point English is the only language anyone needs to know in the modern world, as it is plain to see, I don't agree with you on your view of languages.
An education is not just about useful knowledge. Learning a foreign language is very good intellectual exercise. It has been documented that children who study foreign languages do better in other subjects such a math,
Furthermore, schools, through high-school, and in some cases in college too, are not just about imparting practical skills. They are about educating the whole person. And languages, just like social studies, are an integral part of this education. Not just learning the rudiments of a language, but studying a language in depth (as they do in advanced or AP classes, by reading core literature of those cultures) gives you a unique window on the world and the perspective to look at your own culture and country in a more critical way, through outside eyes. And I really think that is useful, and a skill we could use much more in this country.
As to my daughter, she actually did not let school stress her out, while at Paly. She even worked part-time at a paying job, which was very good for her. She took AP classes only because SHE wanted to. I certainly would not push it on anyone who would not want to do ir or who would struggle through those classes.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 26, 2007 at 6:57 pm
Dear Language lover,
You do have the money. It is just tied up in your house, And, no you do not have to sell the house. If you refinance and keep the difference between your present equity and the amount of refinancing you will have money in the bank. Or else, reverse the mortgage. However, there are better ways, for example:
You don't pay all taxes and when the title of your property changes to new owners you (or your heirs) are charged then (with interest).
In addition or instead PA could require (as many eastern cities do) a flip tax, say 4% of the price of each property title change.
it seeems to me that newcomers shouldering your share of the burden is really not fair while your are sitting on your money and claiming you have none.
What's not right is this lack of money for schools (and infrastructures) all the time.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 6:59 pm
Another point I want to make about AP classes is the following:
My daughter found regular level classes rather boring in school, and was not engaged by them. Her grades were mostly Bs. Once she could take AP classes her grades in those classes were mostly As. I could say "Go figure"... but the fact is, that she found those classes much more engaging and interesting.
Now, I don't think she is much more intelligent than others Palo Alto kids. There are many bright kids in this community. The AP classes are one of the very few offerings for such kids in Palo Alto schools. God knows that they don't do anything for GATE students in elementary and middle schools. I really think the advanced classes should stay, just as the remedial help for lower performing kids should stay.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 7:19 pm
Language is an art.
It is also an academic language. Learning a language helps you understand your own language and grammar. Learning a language helps you to understand that other cultures are different, but of no lesser or more importance than your own. Learning a language gives you a feeling for others in a way that you cannot experience from a mono lingual, non travelling experience.
Seeing others have difficulty in speaking English is something you can't help them with unless you have had the experience of trying to make yourself understood in another language. It is a poorly educated person who has had no education in a foreign language regardless of how many phds they may have in other subjects.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 9:52 pm
Thank you Sohill, I think that was a nice response to LL. LL, I understand you feel constrained, but as Sohill says, the money you would need is right there in your house.
I always find ironic, and a little sad, when told by prop-13 beneficiaries that I shouldn't worry, in a few years I'll be loving how much lower my taxes are than my neighbors. It reminds me of the movie about the NYC cop who stood up to the routine bribes/shake-downs on his beat. The veterans cops told him, "Don't worry, it seems dirty now, but you'll get used to it, and the money is great." Prop-13 is just rent control for home owners - unfair, bad policy, should go away.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 9:58 pm
Parent, I'm a reasonably educated person (2 Ivy League degrees) with "college proficiency" in two languages (according to the tests anyway).
But I can tell you in my experience that the language instruction contributed little or nothing to my education; it was a waste of time. Sure, some exposure is fine - some kids may find they love it, and good for them - I'm certainly not saying others shouldn't study it. But saying someone without language instruction is "poorly educated" seems narrow minded or just fanciful, IMHO.
Posted by Language Lover, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 10:09 pm
You again miss my point. I CANNOT afford those extra taxes you want me to pay. And many others are in my case. Now let me tell you something else.
When we bought our house 15 years ago or so, we paid between 8 and 10 times as much for it than did our neighbors for similar houses 15 years or so before us. That's right 8 to 10 times. Our property taxes are higher accordingly. We never ever claimed that it was unfair and that they should somehow subsidize our property taxes. We just felt fortunate we could afford what we could afford back then and where willing to pay for our fair share of taxes based on what we could afford.
Now, comes another generation of buyers. 15 years after us, they pay for their houses between 3 and 4 times as much as we paid for our property (for a similar house, that is), 3 or 4 times, not 8 to 10. They do it willingly and obviously can afford it. And then they come and complain it's all unfair, and that we should subsidize them, even if that means selling our house and/or move away from here. I find this sense of entitlement unbelievable. To me, it's like having your cake and eating it too.
I did not vote for prop 13. If I had been able to vote at the time, I would as a matter of fact probably have voted against it. But now, you want to undo it on our backs, without taking into account that it made property values sky-rocket even more, through no fault of ours.
Sorry, it does not work. If paying the price your paid for your house here seems to much to you now, maybe you should not have bought your house here at the price you paid in the first place, not demand that we now subsidize you.
Finally, retired citizen, as well people whose children will soon be out of the PAUSD, are people who most often paid their taxes for many years, financed the benefits they were getting, and now use the services much less, schools being the biggest one. It is only normal that newcomers who have many years of using the PA schools ahead of them, pay their share now. I see nothing wrong with that.
You all seem quite spoiled to me, with your feeling of entitlement. I am sorry I have to say that, but it is the case.
PS: Sohill, what you are asking me to do is to lower my equity in my house to pay for my property taxes. Even in your proposed scheme of taking a reverse mortgage or of letting the next buyer pay for my "owed" taxes, the next owner will not pay the taxes, I still will. I will because I will be getting less for my house when I sell it, than I otherwise would have. I say no, I need the equity in my house for other things, and I don't know that it is fair to pop that on me after 15 years. Had I been advised this would be the deal ahead of time, my house buying decisions might have been different. And frankly, when you are in my shoes, I very much doubt your thinking will still be the same. Let's talk again in 10 years. I rest my case.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2007 at 11:35 pm
LL, I am sorry you feel so put upon! But the idea that some people pay a small fraction of what others pay for the same public services - it just is hard to see that as fair. I don't blame you for defending it, but it would be nicer not to get a lecture about how selfish and entitled I am, while you are collecting the benefit! Oh my!
I am also sorry that I am so ignorant that I keep missing your point. Maybe you are missing something though - here's an example. How much home equity do you have? Let's say $1M, On a total value of, $1.2M. Just for illustration purposes, of course, you can fill in your own numbers and do the math.
So let's say your tax rate should be (if everybody paid on full value) 0.75% - just a round number guess - instead of the 1.1% or so it is today. So your tax would be 0.75% * $1.2 = $9K vs. 1.1% * $0.2 = $2.2K today - about 6.8K/year more. So if you went and took $200K out of your house - just 20% of your million dollar equity windfall - that amount would pay the additional tax for 29 years. Need more? If you went up to 30% of your equity, that would cover 44 years of taxes. And of course, if history is a guide, you'll be building more home equity over that 44 years.
Now, this doesn't account for any interest you might pay (tax deductible of course) or the additional deduction you'd get on your federal taxes for paying more property tax. But you can see that you've actually got a lot of tax paying power, even though you seem to feel very constrained.
I understand that you don't "want" to use your home equity to pay taxes. I don't want to use my income to pay mine. But we are all citizens, we all benefit from the services, and we all should pay our fair share. No place else does it this way; it is just like old-fashioned rent control in New York, no better.
No-one wants to drive you or anyone from their home, and as Sohill pointed out, many (every?) other place in the US has come up with a way of handling this other than Prop 13. But it is bad policy - unfair and untenuous for financing our city's needs.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 27, 2007 at 4:02 am
Dear language lover,
I never said the "next" buyer pays for your taxes The seller or donor pays for the taxes.. When the title holder changes there is a payment. This provision would quash any thoughts of never selling the house and instead of deeding it to heirs.
And yes, you would get less money. And that's only fair. Comparable house should pay comparable taxes.
Your neighbors get less income because they pay more property taxes . Why should you not?
I was in your shoes once and like you in midtown and never thought it was fair, but most importantly i knew it would bear sour fruits in the future ( cancelling classes at Paly for example?)
Posted by Sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 27, 2007 at 4:24 am
This discussion is getting away from the main thread. It would be interesting to discuss the policy and effects regarding prop 13 thread but let me say this (before I go on vacation):
One of the reasons to study languages is because there is a variety of implicit and explicit codes involved in its study. That provides an incredibly rich array of oportunities for cognitive development. The study of languages involves almost everything from geography to politics, history (both recent and less recent) and all the miriad of other countrys' life, works and ways of doing things.
There are in fact other disciplines that provide part of the above described but many are not as inclusive. I am sure that few advocate no math requirements though few of us will use the quadratic equation in everyday life ( I graduated in math and use it in my work). Again it's part of the curriculum both because of its cognitive development benefits and a to show a possible path for a professional future (just like languages). Isn't that what education is about?
The question, however, is whether PALY should abandon its students to their own devices for 5th year French. It shouldn't, precisely because it's a sudden barrier on the path of their future.
I recall that one year in Palo Verde my child's class had more children than the state's limit.
It was a justified exception for logistical purposes.The same should apply to French 5th year. 17 students is just short 3 students of the lower limit. I am sure an exception can be made if there is the will.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 27, 2007 at 8:06 am
"We pay for our paradise in Palo Alto." More like you pay for living in denial or haven't been outside CA. I lived in three communities that surround Stanford U, so I do know what you are living in. I'll give you that weather is nice, but you would be surprised there are other areas with weather almost comparable. However, there is an ugly laundry list that most certainly over rides the comment about paradise.
Your point about 85% of the budget goes to salaries is a good one. Our district struggles with this as well, and it fact starting salaries are comparable and we have a more mature teaching staff than PA - thankfully - a noticeable difference in quality. We get little state funding and most come from property taxes with home prices comparable to CA in '99.
I have to say I was surprised by my new school district that has engineering, and biotech courses in the high schools. They have started 9th grade academies in the high schools - something that large high schools in Silicon Valley should look at. Several large high schools are converting into smaller learning schools. There is the middle college school that combines high school and college experience. Oh yeah, then there are the five languages offered to AP level.
My point: all that progressiveness at half the price! I don't want to tell you where I live because I don't want anymore CAs coming here....sorry, it is paradise.
I think the school districts around Stanford need to start thinking outside the box...quit living in denial.
Posted by freakonomics, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 27, 2007 at 9:39 am
"French is justified in many ways. One of them. as I point out is its spread throughout african and arabic countries. You may not think the knowlege of french is of great importance but try to combat terrorism without it...."
So, by removing French AP we can't fight terrorism. Interesting.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 27, 2007 at 10:55 am
What is very interesting to me is that you manage without great difficulty to infer a great deal from a general statement (response to an opinion that french as a language is not important)
The general statement, is that french is the official and de facto language of many muslim countrys and therefore very important for the the security of the West.
As you can see (above) : "The question, however, is whether PALY should abandon its students to their own devices for 5th year French. It shouldn't, precisely because it's a sudden barrier on the path of their future." It seems simple to me to understand that the two arguments are separate. I am hoping I don't have to explain to why. The fallacy is obvious.
Posted by To each his own, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 27, 2007 at 11:21 am
These arguments that foreign languages are useless things to study just reflect personal values. I, a liberal arts major, could say that I don't remember and don't use the chemistry or physics that I supposedly learned in classes I endured in high school and college, so let's do away with those offerings, whaddya say?
The fact is, by following my interest in French and other languages, I have enjoyed many life-enriching experiences at home and overseas by interacting with people who could not speak English. Speaking other languages got me invitations to things that would not have been offered if I couldn't converse with non-English speakers. My early interest in languages led to another interest: a fascination with other cultures, in the anthropological sense. Whether I travel for business or pleasure, speaking the local language and studying the culture enhances my trips immeasurably.
I couldn't care less about science, although I'm very glad there are people who are fascinated by what bores me. What would the world do without scientists? I hope scientists who are bored by language study appreciate the value of translators on the international scene.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 27, 2007 at 11:49 am
"Oh, I live in a wonderful place, our small community provides university level education in high-school. All the high-tech firms come to our high-school campus to recruit!" When I was living near Stanford a couple of years ago, I would have responded to my message as defensively as you have. It is hard to admit that you are paying a huge cost (home, traffic, crowdiness, the list goes on) for a PA education. I know, it felt better to wear the badge of 'my child is in the PA school district' but then I would have to step out of denial and into reality when I would hear and see that my friends and other relatives' children (out-of-state) were receiving more for their money. Where I live is a wonderful place (PA & CA do not own that title); however, it is not a small school district it is a 65,000+ student population. No, high-tech firms do not come to our high-school campuses to recruit but, top colleges do just as they do in PA.
Don't you think one of the top school districts in Silicon Valley should be offering Engineering and Biotech courses? Don't you think 2000+ (and growing) size schools need to have separate 9th grade academies (studies show as a critical year for stopping drop out rates)? Don't you think "Big school" concepts of offering trade training would help those students that do not fit the typical stressed-out, alpha, silicon valley kid whose parents have had them in every single possible enrichment program from birth. I think if you broaden your outlook you will find most high schools offer equivalent AP courses as PA and many offer the more challeging IBO program. Don't you think it is time PA and other city schools around Stanford start thinking outside the box.
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 27, 2007 at 4:40 pm
I'm surprised a post that pointed out that you didn't provide any proof of your "paradise" was considered defensive. I never even mentioned that Palo Alto was "better" than wherever you live since I have nothing to compare PAUSD to. You haven't provided me with a link to your magical school district. It should be simple, just look it up on the web and provide a link to the schoo/test scores/etc. Or, just maybe, either your school district doesn't exist or isn't so magical...
Posted by Evan, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 1:43 am
I took French at Paly when I went there. After traveling for months, I can tell you it's near useless. It's probably much better to push students toward languages like Spanish (or even) German, which are spoken much more widely. That being said, I'm sad students won't have the option anymore.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 8:46 am
Whatever and Jane,
Just as you both have written your emails with anonymity, I too choose to do the same. By stating where my school district is located, would indicate to those I know (many who frequent this site but also write with anonymity) who "lookingfromtheoutsidein" is. I may have been too flippant with "paradise" which seemed to touch a nerve with you both. There are many paradises in the U.S. and PA/Calif does not own that title; however, it does make people feel better to think they do. I was responding to a previous email I feel comes too often from those that live in the Stanford area as I did for over 30+ years. Many times it comes from people who know no difference because they have not lived anywhere else. Case in point Whatever, your words...."I never even mentioned that Palo Alto was "better" than wherever you live since I have nothing to compare PAUSD to." Your first email was a flippant and defensive one and I did not point it out because I have a chip on my shoulder.
Since I do know differently now, I am suggesting PA needs to get creative. Losing French 5 is not the first complaint I've seen and unfortunately, it is not going to be the last. Do your own research...it is not hard....start with the top 20 in Newsweek....and you will see creativity at work.
Has the district looked at taking the high schools and specializing them, then having a lottery for all incoming 9th graders? I remember when there were three high schools and the only difference was that people used to joke that Paly was old money, Gunn was new money, and Cubberly was no money, but all received the same offerings from the district.
Posted by school, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 9:44 am
Dear Jane and Whatever,
Among comparable districts (in size, financial comunity, etc Palo Alto doesn't rank as high as it should. That is the point. Palo altans by and large think thay have a "best" school district but the facts ( FOR COMPARABLES ) point otherwise. Not that it is a bad district, by any means, it actually very good like many others, but given the community it falls short.
YOUR very Web Link. point to this even if the study has its faults ( for example, the fact that the districts mentioned only one is a college town with comparable parental educational interest, not just achievement ) but it showns clearly that PAUSD is at a disadvantage . Since you asked test scores (which by themselves do not cover the majority of facts about a school school district) I am refer only to those but before I do:
Palo Alto is a self selected community in which residents possess a rare combination of much higher than average education+financial resources.
The financial resources of the district are not good.
I would assume that a relatively educated person would know where to fetch the many facts about other school districts, to check (it is easy to do and readily available) other school districts that are better than PA. Three are many and the fact that you even want lookingfromtheoutsidein to provide you with this information indicates to me that you find that there is some difficulty both to do the checking yourself and to suspend the belief that there mighty be better ( this maybe very hard to do).
Since you don't undertake this task let me help you:
a) Some excellent school districts or high schools (that's what we are talking about) give you the middle scores (those are the statistically significant scores) and leave out averages because it doesn't tell you anything about distribution. But to know about the a school itself you need to know many other facts to make sense of resouces both from school and community , what kind of socio-economical pool among others we are talking about.
However here are a few (some with much less resources than PAUSD):
Please note that there is a 4% margin of error inbuilt all scores (yes, even Palo Alto doesn't escape the statistic norms) and the reference is to SATI (not subject testes-SATII)
All scores are for 2006 or last year that I could find them without much work (I don't work for you)
about the same as PAUSD for a population that includes a economically diverse population
I won't even go into Bronx Science (in a very poor area of New York City), whose website lets you choose to read its pages in : english, chinese (2 dialects), korean, Japanes,spanish, french and german and whose curriculum electives include also
russian, modern greek, latin,italian and korean.
Again same as PAUSD,a much diverse population.
Willmington Charter about the same.
Masterman (Philadelphia, catering for a population so disadvantaged that there is no comparison with PAUSD or even Ravenswood District (east Palo Alto)
Little better than Palo alto?
If you want the many others please use your own resources to find them.
Posted by curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 10:08 am
Sorry, I'm the original poster for
We pay for our paradise in Palo Alto.
What I meant is more along the lines of
1. We _need to pay_ for our paradise in Palo Alto since we are so far behind in our funding of students (due in large part to Prop 13), and I believe we need to continue to pay more bonds and parcel taxes to try to catch up.
2. We pay for our paradise (being cynical about how Palo Alto is strangling our schools performance by saving on taxes).
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 10:36 am
I am in no doubt that there are better school districts. I would expect many districts on the east coast to be much better. Actually, I have no idea how good the PAUSD district is since I have no children in any PAUSD schools. I browse these pages for amusement.
My comment is only pointing out that you have chosen to state that *your* school district is better but you fail to provide any evidence of this. Since you can't back this up, and it's fair enough that you don't want others to know who you are, you should simply stick to abstracts and point to other districts that are better without claiming yours to be better.
However, your original reason for not identifying the district was that you didn't want other CAs coming there! You seem to be changing your argument to avoid naming your district, which adds to the lack of credibility of *your* claim.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:15 am
I am very interested in what you say when you say you have travelled but that French was not useful. I am interested in where you have travelled. Obviously, Canada is a country where French would be useful, particularly in the parts where French is the only language spoken. Also, many parts of Africa and the Middle East have French as the official language of Government and for many people, it is their natural second language rather than English. I learnt French in school and it amazes me that I can actually understand a little written Spanish because of my knowledge of French and so from that point of view it is useful. Many parts of Europe, apart from French, have French as a second language. I was actually in France needing medical treatment and the doctor was German. His English was non existent, but his French was about as good as mine and we managed to communicate very well with our limited French.
So, please everyone, do not write off French as useless. If you study it, you will realise that a great deal of our everyday English comes from French roots.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:16 am
Dear Whatever, Actually, Illinois is in the Mid-West, not the East Coast. lookingfromtheoutsidein pointed to her school district as an example, among many others. It doesn't add anything to this discussion to know where she is and it doesn't detract from the fact that PAUSD should get better funding so that the reasonable needs of every student be catered for. Who needs a school district which cuts funding to french AP5 and leaves water poloin the curriculum? As I am reminded that years ago I observed a parade of palo altans in the direction of Oregon and Idaho, where they promptly enrolled their children in public schools increasing its class size I would not tell where I am if I was ookingfromtheoutsidein.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:18 am
I don't think Palo Alto has the best schools in the world, but, then, I'm in the good-enough camp regarding schooling. Which translates to the district has good schools for the Bay area and California.
Nonetheless, I don't see how SAT I scores are a good measurement of district quality. The math, unless things have dramatically changed, doesn't go much beyond algebra and geometry, and the reading and writing segments are about skills, not subjects per se. At the very least, I think the comparables should be the SAT II scores.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:44 am
PIE did a great benchmarking study of PAUSD to comparable districts. They used school and community demographics and performance to choose the district. It shows that we are doing pretty well with the $$ we have but spending less than we should. The Study Web Link
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:48 am
are we shifting arguments now?
I think in fact that SATII are a different measure because only a small percentage of students take them. But if I give you some schools that have much better scores then perhaps you would shift to " but they don't have water polo" or " they do not offer statistics" if fact anytime your argument receives a factual check you may shift the premiss as you have done now. SATs (ETS simplification of what is commonly called SAT) are what sets schools apart and is a better measure of education since it applies to a large percentage of the student body (tough in Palo alto like in many other better off places many students use SAT coaching).
Also SATII in what ? How do you compare? Ah, you must not understand statistics otherwise you would not propose such an absurd "measure".
Nevertheless, I am going to indulge you and just before I go on vacation tomorrow I will certainly attempt to give you some "comparables", not matter how silly it seems to me.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 12:04 pm
Palo alto mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood,
The study you cited is part of the same I cited , but I wouldn't say "we are doing pretty well" unless you are referring to fund raising:
Palo Alto leverages by private funding for 2006 are 7.1 million dollars.The closest district
( the study is of only 5 districts and only one - Chapel Hill-is really comparable to Palo Alto), is Chapel Hill with 2millon dollars followed by Willimette at 930K , Weslley at 300k and the other two 0K.
These are some of the study conclusions:
Proposition 13 forces PAUSD to rely heavily on non-property tax revenues.
With budget pressures, PAUSD struggles to support program elements given limited
staff.• Despite substantially lower funding, PAUSD has not gutted most programs.
This may be doing pretty well for you but I wouldn't live in Palo Alto beacuse of the "excellence" of PAUSD. If fact, the part of housing prices that reflect the school district (the main other fact is demand not related to education) is well, overpriced and unsubtantiated by the facts.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 1:17 pm
I have often wondered about the criteria that is used when stating that PAUSD schools are excellent and the grounds for comparison with other school districts in the nation, let alone the world. Anyway, I was recently speaking to a family who moved out of PAUSD a year ago and we to the East Coast (I am reluctant to say where as I do not wish to disclose their identity), and they had to get a writing tutor for their middle schooler and both the middle schooler and the elementary child were tested and put in math classes which were not the highest level for that particular grade.
Before we start patting ourselves on our backs too much, I think that we need to look beyond SAT scores and college flows because so many of these highest achieving students are getting the tutoring and coaching they need outside school. What we really need to do is look at the results of the students who are not in remedial classes, or getting extra tutoring, and seeing how they perform against their peers in other parts of the country. Only can this be a true reflection on how good are schools really are.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 4:11 pm
Since you don't have children in PAUSD, why don't you do your homework. And in doing so, you may find the east coast no longer holds the title for better education. Most schools have comparable AP programs and test scores to PA and most doing it with a much more diverse socio/econ population. What is interesting are those districts that are addressing not only the alpha kid but the kid who is not....the districts that are offering options and progressive ones at that. PA seems to be floating along with the same things or chasing fads (remember when Japanese was the 'it' language)...or trying to at the expense of other offerings. It is high time PA, Sequoia, and Los Altos looked at how they are educating....they need to get progressive.
You may even want to go back and read my previous messages. I don't see where I have stated my schools are better. I did state we have progressive programs for half the price. I did state that our teaching staff is more mature. I found experience to be better than inexperience. When my children were in CA the average teaching experience was about five years. My reference to paradise was an attempt to mimic 'curious' who has since clarified their statements. My statement about not wanting to tell where I live for fear of more CAs moving here is a justifiable comment, but was more for humor remembering just as Sohill did - the march north to OR, WA, and ID by Palo Altans. However and seriously, I don't want more CAs here and I do want to write with anonymity.
Whatever, you may want to stop stirring the pot and just go back to reading to find your amusement.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 4:41 pm
Interesting discussion - what makes a district "better"? Spending certainly is a red herring - I'm not so concerned about what we spend, but what we get (at least for this thread). Test scores are also a challenge - as one wag put it, they mostly tell about the cost of houses near the school (i.e., families with resources, often with highly educated parents, have kids will do well anywhere). We could look at test scores adjusted for household income and education level - Sohill, maybe a good project for your vacation ;-)
Having sampled both high-end Northeast suburban and PAUSD education, I doubt many would say PAUSD was more rigorous, moved kids along faster, or had great depth or breadth than some of the elite districts. The PiE benchmarking study clearly shows this. I, for one, am ok with that. As far as I can tell, the elite colleges (and the rest, I assume) don't just look for the 12th graders who have gotten the furthest the fastest - they are trying to judge potential and growth curve. Coming back to the original topic of this thread, Harvard isn't going to ding a kid for not having fifth year french, esp if the school didn't even offer it. It's what he did with what he had to work with that matters.
The most important thing about a district, IMHO, is the other people who are in it - the values, ambitions, backgrounds, and character of the students and their family. Then you need enough challenging curriculum, good teaching, and high expectations to create good all-around intellectual growth. In this regard, PAUSD seems to do well - better generally than most of our Bay Area neighbors.
We could do more and it is worth considering if we should - always sensible to re-evaluate. And I would not, based on what I know, hold us out as a national role model for what could be done. But I am generally ok with where we are, esp at the (IMHO) more important high school level.
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 4:48 pm
You actually stated that your schools had "a noticeable difference in quality." and that "...sorry, it is paradise."
Now you not only have changed your mind about why you didn't want to name your district but, through selective quoting, are also trying to claim that you didn't insinuate that your district was better!
It really is a pity they don't allow you to change your posts to fit your current argument isn't it? Sorry, but you've lost all credibility.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 28, 2007 at 8:43 pm
What quotation marks do I have in my last message? I believe it is you doing the selective quoting......and you are adding WHAT to this thread? You don't have children in PAUSD, and do you even or ever had children in any school system?
Your selective quoting: "You actually stated that your schools had "a noticeable difference in quality." and that "...sorry, it is paradise."" Like a bad reporter taking things out of context....credibility????
Here is the first actual complete quote from my second message, "Our district struggles with this as well, and it fact starting salaries are comparable and we have a more mature teaching staff than PA - thankfully - a noticeable difference in quality." That sentence does not say my schools are better than PA. It does point to one quality I find better.
Here is the second complete quote, "My point: all that progressiveness at half the price! I don't want to tell you where I live because I don't want anymore CAs coming here....sorry, it is paradise."
There are many out there who think progressive is bad...I don't. The last sentence was flippant in response to 'Curious', and it seems unlike you, I can admit when I am being flippant - not once but twice.
Sohill summed it up best when he stated about PA, "Not that it is a bad district, by any means, it actually very good like many others, but given the community it falls short."
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 8:56 pm
I disagree, Looking. By my criteria above, I'd look at the quality of the kids (where they go to college, where they wind up) and the parents (background, education, achievements) and feel that getting the same "schooling" at a town with less distinguished residents would not have the same value (to me anyway). The schools maybe could do more - should they? I'm not convinced.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 28, 2007 at 11:34 pm
You seem to be conflating me with another poster. I didn't change my argument because I didn't make an original argument. My point is that SATs aren't a great way to measure school quality because of what they test. I thought SAT II were similar to the old achievement tests. If not, then they're not suitable either. Point is, SATs aren't really knowledge tests, per se, unlike, say, the AP tests.
Posted by sohill, a resident of another community, on Jul 29, 2007 at 9:56 am
I am sorry I seem to be conflicting you, by which I suppose you mean I am confusing you. I am sorry if you weren't the original poster of the demand for SAT results, but you certainly did so and who did doesn't alter the argument. In any case I don't have the time to check on this and it's not important.
As I said above measuring a school's performance by the results of SATII is absurd because of the low numbers of students that take each subject and the variations from school to school and year to year. The only possible comparison would be from one school or a group of schools that are statistically similar, that is have comparable student bodies, class configuration and numbers and in which an equal (or quasi equal) number of students took exactly the same tests (some top schools have even abandoned AP classes altogether). When you find such situation please let me know. Even high school level statistics should be enough to understand this. Rankings (performed by various institutions (Newsweek, for example ) never include statistical info about SATII or APs' as part of their methodology for the above reason . They mention them, but they are not part of the ranking. This is elementary understanding comparables.
Please check some of the schools I mention, not all in the northeast and check for info on SATII and APs. It is interesting and certainly gives you a better picture of the school ( as other type of info does) but it does not "compare" schools.
you are more or less contented with the performance of PAUSD. Fair enough . We differ on this. With their student body they should be doing much better I think. Part of the impediment to do much better is in fact money. Part isn't. But the self congratulatory aroma that PA clientele emanates doesn't seem to smell so extraordinarily good to many in the outside. There is a bias to be sure. Some think of PA schools by habitual repetition of what was true years ago having failed to examine this matter closely lately.
Fred, we also differ in the following way. "Harvard* isn't going to ding a kid for not having fifth year french"
We don't know but if two similar students apply and they are interested in the same subject ( Romance languages ) and plan a concentration on French and one of them has APs, SATII in french and one year more of instruction any respectable institution would choose the one with more instruction, that is the one with 5th year french. (this is what I know).
* Why Harvard? Princeton has ranked #1 for many years...
Posted by PA Student, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 4:04 pm
Actually, sohill, OhlonePar used the word "conflate", not "conflict", which is apparently a word you don't know. Perhaps you would know it if you'd gone through the Palo Alto schools, as I did. I suggest you read a little more carefully if you're going to adopt such a condescending tone. Furthermore, I believe OhlonePar's real point in posting about SAT I vs. II was simply that SAT I is not a particularly good metric to use to judge school district quality because the knowledge it tests is so limited. I agree with this, especially since, as you yourself point out, doing well on the SAT I is more and more frequently a matter of taking an expensive prep course for it. I don't necessarily believe that Palo Alto schools are the best in the world, but your quoting higher SAT scores for other districts isn't going to convince me that they aren't perfectly adequate. I was certainly satisfied with the education I received from them just a few years ago.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 5:52 pm
PA Student, too bad at PAUSD you didn't learn to be a little more respectful of others, esp since Sohill has been pretty constructive in his posts. Oh well.
I think Sohill would agree (as he did with me) that the schools were "adequate." I think he is looking for something more than that, esp given that we have a world-class university town and that many brag on the schools. Maybe you could read his post a little more closely too ;-)
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm
Thank you for the clarification. Your interpretation of my post is correct. I suppose "conflate" is a sort of SAT word, but I've always liked it.
Sohill, (though you're off enjoying yourself by now, perhaps)
"Conflate" means that you seem to have not precisely confused me with another poster, but sort of merged me with another poster. As I result, I think your post to me was a bit more abrasive than it would have been otherwise. I never demanded SAT results. I simply commented on the use of them for purposes of comparison.
I don't know the ideal way to compare schools and districts. I don't think it's a simple issue.
Ummm, aren't we as parents responsible for our kids' manners? Surely, we can blame poor old PAUSD for enough other things. .
Of course, if there'd been an Internet in my high-school days I would have sounded like PA student. Probably still do, only I'm old enough to not worry much about elders . . .
Posted by PA Student, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 6:55 pm
You're right; I'm sorry. I often read these boards and think about how nasty and unproductive they can be, and I shouldn't have contributed to that. I don't entirely agree that the poster in question has been largely constructive, since I think he/she has suggested several times that people are too lazy to do their own research, don't understand statistics, etc., and has been generally condescending in tone, but that's no excuse for responding as I did.
In regard to the "adequate" question, that was probably poor word choice on my part. I actually thought my education was excellent. I'm sure there are areas where the district could improve - after all, I only saw a particular slice of the district, and other students might have very different experiences - but, academically at least, I was fully satisfied K-12 and well-prepared for college. sohill said that he wasn't satisfied with the performance of the PAUSD; I just meant to say that I was.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 7:48 pm
PAS - apology accepted, thanks for being big enough to offer it (pretty rare around here) ;-)
As I said above, I think the schools are ok too (esp the high schools). I agree with Sohill's point that they are not quite there with some of the super-districts I'm aware of (don't mess with Scarsdale, or Great Neck for that matter), but I'm not sure that's what we want (esp given the cost of teachers out here).
I am still interested in Sohill's much earlier point - should we fund water polo (presumably jr and sr varsity, boys and girls), while French 5 doesn't get funded because it has 17 kids instead of 20. As a somewhat recent grad, what do you think PAS?
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 8:10 pm
Ahh, lookingfromtheoutsidein, let's just take your complete quote....
If "That sentence does not say my schools are better than PA. It does point to one quality I find better." Then why did you even mention your district? There are loads of districts that are worse than Palo Alto. If yours isn't better then why bring it up here? Your arguments continue to fall down as you try to bolster them up with mutations. You should just give up now that you've admitted that your district *is* no better.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm
The general issue I keep wondering about is how good does a good school district have to be?
It seems to me that when we get into rankings, we're no longer looking at education as education, but as a sort of endless competition.
So what is a good-enough school district?
I think a good-enough district offers real opportunities for accelerated students--okay, so the good-enough district does have AP classes or something of equivalent depth.
I think a good-enough district has enough breadth to offer music, art, theater, a range of languages and sports. In other words, a variety of ways for students to be engaged in the school experience.
A good-enough district features opportunities for its top students, but it's paying attention to everybody else. *Everyone* coming out of a good-enough district is literate, can fill out a job application and balance a checkbook. In English.
A good-enough district doesn't let kids drop through the cracks, even if keeping those kids in the systems makes district scores less snazzy.
A good-enough district makes a point of teaching history well--okay, that's just a personal peeve of mine. I think history is critical and I think it's badly taught in this country.
One of the big brouhahas over MI is that we do have a district that has tried to do a lot of things--and has an educated population with high expectations. We all have ideas, I think, about what the ideal schools look like. I think we're less inclined to think in terms of what's good-enough. (Fred, I don't include you in this assessment. You seem pretty mellow in this regard.)
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 9:28 pm
Fred, I will say this about the adequacy of the Palo Alto schools: My brother and I went to them beginning in the late 60's-early 70s and they were pretty darn good. I don't remember them being as low-level in the elementary school academics as they are now, at least in my kids' former school. Even way back then, though, at Gunn the non-honors classes were not much to write home about. Some may be satisfied with the education in Palo Alto, others not so much, and I would say that has probably always been the case. I myself was not at all satisfied with my children's recent education in a PAUSD elementary, which was *much* less substantive than what their their friends and relatives were learning in good-to-excellent districts around the country. By the way, those are districts that do not spend more on their kids, they just do it more thoughtfully imho.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 10:20 pm
Natasha, what do you think is different/lacking in PAUSD elementary vs. either what you had before or what others have now? For myself, I find elementary ed pretty uneven at all the schools my kids have attended (4 in all), very teacher dependent. Second grade here, sub-par; fifth-grade here, great; fourth-grade back east weak; first-grade excellent. Seems luck of the draw...
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 29, 2007 at 11:07 pm
Fred, in my experience, my kids consistently had teachers who did not hold them accountable. The school did not believe in tests, so parents could not get a handle on what their children were supposed to have learned and had or had not learned. The kids had no incentive to try hard on their homework or anywhere else, because they wer not asked to fix mistakes or redo poor work. Children who were very bright and highly self-motivated could isolate themselves and essentially educate themselves. Children (like mine) who were bright but not self-directed were lost in the shuffle. They did not learn spelling, were taught largely by whole-words method rather than phonics (per the school's ideology), and compared to what children were learning in other comparable (and supposedly less than comparable) school districts they were not learning the same level of math or science. I think there was a time when children were expected to care about the quality of their work and I do not see that now -- at least in the school my children attended. Science and math are particularly weak; math has no differentiaion to speak of; and the actual substance of what children are learning is often not even at a par with the California curriculum. In many other parts of the country, teachers *routinely* have lesson plans checked over on a weekly basis by the adminiatrator, provide detailed plans of how and when during the school year the curriculum will be taught so that parents will be able to follow along and check whether their children are learning what they are supposed to be learning (of course, if you actually had TESTS you could know this immediately -- the nonsense I have heard about children getting too stressed out by tests has really taken things too far in the opposite direction) -- this makes it easy to follow along and check what your child will be learning at a given time, and see whether that is happening. I proposed that at my kids' elementary school here and was told thatthe teachers had no time for that sort of thing, didn't see the purpose of telling parents when children would be learning certain subjects, and felt offended to have this requested. Give me a break. The result, more often than not, was that the kids got behind and parents (may I say, often the parents from other countries who expected to stay at a respectful distance and not ask questions, and who relied on teacher assurances that their children were "just fine") had no idea until it was significantly too late. Even I, who was extremely proactive, was told in October that my child had already met all of the curriculum goals for first grade, only to be told mid-March that she was three months behind on math facts. This happened a lot, and not just to me. People in other districts have told me what their children were doing academically indifferent grades, and they were significantly more advanced than we were. They also had GATE and differentiation down a lot better than we do in this district. I do remember from elementary school that there were children in my third grade class learning square roots and pretty advanced math because they were ready. I did not see that at all at my children's PAUSD school.
Yes, I think it is partially teacher dependent, but I think that is a pretty terrible excuse in an "excellent" district. You should not be getting a lousy education just because you happened to draw the short straw and get the bad teacher. What if you drew the short straw every year? Your kids would have a mediocre education here in wonderful PAUSD. Is that acceptable? Not to me.
I also don't know how many really bad teachers there are at PAUSD. I thought it was more a question of every site reinventing the wheel, lack of collaboration on teaching innovations and resources, and a 25 Churchill failure to provide materials that it promised. I wish the district would provide incentives for district-wide collaboration and exchange of materials. I knew one teacher for whom a parent created a whole curriculum, then he refused to share them with a colleague at the same school site the next year. That is ludicrous and shameful.
But if you want a short answer to your question, I think the difference between the good districts frineds and relatives attend and the holes I've seen here have to do with lack of district-wide collaboration, resulting in haphazard teaching of substantive materials and wasted resources.
Posted by lookingfromtheoutsidein, a resident of another community, on Jul 30, 2007 at 10:32 am
"..which was *much* less substantive than what their their friends and relatives were learning in good-to-excellent districts around the country. By the way, those are districts that do not spend more on their kids, they just do it more thoughtfully imho." Natasha, imho too.
For example while my kids were in school in CA, I felt the teachers depended too much on the parents to continue instruction at home with too much homework and a failure to completely teach the subject matter - particularly in math. Where my son in CA had 50 mins of math instruction, he receives 90 mins a day where we live now. One reason could be there was only one recess a day at lunch and structured PE everyday allowing for less time lost in transitions during the day. We do not have a short day during the week as PA, MP, and others do.
There are other districts around the country that have had to think out-of-the-box to address needs from a more socio/econ population than PA or competing with more private schools; and therefore, have been less complacent. Again, Sohill summed it up best when he stated about PA, "Not that it is a bad district, by any means, it actually very good like many others, but given the community it falls short."
PA has the money....it is what they are doing with the money.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm
As people who have seen my previous posts are aware, my kids are now in private school. They do not get 90 minutes per day of math, but the math they get in the 45 minutes they do it is really thorough. I know immediately what they are working on and in what sorts of ways the material is being taught because the teachers communicate that information to me. I know weekly whether there is something not clicking because my children have weekly assessments. They get high-quality science instruction a few times a week, thorough history and georgraphy, and they even get great PE three or four times a week. They also have homework, less in the lower grades (they can be diligent and get it done in class or they can take it home and do it -- built in lesson in responsibility and cause and effect with choices), more as they get to fifth grade. The homework is not just busy work, and they do have to turn it in.
As for math instruction, when they were in PAUSD they quickly learned that the reward for finishing a worksheet was another worksheet on identical subject matter. More worksheets, not harder, just more, was the school's notion of differentiation. Now, by contrast, when they master a subject, they get to do "fun math" -- stuff they won't really encounter until much later in their math studies. They love it. I just don't get why this district (or maybe just that school) is so lame about differentiation. It is, after all, a grat way of keeing kids curious and excited about learning. If you are required to drudge along, in the "your reward for good work is more of the same work" school of teaching, you get bored and frustrated pretty quickly.
Let me say, though, that my younger daughter had a splendid first grade teacher in this district who differentiated the math curriculum beautifully. I helped a lot and it was amazing. Every child in that class weas passionate about math, regardless of level of ability. I wish that had been consistently the case.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 30, 2007 at 4:00 pm
My child's elementary school has, so far, been good enough. I think it would be better if there was P.E. every day, or at least three times a week, and a second-language option within the classroom.
I don't have enough knowledge of the middle schools and high schools to assess them fairly. From what I've heard, I think kids who aren't star students can have a tough time in the high schools. It also concerns me how inadequate the teenagers I've known seem to feel. I see bright, capable, hard-working kids who just don't seem to feel like they're good enough.
Seriously, I worry more about the effect of the expectations game on kids than about the teaching of any one subject. It's hard to succeed if you don't believe you can.
Posted by PALY Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm
What most pundits have failed to observe, French 5/5AP is not just another year of foreign language study. It is the study of French literature, not really addressed in the first four years of vocabulary, grammar(incidentally not really addressed adequately in English courses, a collateral loss if romance language study disappears), and spoken conversation. There is a reason for separate 4AP and 5AP classes, as they cover entirely different material. A comparable argument would be to study English vocabulary, grammar and rhetoric, but no literature at all. The reward for the students is being dashed, much as the reputation of quality is being dashed for the Palo Alto School district.
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Sep 6, 2007 at 7:38 am
My 7th-grader started French at Terman, with 24 kids in his French 1A class. But I learned last night that two French 1B classes were crammed together, so there are nearly 40 kids. I pointed out that language classes aren't like other classes because languages require significant vocal participation. These 1B kids will have roughly half the opportunities to participate.
This will certainly discourage many families from continuing with French. After a few years of this, the district will be able to document dwindling interest in French, thereby justifying further reductions.