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What About Closing the Achievement Gap???

Original post made by High Achiever on Nov 10, 2006

It is unjust is that this district still has 639 students BELOW or FAR BELOW BASIC grade level achievement in English Language arts. 279 in the elementary schools and 360 in the secondary schools

In Math we have 321 Elementary students BELOW or FAR BELOW BASIC grade level achievement. And 697 in 6th/7th that are BELOW or FAR BELOW in CST General Mathematics (Grades 6 & 7 Standards).

Why isn'g this being recognized as our tope priority? Why aren't these kids first in line? The numbers that need this attention are very similar to the numbers that will be served by a proposed new language enrichment program.

We are a community that has the resources but not the will to close the achievement gap. We pat ourselves on the back for having 90% or more At or Above or Far Above, and figure the rest are what, disposable?

In the SIP reviews all the elementary AND Secondardy school principals said closing the achievement gap is their biggest priority and their biggest unsolved problem. They said they know how to find them, they just haven't done a good enough job of helping them so far.

This is NOT an optional priority for PAUSD. How do we justify leaving this many kids behind?

The majority of the kids in our district are high achievers, and we do a very very good job of offering plenty of enrichment opportunities for high achievers.

How do we justify talking about MORE enrichment opportunities for high achievers when we are leaving kids out all together.

Think about the future for children that are that far below basic academic standards, and how PROUD we are as a community to say that we have a measly 600 kids that we are willing to throw away.

Conversation on who should get more and more and more luxurious enrichment, while we blithely ignore the kids in the achievement gap for the very most basic skills, is pathetic and disgusting.

There should be a moratorium on ANY further high end enrichment programs until PAUSD gets it act together for these kids. Every single one of the board members should be called to account for the 600 kids they are choosing to ignore if they choose to install more high end enrichment programs first.

If you agree, please make sure the board hears you. You can write to the board at:

mlowell@pausd.org
ctownsend@pausd.org
gprice@pausd.org
dtom@pausd.org
bmitchell@pausd.org

In their SIP reviews the Principals and Mary Callan said; reaching kids earlier, as early as kindergarten and Pre K is the next best way to close the achievement gap.

We already have a meager choice program in this district called Young Fives, but it serves only 40 children on a LOTTERY basis. (VERY FAIR?!) If ANY expansion of choice program is on the table, it should be expansion of Young Fives to all who need it.

Please take a stand for these kids.

Comments (29)

Posted by pete, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 10, 2006 at 1:53 pm

We need to be more like Lake Wobegon, where all of the children are above average.


Posted by High Achiever, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2006 at 2:06 pm

How about if we start by offering all the children bare minimum 'average'.


Posted by Jen, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2006 at 2:35 pm

As a teacher, I often felt on the occasions when I was able to visit my daughter's classrooms in elementary school, that not enough attention was being given to the students who were already behind early on. It seemed that teachers' aides were expected to help teachers with their preparation (cutting construction paper for a math project, for example) rather than providing the one-on-one support for these students to catch up. My daughter's in the 9th grade now, and, not surprisingly, these students are now the ones who are doing badly with the low test scores.
I don't think it's too surprising that many of these students are
Latino and African American. In my experience, Palo Alto schools have a long way to go in realizing the needs of these students and meeting them. For starters, they might make more of an effort to hire secretaries, teachers, aides and administrators of color when current staff members retire or move. There's also a great need for more outreach to parents, especially at the elementary level, where Latino and African American parents need to feel more welcome to participate and more comfortable approaching staff with concerns. In addition, some of the current teachers have stereotypes and lower expectations for students of color, and, though attitudes are hard to change, the district needs to make this a priority.
Finally, I believe that the fact that P.A. Unified generally has better test scores than the surrounding districts has made it easy for us to ignore this problem. Thanks to "High Achiever" for bringing this issue to our attention.


Posted by Fedup parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Maybe if teachers would concentrate on teaching instead of hosting alcohol fueled parties in their homes the gap would not be so large.


Posted by mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:30 pm

Fedup: great logic, there. Let's blame the ENTIRE acievement gap on an unwise choice a parent made. Kind of lets the entire PAUSD administration off the hook, doesn't it. Hmmm...


Posted by Fedup parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2006 at 3:34 pm

Thanks, mom. That i sjust the tip of the iceberg--we also have teachers molesting kids, other teachers knowing about it and not saying anything. Who knows what no good the PAUSD is up to--they are certainlyu not off the hook in my book and it is unfortunate that the so-called teacher that hosted the alocohol fueled party will be let off the hook.


Posted by Mary L., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2006 at 4:28 pm

As a former student of PAUSD (in the 80's) I really felt that the district/teacher's only cared about the high achieving students. I felt that my educational needs were not important and I was clearly left behind with no resources.

As a parent of three children all in PAUSD at each level (1 at Paly, 1 at Jordan and 1 at Addison). I have had three very different experiences, mostly positive. All three children fall into this "basic/below basic" level. My high schooler is incredibly bright, does fairly well in school, but get distracted and bored very easily (as many students do). He scores at the basic level, but he is clearly well above that. My middle schooler has Dyslexia and scores at the same level as his siblings. He is very bright, but doesn't score well on the test. He can read, write and do math. My third grader only took the test once, so it's hard to determine what her issue is.

As a teacher, I can tell you that these standardized tests are not reflective of what a child knows. Although I am sure their are many students who are truly "below basic", just because the "scores" are low doesn't mean that the child doesn't know anything or isn't a good student. I also have to add that special education in PAUSD is very poorly funded and staffed. It is a little frustrating when PAUSD is going to implement a new program (Mandarin emersion), when the SPED and ELL programs desperately need more teachers to handle the workload.

I also find it very sad that PAUSD STILL caters to the high achieving and leaves not only the lower achieving kids behind, BUT the regular "middle of the road" kids as well.


Posted by another parent supporting MI, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2006 at 6:08 pm

sorry, Achievement Gap, but there will always be an achievement gap.

that's the reality, despite bleeding heart arguments and valiant efforts. short of giving each of those kids private tutoring, and a better home environment to develop learning skills, there will always be some who won't meet the gap.

how many of those kids have you adopted, tutored, or contributed money to their cause? the federal government and state, and school district have separate money set aside and mandated. money that would not go to any choice program.

and it's a lot more than the $68k that PACE contributed to the feasibility study. it's not the same money, it's not a zero-sum game. incremental bandwidth of administrators to focus on the achievement gap, over and above what they already spend (you may say not much), is not going to directly help those kids.

like i said, how much have you put out for them? and how much have you worked to improve their home and learning environment which has more effect on their schooling than our programs?

it's ok if you're against all enrichment programs for high achievers, including those currently in existence. there's a few of you out there.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2006 at 7:17 pm

Mary,

What, as a teacher and parent, would you like to see to help improve your children's situation? Did you mean change the tests so that they reflect more of what your kids know? Or do you mean de-emphasize the tests since they don't reflect what your kids know?

How would more time from Marilyn Cook be best used for the achievement gap? What have other successful school districts (did the PiE study cover under-achieving programs and compare the funding spent on them?) done?

Hiring more specialists to teach the achievement gap kids is like private tutors, not the same as teachers qualified to teach Mandarin and English to regular education students.

Don't mix your apples and oranges.


Posted by mary L., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2006 at 8:20 pm

My point was that the test scores aren't necessarily valid.... meaning many of the kids who "score" low aren't necessarily low achieving students. I don't believe standardized test are the answer to measuring a child's abilities. There is no perfect way to measure all children, because all children are different. Overall, testing is boring; therefore kids just fill in the blanks without reading the questions. This is what I think my kids do, because all three are very smart and do well in school..

In regard to Special Ed ... One resource teacher (and speech teacher) just isn't enough at the elementary level. Many families relocate here just for our services and some of the schools are overwhelmed with kids with "special needs". Duveneck is a good example of this. Resource teachers not only teach, but they have a mountain of paperwork that they have to manage (by law). Our experience at Jordan has been less than inspiring and I feel that if the resource teacher had a lighter load, she could be more effective.

It's not that I'm against MI, I'm not. I just feel that we need to make sure that all children are having their basic educational needs met before the district takes on yet another expense.


Posted by mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2006 at 12:47 am

Hey Fedup, mom here again. I suspect we're mostly on the same page. I just had trouble correlating a party hosted by a teacher and the achievement gap. Palo Verde's 3rd graders achieve the PAUSD mean (or do better), so the "so-called" teacher must be doing something right in her classroom.

I do agree with you, though. PAUSD needs to own up to its share of existing problems instead of hiding every time something goes awry. Holding on to the management team memo for 2 months before addressing it is another example of very poor behavior on the part of most of our elected Board and its employee. It would be nice if they would just suck it up, issue an apology and get down to the work of cleaning up this mess.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 11, 2006 at 11:35 am

It is interesting to hear about the gifted children getting all the attention. In my experience in a PAUSD elementary school my gifted child was given virtually NO attention while the kids that had serious learning disabilities went untested and the ones with the behavioral problems took all the teacher's and aide's time. I was informed that truly bright children are self-motivated. Focusing the vast majority of resources on the lower-achieving kids did nothing to improve their achievement. Not identifying or meeting the needs of the higher-achieving kids meant to the extent the gap closed it closed downward -- with more children performing similarly, closer to the bottom. GATE sounds like it is mostly a thing of the past, in PAUSD and across the nation to some extent. Seems to me the Board should be looking closely at statistics and data to see what is REALLY going on at different schools, checking what is working and what is not, and ramp up the successful efforts while scaling back or replacing the tactics that just aren't working. Because the reality is, every school has its own approach to solving the problem. The District seems to fragmented an inefficient. Look at the Benchmark studies to see how collaboration can stretch the dollars and actually close the achievement gap by bringing everyone UP.

Frankly, I find the issue of Ms. Swagerty distracting. Ok, she made a mistake. Vituperation abounds on the Forum threads about her mistake. I am nervous about the molestation in junior high and it makes me even more vigilant about my children and wherethey are and what behavior seems "normal" for them -- I am not even sure if the comment about knowing he was molesting is accurate, because it read to me like it could mean the friend knew the guy had a girlfriend who was a former student -- not necessarily that he knew she was being molested atthe time -- and that he didn't think it was his business or place to alert the world about this relationship, since he thought she was of age while it was going on. Maybe this is not the case. I wouldn't have any idea -- and neither would pretty much anyone else on these threads -- because we did not conduct the investigation, we did not ask the question, and, as usual, we do not have all the facts.

Here's what we DO know is going on around the District, however, while people are spinning out on these two issues: the achievement gap remains unresolved, teachers are forced to reinvent the wheel because they don't get to collaborate on strong differentiation ideas from school to school, the District math curriculum is beyond weak (please, spare us all from the discredited Dale Seymour), foreign language classes sound overpopulated in the upper grades, the Superintendent and Management Team are in crisis, an the timing could not be worse for a group of parents to try to create a special-interest Madarin Immersion school.

I have faith that Gail, and maybe Dana, are trying to find that investigator or short list of candidates so they can move on. I hope they can work together with each other and with Scott Bowers and the Management Team representatives to get that investigation in place expeditiously. I care about getting to the bottom of this mess, having an honest look at Ms. Callan's performance over the course of her tenure, and reconstituting this District. Once our kids are getting a solid education in a safe learning environment ALL ACROSS PALO ALTO, then all these other issues will be manageable.

My 2 cents.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 11, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I think almost all of them are getting "a solid education in a safe learning environment." Now I'm all for closing the achievement gap, but hold on. From these numbers of students, it looks like we're talking about roughly 10% of our students(?). Not bad. Please though, let's look at more than test scores. That's a small piece of the picture. And I know that high school students are complaining (rightly so!) about being overtested, and not always doing their best on these mind numbing tests that eat up days of instructional time. They know that the tests are worth nothing to them personally - they're not interested in hearing about real estate values, and the more you try to get teens to buy in to that the more they'll push back. So I wouldn't necessarily believe the test scores for HS students. Then, beyond that, how many of these students who are testing low are in PAUSD from the start? How many are coping with all sorts of problems outside of school? That's not to excuse schools from doing their best for every kid, but I think as long kids have to deal with cultural adjustments, language acquisition, depression, divorces, drugs, eating disorders, violence, abuse, poor health, domestic instability, deaths in the family, learning differences and disorders, and broader societal indifference to education, there will always be kids falling behind. Don't you figure that there will always be some percentage will just be facing circumstances that unfortunately limit them more than schools can help them? What's a reasonable expectation, numerically? Every kid above average? Hmmm... Palo Alto magic!


Posted by Lorraine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2006 at 7:43 am

SkepticAl, I was in attendance at both of the Board's study sessions at which the Principals each presented their yearly School Improvement Plans. At the end of each session, the board asked the Principals what they felt was the one thing most needed to close the acheivement gap, since all acknowledged that this district was basically failing in that goal. It came as a big surprise to me when all of them agreed, from the high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools, that the one best remedy for closing the gap would be to start at kindergarden or even earlier, to help with school readiness. It seems that some children, many of them boys, are simply not emotionally ready for the traditional kindergarten setting and would benefit from a pre-kindergarten program modeled after our Young Fives choice program, currently only available to a small number of lucky children. I hope the Board will be considering this in the coming months when deciding whether to implement another choice program in this district. Perhaps helping every child to feel successful in school will also give them added tools and support to weather some of the adversities you speak of.


Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 12, 2006 at 9:07 pm

The issue of number of children below basic level is a real one, as is the issue of achievement gap between between various social and ethnic groups in PAUSD. There are, however, so many misstated facts and unsubstantiated conclusions in the many mails above that I don't know where to start. I'll try anyway.

- First, as to the actual numbers. If one checks the STAR database, it seems that about 5%-7% of our students fall at below basic and far below basic categories. Details vary among grades and language vs. math.

- About half of them belong to special ed kids, and half not. Since special ed kids make up about 10% of PAUSD, the fraction of under-achieving students among them is obviously much higher than among regular students.

- We also have about 2% of kids which has been to US less than one year. Unsuprisingly a significant fraction of them under achieve on the language STAR.

- We do not have to live in Lake Wobegon to have 100% of our students at basic (or at proficient) and above. STAR is criterion referenced test, and there is nothing to hold us back from having the whole cohort do well on it. There will still be a "gap", but even the bottom cohort can be at basic or above.

- PAUSD essentially has no GATE program for more than a decade, despite some "noise" to the contrary. At high school level electives serve this purpose. Below HS there is mostly vacuum.

- "Closing the gap" is already on the top of PAUSD priorities, and has been there for a number of years. The issue is not of priorities or resources, unless one believes that regular and high achieving students can be neglected even more than today. The issue is how we become effective bringing the under achievers back on track.

- If one wants to get a better sense of the above, one should ask oneself why some of our schools tend to have significantly smaller under-achieving groups than others. Some of it is demographics, but some of it clearly seems to point to better teaching.

Finally, I am at loss at logic that argues on one hand that the tests are not indicative of actual student achievement, yet on the other hand argue that we do have under-achieving students, or that there is an achievement gap. How would one know? In any case, while clearly true that STAR results are not 100% valid for each individual student, I'd suggest to look very hard at students that consistently get low results on the test.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 12, 2006 at 10:02 pm

Lorraine - I hope I didn't leave the impression that I don't want to close the gap and that I don't want schools examining it and working on it. I just want to caution against unreasonable expectations.

Wolf - In case you were replying to me, I wasn't saying ignore the test results, but there's got to be more to it. In addition to test scores, I'd hope they're looking at what classes kids are taking, what grades they're earning, what their discipline records are, attendance, years in the district.... test scores may be valid (not the holy grail of indicators though), but there are many other things to examine. And yes, I understand that the tests are not normed locally so it is *possible* to have everyone at or above average - but that seems naive or arrogant to really believe we're so completely unique and isolated to get everyone to that level.

I appreciate the tone of your reasoned responses, Lorraine and Wolf.


Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 12, 2006 at 10:58 pm

To SkepticalAl,

I was not thinking of you re testing. And you clearly are right to wonder about course taking, discipline, etc., but we ALSO should not shy away from looking into why some schools seem to do a better job than others. If you truly think that ALL our teachers and administrators are wonderful educators, I have a bridge to sell you. Many are; some are not; and few are very far from wonderful.

You also mention that "the tests are not normed locally" as an explanation why PAUSD kids can be all "at or above average." That is not what I said, and that is not what STAR is. STAR is "criterion referenced test" and NOT "norm referenced test." In norm referenced tests by design 50% of the cohort is expected to be below average. STAR is created for, and aligned with, the California standards. It has NO norming. In principle, if every kid in California were to master at least half of our standards, no kid would be below basic. The standards are such that an AVERAGE student can master ALL of them, and at least in math we actually know of few countries where over 90% of the whole cohort is proficient on equivalent standards.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2006 at 11:13 pm

Sounds like this is a much more important issue than Mandarin Immersion.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 12, 2006 at 11:31 pm

Yes, Wolf - I misread/misstated the point regarding norms. Thanks for clarifying.


Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2006 at 3:49 am

It seems to me that Mandarin Immersion is a (partial) solution to the achievement gap problem, not a zero-sum competitor for scarce resources.

Immersion language learners learn better cognitive skills than non-immersion students. Statistically, some fraction of the students in these courses will be of the groups that would otherwise becomes low test scorers.

Mandarin Immersion will help those students side step their looming achievement gap.


Posted by Jordan parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 13, 2006 at 6:05 am

Jordan PTA Meeting and Parent Ed, Wednesday, November 15, 7pm, Library

Do you sometimes feel as if you and your kids are walking on a tightrope or riding a rollercoaster? Do you wonder if this way of life is healthy or harmful? Are you looking for a more balanced perspective? Then this is the Parent Ed night for you!

Mary Hammes of Adolescent Counseling Services, Becky Beacom of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Betty Krumboltz of the Jordan counseling staff will offer insights and challenges for parents who want to make some lasting changes and create a healthier, happier family environment.

Join us for our Jordan PTA Association meeting preceding this talk, where we will hear overview a brief from Dr. Jeanie Forte, Jordan's GATE coordinator, about the middle school GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program.


Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2006 at 9:16 am

Phil, What are the statistics for mandarin speakers in the achivement gap in PAUSD? When looking at star tests, the numbers below or far below for chinese demographic are very very small (less than 5 per grade level) I'm not clear how mandarin immersion will help close the achievement gap in this community.

Its true that language immersion classrooms do help close the achievement gap for limited english proficient students when taught in their native language, which is normally the stated purpose for this type of classroom. This is why you'll see a community like San Francisco with a large chinese population or hollister with a large hispanic population offering and justifying immersion classroom methods. I also think that was the original idea behind PAUSD's Spanish Immersion program (although not sure about that).

Is MI's intent to close the achievment gap? It doesn't look that way from their purpose statments, from the proposal, and by virtue of the fact that it's lottery admission based.

Also if you look at San Francisco's new MI program, the news article in the Chronicle said they had attracted zero native speakers to that new classroom. Its not all that surprising when you read that the Kinders in that room were learning nursury rhymes in Mandarin and learning basic vocabulary (like 'green', 'circle', etc.) Whereas most kinders in California are starting to read, write, etc. Most parents of a fluent second language speaking five year olds wouldn't want to put their child in a remedial language classroom, and waste a whole 1-2 years of school for them. I assume they'll get them in to English immersion classrooms, perhaps switch them to MI when they get to a higher grade level?

Its not clear at all the MI is designed, or will address the achievement gap for us here. I think the feasibility study should shed more light on this for us. If this is going to be the case, then I'd support it, but is really the next best course of action for this purpose?

I think more classrooms designed to slow or ease entrance into mainstream (ie: Young Fives type programs) would do more toward this goal in Palo Alto.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 13, 2006 at 12:45 pm

The Mandarin Immersion opponents must be kicking up their heels in joy at the way they have hoodwinked people into discussing a phony either/or tradeoff between enrichment programs and helping kids who are not achieving at level.

If the concern were truly around helping the kids who are underperforming, and it could be shown that enrichment programs are impeding such support of these deserving underachieving kids, it would do the public, the school board, and the school district administators a great service to provide findings that point to that fact. Is there such evidence, such objective data? As far as I am concerned, the onus is on people who are "opposing" enrichment programs to demonstrate that resources used for those purposes are better directed toward closing the gap with the kids who are not performing, and (to turn their own argument toward them) that all of our students would then be better off.

I also find disingenuous the argument that somehow money may be getting directed toward a new enrischment program (in this case, Manadrin Immersion, but it could be anything) should instead go toward helping the kids who are not achieving at level. As has been suggested in some other comments in this string, it may have less to do with resources and money, and more to do with how resources are used, i.e., the teaching methodologies and pre-K programs that the school district has some control over. Never mind some of the sociological issues that the District cannot and should not be expected to deal with. It is easy to create these phony tradeoffs, and it also is simplistic and perhaps naive to assert that legitimate challenges our community faces helping the below level kids exist because we are not spending the right amount of money to address them, but instead are spending the money elsewhere.

If enrichment programs were taken off the table, the onus again is on the people who argue for doing things differently for the kids not performing at level what specifically should be done, and what the expected outcomes can be as a result. The assertions and justification should rise and fall on their own merits, not be compared or turned into a trade-off with other programs that the school district has legitimate reasons to consider on their own merits.

Ironically, in the case of Mandarin Immersion specifically, those who are advocates for it are attempting to come up with a revenue neutral model that keeps the funding issues off the table, and not add to the confusion of the merits of Mandarin Immersion as a program for PAUSD. They have come very close to accomplishing that, and if you accept for the moment hypothetically that they will, it leads back to the more fundamental question of what will it take to prepare our children to be effective members and leaders of the world thay will live in over the next century?

There is a reason why many top notch school districts (with which we like to compare ourselves) around the country now include Mandarin Immersion in their curriculum. There is a reason why the federal government is offering funds to schools that introduce elementary school level world language instruction, and specifically Mandarin and Arabic language instruction to their curricula. And there are reasons why we need to make sure that we are doing all that we can to close a gap in achievement amongst those students who are below our targets.

In a richly textured school district like ours, we have reason to think through all these matters and pursue them appropriately. I really am puzzled why there is such strident opposition by some to Mandarin Immersion that artificial issues and debates are concocted to de-rail the effort. Hiding behind a cloak of being opposed to any new enrichment programs because they prevent us from helping kids who are underperforming is but the latest example.


Posted by Observer of the Board, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2006 at 6:51 pm

Well, very fortunately for us, PIE just performed a benchmark study showing us what other high performing schools do better than our own. Turns out, almost everything. And it also turns out that PAUSD is very limited in funding relative to its benchmark peers.

So yes, in a perfect world, there would be no tradeoffs, but there are because money is tight, district headcount is tight, teachers and other staffing are tight. You said it perfectly that its not about getting more money to fund special programs but using the resources we do have more effectively. Focus on priorities and mature decision making on curriculum and innovation are what our excellent benchmark peers do well.

The Bush administration felt that 'strategic languages' were important enough to fund through his language initiative to encourage Mandarin, Arabic and Russian. It will be interesting to see if the strategic priorities of the federal governmet get redefined with turnover in the house and senate, and if federal funding priorities move elsewhere in the near future.

I'm not sure what PAUSD would have done if they had been successful in receiving a $700,000 grant, comitted to a program, and then that 'free money' dried up. What sort of funding risk does it create when we commit to permanent programs that require incremental funding?

Its simply not prudent for a district with the gaps (and frankly the confusion in priorities and decision making and confusion in district leadership) we have to be going after luxury enrichment programs that benefit very few.

Its nice to think we're a top notch district, richly textured, that can cater to every specialty need we can think of. The reality is, we're not adequately covering our basics yet for the 'notch' we think we're supposedly operating at.


Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 13, 2006 at 8:51 pm

Speaking of the PIE study... I have seen their press release, I have seen its supposed findings in various PTA newsletters, but I have not seen anywhere the study itself. Is it available anywhere on-line? I tend to be skeptical of much ballyhooed "findings" when the supporting evidence is not available for examination.


Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2006 at 11:33 am

Wolf. You and I are in agreement! I've also asked for the PIE data and results to be published. We've been told that it will be published shortly.

From what I understand so far, this study was put together by several current or former management consultants as volunteers, with experience in this type of research and analysis, and that they did a very thorough job, both in the research, the analysis and the presentation. So I look forward to seeing the full set of results so we can take a look at the details soon. I'm also hoping they will offer more live presentations.

This is important work, and I'm thankful they took this on.

I'd also like to know what the Board's plans are to receive this presentation, to ask appropriate questions, perhaps commission further study on some of the findings if needed, and what their plans are for turning these findings into action items, goals or priority setting for the future?

If we don't see the board attempting to put this important research to work, it will add to the evidence that the Board is willing to make important decisions based on cronism, and/or political pressure and/or $ and/or selective perception, rather than based on sound fact and strategic thinking.

We must see the board consider the study and understand its worth. (How they use the findings can only be known after they have a thoughtful review of the material and they tell us what they plan to do with it...)

But if we DON'T see a thoughtful review from the Board - we know they're up to no good.

Wolf, you're right. Its impossible to validate the veracity of a claim until you have access to the data that backs it up.


Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Nov 19, 2006 at 7:48 am

I have been enjoying reading and reflecting on this thread. Thanks all.

Just FYI- I have seen the stack of papers of the results- it is taking awhile to put it all online. Everyone is volunteer who does this, so let's give them time.

Also, I know one of the volunteers who spent, just from what I can gather, 100s of hours on this project. She is neither a former consultant nor a former management person, but a former dedicated high school teacher and a scrupulously honest and fair person. But, she is the only one I know on this team.

Just a point of reference.

I honestly don't know where we would be in our school district without the incredible amount of volunteer time and professional energy that goes into us.


Posted by Melissa, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

I just found this blog and if anyone is still reading it I wanted to draw your atention to a community meeting to be held on Thursday, February 15 at 6 PM in the Paly library to share ideas on improving the experience of students of color in PAUSD. The goal is to provide an opportunity for members of the community to discuss their concerns, to have an impact on the selection of the new Superintendent and to help shape PAUSD's short- & long-term priorities.The meeting is hosted by the Parent Network for Students of Color, the Peninsula Interfaith Action and the PTA Council. The school board members will be present and the search firm selecting candidates.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Just heard about this achievement gap summit in Sacramento. How many school board members and school board candidates really know about closing the achievement gap (besides it being a cute PC phrase to toss into conversations)?

Web Link

California Department of Education
sponsors the

Achievement Gap Summit
November 13-14, 2007
Sacramento Convention Center

This summit will bring together educators from across the state to address a major crisis facing public schools in California and throughout the nation: the systemic gap between our highest - and lowest - performing students. In an effort to narrow this achievement gap, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and others are invited to hear from experts as well as to propose workable solutions for improving academic achievement for all students. This issue is a critical one for Californians. Please join us in this coordinated effort to improve student achievement at all levels and eliminate the achievement gap.

For additional information about the achievement gap or to view Jack O'Connell's State of Education Address, please visit Web Link.


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